We Are All Different and Unique
by Sylvia Macgregor
We are all Different and Unique
On August 2016, I was looking forward to a holiday away with my son and mother to Bulgaria. The past months had been extremely difficult for me suffering with severe depression and locking myself away in my home and the four walls of my bedroom. I was spending my days crying continuously and dealing with paranoia. Any letter, phone call or person looking at me would send me into a frenzy of calls to my friend and sister as I thought I was being followed. I didn’t know what was going on and never realised that this was the effect of living with depression for so many years.
Every day on holiday, we would find a sunbed by the pool but as far back as possible from prying eyes. I hated my scars and didn’t want anybody staring at them so it was important to sit away from everyone. One day we went down to the pool and there were no sun beds available. My son come running back to say he had found 2 sunbeds for us around the childrens pool. I wasn’t happy when I noticed the beds were at the front of the pool. I kept my sarong covering the whole of my body but it was extremely hot. I kept looking around to make sure there was no one looking and let the sarong drop while I was sat on the sun lounger. After a few minutes I turned around and noted a man with his wife laying down behind me. The man had his phone held up high, pointing in my direction. I decided to move around as I didn’t want to believe that he was filming me. After a few minutes I noticed he was not only staring at me but also filming me. Both the man and his wife who both spoke a different language, began to laugh at me. I quickly got upset and told my mother that we needed to go. She tried to console me as I got more and more upset and instead made a decision to go to the beach. I never realised that this decision was going to change my life forever.
Sitting again on our sun loungers on the beach, my mother began to touch my scarring. She had spent years supporting me and accompanying me to hospital appointments. She was the one who cried at my bedside when told I wouldn’t survive. She was the one who rubbed creams on my scars. She was the one who spoiled me because of my injuries. The one person I loved endlessly and would do anything to make her happy was my mum. Dad had passed 4 years prior and I knew she was suffering daily from losing him. I no longer wanted to add to her broken heart. I made a decision to walk down to the waters edge and drop my sarong. I put my hands on my hips, smiling the biggest smile ever calling out to my mother. ‘mum, mum look at me’ She had her head hung low then suddenly looked up and smiled the biggest smile. I decided that no-one was going to photograph or video me with a sad look. From now on I will pose like a model. I quickly went back to my mum and put my hand on her shoulder and said, ‘mum, from now on everything is going to be ok’. I knew that she understood me as we continued on with our holiday.
When I arrived back home I knew that I wanted to help others so I sent out a youtube video where I revealed my scars then set up love disfigure. Over the past two years I have gone on to create very successful campaigns that have had much press and media attention. I also share lots of body positive photos wearing bikinis, swimsuits and underwear encouraging others to embrace their bodies.
Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi, my name is Sylvia Macgregor (Mac), Child Burn Survivor, Campaigner and Founder of Love Disfigure.
I am really funny and witty but because of the work helping support others, I find it difficult to show that side of me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Always accept a compliment. When I met Sally Bee she told me I was beautiful and I replied, ‘no I’m not’. She said that her mother taught her never to push away a compliment. Own it!
You might have ongoing surgery and pain for life but your scars do not define you. Stop worrying about what others think of you and love life because you are beautiful, unique and a survivor.
What is your biggest fear?
My greatest fear is deep dark open water. I always had nightmares that I was in the sea lost and I couldn’t get out. This July I will be swimming open water challenge to face my fears and let others know that you can conquer mental illness as I did for over 30/40 years.
Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
My family often doubted me because I always wanted to achieve great things but my confidence ate away at me. I couldn’t tell them that this was my problem and instead lied if I didn’t go to a job interview. I didn’t feel anything from it as I was use to lying to my family.
What message should every woman hear?
Every woman should be told that they are different and unique so stop comparing yourself to others.
What is it like to be a businesswoman?
I’m not a businesswoman yet but I have a plan in action that involves many of the survivors that I have met and assisted along my journey.
What is your favorite thing about where you live?
I am a strong swimmer and I’m actively involved in introducing support for people who struggle with their body confidence rather than water confidence. The greatest thing about living in my area is the outdoor Olympic pool where I get to train for my swim challenge.
What do you love most about yourself?
I love that living for years self-body hating and putting everyone above me has taught me that everyone around me is beautiful including sylvia mac.
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
I overcame adversity the moment I realised my mum had been suffering as well as me. Before I went on holiday, I was searching the internet for help but couldn’t find anything. I was alarmed when I came across a post that said families with burn survivors would suffer with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
My biggest lesson that others may not necessarily be thinking negative thoughts about my disfigurement.
What motivates you most?
I am motivated by the numerous global emails and inspirational messages that I receive on a daily basis encouraging me to keep going.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
On a daily basis I encourage people to love life and embrace their bodies. I create photoshoots encouraging people with scars, health and skin conditions to get involved. I arrange meetings and beach/bikini reveals which was amazing last summer. I regularly network with people who help support me along my journey and meet people who look different hearing how they deal with their daily lifes.
When I set up my social media network, I reached out to lots of amazing people. Along the way I have met Sharron Davies MBE, Jeremy Vine, Jo Goode and appeared on ITV This Morning meeting Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield and team. We walked the This Morning runway dressed by the wonderful Gok Wan and in a hot tub at the NEC Birmingham. I went on to talk on BBC Womans Hour being told it was the most inspirational thing that Jo Goode had heard in her time on radio. We protested against Victorias Secret in our underwear. We walked in the West End wearing bikinis for a body positive flash mob that was later shown on Cherry Healey Sex Knives and Liposuction. The list is endless but the greatest thing I have achieved is a recent ‘Point of Light award’ from Theresa May !0 Downing Street.