In normal daily life I am finding it quite easy to be happy with what I have got. There are days I am proud of what I look like… But sometimes it is so hard and it hurts so much and it so hard to understand why it is me. I wish I could just experience one single day as a normal teenager….

I found this Facebook message this morning from a teenage girl whom I met a few months ago and it reminded me so much of how I felt at her age. She too has a face that is different than the norm, and the hurt is sometimes hard to hide. And how would it not be?

‘It is so hard to understand why it is me’ she says. I must have posed that question a million times when trying to make sense of my face. I couldn’t comprehend why I was the one who had been burned and not someone else. And if there was a God how could He hate me so much that He would inflict this abomination on me?

I so much wanted my face to disappear and be replaced by something less frightening and grotesque. I never considered that others might look like me, never wondered why children were deaf or disabled, mentally handicapped. I thought of a world that included just one abnormal teenager – and that was me.

Of course it’s normal for any teenager to be self-centred. I was obsessed by my face, certain that it’s repulsiveness (my word, not others’) would hold me back in life – and would be an impossible barrier to overcome when it came to building relationships with girls or finding work.

I want to tell my young friend that there will be days when the hurt and pain will swamp her emotions. It’s inevitable. It’s easy for people to say nice things to you when they don’t have to live with your face. You do, of course. Every day may bring another challenge, more trauma, sometimes pain. Wrestling with your natural inclination to feel sorry for yourself and retreat into your world is hard. And yet that’s what you must do.

I gave up trying to figure out why of all the children in Cork that day I was the one burned in a fire. It wasn’t the boy next door or the girl across the road. It was me, and the sooner I accepted that the better. Only I didn’t, not for many years. I paid a heavy price, suffering years of self-pity, anger and socially ostracising myself. I inflicted damage that would diminish me as a person and degrade my self esteem. I wouldn’t wish that life on anyone.

I know you won’t do that. There is no need to repeat my mistakes. Before you know it you will be in your twenties and with age comes wisdom. I wouldn’t wish you to lose some of the best years of your life experiencing hurt, although I know some pain is part of our lives.

Stay strong young lady and accentuate the positive. Know you are loved and liked by so many; that you are not alone in occasionally feeling sad and overwhelmed.