Dare To Tell – Day 44
I was born with a facial disfigurement. From 3 months old, there was a lot of hospitals visits and surgery and this went on into my adult life. I’ve never really wondered why, I just was and I just am.
Around the age of 4, my family and the doctors gifted me with an artificial eye and dark glasses, these were to camouflage my disfigurement. I never went anywhere without this mask on.
There were only 3 or 4 people that I was comfortable with, without the mask; my sister, my mom, my daughter, my grandma. Everyone else that came and left, casually or intimately, never saw me naked; that is, without this mask.
The artificial eye was difficult to keep in 24 hours a day. Ideally, I needed to take it out to sleep
but if I had to share a room or there was a risk of anyone coming close to seeing me, I learned how to put the mask on practically in my sleep. That was my way of life from the age of 4 until 44. At 44 I realized things needed to change.
My grandmother took care of us. Mom worked from morning ’til night; she was a nurse, a single mum working 2 or 3 jobs to give us what we needed. Grandma and I couldn’t get on. She openly favored my sister and though I desperately wanted to be close to her, we fought all the time.
My dad left when I was really young. I was desperate for his approval and his love and whenever we got together there was this friction that I couldn’t manage. It was the same with cousins, friends, and any people that I cared about; there always seemed to be a stormy relationship pattern. I was really unhappy about it and it followed me into my adult life.
When I was 12 I knew I would follow my Dad to London. So when I was 18 I came to London to do my nurse training. I was successful; I was an achiever, a bit mouthy, a bit confident, a bit cocky. This was the front; behind it was this little girl, weak, scared, frightened, insecure and longing for deep connection.
I had abusive relationships with men. By my mid 30’s, I was a single mom, dating guys that I called my boyfriend who never called me their girlfriend because they had someone else. Whenever my home life was rubbish and my work life was good or the opposite, I managed. Then they both became rocky. It was a really bad time for me, overwhelming stress and desperation for peace.
After barely escaping a serious car accident, I found myself at home and I prayed, God, if you are real, now’s a really, really good time to come and help me… you’re my last hope. If I wasn’t rescued now I would just go, I’d check out, I’d die.
I spent 3 days in bed. I don’t know who looked after my little girl. I don’t even remember getting out a bible and all of a sudden this book that meant nothing to me before this moment, started talking to me. The voice called out to me.
I’d had all these abusive men with chat up lines and demands This male voice was different, it was saying things like I love you and I know who you are, I want to help you to understand what I think of you and I accept who you are for real. The words on the page became a voice that told me how meaningful I am, the voice made a meaningful connection with me.
It was so different from any male voice I had ever heard before, it got my attention. It was such a weird time, 3 days in my bedroom having a conversation with an invisible male voice called Jesus. The voice disagreed with some the things I knew about myself, like that all of the things that happened to me, I deserved.
I got up. I said to the voice, I’ll get to know you, I’ll go to church, I’ll read the bible and I’ll give you 3 months and the voice said, I’ll take it.
That was 12 years ago, my life changed at that moment. I began to form a relationship with the voice and to challenge my beliefs about myself. I began to believe that I’m worth it, I’m valuable, that I’m loveable. It was lovely getting to know this god, this Jesus.
The day of my aunt’s funeral, 3 years ago, I lost my glasses. I was paralyzed, how would I go to the funeral, and I wanted to speak at it. I was taken aback by my response, by how panicked I felt that my glasses were gone. I ended up going but I felt really uncomfortable, I wanted to hide from everyone. Afterwards, I went to thank the people who were helping out. A child he said to his mom, your friend is so ugly. My aunt said, don’t worry about Dion, she doesn’t mind she was born like that. They were likening me to the aliens on star wars.
The ache in my heart was from being exposed, being naked in front of people. That was the day I had a really intense conversation with god. He asked me, what’s all this covering up about anyway, why do you wear that? I thought it was obvious, but the answer blew me away.
I realized that I was wearing the artificial eye because it was the kindest thing to do, to not subject people to being uncomfortable to my ugliness. I felt it would be unkind to inflict how I looked on other people.
It took my breath away, 10 years into my relationship with Jesus, just as I was beginning to believe I’m beautiful, talented, and gifted. I was even helping other people recognize that in themselves and yet I was covering up to help people not actually see me. I was gob-smacked and really dissatisfied with my way of thinking. It no longer fitted the truth of my belief system about who I am.
On 10/10/10 I made up my mind that I could find a way to show up in my world, not covered up, not masked but for real. I would find a way to break down these thoughts that said that I was offensive to people, that looking at me would be an infliction.
The physical mask was a metaphor for who I was in my life. Now I’ve been on this massive journey to take off the masks. I’m not 100% comfortable, but now I make videos, I stand on stages, I talk over skype. I’ve learned to challenge the belief that I’m ugly and unlovable and choose to believe what Jesus tells me that I’m adorable, and loveable and beautiful.
It’s okay to show up as me, I don’t need to hide anymore. People hear my story and it relates to their masks and their cover-ups. They hide behind their jobs, husbands, clothes, money, masking all kinds of sick thoughts about themselves, masking their shame and fear.
A few months ago I was on a bus and I was really tired after a long day, I wanted to get home.
I asked the lady beside me, have you got the time? She screamed, threw her bags in the air, she was shaking hysterically. She acted as if she had seen a monster.
I realized what had happened, I was still breathing. I had a conversation with myself, I could feel it wanting to hurt and I could feel my decision mechanism coming into play. I put my hand on her arm and I said it’s okay, I’ll move. I gathered her things that had fallen and I got up and moved. It was a huge milestone for me, I had dreaded this kind of reaction but I realized it was hard for her but it doesn’t mean it has to be hard for me.
Some people will always react badly and I can live with that. I was ready, I had acknowledged the fear, I knew that other people might see me the way I had seen myself. I had decided that I would live my life without these masks , this is my belief system.
Do I really believe that I have a right to walk around like this?
Do I really know that my previous thoughts were rubbish?
And if I do, how can I react to people who see me the way I saw myself. I prayed for help in this (and I got counseling). To help me open my heart, to heal the piece that hurts when people don’t like me.
When she had that reaction, I felt fleeting pain, it came and left quickly, embarrassment and shame came and I very quickly pushed them out the back door. They came and I said no. I acknowledged them but I responded with love and compassion.
There’s a truth about me I haven’t always recognized. Jesus is my reference point for that. Since I met him he’s invited me to change how I’ve been thinking about myself. BC I knew that I was ugly and unlovable with every fiber of my being.
I got offered and challenged with another way to see things…I call that Truth.
Dion’s website will be up shortly; in the meantime you can contact her directly at Connect@DionJohnson.com and on Facebook