Hello loves! These past few weeks, I’ve been on a journey of discovery and finding the confidence in myself for a multitude of reasons. This is also the MOST open, I’ve ever been with one of the scariest moments of my life. I hope that by me sharing my story with all of you, it inspires you to chase your dreams, to do something you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t believe in yourself enough to actually do it. This is chapter 23, 24 and 25 of my story.
Chapter 23 goes with my 23rdyear of life. I was living large: had a great job, finished my bachelor’s, was traveling all the time, just bought my new car all on my own. Pretty impressive, right? Then one day, I came home from dinner and went to bed like any normal Friday night, within about a couple of hours, my world was about to turned upside down. I woke up completely numb on my whole right side of my body. My parents quickly rushed me to the emergency room, where the symptoms were quite visible. I had muscle spasms throughout my whole right side ONLY. At that point, a CT scan was needed.
The Next 48 Hours:
After the CT scan revealed something was in my brain, an MRI was needed to determine what exactly that was. I was bombarded with questions, signing my life away to my parents in case they had to make a final decision on my life, and possible diagnoses. Long story short, I had to have emergency brain surgery to remove a bacteria and clean out my brain from contaminated food I had eaten. That wasn’t as easy of a decision for me to make, I knew having the surgery meant losing my hair and having a scar replace it. I know, pretty vain, but at 23 and being a girl your hair means a lot.
Chapter 23 Part 2:
After this whole ordeal, my confidence hit an ALL-TIME LOW! I was afraid to eat anything and would avoid eating if I could. I wasn’t clear to drive, work, travel, or even really leave the house because of my treatment plan. This made me even more insecure about myself, mentally and physically. I was falling into a really dark place in my life. My parents are the only ones who really saw everything happening.
My closest friends, I would try to avoid and if they came to visit I would put on a happy face and pretend this wasn’t my life and I’ll be good as new soon enough. After a couple of months, I didn’t want to let this hold me back and put my best foot forward and once cleared to travel, I went. I went back home to where I knew there was always peace and clarity. Then, I left again, this time to Colorado to end this bad chapter on a high note.
This year, I wanted to get back to my normal routine. I wanted to work on finding my confidence again, I wanted to start working out again. Being put on medication to help prevent any seizures that can happen after brain surgery wasn’t one of them. I felt like I was never going to get over that point in my life. I still couldn’t grasp why it happened to me? Why someone couldn’t do their job and clean the food before it was cooked? Why the chef couldn’t have prepared the meal better? All these thoughts, but no answers. I was told CrossFit isn’t ideal for me anymore unless I stick to 10lbs or less. Dancing was a long shot as well because of how easily I could get lightheaded.
Food and Anxiety:
My insecurity with food grew worse and worse each day. I would avoid eating many times, I would eat pretty much bread and cheese sandwiches, and then changed to completely being vegetarian. It was tough in the beginning because I would stick to bread and sandwiches, but I was honestly afraid of everything. After a couple of months, I began to feel better with food and started experimenting with new vegetables and different alternatives.
The anxiety I still suffer from to this day honestly is the worst part. I’ve never felt more scared during an anxiety attack, mostly because my anxiety attacks mimic the same muscle spasms I went into the emergency room with. I still suffer from these attacks and now I’ve just learned how to cope with them and how to prevent them. Anxiety is no joke, I know people who have it way worse than I do and people who have it less, important thing is to understand that we can’t control what’s happening or our feelings of anxiousness.
My birthday is always a symbol for me to not only celebrate another year, partying, receiving gifts, but now it is actually to celebrate another year I may not have had if it wasn’t for my incredible medical staff. This year, I wanted to go back home again to a city I fall in love with every time I visit and that is THE BIG APPLE. This year, my wish was to not let my past dictate my future. I needed to find closure with what happen and let it go. It took some time, I mean two whole years later, but I eventually starting working on my confidence and finding myself again.
I applied for the Miss Florida USA pageant and by some crazy miracle they wanted me. Out of over 700 hundred applicants, I was chosen to be in the top 200 to make it to Tampa and top 120 in the Miss Division. You could read more about that experience here.
Ending of 25:
After doing something as drastic as competing in a national pageant. I realized if all these people here believed in me and saw something in me. Why could I see it? I started to realize I was just living and enjoying the ride, but I wasn’t taking control of my life. I saw another opportunity be presented to me and that is to compete for the Miss Vizcaya Swim Spokesmodel Search. Once I made the first cut, I felt amazing. I knew I had to change my attitude and find the confidence in myself again.
I’ve been on a 3-month journey of working on myself, both physically and mentally. I knew I wasn’t doing to let anyone tell me what I can’t do and went back into CrossFit with a different attitude. I knew my limits and have been raising them in the gym every single day. Now I can squat 125 lbs. (goodbye lame 10 lbs.) I push my body in a safe environment and challenge myself to get better every day.
Finding the Confidence in Myself:
This past week I learned of how Sports Illustrated is having a second year of their Open Casting. I knew right away, I wanted to apply. I started eating better (sadly no longer vegetarian, my body needs more protein) and working out more. I’ve seen a change in myself those past couple of months. I became more confident in my body because it was heading to the size I wanted to be at. My mentality was changing as well, I realized that I wanted to steer my own path. I didn’t just want to go along with the ride.
If you were to tell me two years ago, I would be filming in a bikini for a chance to be selected by Sports Illustrated. I’d say you’re crazy. This past weekend, I did just that. I was on the beach, confident in my curves, in my skin, most importantly in myself. (Some of these photos are from that video shoot)
One. Thank you for reading up to here and please check out my video for Sports Illustrated Swim on my Instagram (@thekarengiuliana) Leave some love too and tell me about your goals and inspirations. 🙂
Second. Don’t ever doubt yourself. You have something to share with the world. No matter who you love, what you believe in, what your background, size, height, shape, ethnicity is. Believe in yourself, have confidence in yourself, because that’s what truly shines through. I’m putting myself out there on social media because even if I don’t make it to the next round, I still want to inspire everyone to never give up on their dreams. To never let doubt get in your head and take anyway the confidence you have. TO BE FEARLESS! I’ve learned when I just go for something without second guessing myself, I always win. Take the Miss Florida pageant, I didn’t win the crown. The sisterhood formed and the empowering of each other actually made me a winner with long lasting friendship and woman I’m proud to say I know.
Lastly. Show love to everyone else. The most important lesson I’ve learned is to empower others along my journey. The greatest gift you can give someone is empowerment or inspiration in themselves. Giving someone a compliment. Lending a helping hand. Sharing your story for others to read and feel inspired to take action. No matter what you do in life, the reward of helping someone else feel better and confident is MUCH more REWARDING. It’s like the Great King of Pop always said: “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change”