Sunday, 3 April 2011

Heavier stuff.

Just a warning that this post is not at all fashion related and is a little more serious than my usual posts, so if you're not interested, look away now. I promise I will be quick to follow up with posts of a more light hearted nature.
I have been thinking for a while that I would like to write about a recent accident I had, as there are some aspects of it that I have found fairly difficult to come to terms with, and I find that writing can often be a very therapeutic release. Today, I did that. I find it very difficult to talk about, and often end up backing out of the conversation or making jokes when I try, but I think that I would like to put what I wrote out there to help me feel more comfortable discussing my feelings on the matter. So here it is.

"It is a strange thing to experience an instant physical change. To look into a mirror and see something suddenly different. It could be a change in hair colour or in make up, or indeed something more dramatic such as the loss of a limb, but I suppose that it is likely that everyone has felt that moment of disorientation that comes with not entirely recognising their own reflection. It changes, to whatever degree, the way we perceive ourselves - our definition of the term “me”.

Personally, my most negative experience of physical change has been a six inch scar across my throat, a result of surgery after a burns injury, along with a small burn scar on my chest which was not operated on. It has been three months now and yet I am still not sure how to phrase it. Do you “acquire” a scar? That seems like a choice. “Suffer” one? That seems to suggest ongoing pain, and I, surely, cannot be described as suffering. In my experience, a scar is just a happening, something that is irreversible but which must be accepted and tolerated. Positive or negative feelings have no impact on its existence, it will not be argued with.

Our appearance is the cover to our book, and despite proverbial preaching, it is on this that those around us judge us. As a teenage girl attending a single sex secondary school in London, I have felt the truth of this statement perhaps more than many. In my world, a rather small place considering the relatively short time that I have been around, but also in the vast majority of Western culture, appearance manages to hold an unjustifiable significance. Although we can be as righteous as we want about inner beauty, realistically it is not what counts in our society. I have grown up having it instilled in me from all directions that beauty equals success. Further than that, since childhood the media has taught me to specifically associate scars with evil - from Freddie Kruger and Frankenstein’s monster, to Scar in the Lion King, a film made specifically for very young children. With scars having so many negative connotations, I believe it is inevitable that my accident has brought about feelings of insecurity and self-doubt.

“There are people that have it so much worse”. I have heard this from others as well as frequently from myself, and it is true. However, these anonymous “people that have it so much worse” exist in every bad situation in life. I want to make it clear that I am not excusing self-pity, merely making the point that these people do not alter the fact that we have what we have and we must deal with it. My injuries are not the end of the world. I am alive. In practically every sense of the word, I am healthy. I was told that I would have to have my head shaved and a scalp skin graft taken, and coming round from surgery to discover that they had found a way around it was more heartening than I can begin to describe. I know that I am lucky.

But I cannot deny that undergoing what I have, however comparatively insignificant it may seem to those looking in, has changed me. It is certainly a process, but I hope that with time my relationship with my scars will become more positive, or at least less disorientating, and that I will be able to erase the divide that I see between “me before” and “me with scars”. I also believe the way I feel points to a much larger issue, and if I take one positive thing away from the experience, it will be that I am now much more aware of how we are subconsciously affected by society’s illogical values on appearance and I will do my best to change these values in those around me."

If you would like to help support people who are in a situation far worse than anything I could imagine, please donate to the Katie Piper Foundation. The work she does is utterly inspiring.