Scars and dilemmas

Most of the stuff I have posted is retrospective, reflections on difficult times. Times that for the most part I like to think that I have processed, well on a good day, with a fair wind and all, it is no longer searingly painful to think about. This is progress.

My kid is now home,  my fears that she wouldn’t be recognisable, that the relationships that she had with everyone would be fractured and changed were not realised. She is very different, stronger, more insightful, politicised. It was like a crash course into young adulthood. I don’t think she would have come so far so fast had she not been so ill that she needed to be hospitalised.

She is definitely in recovery and although she has lots of community input, so love that expression, ‘support in the community’ she is doing so well and it is fantastic.  There is still the ED to be tackled, the voices can and are a trouble but I hope she is over the worst.

So recovery is a good place to be, however, the scars on her arms are a vivid reminder of the time of her acute illness, they are extensive, some are keloid , she has significant nerve damage, which is painful but fortunately she still can use her hands and although there are some issues with dexterity on balance it is not too bad. They are stare-worthy, even by professionals who have seen this kind of thing before, they are worthy of comment from complete strangers when she pulls up her sleeves to wash her hand in a public loo. They are in your face kind of scars and clearly are self-inflicted.

Today we went to the GP, her medications can cause heart issues and her pulse is often all over the place, blood pressure up and down to the extreme and fainting on exertion so that was the on the agenda but also to ask for advice on the scarring. We deploy moisturise, moisturise, moisturise as a maxim to live by and then moisturise, bandage and compression bandage, this seems to make them less painful. The weather is getting colder and the cold makes the discomfort worse, epic levels of moisturising is called for.

The GP advised there was probably little to be done but would refer on, there is the option of discussing cutting some of the major ones out leaving a tidy clean line.

It is a hard one, it is tempting to jump onto the wagon of invisibility, of providing an exterior that does not immediately identify her as someone who used to self-harm, to be anonymous, to not have to notice people noticing, to be able to make a decision about what is shared and what isn’t. It could turn your head, the idea that they could be disguised as something else, perhaps from a nasty accident.

Fight mental health stigma. I want to stand up and be counted. To poke the naysayers in the eye, with a sharp stick. To encourage her to accept her body, to marvel at its powers of regeneration and to see the beauty in her individuality.

But then there is this shallow part of me, the part that wants this all to be over, where the outward signs have been minimised. In the dark hours I have wondered whether skin grafts are possible, contemplated that with body make up they could be rendered almost invisible, at least from a distance. I want things to be easier for her. It is so much more straightforward to uphold the fight of self-acceptance if it is not happening to someone you love and listen to their upset over unkind comments from strangers.

I wonder if it makes me very shallow. It is an uncomfortable thought and doesn’t fit with the world view I have of myself, the liberal, the petition signer, button badge wearer, the avid recycler. The love yourself, there is beauty in every body and so on. The world seems to judge on the outward presentation so much, I know this is hardly a revelation but I really have been surprised how people feel that it is reasonable to comment on her scars, my personal favourite of a random woman commenting that scars shouldn’t be on show as there are ‘children around’.  I know that this will be the first of many such comments and she needs to be tough to deal with it. This feels like a challenge for someone who is fragile to start with.

Then I try to remember, recovery is about acceptance, warts, well scars and all. They are marks of a battle royal. A war with herself, that she has fought, hard and exhaustively, that has taken such strength of character to fight and to start winning.

They are fading and she hasn’t added to them for almost 150 days, although they are not aesthetically pleasing, we know that and there is temptation in the possibility that they can be made to look neater, less brutal, they are part of her and her journey to recovery. Now becoming more positive reminders of how far she has come. I was so impressed that on reflection the only way she wanted to consider scar reduction was if it would reduce the discomfort, not to improve the look.

I felt that was a tangible sign that she is moving to accepting herself and having a greater understanding of her difficulties and her achievements. I need to support her on her way.

At any moment in our lives we are the sum of everything that has gone before, of all our experiences, good, bad and indifferent and there is no reason to hide.


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