The Phoenix Zine

Stress Management: Body Image

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I’ve been thinking lately about scars. Chances are if you’ve gone through multiple medical procedures you have them somewhere, whether externally or internally.

The reason why I’ve been thinking about scars so much is because when I went to a wedding in Montreal, I cut myself on the shell of the lobster we ate. Not deeply enough to need stitches of course, but enough to bleed and take some time to clot. Still, in the following days as I watched it scab over and begin to heal, I realised I actually wanted it to become a permanent scar. I see scars on the skin as photos in the scrapbook of the body; essentially nature’s tattoos to document important life events.

Some scars are embarrassing, like the one I have on my ankle from when I slid into accidental splits on the playground at school. Others are clumsy, like the white line on the palm of my hand from when I was washing and spearing potatoes with a fork for a camping trip. The fork slipped and ended up spearing my hand instead of the potato. Most of my scars are sad, scary and painful reminders of past trauma: the liver biopsy scars lining my right side, the upside-down “Y” transplant scar on my chest or the ragged pacemaker scar on my left shoulder.

My sister calls the scars belonging to the last category my badges of courage, but I still struggle to hide them as best I can. To me they are scars of survival, not courage. I should be more proud of them than I have been in the past, but badges of courage? I never understood that. When you’re sick, really sick, you do pretty much anything to get better. There isn’t a choice when you’re faced with a life and death situation. I have most of my scars because they mark what I had to do to survive, not what I did because I had courage.

However, the scar I hope will form permanently on my right index finger is not embarrassing, clumsy, sad or painful. It is a symbol of a different kind of courage, the courage to go on with my life after surviving. It is a sign I am willing to take risks and live life even if I get hurt in the process. A scar I hope I will treasure for years to come.

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