Category Archives: Changing Faces

clicks of clarity

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About 2 weeks ago, while on holiday, I had what I call, a click of clarity, I love them… those moments, when you can just see things clearly for what they really are. Sometimes they are totally unexpected and not even related to the current activity, but they just appear and you’d be stupid to ignore. This one was regarding my face, which as some of you will know has been a long term, ongoing struggle for me.

I was lying down on the sofa, and I just thought… my face is never going to change the way it looks- I have no intention of having more plastic surgery or cosmetic enhancers… my face will always look like this whether I like it or not- so actually, if the face isn’t going to change, your attitude better. CLICK. Just like that. After decades of therapy, I had that one thought and its changed me.

My face ain’t changing. So I have to. And I will.

When I don’t blog, I use a private journal. The journal is for all the stuff that is definitely not suitable for public consumption. But today, I will type out a letter I wrote to  my face on 1st August. This is uncomfortable for me, but I know I have to state the intention publicly- and for me blogging is an easier way than telling people (not sure I could do that yet). So here it is… unedited… just as it is, just as I am…

1st August 2017.

Dear Face,

I am sorry. So terribly sorry. For all I’ve put you through. Others have hurt you too, ut I know what I’ve done has been so much more damaging and deep. I have been cruel, neglectful, invalidating and abusive. So awful. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for functioning despite everything you have gone through. Thank you for being so patient with me. I place a marker in the sand- from this moment on my relationship with you changes. I give you my word and my intention. I can’t promise I won’t ever fall or slip in to old patterns, but I can promise as soon as I notice I wills stop I will not indulge the abuse. I will acknowledge it and let it pass- but I will also treat myself with compassion in these failings.

Face, I will need to develop my ability to listen to you and you will need to develop your voice. I know all the abuse has silenced you and you will need to grow in trust of me again. Again, I can’t promise I will never get it wrong but I can promise my desire and intention is to validate you and yours experiences. Keep talking and I will keep listening.

I accept you totally as you are. Your eyes and nose aren’t going to change – I’m not putting you or me through surgery so this is the way it is. I can’t change the way I look and I’m sorry that I’ve been so resistant to you. I’m sorry for the years I have been desperate to look different. I’m sorry for the way I’ve blamed you for everything. I’ve laid it all at your door. The whole lot:

  • rejection by mum
  • being single
  • the reason for my vulnerability to predators

There may be a grain of truth in all of these- but the truth is also that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Face, you are the way you are. You didn’t ask for it- and you are not responsible for other people’s reactions to it… mum, dad, club, peers strangers and most importantly myself. I have made the choices I have- not your fault. I’m not judging myself for those responses- I have done what I’ve done usually because I’ve tried to survive. I have survived. Nut now to live. Cant change what I’ve done but I can change what I do. Wow,such an important moment. I relish this moment: my face isn’t changing so I have to- actually ‘have to’ isn’t the full picture, I choose to… I want to… I really want to…

Facce- you are amazing. You see, smell, speak, breathe, communicate- wow, you are incredible, just incredible.

I don’t want tot insult you by not being authentic, so I’m not yet able to say you are beautiful etc, but with integrity I can say, I accept you the way you are. And I really hope to grow in my love and appreciation of you. Not sure what that really looks like but its got to be better/ different to how things have been until now. I want to look at you with:

  • delight not repulsion
  • compassion not criticism
  • kindness not cruelty
  • to cherish you not to abuse you

Face- may you be safe: safe from the judgement of others and safe from the judgement of myself

may you be happy: delight in your uniqueness, celebrate your quirkiness and glory in your radiance

may you be healthy- may your eyes continue to see, your ears continue to hear, your nose continue to breathe and your out and teeth be healthy and whole.

Your face is welcoming- your smile is radiant and your laugh is infectious. Your lips are beautiful.

“People will stare. Make it worth their while.”    Harry Winston.

may your face be at peace: with itself, with me and the rest of the world.

A new adventure together- not sure where its going and what it looks  like- but things will never be the same- they can’t, because my heart has changed.

“I love you just the way you are”

Love Hepzibah.

Thanks for listening.

 

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Thank you

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Thank you to everyone who has text, commented and hugged me over the past few days.

I am ok.

I have chosen to sit with raw-ness not pretend it doesn’t exist. Friday and Saturday were tricky but I am ok.

I am sorry that I shared the name of the charity- of course I did that in a positive way. I would like to say I really think they do an amazing work and if anyone was thinking of supporting/ contacting them I do encourage to find out for yourself if they can help in your particular circumstances. Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out for me.

My BPD diagnosis is being cited as the reasons for removal of services. I didn’t disclose this at the assessment A) because I wasn’t asked b) I told them about DBT which I felt gave an indication of my issues and C) my psychiatrist does not think I have BPD.

They found this out when they spoke to Penelope my DBT therapist. Ironically, this is the reason for removal but they rung her to tell her that I wasn’t suitable before they even knew this information. Bit of a blow.

I now need to go about the palava of getting that diagnosis officially changed- which involves potentially a lot more angst. However, having my first incident due to this diagnosis if it is not accurate I don’t want it- especially if it is going to cause me hassle!

It’s funny, as I write this lots of pain surfaces about it all. Time for a brisk walk me thinks.

Thanks for listening.

Bit of a blow

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Changing Faces have been in touch with Penelope my DBT therapist. They are withdrawing the offer of sessions for me. They think I was too distressed on Monday. They asked Penelope to tell me that was the end.

I am devastated.

