Depression & Disability: Overcoming Dark Days while Living with Dwarfism with Kristen E. DeAndrade

Kristen DeAndrade is using her story to change lives. The author, speaker, and advocate joins us as this week’s guest on Lift U Up: Inspiring Health Stories, telling her journey through health challenges, mental health struggles, and the highs and lows of living with little legs and a big heart. From being born with dwarfism and undergoing surgery at a young age, to a health scare that turned her perspective on life around – Kristen is making the most of the hand she was dealt with and educating and inspiring those around her. 

Growing up with Dwarfism

When Kristen DeAndrade was born, she was diagnosed with dwarfism, leading to medical issues she had to deal with from an early age. During her childhood, she underwent procedures and surgeries to improve her quality of life, including limb lengthening surgery – a surgery that is perceived as controversial to some. Despite mixed opinions from those around her, Kristen saw great improvement from her surgery and went on to advocate for the benefits of it. 

Things looked up for Kristen, and she continued a happy childhood, young adulthood, and eventually packed up and moved away for college. She found freedom by moving out of state and began to pursue a degree.

Taking a Step Back

Though in a great place in her life, in 2016 Kristen started experiencing pain that was impossible to ignore. By the time she made an appointment with a spinal doctor, she was nearly paralyzed. The doctor only needed to take one look at her to know she needed help right away. 

Over the next two years Kristen would go on to have 12 surgeries. With a partially paralyzed leg and constantly going through recovery from surgery, Kristen began to lose her independence as a young woman. Even her doctors noticed that her mental health was greatly impacted by her physical health. Kristen describes that period as a “dark hole” of emotions. Luckily, with the help of her doctor Kristen chose not to give in – but to fight through the negative emotions. 

Telling Her Story

For much of her life, writing has been a source of therapy for Kristen. After her surgeries, she started sharing her personal stories on a blog, and quickly realized that she was not alone in her thoughts and feelings. She was able to connect with a community of people who understood her experiences, and even went through similar situations. From shortcomings in society’s inclusivity to the mental health challenges of surgery, Kristen found her place advocating for those living with dwarfism.

Recently, Kristen authored her book, “Little Legs, Big Heart”, using her journal entries from her early teenage years to tell the story of how she overcame and grew stronger through each challenge life dealt her. She’s been featured on several national television shows, contributed for many national websites, and spoken on the TEDx stage. Each day she continues to use her story to educate society and advocate for those living in the face of adversity. 

What else can you expect in this episode?

  • Why some people in the industry saw limb lengthening surgeries as unnecessary or cosmetic. 
  • How society is not inclusive to those with dwarfism, and where accommodations are necessary. 
  • Kristen’s Meditation recommendation – Sarah Blondin

Where to find Kristen DeAndrade: