We all have scars.
Some scars are visible, formed as a result of an unplanned encounter with the pavement. Some are invisible, originating after enduring a painful breakup. Everyone has them, whether they admit to possessing them or not, whether they choose to see them or not.
How do you come to peace with your scars?
If we were standing across from each other, you would notice the red scars dotting my face, similar to a child suffering from a severe case of the chicken pox. My scars formed after a glass jar of sulfuric acid accidentally exploded. I was forced to learn how to live with these marks, as I came to understand that nothing could ever fully eradicate them from my existence. This was the new normal. My facial scars serve to symbolize the new me.
In the beginning, I struggled greatly with my newfound appearance. I felt the weight of the looks and the stares, the unwanted comments received from well-intentioned bystanders. I longed to have my old life back, wanting desperately to reverse the course I had been thrust upon after that fateful day. Until I realized that the scars formed within my inner being could be conquered. It took time to discover my own voice, implementing a set of tools to combat the battle waging within me.
The changes necessary were often quite simple. It involved adopting a higher sense of self, focusing on the words I myself used and the effect they had on my daily existence.
Practice Makes Perfect
The scars we carry can dictate the way we live, even in subtle ways. They can flare up in certain situations, revealing a sensitivity to a certain behavior carried out by a significant other or a friend. Sometimes, we un-intentionally internalize the injuries sustained, whether physical or emotional.
Unfortunately, this can lead to eventually blaming ourselves for the pain experienced, whether or not we were truly at fault. This can cause us to refrain from placing full trust in our ability to detect danger lurking just around the corner. Ultimately, negative thoughts and feelings weigh us down, preventing us from achieving our dreams.
Letting go of negative self-talk can be an important step towards living a happier life. Beating yourself up will never lead to a fulfilling life. Instead, this type of behavior effectively erects a prison around your existence, preventing you from getting outside of your own experience in order to lend a helping hand to someone further back along the road towards recovery.
Asking yourself, “What can I do to help someone else today?” goes a much farther way than focusing on the negatives inherent in your own set of circumstances. Making a list of accomplishments at the end of a week, no matter how small they may seem, will allow you to see yourself as more than the scars you carry, more than the failures naturally generated as a result of our imperfections. Choosing gratefulness over self-pity frees us to lead the life that sometimes feels just out of reach.
Feeling Less than Whole
The journey I have traveled over the last several years encompassed so much more than simply the accident itself. In the weeks and months preceding the day my life changed forever, my face required the perpetual application of moisturizers in order to optimize healing. I felt like a fish submerged underwater, constantly having to apply creams, take pills, and attend doctor’s appointments. The sole focus of my life shifted towards making a full and complete recovery.
The journey continued once my scars took shape. The need for plastic surgery ensured that the next several years would be consumed with semi-regular visits to the hospital. Anesthesia became a necessary part of my experience, striking fear into my bones each and every time I was presented with the prospect of losing consciousness so that a doctor could perform on my face.
During those trying years, friends and extended family members alike offered rather prosaic, unsolicited comments in response to the new realities surrounding my existence. “It could have been worse,” they would tell me. Some lectured me on the importance of being grateful that my life had been preserved on that fateful day. As if somehow, I was supposed to express thankfulness over the fact that my life had fallen apart.
A feeling of gratefulness failed to sweep over me during my visits to the doctor’s office or in the aftermath of a painful surgery. Feeling lucky that things had not been worse seemed borderline masochistic. How could I be happy that my face had been forever lost?
Espousing an Attitude of Gratefulness
Sometimes one must look for things to be grateful for, going against the automatic response of feeling sorry for oneself. Even in my darkest moments, I had so very much for which to be thankful. A loving family – parents and siblings willing to support me as I traveled the unknown. The gift that is insurance coverage, allowing me to receive expert medical care that would have been unavailable in other parts of the world.
The list goes on and on, culminating in the realization that my story can help others as they travel the road towards healing. I can be grateful for the redemption inherent in my story, and the eradication of that feeling of senselessness that pervaded my experience in those early days.
Being grateful allows us to jump outside of ourselves. To see the world as filled with opportunities, rather than simply ways for us to get hurt. A shift in perspective can do much to spur one on towards achieving the goal of healing, even if a change of circumstances cannot be achieved.
The subtle truth? We control our perspective, even when we lack the ability to fully shape the arc of our life’s narrative. We can determine to be grateful even in the depths of mourning, providing a way out of the self-induced malaise that can pervade those who have suffered at the hands of great loss.
