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The Scars We Carry

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The above photo was a Timehop I posted a year ago– meaning this is the 10 year anniversary of what has since been lovingly called my “sharkbite”.

People who don’t know the story or have never seen the “before” photo gasp in horror or awe or sometimes both. I know people stare at my leg and want to ask questions but are too afraid to ask. It doesn’t bother me much anymore but it took me a few years to get to that place. At this point, I honestly don’t mind the questions– I mostly make up stories about how it happened anyway since I get a kick out of watching people’s faces while they try to decide if I am telling the truth or not.

I’m a pretty bad liar, so I can pick out the most gullible listeners in a heartbeat; they are the best ones to tell the stories to as they usually accept what I say at face value and think I am pretty B.A. for enduring my circumstances– ’cause you know I always paint myself as hardcore when I tell the stories.

The thing is, when, on occasion, I do tell someone the REAL story, I rarely get that reaction– and that story is the one that really shows how truly resilient and “B.A.” I am.

The one that shows the real me.

If you’ve been holding on waiting for me to tell stories, real or fake, about my leg you can go ahead and stop reading now (I only tell them face to face) but if you are interested in reading about my reflections the 10 year anniversary of this injury has given me, read on.

libby aghast at leg

My dear friend Libby feigning disgust at the hideousness that is my leg after it had been grafted. (2007)

I have learned a lot about myself through this scar over the years…

2007: I learned I am stronger than I know. I persevered through the initial incident, the multiple surgeries to debride (spell check keeps telling me that is wrong/not a word but I am not and it is) the wound and graft in new skin, the emotional pain of being, yet again, on crutches and missing another season of soccer, and the idiotic comments of people (including doctors) with no filters/people wanting to touch it (ew!). I learned how to get back up.

2008-2009: I learned about how real post traumatic stress is and how difficult it can be to combat it. I learned that dwelling on the “what ifs” does nobody any good– especially myself. I learned to not let fear control my life (sometimes I have to be retaught that last one).

2010-2012: I learned that my scars don’t define me and even though I saw this as a hideous disfigurement that no one could ever look past that the people who truly love me and care about me don’t care about it. I learned I can still find love even with the scars and emotional baggage marring my skin and heart. My beauty isn’t skin deep and even it were I would still be beautiful if only to the people who really matter. I learned how to be light-hearted about it and move on from the pain (it still weirds me out though when people want to touch it).

2013-2017: I learned that people want to connect with you in your pain. I still hesitate when people ask to touch it but ultimately I realize that they want to feel what I feel and they a curious about this piece of my story that is so vividly displayed for the world to see. I learned that this is not the worst thing that could or would ever happen to me and that while the trauma of the moment seems daunting, time rolls on and, as they say, “heals all wounds”.

This last little cliche has always been interesting/vexing to me. For people who have endured serious pain (losing a loved one far too soon, receiving a terminal diagnosis, never being able to bear children, etc.) the wounds don’t feel all that healed. I believe, however, my before and after picture of my leg says it all:

Sure, scabs form, the skin grows back, or maybe you even had skin grafted in place to decrease the length of time it takes to heal but when all is said and done your leg never looks the same. Time rolls on, you pick your life back up slowly one piece at a time with the help of loved ones– maybe someone new even enters your life to help speed along the process– but you will never be who you once were.

And you have to learn to live with that.

I had to learn to live with that.

So happy 10 year anniversary to the beginning of a weird path of self discovery, understanding, and forgiveness. May those of you at the beginning of your journeys find comfort and peace along the way.

We a pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but are never destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

2 Corinthians 4: 8-10 (NLT)

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