I have a condition called Sturge Weber syndrome and as part of this I have a port wine stain birthmark covering a large part of my face and body.
I have nearly always remained positive regarding my visible difference and this is very much thanks to family. As far back as I can remember my parents would make sure I knew it was OK to be different and made sure that I was comfortable in my own skin from an early age.
This made my time at school a lot easier. I made some great friends in my primary one class and some I still call my best friends. They looked out for me then and still look out for me now.
My primary school had fantastic teachers who wanted to understand my condition and helped me throughout my time there. The school was full of excellent teachers who were a positive influence on me, but my support teacher was always there to help when I needed it and give me that extra push.
Between the ages of 5 and 10 I attended St John’s Hospital in Livingston for laser treatment. As you would expect, I never found this the most pleasant experience. We decided as a family that the treatment was not really changing the look of my birthmark drastically and I was fine with my birthmark, so at that stage we decided to stop any further treatment.
Time to go to high school came and this was a new challenge, as it might be for a lot of children with or without a visible difference, I was quite anxious about moving up to high school. Lots of new people staring and maybe some pointing too. I soon found out who the good people were and made some fantastic friends throughout my six years.
People looked out for me when it was needed. There was also a great group of teachers that I knew, and I had no problems in going to them for help or advice. In the most part my time at school was an enjoyable experience.
After school I attended college for three years. These were some great times; I went through college with a fantastic group of people. It was after college that I found it difficult.
It felt like I was going for endless job interviews with no positive outcomes. In my head it felt like my birthmark was playing a part in this, and it did not make me feel good. But I have now been in a long-term job for over five years, and I am very happy.
I have always had people look and stare at me, this is something I have become used to. I’ll give them a smile and carry on with my day. If someone asks questions about my birthmark, be it a kid or an adult I will try my best to educate them. I’d rather you ask than stare. I find as I have got older I get slightly more anxious about people looking at me, but it’s something I can deal with by a polite smile or a quick hi there!
I became a campaigner with Changing Faces to raise awareness of visible difference. For me, and other people in a similar position to me, I want to see more representation of visible differences both within TV and media, but also in workplaces and business at all levels.