I hated this photo. I never liked to look at a photo of myself when I was younger. As you can see I was carrying a little less weight back then. I’m smiling which might make you think that I was happy. But back then I was miserable.
This photo was taken around 1980 in my sister Lorraine’s house. The uniform was actually her husband’s. Back then he was in the merchant navy, but he was away so I casually donned it and posed for a photo.
Looking at it now I can see I didn’t look half as bad as I felt. I was in my late 20s and feeling sorry for myself. Apart from my job, nothing else seemed to be going right. I didn’t really have friends outside work, certainly not people who I could confide in outside work. I felt an emptiness inside me that all the fake smiles in the world couldn’t hide.
The funny thing is that I had kept this pained, awkward and depressed side of me well hidden from family and work colleagues. I couldn’t articulate my feelings of inadequacy to anyone; couldn’t express my aching loneliness. Instead I projected a false image that I was happy. So I laughed loudly at people’s jokes, smiled until my mouthed ached with the effort, cracked jokes myself – anything that would make me somehow fit in.
And yet I wasn’t happy. Back then I couldn’t see any positives in my life. I loved work, but it didn’t fulfill me. Photos reminded me that my face was different, and in my mind’s eye I was unattractive, not worthy of a girl’s attention.
I remember the day this photo was taken because I came across an interview in one of my sister’s magazines about a woman who was badly burned in a fire. She suffered an epileptic fit and fell face first into a fire. It was the first time I had ever seen a photo of someone other than myself with a facial difference, so I was scared and fascinated. How did she cope?
I read on to find she had never married. Her boyfriend at the time of the accident wanted to marry her, but she refused because she believed he had asked her out of pity, something I found extraordinary. Really? Who in their right mind would marry somebody with a facial difference out of pity? Certainly I never believed that any person would do that.
Since my mother’s death I’ve been going through her photo collection. Amazingly there are about five photos there of me before my accident, which came as a real surprise. They remind me of what I looked like, but I don’t dwell on how I might have looked. That’s history now.