Dear Patricia Marie,

I am writing to you because I don't know where to turn. I hate the way I look.

I have a dreadful birthmark across one side of my face and also a misshapen nose. I feel like everyone stares at me and laughs, even though I try to turn away and never look directly at people, as I can't stand the shock I see in their faces when they look at me.

I was born with this, and I know by now at the age of 41 I should have learnt how to deal with it, but I haven't. I have become so introverted, hate ever going out, and at times feel suicidal. I don't have the money for cosmetic surgery, and make up doesn't seem to make much difference. I only have one close friend, and of course she tells me to take no notice and that I am lovely inside, but I just can't bear it.

Is there anything that you could suggest?

Thank you so much for reading my problem.

Patricia Marie says...

In a world obsessed by perfection, those living with facial disfigurements can often struggle with psychological problems, including lack of self confidence, low self-esteem and crippling shyness. The reality of living with a visible difference is that others can be very judgmental and intrusively inquisitive, which can make the individual feel distressed and vulnerable. Nevertheless, there are those who feel their flaws define them, and would feel incomplete without their familiar blemish.

Your friend means well when she says you're lovely on the inside. However, everyone is uniquely beautiful on the outside too - although many have difficulty viewing themselves in this way. I believe you have been particularly brave trying to deal with this matter on your own, and would suggest you embark on some counselling, which could help you learn to accept yourself, because of your uniqueness, and not in spite of it. Furthermore, because you are feeling seriously depressed, I would suggest an urgent chat with your G.P, who could explore all options with you to improve your emotional wellbeing, including potential referral to a cosmetic surgeon through the NHS.

There are some dedicated organisations, including The Birthmark Support Group that offers support and information, not only for anyone with a birthmark, but also their family, and Changing Faces which provides a wide range of Self-Help Guides, and could help you learn new techniques to handle living with an unusual appearance, and to find a way to live the life you want.

The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy: www.bacp.co.uk 
The Birthmark Support Group: www.birthmarksupportgroup.org.uk 
Changing Faces: www.changingfaces.org.uk