'I spent lunchtimes not eating because I was hiding': How a woman, 22, born with rare facial condition was called an 'alien' by cruel bullies at school - and was left hating herself
- A woman born with a rare facial condition has opened up about her struggles
- Olivia Hotschilt was diagnosed with rare disorder craniofrontonasal dysplasia
- The bullying in school was so severe, she avoided looking at herself in the mirror
- She found the strength to love herself again after four life-changing surgeries
- Looking at herself in the mirror now, Olivia said she feels stronger than ever
Olivia Hotschilt (pictured) was?born with a rare facial condition
A 22-year-old woman born with a rare facial condition has opened up about her struggles after she was taunted throughout school.
Olivia Hotschilt, from?Alstonville in northern NSW, was diagnosed with the genetic disorder craniofrontonasal dysplasia - meaning parts of her skull fused prematurely, leaving her with eyes spaced apart and no nasal bridge.
At the tender age of five, her condition took a crippling toll on her life - and the bullying became so severe, she avoided looking at herself in the mirror.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, the young woman said she didn't realise she was different from other children until she started kindergarten.
'I was called an "alien" on the first day I walked into school,' she said.
'At first, I was so confused about it. I saw Olivia in the mirror but I didn't understand how I could have been an alien.
'I didn't notice it until other people noticed it. It took about a year to understand why they said that name.'
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The young woman was born with?the genetic disorder craniofrontonasal dysplasia?- meaning parts of her skull fused prematurely, leaving her with eyes spaced apart and no nasal bridge
She said she didn't realise she was different from other children until she started kindergarten at five years old
And everyday was a constant battle for Olivia growing up where she was faced with cruel taunts or stares wherever she was in public.
'Getting on buses to go off to school, kids would turn around in seats just to point and yell insults at me,' she recalled.
'At school, I was spending lunchtimes alone, or running from bullies?because I'd get bashed, unless I'd run fast enough to hide in a classroom or toilet block.
'Sometimes, you wouldn't even eat because you're just too nervous in case somebody came up behind you and push you down the stairs.
'I could keep going on forever but if I didn't have any sort of abuse at school it was few and far between.'
Struggling with the condition, Olivia said she was constantly fearing for her safety.?
'People would bend around me trying to avoid getting close to me. I was stared at and talked about,' she said.
'I was constantly on the look out in case someone wanted to hurt me.'
The affects of her condition made schooling even difficult because she didn't want to return to the classroom when she was subjected to bullying
Struggling with the condition, Olivia said she was constantly fearing for her safety after she was born with the rare facial condition
The affects of her condition made schooling even difficult because she didn't want to return to the classroom when she was subjected to bullying.
'I had more days off then attending school. I would fake being sick or bribe and negotiate how to get out of school,' she said.
'Because of my condition I had a few learning difficulties making schooling harder by missing so much to avoid bullies.'
The bullying eventually spiralled out of control, and Olivia said she started self-harming after cutting off all her hair.
'I cut my hair off and I started cutting myself... I stopped eating and it just spiralled,' she said.?
'The constant torment and the constant reassurance that you are just your condition.'
The constant taunts left her feeling self-conscious to a point where she'd refused to look at herself in the mirror
Looking at her own reflection in mirror now, a confident Olivia said she feels stronger than ever
The taunts left her feeling self-conscious to a point where she'd refused to look at herself in the mirror.
'There was a time in my life where it was pretty hard to even find a photo of me. I would run from cameras and hide from mirrors,' she recalled.
'My face made me angry.'?
But she was able to find the strength to love herself again following four life-changing surgeries to reconstruct her face.
Despite the operations, Olivia said she was still taunted by her fellow peers.
'It didn't change much, because my first operation was so major,' she said.?
'I almost got bullied worse for being this weird, scared person. I had a big scar and no hair across my head.'?
Olivia?was born with the rare facial condition - meaning parts of her skull fused prematurely, leaving her with eyes spaced apart and no nasal bridge
Olivia said she didn't realise she was different from other kids until she started kindergarten
But after moving schools, she finally found acceptance following another surgery at the age of 16.
'When I moved school, [the students there] welcomed me and really supported me through schooling,' she said.
'I learnt that I wasn't this monster I would have been about 16 or 17 years old when I started to feel like the person I am today.'
Looking at her own reflection in the mirror now, a confident Olivia said she feels stronger than ever.
'When I see myself, I can see my scars on my face and in my hairline. But I can see the journey I've been on and I feel peaceful about it,' she said.
'I know who I am, I know where I've been and I'm thankful for the lessons and life I've been given.'
For confidential support 24/7, please call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.
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