Seria talks about how cycling has played an important role in promoting her mental health

Seria’s story: ‘It is hard but it does get better’

In 2009, Seria was involved in a road traffic collision which resulted in facial scarring.

Today, my son is nearly nine, and he has never known me without my scars and accepts me for who I am.

11 years ago, I was the fittest I’d ever been. I was cycling or running 12 miles a day to work and taking long cycles at the weekend. I was even contemplating doing a triathlon at the time.

Then one day, all that changed. I was cycling home from work when I was the victim of a hit and run. I was hit by a disqualified driver who cut across the road, and I crashed into the rear side window. The driver continued to drive until I eventually fell out.

While all this was going on, my husband was waiting for me at a restaurant. When I didn’t arrive, he called my phone and eventually a paramedic answered and told him to come to the hospital.

On top of the deep lacerations to my face, my cheekbone has collapsed, I had a break above the cheekbone, I had lost four teeth, and I had received stitches to my tongue.

I had surgery a few days later, and I was advised to look in the mirror before I left hospital. I was apprehensive because all my visitors looked shocked when they came to the ward and my 19-year-old son had burst into tears.

I went to the mirror and was absolutely horrified. My face was maybe twice the size it should have been because there were so many stitches. I sobbed as I couldn’t bear to look at myself.

I tried to be so strong for my family despite feeling like my life was over. Children were visibly scared by my face and adults, mostly men, would stare. It was a terrible time. I wasn’t offered any counselling by the NHS or told about any organisations who could help me.

A year went by of attending appointments, going to work and all the while I was completely unravelling. It culminated in me having a breakdown, and my husband insisting that we go private for counselling. He had recently sold his old flat, so we were fortunate enough to have money to cover the cost of the sessions.

Throughout my recovery, I received three major operations to reconstruct the damage to my face. Shortly after recovering from the last surgery, which coincided with my birthday, I received some good news. I had longed for another child and discovered I was pregnant.

Everything I was going through at this time made me realise just how precious my life was. My consultant suggested having some further operations, but I felt that I wanted to start living and enjoying my pregnancy without having surgeries hanging over me. So, I decided I would live with what I had and make the most of it.

As friends and family commented on my progress, I realised that this would be my new normal and I slowly regained my confidence.

Throughout all of this, I continued cycling. I decided that the driver had already impacted my life so much that I wasn’t going to let him take my love for cycling away. Cycling has played an important role in my recovery and mental wellbeing. It keeps me fit and allows me time to meditate and reflect on my life.

I have met so many new friends through cycling and I hope to continue for as long as I am able. I teach Bikeability at my son’s school and love going off for a few days to do cycling tours.

Today, my son is nearly nine, and he has never known me without my scars and accepts me for who I am. He asked me when he was younger what the lines were on my face and I told him about the accident.

The ten-year anniversary of my accident was 2019, and this gave me the idea of cycling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats (LEJOG), but the timing just wasn’t right, so I am planning to do LEJOG in September 2020 to raise funds for Changing Faces.

I feel very strongly about supporting their work because of my own experience of living with a visible difference. I hope that my story helps anyone struggling with a visible difference realise that there is light at the end of the tunnel as how you feel about yourself changes over time. It is hard but it does get better.

If you ever need to talk about the impact of living with a visible difference or want to learn more about how we can help, please contact our Support and Information line which is available 10am-4pm Monday to Friday on 0300 012 0275.

If you want to sponsor Seria’s LEJOG challenge, please visit her fundraising page.