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Changing Faces
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Biggest challenges of having a visible difference

Hello everyone,

I wonder if people would be willing to share what they consider to be the biggest challenges of having a visible difference.

Catrin, burns suvivor and Changing Faces champion, in sharing her experience said this,

"To be honest, my struggles in life haven't been bullying or social exclusion or anything like that. My struggles have been coming to terms with a life changing accident...."

What about you? What do you struggle with? Self-consciousness, fear of rejection, staring, whispering, unkind words, condescension, abuse, isolation, being misunderstood ...?

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I personally struggle with the staring and the pointing by people. It makes me feel unworthy and rejected as a human. It’s especially hard to come to terms with if people I’m friends with or becoming friends with act like this. It feels like a betrayal of sorts. I’m mindful of the fact that not everyone is sensitive to “visible differences” and wont necessarily realise what they’re doing and how they’re making someone feel unless I tell them (which I rarely do). That being said it does negatively trigger me and past memories. On these days it makes being outside and around people difficult. I just wish people would realise that gestures/words pertaining to anyone’s visible difference really hurts.

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Yes! Same here. The betrayal. I've had friends who would outright stare at my difference while I was talking to them, not even making an effort to be subtle about it. It would make me feel so small and insecure that I wouldn't even have the courage to say how it's affecting me. And I felt isolated because I worried I was making it up and didn't want to freak out on them. So I internalized it. I too am often very uncomfortable going out in public anymore. I think for me smartphones play a large role in that, knowing that many people now seem to think it's entirely acceptable to snap photos of unsuspecting people to make fun of them. I'm always worried the stares and reactions will escalate to complete social humiliation. :(

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The struggle for me is young people around my age being wary of me or excluding me from the group because of my facial difference. I also hate it when online they like, comment and say how strong and inspiring I am, but then in real life they ignore me and pretend like I don't exist.

I've been to a lot of events in the past where this has happened and it makes me feel dejected. Cause I know that once I get my teeth in and I look 'better' those same people r going to want to contact me and be more comfortable being around me because in their eyes, I look 'more normal' then I do now.

But the upside to that is I've been able to see the fake people from the real ones and I'm happy because it means I'm nor wasting my time with anyone if things start to go pear shaped.

The stares are also a big thing as well and the awkward pauses, but day by day its getting better and I deal with it.

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For me, the biggest challenge has been accepting myself and loving myself since I acquired this visible difference(it will be three years ago in July). I struggle with this daily and some days are better than others. I feel a panic attack coming on when I'm faced with going out in public and having to put up with the stares. I have a hard time making eye contact with people. I'm paranoid that all they're doing is trying to figure out what happened to my eye and so I hide behind my tinted glasses. I feel like I need to explain to strangers what happened to me, nobody ever asks though. I don't want to stand out, I just want to blend in with everybody else, but I don't have that choice.

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I feel that way too. Sometimes my family/friends don't understand that I can't just go out in public spontaneously... I need a week or a few days to psych myself up for the stares and put up a wall and then I'm all good. It's sad but that's what I do. I also agree on telling strangers what's happened to me so they don't stare as much... Because I've had people give me dirty and confused looks cause of my face, but when they realise what's happened to me they are suddenly more approachable and better towards me. But I can't explain to every new person I see because why should I? I'm a person like everyone else and because we look different doesn't mean we have to explain why... It's just exhausting sometimes.

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I also have to psych myself up to go outside - this can be particularly difficult on days when my mind is trapped in the past, reliving the painful bullying and rejection I faced when I was 13. I recently went clothes shopping and this one woman wouldn’t stop staring at me so I decided to stare back. I think she realized she was being rude and looked away. I know it’s human nature to stare at something different or unusual but it hurts. I can definitely say my mental health has been negatively affected as of late. I sometimes feel like I’m cursed to have this difference on my face.

One plus of having a visible difference is that I feel it has made me more sensitive and aware of people around me, in a way I never would’ve been if I didn’t look different. It’s a superpower of sorts. I’m very aware of when others are feeling insecure and vulnerable about something. It’s an inadvertent gift of sorts, this hypersensitivity towards people. It makes me sad sometimes, I can tell what to say and what not to say to someone but very few can do this for me.

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It's very touching reading some of your posts. Wish I could know you in real life. I just hope things can get better for us all.

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It is INCREDIBLE to me how I can relate, word for word, to each reply. In my life when I've tried to talk about this with others, I've gotten shut down.. I think people have simply tried to make me feel better? Or maybe they really don't see or understand it, maybe they don't know how to talk about it. But it's made me feel worse because it completely invalidates my experiences. I'm so glad to be able to talk about it with others who can relate and empathize. Thank you everyone.

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