I am a fan of scars.  Yes, scars.  War wounds, blemishes, disfigurements.  Sounds crazy, I know, but it is true. It’s a good thing I am a fan, as I happen to have several scars of my own: some physical, some emotional.  In addition to the no longer angry, yet still deep red lines which inhabit the spot that used to be my breasts, I have two on my back –one low down, the other near my shoulder, another on my foot, one spreading across my pelvis from hip to hip and a small, almost indiscernible one under my chin.  Each has a story behind it and plays a role in me being me.  (And make me easy to identify!) I don’t mind them; in fact, they serve as a reminder of what I can do (even when I don’t think I can) , where I have been (even if I didn’t want to be there) and why I am who I am (even if it ain’t always easy to be so).

I know a young lady who will be securing a scar of her own this summer.  I consider it an achievement, a signal to the world that she has faced down an invisible demon and kicked its ass.  Ultimately she was diagnosed with Graves Disease, but not before enduring a tumultuous, difficult and uncertain period in her young life.  Recently she posted the following on her Facebook page.  She didn’t run it by anyone, including her parents, and spoke with an honesty that seems reserved for the less jaded (read: young) among us.  I applaud her for her confidence, bravery and utter lack of compunction.  I reprint with her blessing:

If you don’t like long posts, don’t read this. :). I have had anxiety for my whole life, and I finally got diagnosed in first grade. I went to therapy since then but in fourth grade, I started on my medication. The first pill i was on caused me to feel crazy, like actually insane. so I had to get switched onto different pills until I found the right one, the one I’m on now.

After a while, we realized a new problem, I was not gaining any weight and I looked very sick. we all just thought I just had a very fast metabolism. Then, my meds stopped working, so my family decided to get a second opinion from a different doctor. After our second meeting, he decided to diagnose me with ADD/ADHD. He was going to put me on a stimulant, but before he could, he had to make sure my heart was healthy. So he sent me to get an EKG.

He let my therapist know what was going on, and she told my parents to get my thyroid checked. At that moment, my family just knew that it was my thyroid. So, me, being the nervous person I am, weighing at about 69 pounds, sat in the chair waiting to get my blood done. I screamed and cried, so nervous about what was going to happen. Two days later, my labs were in. I was officially diagnosed with a thyroid disease. I met a bunch of doctors and was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease.

Graves’ Disease is an auto-immune disease that affects the thyroid gland. It makes the thyroid produce too many hormones which was why I was so skinny and so hyper. I am now on medication to balance out my thyroid. I will be getting surgery this summer and hopefully be back to normal.

So I would like to thank many special people for being there for me from the beginning till the end.

And I am so sorry to everybody that I have hurt and caused stress to.

Graves Disease, like so much other crap we all deal with, is invisible to the casual observer.  Actually, it is invisible to the naked eye, too, but that does not lessen its fury.  All the insanity that was doing battle in her body caused her to behave in ways that she was unable to either control or explain.  To add insult to injury, there was nothing tangible to the outside world that might elicit a conversation that could, in turn, educate enough to offset the hurts and stresses that ensued.

Not surprisingly, this beautiful young woman balked at the mere thought of the permanent scar across her throat that will result from having her thyroid removed. The same thyroid that has been torturing her (and, frankly, her parents)  for too many years.  She is young (did I mention that she is beautiful?) and her scar will be in a spot that everyone can and will see unless, that is,  she takes to wearing turtlenecks and scarves year round.  But, (and I told her this -although she didn’t ask) in my mind, that scar will forever serve not as a blemish, but as a sign of strength, courage and experience.  Every scar has a story and every story plays a role in making us who we are.  Scars have the power to initiate a conversation which may, in ways one never expects, help to heal, to learn and to grow.  A scar is a badge of honor for a fight that was fought and won, each red, raised line a one-man show of strength and resilience.  Everyone should have at least one.

This is not the first kid I have highlighted in my blog.  The first two were wonderful young men (hey Aiden and Cameron!) who were born female and had the fortitude to put themselves out there, gather up some scars and continue to make their way in the world.  All three of these kids have tremendous chutzpah…and the scars to prove it.  I embrace my scars.  It doesn’t mean I always like them, but I appreciate their value in my life.  I am betting these kids will, too.

11 thoughts on “Scars

  1. Ive got to say that I love mine, and luckily i have the confidence to show them off. This young woman should be proud of making this statement and should be proud to be honored in this way. We all live with the scars we choose, and the ones we had forced upon us, the best thing to do is embrace their existence!

  2. As always you know how to pick um! What a great kid. I too love my scars for the same reason you do. They are part of my story, an important part. I value each one and the time in my life that they represent and the strength they allowed me to internalize if even for a few moments! Thanks for being you and for knowing so many fantastic kids!

  3. I have a client with a history of surgeries and we talk a lot about scars in her sessions, I think I will have her read this, it was so enlightening.
    As for your friend, I have been volunteering with a group called Bite Me Cancer. A girl with thyroid cancer started it, it focuses on teens and thyroid cancer. Not that your friend has cancer, but some of the resources on that site might be helpful.

  4. Beautiful post Julie. I arrived here through a link on the amazing Beth’s FB page. One of my favorite quotes is from a book I read last year…

    “On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”
    ― Chris Cleave, Little Bee

  5. Until I read Libby’s comment (and the quoted passage therein), I was going to say that the wounds that cannot heal are those left after an autopsy (Well, I said it anyway, just cuz it’s true). We all still have a fighting chance as long as we are alive.
    I love the resilience shown by these young people; it is inspiring. I spent much of my life picking at scabs that I am only now allowing to heal. I think that far less scarring results from a cut to the chase. 😉

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