It was the tee-shirt that Cilicia van Heyningen was wearing that initially caught RL’s eye. It made me wonder why such a beautiful young woman felt the need to announce to the world on a tee shirt that “Society Has A Distorted Perception of Beauty” As I looked deeper into Cilicia’s social media accounts, I found her to be quite a character that made me both laugh and cry in the time that it took me to figure out her story. It will take you no time at all to fall in love with Cilicia’s spirit, just as I did. She’s one of those cool people that you just want to hang out and laugh with.
It took Cilicia five years to muster up the courage to take this photo at the location where she would experience a life changing event that altered her approach to life both physically and mentally. Her advice to people who are going through the similar struggle of being a “stupid teenager” (as she describes herself at that time) is to search for help because depression can fall on anyone. If she could step back into time and counsel her 15 year old self she states “I would tell my 15 year old self to slow down and stop letting little things that doesn’t matter take control of me. What people say about you doesn’t define who you are as a person and shouldn’t make you feel any less than you are. You’re kind, smart and loved. I’m sorry my 15 year old self didn’t feel loved and I wish I could’ve changed that one thing!”
Born in 1996 and the youngest of three children, Cilicia now lives in the United Kingdom and is enjoying her life to the fullest as a You-Tube vlogger and the mother of a beautiful little girl.
But things were not always this great. She shared with RL that as a teenager, she suffered with depression, bouts of uncontrollable anger and deliberate self harm.
For reasons that she can’t explain, there are misleading stories circulating the internet regarding the events leading up to her amputation when she was just 16 years old and living in Saint Martin, Caribbean. To put an end to the rumors, Cilicia shares her emotional account of the day that would change her life forever.
The ability to share her experience did not come easily, nor was it easy to go back to the scene of the incident five years after it occurred. She has had to work on herself and has implemented coping skills and strategies to release stress. She told RL “My coping skills would have to be deep breathing and emptying my mind. Realising that whatever has me stressed at the time is not worth me loosing my sanity or being depressed over because in reality what’s for me will always find a way.”
Sharing her story publicly has prompted strangers to approach her with questions and ask her for advice. She’s had the opportunity to talk to youth to help them and has also spoken to a class. Cilicia told RL “Well when I came out with my story on how I was amputated, a lot of people that I didn’t know came to me and talked to me about problems they were having in their everyday lives and asked my opinion/advice. So when I do talk to them it’s like I’m talking to myself because I wished I had someone around to help me through my situations. So being that I’ve been through a lot, even more than my accident itself, I use that as a way to help other people. I talk to them how I would’ve talked to my old self. I have strangers coming to me all the time because they feel like I can relate and that they could trust me more than the people around them because I keep it as professional as possible. I’ve helped a few people from committing suicide as well and it hurt me in a way because I wanted to commit suicide too before and after my accident so it was a soft spot for me so I felt the need to strongly intervene. I feel like if I can help, why not? People just want to be heard and not be judged and I can understand that so much!”
Cilicia credits the doctors and nurses at La Meynard Hospital in Martinique who helped her to get through so much and for seeing another side of her and loving her regardless. But the most important people to her are her parents, who are her heroes for putting their lives on hold for six months to be with her during her recovery. In spite of everything that Cilicia has been through, it has been the dedication and strength of her family and friends that has kept her fighting.