Reaching out a helping hand

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. A girl contacted me via Facebook recently and told me about some of the negative reaction she has had from guys about her face. And, like I always do, I replied to her – these messages were private via Messenger – but I haven’t heard a word from her since, which is a pity as I think talking might help her and I’m a friendly guy.

I was thinking about her the other day when a woman introduced herself to me saying her daughter has a rare disease that affects her face. I left my number with the mother, connected with her later through Facebook, and then got a message asking if her daughter had contacted me. She hadn’t, even though her mother told her about me.

I know how hard it is to take that first step in meeting someone who is facially disfigured, even if you are too. You are probably very distrustful or even fearful of connecting with new people. I like to think I am very approachable, but I also remember how shy I was. Of course now I tend to be a bit more proactive. I like to think I am a good listener and can empathise with others.

It’s never easy to articulate  your innermost thoughts and fears about facial disfigurement. I like to think it is a lot different when two people with facial differences meet up, because we have experiences that are very similar – being stared at, commented on, abused by others. Loneliness, isolation, etc., may be our companions. I was burned as a toddler so my life experience is not completely comparable. I have no memory of living with any other face than the one I have. Others may have been older when the accident happened. But we still have more in common than most.

We have probably also endured countless operations and lengthy spells in hospital. I found it almost impossible to relate to girls because I believed my face was an obstacle. We have fears we feel others cannot understand because their faces are ‘normal’. We may even be married but still have yet to come to terms with our past experiences.

I have been there and believe that by talking and sharing our  stories we can help one another. Sometimes we feel people won’t understand how much they have been through, but I do because I have been on the same journey. I can honestly say I feel your pain, know your uncertainties, understand your anguish. They should not limit your career, stop you from finding love, or otherwise hinder your life journey.

When I met Denise Lehane for the first time a few weeks back she almost fell off her chair laughing when I said one of my concerns as a teenager/young man was if I could kiss properly with my fat lower lip! Isn’t it great that two people whose faces have been badly burned in accidents could share a laugh together about something that worried me so much years ago? Funny now, but at the time I was obsessed about it. Yes, we all have our worries, no matter how trivial they might sound.

Which is why I reached out to one of those girls yesterday and she did respond. Now to reach out to the other.

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