Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Kahlil Gibran

My body is marked from head to toe with physical evidence of my various medical battles. First and foremost, there is proof of the gift of life bestowed upon me by my mother nine years ago, an approximately 3-inch-long scar that runs along my lower abdomen. Then there are smaller scars on my neck and upper chest, where various tubes have been inserted, connecting my body to machines for life-saving dialysis and plasmapheresis treatments. My arms host a few more, even smaller, nicks accumulated from bad needle pokes, the dreaded arterial blood gas (ABG) draws, and even one or two resulting from an encephalitis fit where I yanked out my own IV. Just below the surface, the veins in my arms are so scarred that these days my blood draws often must be extracted from other, more sensitive areas such as my hands or even feet. And, more often than not, bruises and small scrapes of unknown origin can be found along my legs and arms, a result of chronic anemia and post-encephalitis balance stability challenges.  

lonely-tree-1567008These markings are representative of paint on a canvas, illustrating my personal history. And like the laugh lines that have begun to appear on my face, I wear them like a badge of honor. I have earned every single one of my scars. They are each important reminders of the wounds that have shaped me; commemorating where I have been and how far I’ve come. Over time, they have become a familiar part of me like the knots and markings of an old tree. A tree that has weathered the storm and remains standing, with branches reaching to the sky, daring to be struck down by the fate of nature’s wrath.

But if I’ve learned one thing from my days in the battlefield, it’s that pain doesn’t always leave a visible mark. Sometimes the most significant scars are the ones you can’t see at all. Carved from wounds not visible to the naked eye, these scars are made all the more painful in their ability to cut deep and infiltrate even the most resilient lines of defense. Undetected, and therefore exposed, these wounds are perpetually vulnerable.

My unseen scars are the markings of an internal battle and are varied and range in depth and size. These dents in my internal body armor are a product of the cruel mockery the fates have made of my life. Most often they stay out of sight, but occasionally they manifest through unbidden emotions, such as hesitation to share extensive details of my personal history for fear of judgement or vulnerability…or the internal turmoil that accompanies making plans for a consistently uncertain future… through the inevitable paranoia that a cough, a headache, or even a bad day might be a precursor to something more serious…the haunting anxiety of constantly waiting for the so-called-other-shoe to drop. These scars persist in influencing everyday situations and continue to haunt me throughout the night when I wake up shaking and powerless, having dreamt, once again, of losing hours, days and months to an unknown entity.

These invisible scars have also become a part of me. Similar to the old tree that is uniquely marred with its own battle wounds, you may come to find pieces of my story in the external markings that appear across the surface of my body… but the true victories and ultimate story of my survival is evidenced only by the markings within. 

My scars, both seen and unseen, are a part of me that says I have SURVIVED.

I am bent but not broken, challenged but not defeated.

And in telling my story, each and every one of my scars are beautiful in their own right.

1 Comment

  1. Mary Flynn

    Erica, I can so total associate with so much you were sharing mine, not the same journey but, never having known such pain ever, ER Doc saying that if and only if anything will be able to be done, you are in for a very long haul. Not knowing if I would ever stand or walk again, living with pain 24/7 because i will not be totally numbed because i would loose so much more abilities. Not knowing what could come next.. some hearing loss so now i have aides, 1 inch length leg differential, thank you to my PT I have orthothodic’s and am balanced. So many moments that I have felt and known God’s presence but also some moments of enough is enough Thank God for faith and acceptance that I am still here and God has many plans for me some I see now and some in the future.Remember how much love you have from family and especially all the Love that God has for you. Love AMJ


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