During our You’re Enough campaign, I’ve met remarkable women who are each special in their own way. When I heard Julie’s story, I marveled at how she handled such a tough path at a young age with so much grace, optimism, and strength.
Julie opened her heart to share how her life experiences have made her who she is today. Here is what she said:
“As a young girl, I struggled with my weight and always stood back because I never felt I was beautiful enough to join the ‘in’ crowd. I was cautious about what I would say to make sure people would like me. In 1997, at the age of 19, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.”
This diagnosis, understandably, was difficult for Julie to handle at first.
“I was a collegiate softball player and going into occupational therapy at the time. I felt my world crumble before me. I was put on steroids and my weight continually climbed. I tried anything I could to not let RA define me. I ran my first marathon and also completed a half ironman. I thought doing this would make me strong, however, I realized it made me more sore.”
Julie didn’t give up, though. She continued to look for a workable plan that would help her deal with her health challenges.
“It was not until I got older and the weight continued when I began looking into energetic work. I began to really feel myself and what I needed. I know now I cannot burn the candle at both ends. I need to listen to what I need – not try to ‘outsmart’ RA. It was this journey that made me understand who I really am and how I can help others.”
This hard-won wisdom has helped Julie deal with another health issue – a recent Myotonic Dystrophy Type 2 diagnosis.
“Yes, the initial shock was there; however, from the years of learning how to live with RA, I realized I was given this to help others. I embrace what I have and what I don’t have. I do not know what the future holds, but I know I can get through it because I am truthful to myself.”
When it comes to her outlook on beauty, Julie had a wonderful role model to learn from while growing up –Loretta.
“She would get ready for Grandma and would simply put on a very simple dress, lipstick, comb her hair, and put on one spritz church her of Emerald,” Julie recalled. “She would tell me makeup and fancy clothes are not needed when you are beautiful from the inside and out. She would then put my chlorine-filled green hair in braids, give me a kiss on the head and say, ‘Let’s head to church to help us understand beauty from the inside.’”
These days, Julie said she feels beautiful, but admits it’s been a long journey to get to this point. Her favorite non-physical feature that she has is her compassion.
“I work with children with autism, and my favorite moments are just sitting with these spectacular kiddos and holding space, hopefully letting them know I am there even without words,” she said.
Despite all of the challenges she has faced, Julie has fought back.
“The time when I felt the most powerful was crossing the finish line of a half ironman. I was nowhere near the fastest, I hurt all the way through, but I never gave up. I showed mental, emotional, and physical strength to endure,” she said.
One of the reasons Julie wanted to have beautiful pictures of herself taken at this point in her life is to inspire other people.
“I would love to teach beauty to my nieces and nephews to show them that it is not just your physical features – it is all-encompassing,” she said.
What an honor it was for me to play a small role in helping Julie reach that goal. She now has gorgeous pictures that commemorate all she’s been through – and everything she’s conquered to get to this point in time. Her nieces and nephews should certainly be proud of her – I know I am!
I hope you enjoyed meeting Julie, and I can’t wait to introduce you soon to the other fabulous women joining us in our You’re Enough campaign.