Biggar teen’s lesson in “being different”

Hannah, Biggar teenager heading up facial diisabilitry charity. Aug 2019
Hannah, Biggar teenager heading up facial diisabilitry charity. Aug 2019

A Biggar teenager with a mercifully rare medical condition has volunteered to be, quite literally, the ‘face’ of a campaign to help other youngsters to cope with its effects.

Her decision is all the more impressive because, at 15 years old, Hannah is just at that age where teenagers are at their most sensitive about their ‘looks’.

She is a member of of the Changing Faces’ Youth Action Group for sufferers of Sturge-Weber syndrome and other young people having to live with disfigurement.

Said Hannah: “I have a birthmark that covers 50% of my face and body including inside my mouth. I had surgery for very serious epilepsy as a baby and because of that I can’t use my right arm, move my right foot or see on the right side.

“I have always known that I look different. I didn’t think much of it when I was younger; no one else really cared when we were young.

“However in high school you have to fit in, you have to look the same, and if you don’t then people will make a fuss.

“I don’t have many friends, just one or two. I had a best friend but she left school, so I was by myself for about a year. I once heard a person had been saying stuff behind my back, calling me ‘a purple monster’, and asking one of my friends, ‘Why are you hanging out with that purple monster’?

“My visible difference has affected me quite a lot because everyone stares. Quite a lot of people ask ‘Why do your teeth stick out?’ – they always notice my teeth first – which is because my birthmark is in my mouth too. I feel annoyed in those moments, I don’t want to be stared at all the time.

“My dad told me a few weeks ago that when I was a baby he also would get really annoyed at people looking at me. I would say my parents are protective, but now none of us even react to any staring or comments if they happen.

“I joined the Youth Action Group as I want to improve my confidence around speaking in public and to meet other young people who have a visible difference too.

“People should not judge me by what I look like, I should be treated the same as everyone else

“My advice to others with visible differences is to try not to take what people say personally.”

Changing Faces is dedicated to supporting young people like Hannah cope with disfigurement and offers a range of practical advice like how to use ‘camouflage’ make-up to best effect.

For more details on the group and its work, please go to info@changingfaces.org.uk