In February 2020, I began a course in counselling skills, as I was looking to make a change in career. Three months into the course, I suppose I had a ‘light bulb’ moment, in that I was beginning a new chapter in my life.
I was working on an assignment which I was having difficulty with – it was about relating to others. I’ve always looked at the way others have related to me, but never looked at the way I relate to others.
When I came across the Changing Faces website and read some of the visible difference stories on there, I felt like it was the first time I could relate to these other people and so I thought maybe it was time that I shared my story. It seemed that talking openly about a visible difference today, is a lot easier than it was when I was younger.
In my younger years, subjects like this were ‘swept under the rug’ so to speak. Pushed to one side, ignored, and forgotten – and I believe that is how I used to look at myself too.
When I began an assignment on self-love/care, I realised that I had always put myself last. I grew up thinking that making time to look after myself was selfish. But over the years I’ve learned that looking after yourself is not selfish at all.
I began to wonder, how many people in a similar situation to myself have felt that looking after themselves was wrong? Maybe they would benefit from hearing about my experiences?
I never talked about how I truly felt about myself for years. I never truly pursued my dreams because I was not confident enough. There were never any positive role models out there. I was taught by society to hide in the background. Well, I wouldn’t hide anymore.
At first, I had some reservations. Do I really want to put myself out there in the public eye? Do I want to let complete strangers into my life? I’ve lived my life with scars since I was three years old, so what would telling my story now achieve? Do I really want to dig up all those hurtful memories that I buried so long ago? Then I talked to some family and friends, and they all encouraged me to tell my story.
I would write a few paragraphs and then leave it for a few days. Digging up all those past hurts was not easy. Memories of things I had buried deep inside came flooding back. It was scary to open up emotionally about my whole life. My children were very supportive though.
It did take me a few months to finally finish it, but thanks to Changing Faces, we got there in the end. It was explained that they would share my story on one platform at a time and, if I felt at all uncomfortable, I could change my mind at any time.
Before my story was published, I was very nervous about going ahead with it. I needed time for it to sink in, that I was sharing my story with the world. Once it was out there, there would be no taking it back.
It took a couple of months for me to finally give the go ahead – I had no idea what reception I would get.
I was very surprised at all the positive comments that I received. The highlights for me were the comments from my dearest friends – how they thought I was an inspiration and very courageous for sharing my story.
My visible difference is not a subject that I usually discuss with family and friends. They accept me for who I am, it is not an issue. If they ever want to ask me questions, they know they can.
For those of you with a visible difference that feel like you’re alone, you’re not. I felt so alone for years. For most of my life, I’d only ever seen two other people with a visible difference.
But since I’ve been involved with Changing Faces, I’ve been part of a peer group chat session and met quite a few people with visible differences. I’ve also made connections through the campaigners programme, which I am so glad to be part of. It is really nice to not feel alone anymore and be part of this wonderful community.