Gaining new scars, burns or marks on your body can be a weird experience for some people. I know it was for me. Most of the time, these marks don't go away. They may get better over time, but there is a good chance you may have an everlasting mark on your body. In this blog I want to talk about some of the biggest things I learned about having scars.
I want to start off by saying that your feelings towards your new marks on our body are valid. One of my big frustration points when I got my scars 6 years ago was that I would hear phrases like, well at least it's not on your face quite often. Yes, of course I'm lucky my scars aren't on my face and there is ALWAYS a situation that is worse, but that doesn't mean I wasn't allowed to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable about my scars. By hearing that phrase from people it made me feel like I was foolish for having those feelings, so I never really liked to talk about my scars. I didn't want to seem like an ungrateful person. However, I know that people tend to say those things when they don't know what else to say. I may not have known that at the time, but I've learned that over the years. So however you're feeling towards your marks is totally valid, and you shouldn't let someone make you feel otherwise. As I said, there will always be someone that has it worse than you, but that doesn't mean feelings you have should be diminished.
You may also feel like there is something wrong with having marks, especially ones that are visible for others to see. There are a few reasons why that is, but one thing that happened often was people offering unsolicited advice on how to get rid of my scars or make them less noticeable. Now, I know that some people that offered advice meant it in a kind way with no harmful intention, but when you're offered advice without asking, it makes you start to feel like there is something wrong with you. This still happens to me from time to time. The old Molly would think, I guess maybe I should try and lessen these scars if they look that bad. The new Molly will just respond saying thanks, I'm fine with my scars though. People that offer such advice don't realize that you've probably already Googled a zillion times how to get rid of marks. Unfortunately, you will always be offered unsolicited advice, even from complete strangers or companies trying to sell you their product. Just know that it's okay to have marks on your body and that people are usually coming from a place of love or maybe even discomfort because they don't know what else to say.
A last bit of advice for this blog is do what makes YOU feel comfortable and don't let anyone make you feel less than for doing so. For me, that was walking into a room with a cardigan first before unveiling my scars to a group of people who had never seen them. My mind was always racing thinking, what if I make someone uncomfortable? But looking back on it, it wasn't about them, it was about making myself comfortable. Wearing a cardigan into a room made me feel that everyone's first impression of me wouldn't be of my scars, it would just be me. This doesn't mean I wasn't still uncomfortable when I took off my cardigan but it did help me build the confidence up to do it. Now I wouldn't even think about wearing a cardigan for that reason. But it's all about baby steps.
These were a few of my biggest learning lessons over the years. These may not apply to everyone and they may not work for everyone, but even opening yourself up to other ideas and solutions will help. It's always great to read or talk to other people who also have scars because it reminds you that you're not alone.
If you're having a hard time with your new marks, feel free to shoot me an email so we can chat.
UPDATED March 17th
My accident caused some pretty unique scarring on my arm, on my leg and down my neck. My relationship with my scars has changed over the years. I used to really struggle with them. I would hide them whenever I had the chance and I would get upset if I saw people staring at them. At this point, my scars are just part of me. I have some days where I love them, some days where I feel weird when people stare at them, and most days I just forget they are there all together.
The only time I remember that my scars are there, is when I notice someone staring at them. This used to bother me, but now I just wish that person would ask what happened rather than stare. I can imagine they don't know how to approach the situation which is 100% normal. I understand the reasons for just looking and not asking but people with scars tend to notice when people stare. You know that phrase, my ears are burning, someone must be talking about me? It's literally the same thing; it's like I have a sense when my scars are being looked at. No joke!
I've been asked on my Instagram, how do you kindly ask someone what happened? This one is hard. Everyone has a different experience and journey. We all handle things differently. This blog is solely based on MY experiences with my scars. This may not work for everyone, and I don't intend for it to. But I thought it could be good to share my experiences.
For me, when people are genuine when they ask, I can feel that. Usually the question will start with do you mind if I asked what happened to your arm? Every time someone asks me, especially with that beginning I always say no I don't mind at all, thank you for asking. This helps make the person feel comfortable. It's important to note that this is an awkward situation for BOTH people. Usually the best response here is, wow I'm sorry to hear that happened, are you ok now? I've found that this is when I feel the most comfortable. Or sometimes if they don't ask if I'm ok at the end, I will just say no worries I'm fine now!
When someone genuinely asks about my scars, it makes me feel understood. That sense of understanding makes me feel like I belong. People that have new scarring or burns often can feel like they don't belong. I did. But why do we feel like we don't belong? I think that may be my next blog that I tackle.
It's been about 6 years since my car accident. Over the past few years, there are things I've regretted not doing after my accident. These are things I didn't even think about at the time, but now I'm kicking myself in the butt for not doing them. I wish someone had recommended doing these things, but I can understand why they didn't. As someone who has experienced trauma, come through it and is now better than ever, I want to talk about the things I wish I did. Who knows maybe it will inspire some of you to do the same!
I used to think journaling was a bit "dear diary" and never really gave it a chance. It reminded me of girls writing in their journals about boys at school so I always laughed it off. No one told me to write at the time of my accident and during my recovery, but I seriously wish they did.
After my accident, I was on a lot of medication to help ease the pain. I obviously wouldn't have been able to journal at this point (it probably would've been drawings of unicorns or something), but I wish that when I was a bit more coherent I would've written down how I was doing.
Even though my brain was foggy at the time, I was still able to function. I remember things from the hospital, but just bits and pieces. I wish that I had written down what was going on in my head. It would be great to see how far I've come since then and read what I was thinking and feeling at the time.
