Why I hate Halloween

For people who look different Halloween is one of the worst times of the year, after Valentines Day, especially those who are facially disfigured. For ‘normal people’ they will never know how it feels for someone to dress up to look like you do on a daily basis in order to scare people at Halloween, then describe their ‘costume’ as horrific or a monster.

I’ve been told on many occasions that I look like a monster or I look so ugly that I don’t need to wear a mask at Halloween. People think that because it is Halloween they can be as offensive as they like. I would never go out in public on Halloween, I might go to a house party but I would never go out in town or anywhere public because the comments and looks I would get would crush me, it would take me weeks to recover emotionally (and I might punch someone).

Every year I see people dressing up as a ‘burn victim’ and see myself, I look like that or used to look like that. People can tell me that they are not dressed up as me in particular (of course I know that, I am not that self obsessed) or not to be so sensitive or to get a sense of humour as much as they like but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. Believe me it is not as much fun having to look like that every day. Now I am fully aware that 95% of people do not mean to be offensive, they just don’t think about it but it is still offensive and it hurts. At the end of the day I am human and I have to walk around every day with burns, I am discriminated against and looked down on as a result so to make light of that is just cruel.

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Dress up as a super hero, a celebrity, an animal not a group of people who are treated so badly by society it is bullying plain and simple, it may not be intentional but that doesn’t matter.  It is possible to have a good time without being offensive. Just last week I read about a group of students that dressed up as the survivors of the Smiler rollercoaster accident for a pub crawl missing limbs and all. Two girls lost their legs in that accident, how did anyone think that is appropriate?! This incident just demonstrates the lack of empathy that people have towards others who have been through a traumatic incidents or those who are different to them. Is the 5 minutes of attention you get for having a cool costume really worth crushing someone else’s self esteem and putting their recovery back months, even years?

People seem to be willing to put themselves and their children in serious danger at Halloween. Fireworks and Bonfires are not toys, every year i hear about people, mainly children, blowing fingers or hands off as a result of fireworks or people falling into Bonfires, it is not worth it! Also a lot of people don’t seem to realise how dangerous Halloween costumes are they are very very flammable, stand near a candle and you can go up in seconds. You do not want to end up in the Burns Unit.

Please be careful or you may end up looking like a Halloween costume next wear, a costume you wont be able to remove on the 1st of November.

 

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One year on & the world hasn’t ended!

A year ago today Ireland did what most of the world thought was impossible for a ‘Catholic’ country and voted by referendum to legalise same sex marriage and contrary to what the No side would have had you believe the world has not ended and the children are ok!

I am not gay so to say the yes vote had a huge impact on my every day life would be a lie, but I do know what it is like to be discriminated against and be judged for something that I have no control over so to see a minority group that has been treated so badly be ‘accepted’ by their own country was a huge deal to me. Homosexuality was illegal in Ireland when I was born so to see same sex marriage be legalised in my life time was a bit of a ‘miracle’.

To be honest I never understood what the big deal was, who someone else fell in love with or chose to have sex with made absolutely no difference to me. A person is a person. I went to the christening of triplets in Dublin 15 years ago, they were born by surrogate to a gay couple and it was no different to any other christening. There are two parents who were totally in love and so proud of their babies. My family are very open minded probably due to the discrimination and experiences I have had as a result of my burns so why would anyone else’s family judge them? Why would anyone judge them? Even the fact that people had to beg strangers, a whole country, for the right to marry the person they loved was ridiculous! I had watched the Panti Bliss speech about oppression in the Abbey Theatre months earlier and bawled because I identified and empathised so much with what was said.

Watching the whole country mobilise and come together behind such a marginalised community made me very very proud and cry on more than occasion. My favourite memory is walking down Grafton Street one evening and seeing the dreaded no campaigners coming for me, they got a swift fuck off and I kept walking, I tried to be civil by listening and speaking to them for the first few weeks but it made me too angry. Anyone who knows me knows I get very worked up about things I feel strongly about so i had to stop conversing with them. Anyway I went into Stephen’s Green for 5 minutes and when i came back out the No campaigners were surrounded but Yes campaigners holding hands and dancing around them with their rainbows, including a giant Y, E & S. It was hilarious, everyone was cheering and clapping for them. 🙂

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I was actually travelling to America for my brothers wedding on polling day, my flight was at 9am so getting to vote and to the flight on time was very very stressful. Luckily i met someone i knew who worked in the airport when i arrived there with 90 minutes until my flight so I managed to skip a few queues and catch my flight. I’m sure my brother would’ve understood if i had missed my flight as he was upset that he couldn’t come home to vote, I had a few days before the wedding to get another one but it wouldve cost me a fortune!! My yes badge got a lot of questions from Americans on the flight and they were very impressed that the topic was even being considered in Ireland, how they had missed all of the posters I do not know though.

