Many people see me, they see a woman (nearly wrote girl there...!) who stands out from the crowd. And by stands out, I do not mean the likes of Cara Delevigne or Robbie Williams (though both are wicked human beings, let's be fair!) I stand out because I have a skin disorder. And believe me I wish and pray to god I didn't have it sometimes. It's scary sometimes, leaving the comforts of the family home in the mornings to make the long trip to work. I open myself up to stares, taunts and it scares me, knowing that today could be the day some unwitting person sends me on a further downward spiral, alienating myself from such an unforgiving environment that is The World, it's not only Hong Kong or Mainland China, I'm talking the World. I don't know how some days I manage to block the shit out, but some days, I'm filled with such anger and sadness that it builds up and escalates into something more.
Like many people with Ichthyosis, our lives consist of struggling to get society to accept us, to understand that beauty is skin deep but there is so much more to our lives than just an appearance in which skin sheds, we look permanently sun burnt and as a result, we have to work extra hard to get people OUTSIDE our close circle to understand that we have dreams and aspirations too. We are not thick people just because we look different. I know this well because aside from Ichthyosis, I have a few friends in Hong Kong who face the wrath of society, just trying to get by on life while dealing with physical disabilities. If anything, society, especially where I live, society could learn a thing or two from the people they so happily shun away since they are probably the nicest people on the planet who are just screaming for people to take them in their arms and work on that little thing called Inclusion.
Am I scared of what the future holds for me? Both in society and in life? Yes, I'm terrified and sometimes I turn to Facebook which isn't the wisest idea at times, but it helps me try to decipher what I have or I could have.
Occasionally I write on Facebook about people who have hurt me that day and I receive a ribbon of support from people telling me to keep me chin up and to keep fighting through because they know I am capable of doing so. I have a lovely friend who has unfortunately left for Down Under...(I like kangaroos and koalas!). But she reads my posts a few times and offers sage advice but something she pointed out made me think she truly understood. When people post negative comments, it's customary to get a barrage of support. But in essence, she said this, I hope you don't mind Kaye!
"Easy to make supportive comments, but basically it sucks and you are one of the most amazing people I know ... Don't know if I could do what you do. Lots of love & hugs ... And a few tears. Ga yauh!!! "
It's easy for people to say things like "chin up" and "don't let people get to you" but the fact of the matter is, that it does and people often don't realise, and I am equally guilty as sin. But what people who offend don't realise, they make their comments without realising that the other person is already scarily fragile and that comment, may sometimes be the final straw and the other person just crumbles. And unfortunately, people who give love and support can't really offer anything but words because especially in my case, chances are, my lot would go up to the offending person and basically scare them shitless. Let me give you a little anecdote from a night down at the pub a while back.
I have known people in Sai Kung, where I live since the day my parents brought me home to Sai Kung, so basically I have a massive extended family whom I love very much. But I was sitting outside with a family friend called Peter King who has known me since I was 3 and having a lively chat about work and how it's hard for expats and those who don't speak Chinese to get good solid work if you're not with the 'banker wanker' lot. But there was another bloke sitting there as well listening to the conversation. But as we were talking, he seemed to be a nice person but as soon as Peter got up to do something, he turned around to me and said, 'please don't take this the wrong way but you look really burnt and not very pretty'. His words stubbed me to the core and the anger building up inside of me was horrible, like a bubbling cauldron and I knew I had to leave before I did something I regretted. I quickly found Pete and made my excuses and explained what they guy said before leaving for home which is about a 10 minute walk away in the first village leaving the town. I texted another friend for Pete's digits as I wanted to make sure all was okay and that he didn't beat the guy up though by the look on his face when I left I couldn't be sure. When I explained why I needed his number, it all came spilling out and effectively I was so sure I'd have to deal with the ignorant soul myself, it never occurred to me to ask for help around me, as someone else quoted later, "Mui wanted to solve her own battles". It didn't occur to me that I didn't have to leave as abruptly as I did because I had an army of Liverpudlians and friends to rally around me and that's what's so good about Sai kung. Whether you have been here for a day, a month or a lifetime, we look after each other and no one, thick or clever has to fight battles on their own.
I challenge you and every person who makes snarky remarks and damages the confidence of the people around them to take a very good look at themselves and to think , "what if I was in their shoes, how would I feel?!" Go on.