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My brace has helped me to grow up!

I’m Ilaria, and I have spent the past 6 years wearing a scoliosis brace.

At last, on 28/6/2021, after countless sacrifices, many, many moments when it felt like everything was against me, and others when things seemed to be going better, I finally came to the end of my “journey” with ISICO.

In spite of the difficulties I had along the way, as time went by my check-ups became increasingly encouraging, my back stabilised, and I was able to leave my brace off more and more; also, thanks to the exercises, the cosmetic appearance of my trunk improved.

There have obviously been lots of ups and downs over these years, but these have helped me to grow up: I now know that the low points teach you the importance of persevering, of keeping your head held high and always looking for the positive side of things.

Through wearing a brace, I have come to realise that I was a rather superficial person before. However, over time I have matured, and in fact, I learned to really appreciate the true value of situations and times spent both in and out of my brace.

My brace also helped me to appreciate what people really thought of me, and how much they cared about me.

When I first started wearing a brace, in the 4th year of primary school, my classmates and teachers didn’t know at all what it was for or understand why I needed to wear it. For them, there was no point to it, whereas I realised that it represented my “salvation”.
Luckily, over time and in my next school I came across people (classmates and teachers) who knew more about it and were always very supportive.

One very important factor in getting me to the point I’ve reached today was the “brace camp” holiday, organised by ISICO, that I had on the island of Asinara in Italy in 2018. There, I made some lasting friendships and learned that wearing a brace on holiday was no big deal, even if I could only leave it off for a few hours a day.

During that holiday, the physiotherapists taught us that doing postural exercises for our backs could actually be fun. They encouraged us and helped us to “put up” with keeping our braces on for the prescribed number of hours. What’s more, even though we weren’t able to spend very much time with our braces off, we were still able to enjoy the sea and the natural surroundings. They even taught us how to go in the water in a brace.

In the course of this whole experience, I have met many different people, with different stories, and this has helped me to see that while everyone at ISICO is on the same journey, each person experiences and approaches it in their own way.

I want to thank Dr Monia Lusini, who has always been a great support, whatever the circumstances, but my most heartfelt thanks go to my parents, who have always been there for me through thick and thin, supporting me and encouraging me not to give up and always to be proud of myself and persevere.

My parents are amazing, always ready to do anything for me and give me whatever I need.

Finally, I hope the things I have said might be of help to lots of other young brace wearers out there!

My message to them is: stay strong and stay brave because in the end all your sacrifices and hard work will pay off. Before you know it, you will be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

And don’t forget! Go in the sea as often as you like… just slip on your brace undershirt, brace and swimming costume and go for it! After all, there’s nothing quite like a refreshing dip ❤️

Friends and brace

Adolescence and bracing are two challenges that can be difficult to face simultaneously. 

In our view, this is perfectly natural and understandable.

Adolescence is usually perceived as a difficult phase during which young people are still immature, tend to be irrational, and struggle to control their emotions. However, research studies focusing on the development of the adolescent brain have recently debunked these myths, allowing adolescence to be understood, from a more modern perspective, as a life stage characterised by numerous possibilities, great creativity, and a desire to experiment.

However, it is also a time of great changes, when youngsters are particularly vulnerable. Their increasing need for freedom and independence sees them looking outside their immediate family; accordingly, friends assume a more and more central role, becoming the basis and starting point for building their self-awareness and personal identity.

At this age, then, finding yourself faced with the prospect of wearing a rigid brace for up to 23/24 hours a day certainly isn’t easy.

A young person who has just been prescribed a brace can experience many different emotions, which vary from individual to individual: some will feel angry, others sad; some may be fearful or feel ashamed.

Shame is an emotion that stems from the fear that others will judge us. What are my friends going to say when they see me in a brace? What will they think if they find out I have scoliosis? 

In adolescence, precisely because this is a time when we are still working out who we are, we can be particularly sensitive to the opinions of others; we want to fit in, and we fear rejection. 

For these reasons, having to wear a brace can be seen as an obstacle to the formation of friendships and early romantic attachments. It becomes a secret to be kept strictly within the family. Some youngsters try to keep their brace hidden under their clothes and avoid physical contact with others, to the point of avoiding those activities in which their brace would have to be exposed, and thus depriving themselves of a whole series of experiences. 

In this way, they become victims of their own secret.

Hiding a brace requires a lot of effort. Is it really the best thing to do?

Even though hiding is a natural and automatic response when we feel ashamed, it is also the most harmful. Instead, the least natural and least automatic (i.e. “telling the truth” and showing yourself) is the most beneficial! When you find out that you have to wear a brace, the best thing to do is to tell your friends and classmates about it immediately. Although this might seem difficult, it is far easier than trying to keep the fact a secret. Start by telling your closest friends, and then gradually share the news with everyone else.

You really have nothing at all to be ashamed of. Quite the opposite: you should be proud of what you are doing in order to have a healthy back!

Authors: Irene Ferrario, psychologist and Antonella Napolitano, physiotherapist