Currently, I’m in emotion mind and I hope with time this will soften. But today I can’t stop the tears flowing as I feel:

Once again I have been rejected because of my face

I told Maria things on Monday that I have never told anyone- and to have been so vulnerable to someone who I believed was qualified to work with me, is excruciating. I am so ashamed at myself that I allowed myself to be so naive and vulnerable.

I am mortified that the practitioner spoke to her manager about it and the manager has decided to withdraw the service

I am inconsolable that someone couldn’t manage my distress and that once again I was rejected for being ‘too difficult’

I took 20 years to have the courage to make contact with the organisation- and if their service wasn’t able to ‘cope’ with me, they should have said so at Assessment not after i had started a therapeutic process.

It makes me feel hopeless that the country’s specialist’s in facial disfigurement feel they cannot ‘manage’ me.

I feel in pieces. I just hope more good than harm can come out of this event as it doesn’t feel like it now.

Maybe tomorrow I will be more in wise mind about it all. Maybe tomorrow it won’t hurt as much. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to see it is more about them and the limitations of their service than me. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to pick myself up off the floor again and keep going. Maybe tomorrow it won’t be so raw. I hope so.

Thanks for listening.

When the random happens

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I have been a teacher for 22 years. In that time I have possibly interacted with hundreds, if not thousands of families. In all these years I have NEVER had a child ask me about my face… Until this morning!

How random is that!!!!

I’ve worked nearly all of my career in inner London. I’ve always credited this for being the reason for why the children have never taken a huge amount of notice about what I look like. The schools where I’ve worked are full of every size, shape, colour, culture and disability under the sun- so I’ve never really stood out.

I can only remember two occasions where I think children have been whispering about my face. But I’ve never heard any names or anything like that. Until this morning!!!

My primary school is in East London, so my theory about the accepting diverse culture of inner cities was just blown out of the window!

A new child (aged 5 ish) saw me in the corridor, asked me my name, I asked her hers. She then asked why I looked like I did… I asked what she meant… She said my face looked funny. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to talk about feelings etc… And to be honest it was no big deal. I wasn’t upset . I wasn’t even hurt- she was a young girl exploring her new environment.

However, the timing and irony of the situation was not lost on me. My first comment in 22 years the same time I start at Changing Faces… Random! I have to admit I hope I don’t have too many more randoms!

Thanks for listening.

And so it starts…

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Today was my first session with the facial equality charity, Changing Faces. I had my assessment in December and such a lot has happened to me since that time. In some ways as I travelled into London I was trying to remind myself why this seemed like a good idea! I’m always amazed at how easy it is to bury pain at times… I can switch my emotions off quite quickly when necessary and as I journeyed there, I knew I was very detached from myself.

I got the tube and for the first time I didn’t really think about it as such a big deal. I’ve only been on the tube 6 times, so for me to take it more within my stride, is really encouraging. Every time I do it, I feel slightly more empowered.

It was my first time of meeting my practitioner. For the purposes of this blog, her name is Maria. She is a counselling psychologist just finishing her PhD. She looked younger than me. She has a facial difference herself.

This is my third time in the head office and I could tolerate looking at all the pictures a bit easier. The reception area is full of these advertising campaigns. Normally I just look away and feel slightly queasy- today I could hold it together a bit more.

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Fortuitously, I did not find Maria’s facial difference difficult to look at. So that was good. I felt she got the gist of me very quickly and she released me from all pressure to make improvements or get better. She kept encouraging me to take this process very slowly. I am grateful for that freedom.

The greatest gift Maria gave me today was to just ‘let me be’. I weeped, I was silent, I was wracked with shame… And she just let me be. She didn’t try and make it better, she didn’t pretend it wasn’t as awful as it is, she didn’t offer platitudes… She let me be.

I have blogged before about the pain of emptiness and loneliness I constantly battle with. Nothing to do with the number of people I know, but that awful isolation that comes from feeling misunderstood. That terror that comes upon you when you feel like no-one in the universe can understand just how awful this moment is. I know many of us feel this about other things in life we have experienced. Today I was able to get a momentary glimpse into this consequence of having facial difference.

Two things were significant for me. Firstly I have very clear memories of trauma related to my face. I can picture and articulate exact conversations, incidents and time lines. For other area of my life which have been equally tricky I can be very fuzzy about chronology and accuracy of events. Today I re- lived experiences with the clarity of a first hand account.

Secondly, I responded differently to myself. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes if I am very distressed I start pinching and scratching my face. Sometimes it is because I am so repulsed by my face, I want to scratch the skin off, sometimes it is because I want to bleed and let some of the pain out. I HATE my cheeks. They are fat and round (mainly induced by years of taking steroids- I can’t bear the mole like features… So sometimes I try and literally squeeze all the fat out. In the session I began attacking my face. I had to get it off me.

Maria led me in a safe space visualisation. I find visualisations very difficult as I can’t picture myself… But I went with it. As she led me through my safe space I realised I had begun to stroke my cheeks gently. They were very sore from where I had been hacking at them… But I began to caress and stroke them. I have never done that to myself ever. I stayed with it and tried to soothe my raw skin. It was a moment for me that I was able to let be.

I don’t know where these sessions will take me. I can’t imagine feeling different about my face. But 2 years ago I couldn’t imagine all the things I have been able to do since starting DBT. My goals are deceptively simple. I would love to not feel physically sick whenever I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or in a photo. I would like to be able to hold eye contact with new people- especially men, without looking away. I would like to feel different about the way I look. I can’t be more specific than that at this point, as I’m still at the stage of, is this as good as it gets? I hope not.

Who knows, maybe I might cope with my face on a poster at some point?

Thanks for listening.

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