If you're reading this and thinking no way, I know that feeling. At the time after my accident, I just felt like crap. I was already living post-trauma, I didn't want to write about it too. But my advice is really to write something down. It doesn't need to be every day, but I highly suggest writing a few days down. I'm telling you when you're a few years past your trauma, you will want to see the progress you've made!
**My brain almost hurt from doing too much, so I can understand this may come up for some people. If you feel like you don't have the mental space to write things down yourself, ask someone to write down a few notes for you. My friend told me her dad wrote down what happened everyday during her trauma and I thought that was amazing. Parents, family, friends - if you're reading this and you know someone experiencing trauma but can't handle the writing - do it for them! **
For me this was a HELL NO. If you follow me on Instagram, molly_o_shea, you probably have noticed that I post the same before scar photos of my neck and arm. Why? Because that's all I have! I have two photos of me with my scars when they were very red and raw. You can't see my face in the photos because I was so freaking embarrassed of them I didn't want my face to show. Then I have one picture of my neck scar. That's all thanks to my dad. I will never forget him saying you will want to show your kids one day. I'm sure I rolled my eyes but it's totally true. I'm proud of these scars now and I wish I had more!
Post-trauma isn't the most glamorous experience. Whether it's illness, an accident, an injury, or another internal trauma, we don't feel like ourselves. Taking a photo as someone that we can't identify with is hard. Besides scar photos, I have a few photos with friends and family post accident, but not many. In most photos, I'm covering my scars because I didn't want them to be seen in pictures. I didn't like this new Molly, I didn't know who she was and I certainly wasn't comfortable with her.
When I look at these photos, where I can see my face and I'm showing my scars, I can see those feelings on my face. I can see how uncomfortable I look in the photo. I may look normal to people, but to me, I don't look like myself. At the time, I avoided these pictures like the plague and made sure I wasn't tagged in any photos on Facebook. But now, looking back through the photos, it's amazing the see the progress I've made. I've come so far with taking photos with my scars and I look more comfortable in my skin.
It may not be easy at the time, but I'm telling you you will want photos to look back on. Take a few photos either on your own or with a group of people. If you don't want to look at them then don't! Just save them; in a few years you will be searching high and low in your email to find these photos! (Me this past week)
I'm sure other things will come up over time, but I think this is worth sharing because I wish someone gave me this advice 6 years ago! I understand that these things may not work for everyone; we all have a different experiences. I'm just speaking on my personal experience and what I've learned during the process.
"So because you have scars, it means you're suddenly strong? God some people are such a joke lol."
**If you haven't seen my post about the hashtag I started #scarredandstronger, you can find it here. It may help give a bit of context to my blog below.
Those comments above are just a few of the not so nice comments I received after I posted this photo the other day on my Instagram. It got over 4,500 likes which still baffles me, some of the nicest comments and messages from complete strangers, with a few not so nice remarks.
Now, I want to talk about this, because my scars are actually the reason I became a Body Positive Coach. I struggled with them for so many years, in FEAR that people would say things like this to me. Now, this never really happened in my situation. Yes, I did have people stare at them, but no one blatantly came up to me and said something nasty. But when you put yourself out there on social media apparently that's bound to happen.
I ended up blocking both of these guys, just because I didn't want them to be able to contact me at all. Unfortunately comments delete when you block someone. (That may seem incredibly obvious but I've never blocked anyone; I'm new to this!) I was actually upset that those comments deleted. As positive of a page I'm trying to promote, I think it's important to share that when you put yourself out there and show your scars, internal or external, sometimes it might not be such a positive experience.
I would be lying if I said I didn't feel anything when I read those two comments. The "ugly woman" one confused me; he left a few comments after and he was a bit all over the place. The one about how I'm essentially a joke pissed me off. Maybe if the guy read into my story and learned that I fractured my f****** neck, am not only lucky to be alive but lucky to walk, then maybe he wouldn't call me a joke.
I wanted to write about these comments because when you're someone that has an experience anyway similar to mine (and yes I know there are lots of you because I've connected with you!), there is a strong probability something like this may very well happen. But don't let that deter you from putting yourself out there! Don't let those shitty people win.
So here's what I remind myself when comments like this come up. Some people just SUCK. Yes, they suck. Many out there are great and the nicest people ever, but you need to remember that some people are going to intentionally say shitty things that are meant to hurt your feelings. Those people are the reason why many feel shame and embarrassment from scars on their body, scars internally, injuries they've had or trauma they've experienced. I mean hey, it's why I did for years. I was in fear that I would receive some comment like that.
From coaching I've become really intuitive and have a stronger understanding about why people do the things that they do or say the things they say. Those people that say shitty things like that, deep down, are unhappy in some way in their own life. Whether they would admit it or not it's true. When people don't like something about someone, it's because that person is a mirror some way in their own life. For example, that guy that told me I'm a joke, that comment would usually make someone feel shame. I can assure you that guy is experiencing shame in some aspect of his life.(A lot of us do) Or the guy that told me I'm an ugly woman, maybe he feels like he is an ugly person in some way, whether it is physically or internally.
My top tips on how to deal:
1.) Remember that not everyone will be nice
2.) Remind yourself that it has nothing to do with you, and more to do about that person. They are unhappy with their life in some way and they are trying to make themselves feel better, stronger, more secure etc.
3.) Try and talk to someone that will GET what you're going through - this one is HARD. Family and friends are definitely a good outlet, but sometimes they don't always know what to say (unless they have a similar experience too). If possible, try and find people that you can talk to that have experienced something similar in their lives. Finding someone that understands what you're going through will really help. If you ever need me to be that person shoot me an email and let's talk some more.
I'm sure I will touch on this topic again so stay tuned. And remember you're #scarredandSTRONGER!
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-trauma, body acceptance and wellness.