Yesterday something happened which caught me off guard. I was going swimming when out of the blue the woman behind reception asked me “will your face ever get any better?” Initially I didn’t know what she meant – I wondered if I had a spot or mark which I wasn’t aware of and touched my face self consciously. Then she went on ” your Bell’s Palsy ?”
I was born with a weakness on the left side of my face. It is not a Bell’s palsy although it looks similar. When I was at school I got picked on mercilessly because of my mouth – called really horrible names like “rubber lips” and “gudgeon”. I can still remember the worst of the bullies and if I met her today I think I would be scared. As I got older the bullying subsided but I was always worried about things like whether anybody would fancy me and whether I would be able to kiss properly. Once those worries were over, I worried about people looking at me and having my photo taken – that was the worst thing about my wedding day. I just wanted to look normal.
About ten years ago I had plastic surgery to improve my face. I now have more movement on the left side of my mouth and it looks much more even. It has made a huge difference to me. I am eternally grateful to the wonderful surgeon who performed the complex and lengthy surgery. I wish I had had it done much sooner but when I was younger my parents didn’t seem to think it was that bad and I probably wasn’t honest with then about the bullying I had to endure. I still avoid looking in the mirror in a way which will show my entire face and I still avoid being photographed.
Anyway, when I realised what the receptionist was talking about I was lost for words. All my old feelings of vulnerability, self consciousness and despair returned in an instant. I burbled out something about how I had been born this way and this was as good as it got and I had been bullied at school. “That’s such a shame” she replied “aren’t kids horrible ?” and then went on to serve the next person in the queue.
At the time I was really upset. Later I felt angry – how could she make such personal comments in a public place to a virtual stranger ? How could she think saying “what a shame” would make it OK?
Later in the day I was telling Mr So what had happened. He found it hard to take in, how someone could be so insensitive. In fact he was probably as upset as me. But then I thought about how far I’ve come in the last three months and how strong I am. There is much more to me than a slightly wonky mouth just as there is more to me than my drinking past. That woman has no idea about me or my life or how far I have come. I got through the bullying at school and ended up in good career with the wonderful Mr So and my two beautiful girls. I’ve made it through years and years of heavy drinking, depression and anxiety to a sober, happy today. And that’s what really matters.