As Sylvia says; You can’t change what happens to you in life, but you can change the way you walk forwards on your path. After years of depression and not feeling good enough due to an horrendous accident when she was a child, one day Sylvia decided to ‘#EmergeProud’ from behind her cloak of protection, and shine like the star that she was meant to be!
At the age of 3, I was hospitalized from an accident at home falling into boiling water.
After surviving life support, I went on to have numerous surgical procedures and operations. Every aspect of growing up in a society with a so called ‘perfect body image’ left me screaming inside. No matter how much support I received from family members, I could never love or appreciate my body and all the pain it was going through. When I hit my teens, one thing that stood out to me was body image and looking beautiful. My schoolfriends spent most of their time grooming themselves in front of the mirror and then there was the glossy magazines with flawless images. I recall hearing my mother’s friends say ‘thank God its not on her face’, but I converted those words to ‘the scars on her body are ugly and she is too’.
The hospital consultants continually told my mother that I should stay covered up from the sun and as most burn victim or survivors know that this is all year round. Those words certainly had an effect on the rest of my life. Then there were all the hospital visits where my scarring was examined by student doctors. The only problem for me was that uncovering in front of a bunch of strangers really took its toll on my mental health.
As I went into adulthood, I found myself feeling more and more anxious, often suffering panic attacks believing that everyone knew I was burned. As a burn victim I found myself attracting undesirables who would take my insecurities for granted so I allowed myself to be abused both physically, sexually and mentally. I finally hit rock bottom, drinking copious amounts of alcohol daily and then I met someone who fell in love with me and didn’t worry about my scars. We went on to have children together but no amount of love was going to undo years of self-hate. I began drinking heavily and often turning up at my children’s school intoxicated. Each day was different for me where I would either be happy and attacking everyone, then the next day thinking of how I could end it all.
I found myself trapped in a bubble of self-conscious thoughts and low self-esteem, lacking confidence in everything from school, work, relationships and society. In 2016 my grandson was born, but I was still locking myself in my bedroom and crying every day. My GP asked that I try counselling but unfortunately it didn’t work for me. I began to research severe disfigurement on the body but each time I was presented with ‘facial disfigurement.’ I couldn’t understand why, when I almost lost my life twice and suffered 3rd/4th degree burns to my body, it wasn’t being acknowledged. I understood how difficult it was for a person with facial difference to deal with this every day, but I also knew that I was suffering too. My mental health was severely affected as well as dealing with lifelong physical pain.
In summer 2016, I was on holiday with my mother and noticed someone filming me. I dropped my sarong off my shoulders and my scarring was on display. We left the pool for the beach where my mother asked questions about my scars and I realised that she could have suffered PTSD, Guilt and so much more. I took this moment to help change her life by strutting to the waters edge and uncovering my scars.
This was the beginning of my Love Disfigure journey to body acceptance and helping support others online come to terms with their visible or hidden differences. I shared an online video reveal and spoke about what I endured throughout my life. I set up a Facebook group to encourage people who look different both facially and/or BODILY to embrace the way they look. I didn’t want anyone to go through years of depression and suicidal thoughts as I did.
It wasn’t long until I received worldwide messages, and I was quickly changing other people’s lives through my campaigning. I was even more surprised to hear from people who had all types of struggles including bipolar, depression and even stretchmarks who wanted to become involved.
Now is the time for us all to become more diverse and inclusive in this body obsessed society that we live in through educating and campaigning. It might have taken a lifetime to get here but its all been worth it helping others to accept the way they look. I now campaign for more diversity within the fashion industry, tv & film industry and above all society. We are all survivors and should be proud of our bodies and how amazing they are regardless of how they look. The more we talk about how we feel through our own real life stories, the more awareness is raised so that our children can grow up in a world of body acceptance and true diversity.
Always accept a compliment
You won’t be able to change your path in life but you can change the way you walk it
Follow Sylvia’s inspiring work on these social media platforms:
Instagram – love_disfigure
Twitter – LoveDisfigure
FB Group – LOVE DISFIGURE