Hello, my name is Cheryl and I was born with CMN all over my body. I did not have CMN on my face when I was born; they started to develop a few weeks after birth. Up until around 11 years old I was a happy child and people staring or asking me questions about my condition did not bother me.
Life with my condition started to change when I began secondary school at the age of 11. People often teased and bullied me about my skin calling me names like Dalmatian, Cookie and Chocolate Chip. This lowered my confidence and I battled with mental health and low self-esteem. I never wore skirts unless I wore thick tights, which meant I had to wear three pairs to make sure my whole legs were covered. I could not enjoy summer because I wasn’t comfortable wearing shorts or summer dresses, so I covered up my skin all the time.
Through my teenage years and adult life, I lost relationships with my friends and family due to how I felt about myself. I was so angry at the world and hated how I looked. I was not happy living with my condition, and I wanted to get them removed but my dermatologist at the time did not recommend surgery. The stares and negative opinions about my skin continued. A few nice things were said about my skin but due to the fact I was not in love with myself those nice comments did not uplift me. I could not cope dealing with the fact that I must live with this condition for the rest of my life.
I had no knowledge about my condition, why I was born with it, if it was hereditary, will the CMN stop growing or if I have children will they be born with it. Living with this condition and not knowing anything about it apart from looking out for any changes to the mole, I just got on with life, living unhappy and depressed.
I went on to have two children and was engaged but I still could not find happiness within myself which had an impact on the quality of life with my family. I did not take my kids swimming or do spa dates with my fiancé because I was not comfortable showing my legs in public.
My life changed when one day had an emotional breakdown whilst shopping for clothes; I thought about my children and did not want them to go through what I had to go through. I started embracing and accept my condition which enabled me to gain confidence. I also distanced myself from people who did not make me feel good about myself. I stopped comparing myself to others and worrying what other people thought about my skin. These changes enabled me to start loving myself.
I have since been doing fashion shows, catwalks, sharing me story in magazines and working for brands to promote body positivity and diversity. I have also set up an organisation to help change the mindset of those who think negatively about themselves and inspire others to embrace their difference.
Having a better relationship with myself has enabled me to have better relationships with others around me. I love my skin; I am unique and beautiful.