I was born eight weeks prematurely with a slight heart murmur. After spending almost the first month of my life in hospital, I was finally allowed home just in time for my first Christmas.
Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be my last stay in hospital. When I was just four months old, I had my first operation on my cleft. This was just one of the nine surgeries I’ve had over the years.
My conditions have caused me quite a bit of pain over the years, but not as much pain as the torment. When I first started school, I didn’t feel any different and I don’t remember being bullied much.
However, when I got to secondary school, things changed. I was laughed at, stared at and I never thought it would get any easier. People at school would joke about me with their friends and make sarcastic comments. This really caused my confidence levels to drop, and I constantly worried what people were thinking about me.
I am lucky enough to have an amazing group of friends and a really supportive family to help me through all of these hard times though. I received a lot of support from my school and my clinical psychologist at the hospital. I also had some counselling sessions with Changing Faces. I found these sessions really helpful and I’m so grateful for all the help I’ve had from everyone.
As I got older and learned more about my conditions, I came across a few charities who support people with visible differences. Since then, I have been involved with CLAPA and Changing Faces and I have been to quite a few of their events for young people. I found it really beneficial to meet people who were facing similar struggles to myself. I was finally able to meet people who understood me, and I realised I was not alone. I was part of an amazing community of people who are all unique and special in their own way. It helped me to regain some of the confidence I had lost.
This was when I decided to start my own YouTube channel to raise awareness of my conditions and show the world that it is okay to look different or feel like you don’t ‘fit in’. I now make videos to help people with visible differences, so they have someone to relate to and know that they are not alone in their struggles.
I also wanted to give something back to the charities that helped me. I have been holding fundraisers every year to raise awareness of visible differences as well as raise money. I’ve also started to volunteer for them too.
I have also done some presentations at school to explain to my peers what life is like for someone with a visible difference. Luckily, now I am in sixth form I rarely get bullied. And thanks to my sessions with Changing Faces, I have a lot more confidence and different techniques to cope with comments and staring.
I have overcome so much in these last few years, and I am very proud of myself. I still have bad days, just like everyone else, but I always manage to come out of these tough times with a smile! In the future, I hope to continue using my passion for helping others to inspire people and spread positivity.