Be Unafraid to Ask For Help
More than eight years after hearing the explosion of that glass jar, surgeries remain a part of my existence. Enduring another operation was once almost unthinkable. The pain on the road ahead weighed heavily upon me as I entertained the idea of seeking further treatment. No longer was I concerned about how I looked. The concern generated by the continued collapsing of my nose led me back to the doctor’s office.
The surgery went far better than expected; yet, it was clear I would be unable to care for myself over the next few days. My parents graciously allowed me to move back home, taking care of me during my time of need. I felt vulnerable and completely helpless. It went against a key part of my preconceived narrative – that I could overcome any challenge completely on my own.
So many of us believe the same. We place so much pressure on ourselves, determining to forge ahead without the assistance of others. While the idea of going it alone may have been romanticized by figures such as John Wayne and Chuck Norris, real life plays out far differently than it does on the big screen.
It takes courage to ask for help, to develop a network of both friends and family that are reliable in times of crisis. Admitting our weaknesses is hard and uncomfortable. Yet it can lead to the formation of close ties that can last a lifetime.
A Family’s Love
I grew up in a tight-knit family. We shared dinner together each night, and still see each other on a regular basis. Not a day goes by in which I do not contact at least one or more of my family members, sharing with them in both the challenges and successes encountered in daily life.
My road to recovery brought us even closer together, allowing us to experience a collective level of vulnerability previously unencountered. The circumstances of our new life threatened to pull us apart. Instead, it brought us closer together. We made the choice to remain loyal to each other, closing ranks in order to forge ahead together.
The loyalty they showed as a result of the injuries I sustained will never be forgotten. While my heart grieves to know the pain they experienced as a result of the accident, I am incredibly grateful for the role each chose to play in the incredible story that has unfolded over the last several years.
So while the going is guaranteed to get tough, I encourage you to dig deep. Establish close ties with those people around you who are worthy of your trust. You may be surprised how much asking for help changes your life for the better.
If More Is Needed
During a particularly challenging period, I decided I needed to up the ante in my efforts to achieve both an emotional and physical recovery. I needed daily reminders of who I was, along with tangible words I could use as armor in the face of the dark battle being waged. Picking up a pen and grabbing a pack of sticky notes, I wrote a few words with the intent of reframing my day.
- “Samuel Jaymes – A Name of Great Strength”
- “You have what it takes.”
- “You will overcome.”
Simply the act of writing gave me the courage needed to face the next day. Instead of focusing on the months of recovery (both emotional and physical) looming large on the horizon, I chose to grab a hold of each day. Deciding to focus on each hour, minute, or even second can lessen any feelings of inadequacy while granting the freedom to live each day to the fullest.
Pretty soon, I discovered that each hour became a day, each day became a month, and each month became a year. The simple choice to make each day count imbued me with a sense of mission, allowing small victories to be lodged along the way. Until cumulatively, they added up to the equivalent of an emotional skyscraper, ensuring that victory was just within reach.
Reaching a Place of Acceptance
To say that I have reached a place of “self-actualization” – a reference to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – would be nothing short of an exaggeration. There are days where I still struggle greatly with my appearance, looking in the mirror and longing for full restoration. Sometimes I have to fight the instinct to hide when faced with the prospect of meeting a stranger, worried that they might notice the red scars dotting my face.
Yet at the same time, I know that my scars have come to symbolize something far greater than my own experience. Others have drawn their strength from my scars, reaching deep into my experience in order to procure a few gems to grab ahold. My scars are no longer my own; they belong to the world.
Sharing Your Scars
There are many aspects of my past life that I truly miss; yet, there are parts of my new life that I am not sure I would rather live without. In a world filled with suffering and tragedy, we are forced every day to hold these two feelings in tandem.
To balance feelings of both sadness and joy, choosing to view our troubles through either a more positive or negative lens. We can choose to learn from the scars we have incurred, carrying these lessons forward as we confront new challenges in the future. Or we can hide our scars, clinging to a desire to deny who we have become.
In the wake of my most recent surgery, I resisted the temptation to cover the areas recently re-opened by the doctor’s knife. Instead of shuddering each time I passed a mirror, I walked closer in an effort to get a better look.
Eager to avoid letting this moment of emotional growth pass me by, I stood behind the lens of a camera in order to forever capture the moment – despite the fact that I looked and felt as if I had been hit by a truck. For I now see my scars as a badge of honor, marks to be proud of rather than to hide.
Embracing your scars is a daily choice, an active decision to celebrate rather than to mourn. We can do both, even at the same time. As long as we refrain from losing sight of the gift of life; and, do all we can to strive towards reaching that ever elusive, wildly nebulous stage of true acceptance.
How did you come to peace with your scars? Leave a comment below and hit the like button if you found this story inspirational. If you have your own story to share, get in touch with us. We can help you bring your story to life through our community.