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What Plastic Surgery Couldn't Fix in My Life With Treacher Collins Syndrome

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It is not easy coming from a place of hurt and abandonment. It led me to resentment, denial, and anger towards all those with whom I crossed paths. My defense mechanism was to treat people as poorly as I had been treated. I acted spitefully and ungratefully without even realizing it. With pain, sometimes there is no gain, just more pain.

There was no sense of normalcy in my childhood. I was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a physical deformity that affects the bone structure and appearance of my face. It hurt to know that I was born with a face that my mother could not love. I was sandwiched in between experiencing daily traumas consisting of sexual, physical and mental abuse at home, and then at school, I was bullied by my peers who hated me because of my face. I buried my past and the pain, and I refused to come to terms with what had hurt me the most. I created personas and acted in desperation. I didn’t even realize I was living a complete lie.

Starting at an early age, I endured over 16 complex and painful reconstructive plastic surgeries. The physical pain of these surgeries allowed me to numb the emotional pain. I became addicted to the outcome of surgery and the sympathy I would gain. Every surgery would foster a different outcome, and it felt good. I had once been without cheekbones, and then suddenly, I had them implanted. It was an exhilarating feeling to see more beauty after every scar. Having so many surgeries gave me an emotional high and led to me wanting more of them in the name of vanity. I became so focused on external beauty because I felt I would be more accepted and loved.

The emotional inadequacies in my life fueled my negative thought patterns, which led me to experience more problems. I made that many more mistakes and some of them came in the form of surgical mishaps. Doctors had warned me about what could go wrong, but my hunger for surgery in exchange for more beauty outweighed their opinions. My goal was to become a model. I wanted to prove I was worthy and beautiful. I thought that I could be one of those gorgeous models on the cover of the Vogue fashion magazine. I fantasized that maybe I could be the one to redefine true beauty.

Event: Once Upon A Runway - A Toy Story (A KTM Event) at FAO Schwarz managed by Micah Feliciano

Things didn’t necessarily steer me in the direction I had initially planned. For years I felt entitled to victimize myself because I was the one who was wronged. My guarded heart showed an ugly side that I couldn’t mask. I was cold, and I lacked sympathy for others because it was impossible for them to relate to the traumas I had endured. Deep down, I felt sorry for myself, and I made excuses to act recklessly. The more hurt I experienced throughout the years, the harder and colder I became.

I did my best to carry on and focus on what I wanted. When I was 24, I boldly walked into the stadium to audition for America’s Next Top Model, and I was laughed at and ridiculed by the other girls. This made me feel “stupid,” worthless, and most of all, ugly. I stopped watching my favorite television show, and I began focusing on going to school and building my career. I had come to terms that I couldn’t be the type of beauty that the fashion industry requires.

This carried with me into my 30s until I realized that I wasn’t doing myself any justice by holding onto what was no longer serving me. I realized that I had disconnected from myself and the childhood abuses by masking and concealing them through numerous plastic surgeries. This affected my ability to love others, let alone love myself.

When I unsurfaced the pains and dealt with them, I found a different type of beauty that no one could take away from me. I embrace that my past challenges didn’t break me because now I know they made me. If I knew then what I know now, I’d see that beauty comes in different forms. Recognizing external beauty is an excuse to take someone at face value without knowing what is inside of their heart. I always wanted to be loved for my heart and not pitied for my “ugly” face.

My circumstances have now changed after ridding my life of the toxicities I had unknowingly created for myself. I have not had surgery since 2013, and I do not plan to have any future surgeries unless they are medically necessary. Also, I am proud to say that I have been on the modeling runway eight times for the Kiss the Monkeys celebrity fashion events. I am blessed to have shared the runway with three other disabled models representing inclusivity and true beauty. While I had not planned to model again, it automatically manifested back into my life once I began fully loving and accepting myself. It is not easy to love yourself after enduring a lifetime of pain, but now I know the impossible is possible if you take action to love and accept yourself.

Event: Once Upon A Runway - A Toy Story (A KTM Event) at FAO Schwarz managed by Micah Feliciano

Originally published: January 24, 2021
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