03/13/2013 12:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Is It Like To Be Disfigured?

This question originally appeared on Quora.
Answer by Mary Katherine Glen, Student

I can't speak for everyone since disfigured is pretty broad, but I have a disfigurement and I can tell you about my experience. I was born with hemifacial microsomia, which basically means I have an asymmetrical face. A lot of the left side of my face is paralyzed, and I'm missing my left ear. I also have extremely thin skin on that side so I can't really have surgeries which would give my face a more symmetrical appearance. I did have two nerve transplants when I was a child that gave me the ability to smile, but after the second operation an incision on my face got infected which resulted in me having to have a skin graft on the side of my face. The whole thing was a big mess.

It's hard having a noticeable disfigurement because often times I'm not treated like a normal person. People stare at me in public a lot and sometimes treat me like I'm retarded or deaf. It's also difficult because guys don't find me attractive. I have never been asked out and have never had a boyfriend. It might seem silly but I think that's the worst part of it. My disfigurement hasn't really gotten in the way of me doing anything else though except whistling, drinking out of straws, and playing instruments like the flute or the tuba.

Being disfigured is hard, but because of my condition, I've always received extra attention and love from everyone in my family. They paid for me to go to a small private school where I wouldn't be bullied when I was a kid. Those were some of the best times of my life.

I am still coming to terms with the fact that I'm going to look this way for the rest of my life. But I think the fact that I was born with this rather than getting it later in life as the result of an accident or illness has made it easier because I haven't known life any other way. Some people say it's better to have had something and lost it than never to have had it at all, but I don't feel like I would be any better off if I used to be normal-looking.

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