When I got to America the polls were closing and like every other yes voter I was nervously waiting for the count. Obviously not as nervously as the gay community. What if it was no? How could I live in a country that actively chose to deny people a basic human right, who chose to discriminate? I wouldve found it very difficult to go back & live in Ireland if it had been a No. As I said I have been discrimainted against as a result of my scars for the last 20+ years so to have to sit around and watch other people being effectively rejected by their own country would’ve been heartbreaking. 😦

We all know how it ended, I was very very jealous that I wasnt at home for the celebrations but I watched them on TV over in America and listened to how shocked and impressed Americans were. We had finally broken free from the Church and passed what should always have been a basic right. After a challenging few years Ireland finally had something to be proud of! I watched how people cried and thanked everyone who had voted yes and spoke about how happy they were to finally be accepted as equal. I have seen many gay couples walking through town holding hands and kissing over the last year, something i had never seen before.

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Obviously everything isnt perfect and there are still those who do not agree with same sex marraige and discrimiate against the gay community, hopefully this will change over time. Only a few weeks ago a friend told me how at 28 he had just come out to his parents and they had effectively disowned him, they just wouldnt accept it and told him he was not welcome. He hadn’t seen his parents in months. To me for parents to do this to their own child is one of the biggest sins.

Hopefully the yes vote has had a knock on effect and made people more accepting and open minded to not just the gay community but every minority. To those with disbilities, travellers, different races etc. And also made people realise that people power works and that if people come together behind a cause we can make a difference 🙂 I think it also showed the world that we are no longer a country that are ruled by the church and are actually very progressive and open to changed.

P.S. Happy 1st Anniversary to my brother and his wife 🙂

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The problem with Inspiration Porn

Sorry to disappoint but this is nothing to do with porn, no nakedness here 😉

The term inspirational porn was coined by disability activist Stella Young (I have attached her Ted talk at the bottom of this post, read it. It explains the issue much better than i ever can) in a nutshell it describes a person who is seen as inspirational solely on the basis of their disability usually for carrying out simple everyday tasks. It is a very difficult term to explain as it raises many different issues, too many to explain in one blog post. It is also subjective, one person may find something offensive that another might not. Everyone is different, even disabled people. Each disabled or disfigured person is different, have different views and opinions- shocking I know!!

I have always hated being called an inspiration by strangers, when I was youngerstrangers used to come up to me in the street and tell me how inspirational I was. They didn’t know me, all I had done was walk down the street. That isn’t inspirational. They were making assumptions about my abilities and life without knowing anything about me. It made me feel uncomfortable and I found it very patronising. I was being objectified.

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Praising me or a disabled person for going to school, having a job, dong every day things assumes that people with disabilities or in my case disfigured are capable of much less than ‘normal people’. If someone genuinely achieves something amazing then I have no problem with the inspirational label but get to know a person first, hear their story don’t just assume by looking at them.

The athletes that take part in the Paralympics or Invictus games are inspirational as they have trained for years and are the best in their field, they are doing something that is not only challenging for disabled people but also for able-bodied people. They aren’t just inspirational for turning up on the day and smiling in their wheelchairs, they are achieving something.

We are not here to inspire ‘normal’ people, to look at me and think well if she can do it so can I implies that I am some how inferior and if I can do it then is obviously very easy. It diminishes and belittles my achievements and how hard I have worked to get there. I went to college, I obtained a degree and masters in law neither of which were easy. I interned in Washington DC and have had 11 jobs in the last 6 years (during a global recession), this was not easy for me and would not be easy for a ‘normal’ person either.

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Im not here to make someone else feel better about the deal they have been dealt or remind you that it could always be worse. You are assuming that my life is somehow worse than yours or unbearable, that is not true i have a great life, it is different but no less than anyone else’s.

