I was born with a rare syndrome, chondrodysplasia punctate. It means that my nose, cheekbones, eyes and skeleton didn’t develop normally in the womb or grow normally as a child.
Between ages three and 21, I had multiple surgeries on my nose, cheekbones and right leg. More recently I have also needed eye surgery for retinal detachments and cataracts. I have lived my whole my life dealing with a visible difference to my face and general appearance – as I’m also 4ft 10.
I can’t say that it has been easy; adolescence and my 20s in particular were hard. I struggled with low self-esteem and loneliness, despite doing well at school academically and going to medical school to study to become a doctor. But since my late 20s, things have slowly improved. I’m now a doctor, therapist, small business owner, and have a long-term partner and two gorgeous daughters.
I feel happy in my own skin and have the confidence that I lacked as a young girl. I now feel passionate about helping others overcome low self-esteem and enjoy doing so however I can. Sometimes that’s in my various work roles and sometimes its just socially.
I would say that working on my mental wellbeing has been the biggest thing that helped turn things around for me. Even though I’d had surgery as a child to help with my appearance, it didn’t help me with my own feelings of low self-esteem at the time. What has made a difference has been my own drive to feel happier and more confident.
Over the years it has led me to various courses and personal reading on subjects such as mindfulness, self-compassion and understanding about how working on our minds can make a difference. I get excited when I read about a medical concept of ‘neuroplasticity’ that backs up my experience. We CAN change the way we feel about ourselves and the way we think and act.
There is no point waiting for others to make things better, we can slowly learn that we have the ability to shift our perspective for the better. However, it’s hard to do this alone so finding the support of like-minded people and positive groups is immensely helpful if not vital.
I’ve enjoyed supporting others who are struggling with their appearance by drawing on my own. It’s a skill, knowing how much to disclose of my own struggles, to help others, signposting to online resources and local groups and just being a listening ear.
Some of my favourite consultations as a general practitioner are with young people who are struggling with their image and confidence. In my personal life I have loved running small groups supporting people who are exploring meditation and mindfulness.
Another recent addition to my life has been running my own health and wellness business where I’ve gained even more confidence and skills that my 20-year-old-self would have run a mile from! I regularly do lives on Facebook and Instagram and love challenging the traditional concept of ‘beautiful’.
I have huge gratitude for the healthcare professionals involved in my care and the support of friends and family over my life so far. I’m now excited to see what else is in store – I really do feel like there is nothing to stop me.