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Hannah’s story: “People’s comments are not a reflection of me”

Hannah struggled with her self-confidence until she discovered a love of art – a passion that helped her recognise all the amazing qualities she hadn’t seen before.

Hi, I’m Hannah and I was born with Complex Craniosynostosis syndrome which affected my skull, jaw, fingers, toes, speech and many more parts of my body. I had two operations at Birmingham Children’s Hospital to correct my head shape, one at two months old, and the other at 15 months old.

The operations left me with a big scar on my head from ear to ear. Growing up, I had to go to regular speech therapy along with trips to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital to check on how my skull was growing. I also had to have a brace to correct the position of my jaw and teeth.

I encountered lots of bullying at school and college. Kids would call me names and ask me what was wrong with my face. There were laughs, long stares, and some people were afraid to touch me or be near me. I even experienced some physical abuse at school all due to how I looked. The bullying became so bad I started to miss lessons.

I was too nervous to tell my family about the bullying, but I did report it to the teachers. It helped for a while, but sadly the fact I was being bullied all the time and by so many different students meant that the teachers usually ended up just telling me to ignore them.

Sometimes I found reporting things made the bullying worse, which made it harder to tell the teachers anything for fear of escalating things.

Over the years my self-confidence has grown a lot and art really helped me learn to love myself more.

I struggled very badly with my self-confidence and became an extremely nervous and shy person, particularly in social situations. When I finished college, I was afraid of getting a job due to the fear that I would be bullied for how I looked. I just didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there.

Luckily, I discovered I had a passion for art at college and this continued to grow after I left. I realised how happy creating art made me as it brought a bright shining light into my life. I started to draw lots of characters from my favourite TV shows like Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and Waterloo Road, but I loved to draw them in an abstract style with bold outlines. I also really liked to capture a certain feature of each character that highlighted their uniqueness and beauty.

Over the years my self-confidence has grown a lot and art really helped me learn to love myself more. I eventually got in touch with a company who help people with learning difficulties get into work, and I started applying for jobs. I soon got a job working in the events industry, cleaning tables and making drinks for customers.

I really enjoy creating art in between busy shifts at work. I’ve started drawing more characters from my favourite TV shows like Alice in Borderland, One Piece, and The Uncanny Counter. I also started going to a community art class on Fridays, which has helped me to keep growing my self-confidence, and meet lots of other people like me who love art. I even applied to a TV show called Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 in 2022. I went on the show with my art for season three, which was an amazing experience and really helped boost my self-confidence.

Hannah with artist Grayson Perry

Even now, I still have to deal with unkind remarks from strangers, which I do come across working in the events industry. I’ve been at shows where teenagers have made some extremely cruel comments to me, which does always upset me.

It hits me hard, and it can take a few days to shake that off, but I now have some strategies I use to help me through these moments. I always remind myself before entering a social environment to be proud of who I am. I think of all the challenges and operations I have overcome with my craniosynostosis, and of all my family and friends who love me exactly as I am.

Having lots of friends really helps as I only had a few friends at school. At work I have made lots of lovely friends who accept me for who I am completely. My friends and family have really helped me have more belief in myself. So, if I do encounter an unkind person at work, I know my friends have always got my back.

I also have learnt that people’s comments are not a reflection of me or what I have to offer the world. I will never let them dampen my magical sparkle.

Even though life has been tough, I am proud of who I am and my craniosynostosis journey. I will definitely keep creating lots of art too as that makes me so happy.

Keep your sparkle shining strong!

Profile of a woman in an office environment, wearing a headset and smiling

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