Scars. There is a lot to be said about them. Physical Scars, mental scars, emotional scars. I daresay that everyone at some point in their lives has acquired a scar of some kind. Whether it be small and hidden away or something that is there for the whole world to see. We all have them because I believe it is the way of life to unknowingly and sometimes knowingly dish out these scars. I suppose it’s up to us to choose how we deal with them.
My accident left me with a lot of scars. You can’t really go through something like that and escape it. Thankfully my physical scars are quite hidden. Hidden from the world at least.
As soon as all my stitches and staples had been removed and the wounds completely closed my mother began rubbing essential oils and cream onto them to prevent scars. She did this faithfully everyday and I wasn’t concerned in the slightest about it.
One day my two best friends came to stay at the hospital with me for the night. We had a lot of fun taking cheesy pictures and goofing around like we used to. The subject of my scars came up and so I began to tell them everyplace I had a scar and to even show them some. On my right leg I have five. They start at my hip and reach all the way to my knee, the largest being about six inches long and the rest about two or three and are spaced evenly all down the length of my upper leg. Those I have because of the permanent rod that was inserted to stabilize my femur. On my left side I have one about three or four inches. That one I think is from the doctors inserting a tube to drain the blood off my heart. On my right side I have four. One is very small, the other two are three and five inches in length. The biggest is probably at least twelve inches. These ones are from the process of plating my ribs and include staple marks on either side of the scar which adds to the gruesomeness of it. I also have a small one on my right hand. I used to have what I thought was going to be a scar on the side of my face from where the skin was scrapped off in the fall. Surprisingly though that healed up completely.
I pulled up my shirt to let them see the scars on my right side. They were taken slightly by surprise upon seeing them.
(this picture was taken a little while after I was home, so they had already begun to heal)
“Have you seen them?” my friend asked
Of course I hadn’t, there was no way I could. I had my brace on most of the time, and when It wasn’t I had to be flat on my back. One of us had the brilliant idea to take a picture of it and then show me. I was actually kind of excited to see. She took the picture and handed it over to me.
I looked at the picture and swore. I have never been so shocked in my life. I’m not sure exactly what I expected to see but it definitely was not the mangled and torn up version of my body that greeted me. I may have said a few other words and then quickly handed the camera back and dismissed it from my mind, though I was more adamant about rubbing the oils and cream in it. I couldn’t stand the thought of my body looking like that forever.
After I was released from the hospital and had been home for awhile and my braces were removed then I got my second look. This time in real life.
It was my first shower, by myself without all my braces and everything that I had been inconveniently accustomed to wearing and it was heavenly. But after my shower I got out and was standing there ready to get dressed and all of a sudden I realized that I could look at my scars in person now. See what they actually looked like. I slowly and hesitantly made my way towards the mirror. I stared at myself for awhile before finally getting the guts to turn so I could see.
I hardly breathed as I inspected the discolored and mangled mess. It was as if everywhere I looked there were scars. My mind refused to see the rest of me that was still whole and I could only focus on the ugly and horrible cuts all over my body and I cried. I lightly traced the lines with my fingertips and all the pain came back in full force, I remembered every way that my life would never be the same again. I stood there staring at the scars and crying and wishing with all my might that they would go away. That somehow they could transform back into the perfect and seemingly flawless skin that had been there before.
I have never been very self-confident about my body, but now it was incredibly worse. Every time I happened to be in front of a mirror it was all I saw. My eyes gravitated towards those spots and the only feelings I could seem to stir up were contempt, disgust, and regret. I just couldn’t get past seeing my obvious flaws and feeling like less of a person because of them. I diligently applied all my healing oils and everything I could think of to make them go away. And after awhile they started to fade.
Through this process of fading I had been doing a lot of thinking over my experiences and things that I had learned and now thought differently about. One particular day as I was getting dressed I inspected my scars as was my usual habit and noticed that they were finally fading a bit. Time had passed enough that I realized that all I had left from the accident were my memories and these scars. I looked at them and suddenly I no longer saw the angry red lines, the mangled flesh. This time as I traced the now familiar lines with my fingers I saw courage and faith and hope. I saw strength in overcoming one of the greatest challenges I have ever faced. I saw every memory I had acquired from my accident all captured there in those twelve inches of horrible cuts and staple marks. I looked at those marks and I saw Dr. Tanner, I saw Preston and Brian as they tried to save my life. I looked at those cuts and remembered Alex. Remembered the hours and hours of physical therapy as I struggled to relearn everything my body had forgotten and how he expertly and patiently taught me those things. I looked at those scars and I felt my family. I felt the love that all of them had shown me, I felt the ways we had grown closer, the ways our lives had changed together and suddenly I realized I didn’t want my scars to go away. I had been through something so unbelievably horrendous and incredibly difficult and had miraculously survived. I had fought to stay alive, I had struggled to heal. These marks were my battle wounds. Here was the proof on my own body. I had for so long considered that proof horrible. I had looked at it and hated it with every ounce of my being. I had tried to make this part of myself go away without realizing the truth that that’s simply all it was. A part of myself. That was who I had become and I was trying to make myself forget it, trying to make myself something to fit a standard that I considered beautiful. My scars told a very incredible story and by making them go away I was in a sense trying to erase that story. Trying to erase who I was.
It was then that I realized scars are beautiful. My scars are beautiful, they make me who I am. Not necessarily by how they look, but what they represent. I read a quote once that said, “Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger then whatever tried to hurt you.” It’s as simple as that.
I think that we are given scars as a reminder. A reminder that we are worth something, that we are strong enough to win any war, that we can overcome whatever trial we find ourselves stumbling across. To remind us where we have been. To add character to our story and to change our lives. All we have to do is be strong enough to look past the ugliness and see what lies beneath.
Now instead of grimacing every time I happen to see my scars in the mirror I smile. I smile because I understand. I smile because I know. I smile because I remember.
Scars. There is a lot to be said about them. I was left with a lot of scars and if I have learned anything it would be this, never be afraid to show your scars. When you hide your scars you hide your true self. You hide the warrior you have become, the memories you have made, the lessons you have learned. Only when we wear our scars with pride and let ourselves be seen, only when we accept our scars, accept the beauty that is waiting to shine through can we truly be whole again.