I’m 18 years old and studying for my A-levels. I have Sturge Weber syndrome and glaucoma, meaning I have very limited vision in my left eye. I also have a port wine stain birthmark on the left side of my face.
Because of my port wine stain I’ve always felt different, unfortunately… not in a good way. I really disliked my birthmark and hated looking in the mirror. It was difficult because I didn’t know anyone who had a birthmark like mine.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Great Ormond Street which was tough as I never saw anyone else there like me. And at school, I used to receive nasty comments from older kids. But what hurt the most was being stared at by people… when I was shopping with friends, parents or just walking around. I understand why they looked but it still hurt. And what made me even more upset was knowing that I wasn’t alone; there were other people like me going through the same thing.
I felt ashamed when people asked me about my condition, but have recently realised I shouldn’t feel ashamed. And I now love using social media to share my story, and have set-up a YouTube channel.
In my YouTube videos I try to show that I’m still a normal teenager and love filming travel vlogs, school videos and sharing my advice on how to feel confident. Talking about my port wine stain in my first video was difficult, but I did it because I’m passionate about raising awareness. I knew that if I could film without makeup, I could show others that they could feel more confident.
I never thought I’d be able to film a YouTube video about my condition, but I have. And seeing that people have watched, emailed and commented really has helped me.
I also wanted to send a message to the bullies to show them that I’m proud of my condition, and words do matter. I realised that because they said those words it made me want to push myself and help others. So in some ways, I would like to thank them for helping me love myself more!
It matters to me that people with a visible difference are seen in society as normal people. Yes we face obstacles, some more than others, but we’re still like everyone else.
I get upset knowing adults and children with a visible difference are scared if they don’t wear makeup or knowing that they’re bullied. I want them to realise it’s not them. They’re not at fault and they should be proud of how they look.
My dream now is to be campaigner for other people like me, and have my photo taken for a brand or company to show that people with visible differences can do anything that they want.