Stating that a positive attitude can overcome anything is also damaging, I know that it has been proven that have a positive attitude helps people recover after accidents and illnesses but not everything can be achieved by being positive. Believeing that i am going to wake up with a normal face does not make it happen. Being positive is not going to help someone in a wheelchair get up a flight if stairs. It diminishes a person’s struggle and implies that it is not ok to not cope, to complain or ask for help, everyone complains and everyone finds life tough, why cant a disabled person?  It makes people who dont seem to be coping as well as others feel guity.

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Another type of inspirational porn are the memes or stories that praise ‘normal’ people for somehow being kind to a disabled person. I have seen many stories from America about disabled people being invited to prom but instead of speaking to the person with the disabiity or discussing disability they all focus on the able-bodied person who invited them to prom like they are taking on some kind or hardship and being selfless by inviting this pityful disabled person!! The disabled person is to be pitied and needs help. Or the stories which praise the partners of disfigured people for standing by them despite their disfigurement, this is patronising and implies that the disfigured person should be grateful because someone is interested in them.

As I previously said if people that know me or know what i have been through and achieved want to call me inspirational that is fine because they are making a judgement after they have gotten to know me as a person not purley on my face.  I do realise that people who call myself or disabled people inspirational are not trying to be cruel but it is enforcing a dangerous stereotype. A stereotype that says that disabled or disfigured people are to be either pitied or put on a pedestal but not never equal.

 

I have attached Stella’s Ted Talk below.

 

Let the wedding season commence

This weekend was my first wedding of the year!

I have 6  weddings to attend over the next few months 😮 It appears 30 is the year when everyone settles down, I enjoy having no responsibilities & still think that I’m 21 so this is majorly freaking me out! The last 10 years went right over my head. Mortgages, weddings, babies….. what?

It is an excuse to get 6 new dresses and shoes oh and have 6 weekends away (might aswell push the boat out). Oh and the hen parties 😉

I spent the weekend in Seafield Golf & Hotel Spa (which is amazing, pure luxury) at my friend’s wedding. The bride was stunning as always (the groom wasn’t too bad either, he scrubs up alright). This group of friends has 4 wedding this year so I’m sure we will kill each other at some stage & need a 6 month break from looking at each other 😉 The ceremony was held in the hotel grounds and was a humanist ceremony which was lovely. I have to say I probably preferred it to a church ceremony, it was very personal and informal but each to their own! 🙂

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I have a family wedding in France in June, which is an excuse for a week long family holiday & I am a bridesmaid in September which people seem to think is really stressful but it has been totally chilled out so far. It is great to be involved in a wedding because my brother had a very small wedding in America and lets face it there is a slim to no chance of me finding someone to marry me so it will probably be my only chance! Weddings can be difficult for people who are disabled or disfigured as finding a partner is a lot more difficult and you experience a lot of rejection but its a part of life so is something that you have to get used to unless you totally isolate yourself but you are missing out then. Im lucky that I have a huge group of friends of men & women that aren’t super coupley so not being in a couple doesn’t really make much of a difference at weddings.

The weather wasn’t great for the ceremony yesterday but I don’t think it had any effect on the day (the bride might disagree), in typical Irish fashion though we woke up this morning to the sun splitting the stones. After breakfast a walk to the beach was in order  to get rid of the cobwebs.

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Just after midnight a text was received informing us that one of my best friends had given birth to a beautiful baby boy which only made the day even more special. But again hello babies, when did that happen?! I’m still in a place where i automatically think oh shit we are too young to be having babies but then I remember we are actually 30 & I need to grow up 🙂

Job Hunting & Interviews

If there is one thing that I have a lot of experience in it is looking for a job & doing job interviews!

I graduated in 2009, slap bang at the start of the recession (typical) :-(. It was difficult for anyone to get a job let alone someone with a disfigurement or disability. If anybody says or thinks that people with a disfigurement or disability are not discriminated against in the job market they are on a different planet. It does happen! It happened to me, not regularly but it did happen. The sad truth is you need to be 10 times better than a ‘normal’ person to be considered equal, especially at the start of your career.

Like a lot of other graduates I spent the first year after graduation on the dole and being knocked back over & over again. I had interned in Washington DC for a few months after completing my finals so that helped me in being selected for interviews. Getting past the interview stage was impossible though!

