So, Can I Still Become the Next Ana Ivanović?

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by Lena Riedl |

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We all grow up with certain beliefs about ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even question them. Other times, we may realize we were wrong all along. Or, we may choose to hold on to them.

If our beliefs are positive, they could help us along our way. If not, they could prevent us from doing what we really want to do. They could hold us back and make us unhappy.

My mother recently asked my sister and me if there was something we wished we had pursued more as a child. She was referring to things like learning to play the piano or keeping up with dance lessons.

This is a fair question, because we all go through many changes when we are growing up. As adolescents, we may find having to practice the piano boring, and we’d rather be hanging out with friends. But later in life, we may come to regret that decision.

While I don’t regret anything, I am sad I wasn’t able to find what I consider to be my sport when I was younger.

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The girl with the fragile skin

I live with epidermolysis bullosa, a rare genetic skin condition that makes my skin blister and tear easily. All my life I had to be careful about things. For example, I couldn’t play with my friends as carelessly as others do. Sports classes at school were a no-no, and I was never able to learn to ski as well as the rest of my family. I grew up believing that I’d never be good at sports.

I held on to that belief for a long time, even when my condition improved after puberty. Apart from sports, I tried other things I wanted to try, such as going to parties, festivals, and other activities. I wore high heels and tested my body’s limits. I discovered that I could do a lot of these things if I set my mind to it.

But when it came to sports, I didn’t believe in myself. I would always tell myself that I’d never be as good as my friends. Thinking about sports made me sad most of the time.

Doing it my way

It wasn’t until I turned 23 and began working out with a personal trainer that I began to realize that even I could be a sporty person and see changes happening to my body as a result of working out. What I had needed to do was to find my own way and make adaptations to the sport that I liked.

My personal trainer, Oti, helped me find exercises I could do without hurting my skin. He helped me to finally realize that my beliefs had been wrong. Holding on to those limiting thoughts had stopped me from recognizing that there is more than one way to do things.

sports and epidermolysis bullosa | Epidermolysis Bullosa News | Lena does light weight lifting for her arms in a gym.

Lena lifts weights at her favorite gym. (Courtesy of Lena Riedl)

Of course, when you are young and insecure, you don’t want to be different than others. You just want to fit in and be like your friends. But what I didn’t see was that by trying to be like everyone else, I was limiting myself. Living with a rare condition will always create challenges that must be overcome, as I acknowledged in a previous column.

I am not ashamed anymore

Now that I’m 28, I’m not ashamed anymore. I’ve accepted who I am, even though I sometimes still find it challenging.

I’ve accepted that I must pause in certain gym classes. While everyone else might be doing an exercise I can’t do, I’ll just take a break rather than trying to do it and end up with both arms covered in blisters. I’m not ashamed to ask the instructor to give me another exercise instead.

Last year, I picked up tennis. While playing, I proudly wear biking gloves to prevent my hands from blistering when I hit the ball.

sports and epidermolysis bullosa | Epidermolysis Bullosa News | A photo looking down shows Lena's legs, feet, and a tennis racket.

Lena has her first tennis lesson last year, at the age of 27. (Photo by Lena Riedl)

So, to answer my mom’s question, I would say that I wish I knew earlier that I can do some sports, and I’m not bad at them. I just needed to find my own approach. It’s never too late to discover these things.

sports and epidermolysis bullosa | Epidermolysis Bullosa News | Lena pauses for a snapshot dressed in ski gear on a snowy mountain

Lena hits the slopes. (Photo by Emma Riedl)

Note: Epidermolysis Bullosa News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Epidermolysis Bullosa News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to epidermolysis bullosa.


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