About 7.5 years ago I had a mole removed at the dermatologist. This is not unusual for me. I’ve had many of them removed as the doctor – eyes critically examining each tiny (and not so tiny) spot – circled with sharpie those that were suspicious, sliced and biopsied, phone calls that tell me everything is fine.
Until the one that wasn’t. Not exactly cancer, but definitely not normal. Abnormal enough to need to be fully excised, leaving me with a deep and wide incision in the middle of my back.
And then – because its never enough for things to be simple and straight forward, I had this weird allergic reaction to the stitches. So that 10 days post surgery, my doctor went back in and removed all of the internal and external stitches, bandaged the wound, and we had to just let it heal unsutured.
It was painful and scary and then painful again and again. And left a large, ragged scar with crazy lines and puckering, shaped like an enormous wrinkled tear drop weeping from my spine.
And as someone who already fought the urge to hate her body, this scar was just another part of me that wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t from a cool adventure and didn’t have an amazing story. . .it was just my own body turning against me again to give me pain and ugliness.
Initially I was absolutely mortified and made sure that my scar wasn’t visible to anyone else, that my shirts always covered it, I kept my cover-up on at the pool, so that no one would see. And then. . . .life went on, as it always does.
I still disliked the scar, turning to see it in my reflection and wrinkling my nose in distaste. But it gradually became less of thing that I obsessed about. I noticed it less and less. It was no longer painful, but just a reminder of the pain of the past, and to be mindful of the future (wear sunscreen everybody!!).
And then I had this crazy idea to get a tattoo to cover it up. To turn it into something beautiful.
I’m lucky enough not to have any visible physical scars of my early history with self-harm. Nor do I have any from my seasons of suicidal ideation. I realize many are not so fortunate.
But I do have scars from my years of anxiety and depression and fear and shame. Scars that I kept hidden for many many years. Scars that might not be physical, but are wounds that healed improperly just the same.
- A scarred, fragile heart that struggled to believe in the goodness of God.
- A scarred and puckered idea of myself and my own worth and the beautiful design of my body.
- A scarred mind that spins with worry and anxiety and the horrible what-ifs that come with my illnesses. A mind that can’t quite believe you can live any other way.
- A scarred and broken relationship with the Church, and with Christians.
And I kept these scars secret for many years, just like my physical one, embarrassed and ashamed. Until the day that I didn’t.
And I discovered that sharing my scars with others made them beautiful, gave them a purpose and worth. People reached out to tell me thank you, to tell me that my sharing gave them hope, made them feel less alone, helped them heal.
In the process, my scars faded slightly. They didn’t disappear or magically heal, but they faded ever-so-slightly, until there are days where I don’t notice them except in a particular light. There are still days where they are all consuming and so visible to me and so overwhelming. But there are also those days where I fall into bed and realize that the only thoughts I’ve had around my scars that day was in sharing them and making them beautiful.
Growing up, when we studied the life cycle of the caterpillar, I had this idealistic belief that inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar slept. A peaceful and dream filled sabbatical that ended with a tiny biological alarm clock telling him to spread his newly sprouted beautiful wings because he was now a butterfly.
In reality however, the metamorphosis process is much more gruesome. The caterpillar is completely dissolved – DIGESTED – by an enzyme released by the caterpillar itself. Inside the chrysalis a sort of protein goo is formed from the digested caterpillar and then used to fuel the growth of cells into new parts of the butterfly.
The caterpillar is literally unformed, completely undone, and has to build itself back from the most basic of cells. I can’t imagine that its actually the pleasant dream filled sabbatical that my childhood heart believed. It seems painful. And painstaking. And strange and uncomfortable and straight-up weird.
And yet. The butterfly is magnificent in its beauty.
And I see myself in its story. My past is painful and sharing it is strange and uncomfortable. Working through my scars and current illnesses is painstaking and sometimes straight-up weird.
But I am hopeful. Hopeful. That the beauty is found in the sharing. The beauty and the healing, for both myself and for others.
That my process of undoing my scars and myself will result in a butterfly. She will be ragged and exhausted from the hard work of reforming herself out of the goo of her past, but she will be strong and beautiful and bright and courageous.
She will be recreated in beauty and purpose.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3
PS. The semicolon body of the butterfly is in connection with project semicolon, a mental health initiative geared toward the idea that my story will go on – I could have ended my story, but I chose to continue.
4 thoughts on “Scarred”
Beautiful. I am grateful that emotional scars are not permanent. Thank you for being strong enough to share.
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Thank you so much!
You share your story so eloquently… and I feel like it could be mine. So happy you are still fighting the good fight. Beauty for ashes is one of my most favorite verses… Loves.
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Thank you love! ❤️❤️