Support line: 0300 012 0275Donate
Chantel is a white female with brunette hair. In this photo she is stood in front of a beach wearing sunglasses on her head.

Chantel’s story: “Online group support taught me that I’m more than my visible difference.”

Chantel has rosacea, and after lockdown, started to struggle with low self-esteem. Joining our online group support, Peer Group Chat, Chantel was able to meet other people who had shared experiences of living with a visible difference.


    I was diagnosed with rosacea last year, although, now I understand more about the condition and its symptoms, I’ve probably had it for most of my life.  

    When I was 18 years old, and at university, partying and socialising meant I was drinking more alcohol on a weekly basis. When I drank certain things, my chest, the tops of my arms and my face went bright red. I noticed that nobody else had the same reaction as I did towards alcohol, but I also didn’t recognise it as a rosacea flare-up at that time. 

    It wouldn’t happen every time I drank. In fact, it was quite irregular – at that time, there wasn’t enough of a pattern for me to understand what was happening and seek advice. Occasionally, I would be having a drink with friends, and then start to feel very hot in the face. The heat would spread to my arms and my chest would get itchy. This would prompt me to go and see what was happening. I’d discover a mottled-looking rash spread across my chest and arms. It would sometimes appear on my face, too. 

    After lockdown finished, and particularly because I worked from home for a lot of it, I found it harder to go out without feeling self-conscious about my visible difference.

    Chantel, Peer Group Chat Participant

    Apart from the initial shock of seeing a rash had formed, it didn’t affect me much, back then, particularly as I could use makeup to hide the redness of my appearance before it died down a couple of hours later.  

    Since then, and particularly over the last two years, my rosacea has got a lot worse. The areas of my face where I get flareups are continuously red, now, and I’ve started noticing broken skin capillaries in the balls of my cheeks and my nose. I’ve become much more aware and self-conscious of my visible difference and feel a bit anxious about managing it and preventing it from becoming worse. 

    After lockdown finished, and particularly because I worked from home for a lot of it, I found it harder to go out without feeling self-conscious about my visible difference. My self-esteem reached new lows, and I felt as if I have two choices most of the time – to wear my camouflage makeup or go out without it and not feel great about myself.  

    Luckily, Changing Faces has been there to support me and lift my confidence. I found out about Changing Faces as I was referred to a dermatologist by a GP. He sent me over some leaflets, and Changing Faces was one of them – talking about the impact to mental health that having a visible difference can have. I browsed through the website and found their online group support sessions – Peer Group Chat. I was interested because I’d never met anyone else with rosacea or any sort of visible difference. I thought it would be nice to talk to other people about my experiences, hoping they could relate to what I was going through.  

     

    A service-user looking intently at a counsellor who is facing away from the camera

    Join Peer Group Chat

    Our Peer Group Chat Service is an online support group, facilitated by Changing Faces staff, for adults (18 years or over) in the UK who are affected by a visible difference or disfigurement.

    Find out more

    I was very nervous before joining. I’d never been a part of something like that before, and I didn’t know what to expect. 

    Logging on, I had nothing to worry about. The practitioners running the group were great and everyone was so welcoming. There was no judgment with what you said, or how prominent your visible difference was.

    “I was nervous before joining. I’d never been a part of something like that before, and I didn’t know what to expect. I had nothing to worry about.”

    Chantel, Peer Group Chat Participant

    Before joining, I wasn’t sure my difference was visible enough for me to ‘qualify’ seeking support. In my group, there was a broad range of people with a variety of visible differences, but everyone was talking about the same effects that it was having on their lives. It was comforting to hear that people were going through similar experiences to me.  

    I loved the way that the groups were run. Each week, we explored different topics. My favourites included: how our visible differences had affected our relationships with loved ones and how to develop confidence and self-esteem. It was great to hear shared experiences, and learn new ways to tackle the negative thoughts and feelings we had about ourselves, in particular. 

    My attitude towards my visible difference changed during the online group support sessions. We talked about how we’re living with a visible difference, but it doesn’t define us. I really got that sense from talking to everyone in my group. Learning about other people’s journeys encouraged me to reflect on my own journey, and how far I’ve come.  

    two photos of Chantel. The first, a close up of her cheek as she has a rosacea flair up. The second, she is in outdoor gear beaming at the camera.

    Chantel had low self-esteem because of her rosacea, before joining online group support run by Changing Faces.

    Of course, it’s hard some days to tell yourself that you’re so much more than your appearance, but when I think of that group, it reminds me to be kind to myself again. 

    One thing I took away from the session is that my visible difference is a journey. You have to take each day as it comes. Some days will feel difficult, and you won’t feel particularly great. But keeping yourself busy and being open and honest with your friends and family really helps! 

    I would say to anyone thinking of signing up to online group support – it’s so worthwhile. Just having a group of people who have had similar experiences, and being able to talk to them openly, makes you realise you’re not alone. Anything I said in the group would prompt people to nod their heads, saying how they related to what I was saying. It doesn’t matter what your difference is and how prominent, we’re all humans with shared experiences of looking different. 

    Joining the online group support, you’ll meet people there who understand what it’s like to go through the daily motions of having a difference and be able to support you and empathise with you in a way that you can truly connect with. 

    You might also like

    A service-user looking intently at a counsellor who is facing away from the camera

    Join Peer Group Chat

    Our Peer Group Chat Service is an online support group, facilitated by Changing Faces staff, for adults (18 years or over) in the UK who are affected by a visible difference or disfigurement.

    Find out more