Learning to live with them: learning to love them
Scars are the body’s natural way of healing and replacing lost or damaged skin. We all have them: some big, some small, some bold or some slight. Either way they are reminders to us all of something that we have experienced in our lives – meaning that they are not just part of our external identity, but they may also shape our thoughts and feelings in our day-to-day life.
I’m sure that we all have that one mark on our knees or chin from when we took that bad fall when we were children; it serves the purpose of being our first lesson in taking more care of ourselves. I feel that these faint types of memories that we have accumulated on our bodies do not make us feel as self-conscious as other things we have. I know that I have never covered up my chicken pox scars, because I know that vast majorities of people also bear the same mark. It is a childhood memory after all – a fond part of early life. Up until 2015 therefore, I was not self-conscious of my scars. But in that year I gained a rather severe looking red line running up my back, that for the next couple of years would hinder me in many more ways than I ever could have guessed it would.
I was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) when I was 12 years old. After what felt like a sprint of hospital appointments and tests that are now all blurred into one, I had undergone spinal fusion surgery in order to correct the shape of my spine. I had always been a straight thinking and optimistic person, but in the chaos of my operation I felt as though I lost all my concepts of how I felt about my body, and these were instead replaced with a singular feeling of sullen resentment towards the scar upon me. I could sense it constantly. It acted as a mean looking frown whenever I glared at it in the mirror. It bitterly annoyed me, despite how many times I was reassured that it was “fine, it’s so neat!” – ‘neat’ being a word that I wasn’t too sure about.
Because unlike the mild scratches, marks and spots that I had always bore, this scar acted as a reminder of a time where I was at my most vulnerable, and when I had acquired a rather brutal new perspective on my physical appearance. Ultimately, the scar was not just physical; it was psychological too. It was like a pathway from my body to my mind, a route of self-conscious anxiety that thrust to the front of my life a constant awareness of how I looked to the outside world. Was somebody staring at the red line on my back? What were they thinking? It is human nature to be aware of yourself in social situations, but when it was preventing me from relaxing amongst friends, my self-consciousness about my scar grew into a festering ball of stress that I knew I had to confront.
What I realized in a cliché light bulb moment when looking in the mirror one day, was that it was not the physical mark that I was so saddened by. It was the event that it symbolised – the one where I was vulnerable, scared and confused. And so, I resolved to confront the issue of my operation with the force at which it had hit me back in 2015. I began discussing the experience with the people who I trusted, enclosing all of the negative emotions tied to it, and the difficult memories I had previously repressed. I would write down new, hopeful ways of thinking about the event and I would repeatedly tell myself that it was not a negative thing about me. The sense of relief and peace that eventually came from sharing and exploring my experience is best likened to a gushing flow of water being released when a bolder has been removed from it’s path. Learning to live with scars that we have is a journey, an emotional and thoughtful one that many of us have to embark upon in our lives. Of course, not everyone will struggle to live with his or hers scar. But I feel that in this often scrutinizing society, it is becoming harder for many people, such as myself, to not feel self-conscious about the marks that make them unique.
As of today, I am proud to say that I love my scar. It is not a source of sadness, but one of strength. I have chosen for it to symbolise a time that I underwent a major physical change that empowered me, along with a positive mental alteration that now allows me to view in a sensitive way other people with their own unique physical characteristics. Learning to live with the experience that shaped the person who I am today has contributed to a greater sense of self-love that I can only hope we all get to have in our daily life.
Thank you for reading,