A Wisconsin woman has learned the importance of self-acceptance after living with a genetic condition since puberty.
Leah Jorgensen, 33, has polycystic ovary syndrome (otherwise known as hirsutism), a hormonal disorder that includes causing abnormal male-patterned hair growth.
Her self-esteem plummeted at the age of 14 when bullies would cruelly refer to her as a "man." She hid behind long-sleeved, high-necked shirts and full-length pants for 13 years until she decided to shave.
However, shaving wasn't an easy process. It would take Jorgensen several hours to remove the thick, dark hair that covered her face and entire body, only for it to grow back soon after.
"I had never seen women who looked like me. I was so ashamed that I didn’t want to talk about it," Jorgensen said. "I felt ashamed, embarrassed and scared, like I was somehow less of a woman."
Jorgensen's distress over her excessive hair caused her to shy away from the ordinary activities we usually take for granted. She avoided the dentist for 12 years and didn't have her first kiss under she turned 27.
"My daily goal for a long time was to just get through the day without anyone noticing how hairy I was," she explained. "Because I have so much of it, it was very difficult to hide it. I developed a terrible case of anxiety and it really took a toll on my mental health."
Trips to the doctor didn't help either, as Jorgensen said she felt shamed by the medical staff.
"I had a bad experience with my doctor. She had never seen such an extreme case of hirsutism and she was startled and made a facial expression," Jorgensen said.
"She had a figure on a piece of paper and she drew where the hair was. I was so sensitive that it really upset me and made me feel like a freak," she added.
It was only until Jorgensen suffered from a freak accident that finally made her see her body in a new light.