I’m Naomi, a Changing Faces campaigner, and this is my story about having a visible difference.
I have ptosis of the right eyelid which makes that eyelid droopy. I was also born with a bent middle finger on my right hand, that has been fixed with plastic surgery – although I now have scarring on the inside of that hand.
When I was a child, primary school went okay for me and I made friends easily, but I did struggle in secondary school.
I think it was hard to make friends at secondary school as someone with a visible difference because at that age, everyone is so into their appearance, so they tend to judge everyone around them.
The situation wasn’t too bad for the first few years of secondary school, as I could hang out and eat with my sister and her friends. But when they left, it became more difficult. I started spending most of my time in the library or on my own.
I found the stares and comments from young people in school tough, as well as the stares I got from people in lots of other places too.
Then a family friend (who also has a visible difference) told me and my mum about Changing Faces.
My parents and I went to a Changing Faces family workshop where I got to know other children with visible differences – and I really enjoyed having fun with them.
They had all lived through similar experiences to me, so we could support each other – and learn from each other. This was very different to how I felt around the other kids at school, who seemed to not like anyone who didn’t look like their idea of “normal”.
Towards the end, we all made a capsule box in which we placed nice comments from all the other young people from the workshop.
I love all the comments that went into my capsule box, but my favourite says that I am “very nice”. This was written by a child in the workshop who I later met again when I joined the Changing Faces Young Peoples’ Council.
I still take a look at these comments from time to time when I feel down or when I feel like I need to recall a fond memory. Remembering the fun we had that day makes me feel happy.
When I joined the Changing Faces Young Peoples’ Council in 2010, they taught me ways of answering questions about my visible difference. I learned to listen to peoples’ questions and answer in a way that they understand.
They also taught me that you can change the subject if you do not want to answer the questions anymore. For example, I teach in a nursery, so when the children I work with ask me things, if I don’t want to answer personal questions, I might say I’m tired and then I distract them with toys or other activities. With older people, I just change the topic of conversation.
Changing Faces also helped me learn techniques for dealing with peoples’ reactions to the way I look. This helped me became more confident. They taught me that no-one with a visible difference should ever be judged on their appearance – you should never judge a book by its cover.
In my experience, Changing Faces is the best charity for anyone, of any age, with a visible difference. They have all kinds of support like counselling – and skin camouflage – a service that shows users who to apply creams and powders to reduce the appearance of a mark, scar or skin condition.
They also have a support and information line you can call if your child is struggling with their visible difference, as well as workshops like the one I went to when I was a child.
I hope that if you and your family are facing any issues related to you or your child growing up with a visible difference, you’ll contact Changing Faces.
My message to anyone reading this who has a visible difference – don’t let anyone tell you anything negative about yourself – you are all beautiful!