There are so many Cleft-related experiences that everyone can relate to. I could talk about them forever. Most of them deal with the social aspect of life, which is arguably the hardest part of adolescent development for all of us. There are so many different experiences I’ve had it's hard to just choose one. A funny one that most people can relate to is that when you see someone is staring at you, you are left wondering: does she/he think you’re cute or is she/he staring at your Cleft? You never can tell and for me, it made it nearly impossible to ever approach someone. There are many challenging and sad experiences that all those with a Cleft lip and/or palate will likely experience and even those without Clefts. One has to do with talking in class. Most people with a Cleft lip and/or palate have some challenges speaking clearly or might have a nasal vocal tone. You fear people can’t understand you and you know everyone is staring at you, plus you are probably being graded. It’s hard to remember that most of that is in your head. If you take deep breaths and talk slower, people will more likely be able to understand you and everything will be okay. And if you mess up, remember that everyone does! It also can be hard when you can’t tell if someone is being nice to you because they feel bad for you or if they are truly being nice and trying to be your friend for genuine reasons.
The social aspect of having a Cleft lip and/or palate is very tough. People stare, whisper, laugh, ask rude questions, and a lot of times ignore you simply because they don’t understand what a Cleft is. If they could understand that it is just something you didn’t have any control over maybe they might have respect. But if you’ve tried to help them understand these things and they don’t, just try and remember that it ultimately doesn’t matter what other people think. Block the bad ones out of your life. Don’t let those people define or change you. Only you can define you. It is all up to you. And maybe you don’t feel strong enough to do all of that on your own yet, which is totally understandable. You should find your crew- your circle of family and friends who will not care about differences. Someone you can trust and rely on – who is friends with you for you. Put your time and energy there. Live the amazing life we all deserve. And remember, you are not alone, there are so many of us out there with Clefts just like you who are going through and dealing with the same things. We know exactly what you are going through. Make an effort to connect with someone else who is CleftProud to help you along.