I won’t say that i was turned down for every role as a result of my scars, I’m sure there were better candidates & we were in the middle of a global recession!! I did have bad experiences though, interviewers sitting with mouths open when i walked in, 30 minute interviews lasting 5 minutes because the interviewer couldn’t concentrate on anything but my face.

Eventually I got lucky as I was given a contract, in the college where I completed my Law degree, as a Tutor for a few months which I really enjoyed (I wasn’t very good though). After that I was given a 3 month contract in Ryanair processing refunds (as a result of the volcano erupting in Iceland). I then ended up in the legal department of a Fund Administrator for 6 months (on Job Bridge before there was Job Bridge) & then a few months in the Department of Justice (again working for free). The market was so bad at the time that even getting someone to let me work for them for free was difficult 😉

From there I got my first PAID role in Compliance in a Fund Administrator & since then i have had 7 contract in 7 different companies, the longest lasting for a year. This meant looking for a new job & doing a new round of interviews every 6 months (on average). I must’ve had close to a hundred interviews over the last 7 years, no exaggeration. I have been in my current role for 15 months & it is permanent so hopefully I won’t have to do any interviews for a long time!! 🙂

It has gotten a lot easier over time due to me having a lot more experience & even though it might not seem like it there are a lot more jobs than there were 6 years ago, I received 3 job offers the last time I was looking!

A few interview tips I have come up with over the years are:

  • Body language – this is so important, if you act confidently and act like you deserve the role then the interviewer will too. Fake it until you make it as I always say.
  • Don’t be intimidated – the person interviewing you is just a person at the end of the day & they have probably had to do a lot of interviews too so will understand if you are nervous.
  • Eye Contact – this indicates that you are confident and are able to interact with people.
  • Listen to what the interviewer is saying. – No one wants to work with someone who doesn’t listen or can’t direction
  • Don’t memorise answers – I have always performed better in interviews where I was natural & thought about the answers I was giving.

A question I get asked a lot is whether i make an interviewer aware of my scars before an interview and the answer is no, i have never mentioned it, I don’t see why I should. If an interviewer isn’t professional enough to deal with it then I don’t want to work for them anyway. I also don’t mention my scars in an interview, I don’t see how it is relevant I am not interviewing to be a model. It is totally up to each person though, I can understand why some people would mention it.

The most important thing is don’t give up & apply for everything! It took me 5 and a half years and 10 contracts to get a permanent job but I got there eventually.

Look at me being all positive 🙂

 

 

 

 

My Very First Blog Post!!

I have been toying with the idea of setting up a Blog for years but never really felt it was a good idea until now. It always seemed like a lot of effort and it is opening yourself up to criticism from the big bad internet. Also what am I going to write about? 😮

My family and friends have been suggesting that I set up a blog for a long time because seemingly my rants can be funny and anyone who knows me knows that I can be opinionated. 😉 I am a big believer in always seeing the funny side of life even in the worst situations.

I plan to blog about anything and everything that I come across, being a 30-year-old in Ireland at the moment has its challenges, let alone being a disfigured women. I was in a house fire in France when i was 7 which resulted in 3rd degree burns to 70% of my face and body (not great) as a result I have experienced a lot of discrimination but have also had a lot of great experiences. I have had hundreds of operations, God knows how many, which are ongoing, my last operation was 3 and a half years ago. As new procedures and technology are developed I will hopefully have more treatment. Having burns is only a tiny portion of my life though, other people make it a much bigger issue out of it than it actually is. If other people were less bothered about it my life would be a lot easier. As I have heard many times it is society that disables a person and I can confirm that this is very true.

I was on the Ray D’arcy show on RTE1 last weekend with Tom Hickey (who also has a blog – Hickeys World) speaking about disfigurement and my experiences, since then a lot more people have suggested a blog so here I am. I have done quite a lot of media work in order to raise awareness of disfigurement and I have had experiences with the media that have not been very positive. The fact that everyone was so supportive and encouraging after this interview helped to give me the confidence to do it.

I studied Law & Business in college, then a Masters in Law, I also interned in Washington DC for a few months, but I am now working in compliance in financial services which is mental at the moment. I am very interested in equality and human rights so will probably write a bit about that too. Who knows?

I have a summer of weddings (I am a bridesmaid) and hen parties to look forward to, with a few babies thrown in (not my own), so that will be taking up most of my time and bank balance.

Dont expect anything amazing for the first while though as this is the first time I have ever blogged, hopefully I will improve over time 🙂

 

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