I was born with Sturge-Weber Syndrome, with a large port-wine stain birthmark covering the left side of my head and neck. Lots of extra blood vessels resulted in glaucoma and visible differences in my left eye.
Growing up was a struggle, especially in a small town. My nickname from the bullies was “Two Face.” I tried all the usual treatments but numbing creams made no difference, laser treatments were too painful, and thick makeup did nothing for my self esteem or my social acceptance. After moving to a small city I began undergoing laser treatments at a hospital that would do them with anaesthetic.
By age 21, I began to question what I was doing. Why did I need to go through the pain, the anaesthetic issues and the aftercare? Why go through all this to make “normal” people like me and accept me? Why hide behind a mask of makeup? My boyfriend (now husband) adored me for me.
I know how I look has impacted my ability to get jobs, to find a close friend, to be accepted socially. But I decided that it was no longer time to hide.
People are naturally curious about my condition, and I welcome the chance to answer their questions. I just ask to be treated with respect, like anyone else.
Recently I’ve begun to connect with other adults with facial differences through Instagram and other social media and it’s incredible hearing their stories and knowing I’m part of a wider community. Now I say that my birthmark was really my first tattoo that fate designed for me. It’s unique – just like a fingerprint.
Follow Chelsey on Instagram at @chelseypeat