The Recorder - My Turn: Learning to Love My Scars

It took me almost 23 years to accept my scars – physical and metaphorical – and stop hiding behind them. I was a year and a half old whe...

It took me almost 23 years to accept my scars – physical and metaphorical – and stop hiding behind them.

I was a year and a half old when I was first intubated and my breathing was mimicked by a ventilator. I was 2 years old the first time a scalpel sliced ​​through my porcelain skin to allow surgeons to place a feeding tube in my abdomen, as that period of intubation had cost me the ability to effectively swallow many food and my saliva.

Over the next 11 years, I underwent a series of five spine surgeries, one of which almost cost me my life. My doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital extubated me far too quickly and my fragile lungs went into shock. They couldn’t grab any tendrils of oxygen, which forced them to open my airway by other means – by forcing open my tracheostomy. Luckily it was removed several months later, but I remember this huge oversight every time I look in the mirror and see the encroaching scar at the base of my neck.

For years I tried to cover the scar whenever I ventured out in public. Luckily, that’s one of the only benefits of wearing a pronounced body brace that wraps around my entire upper body like a turtle shell and has an egg-shaped top in the front that hides the base of my neck.

I’ve been wearing a brace since I had my first spine surgery when I was 5 years old to prevent the curvature of my back from getting worse. And from 5 to 7, I wore the corset for about 15 hours a day. Now, if you’ve ever had the misfortune of wearing a plastic splint for hours on end, you know it’s far from the most comfortable thing in the world. After having my spinal fusion surgery at the age of 13, my orthopedist at the time told me that I would not have to wear the brace once I healed after the operation.

However, my mother insisted that I wear it for years because she was afraid that she or my nurses would accidentally break my ribs while transferring me from one surface to another. Even though my teens constantly argued with her over the years, I couldn’t guarantee that my nurses wouldn’t accidentally crush my ribcage by hugging me too tightly against their bodies.

When I was very young, I didn’t mind wearing the corset, but that all changed when I became a teenager. I couldn’t differentiate my body image with and without the corset because I had been wearing it for so long. I had no idea what my body looked like under the plastic shell.

I came to hate my reflection for years because of it. Because no one had a body that looked like mine, and while I would never admit it, I was getting more and more embarrassed by the day because I had conditioned myself to believe that no boy would find me. never attractive.

My life has always been compromised by having to make sacrifices for the greater good of my physical well-being. In this case, I had to compromise my self-esteem to avoid breaking a bone.

I paid that price in silence for years as I developed an eating disorder. The irony of the situation being that I hadn’t eaten any real food in years. But the concept of eating, or the will not to eat, wasn’t what initially sent me down this slippery slope. It was mainly because I had so little control over how my body worked and the circumstances around me that I sought to control whatever ways I could, even if they were unhealthy.

This behavior began unconsciously in my early teens when my muscles began to noticeably deteriorate. When I noticed how much more confident I felt the leaner I got, I remember thinking that if I was going to get weaker, I wanted it to be my fault.

I always knew how to hide my emotions and put a smile on my face no matter what I was feeling inside. My nurses never batted an eyelid when I asked them to give me more water instead of my formula because I felt bloated, even though my splint was getting looser day by day.

When I was 19 my mom agreed that I didn’t have to wear the brace while in my wheelchair because I had a pressure area on my back that was exacerbated by rubbing against the plastic. I loved the freedom I found and the movement it gave me. But more importantly, I loved how skinny I was in the mirror and a small part of me was gloating about it.

I remember thinking for the first time in my life, maybe this is a body that could be loved.

I still have days where I feel like I look more bloated and I’m tempted to limit my calorie intake. There are other days when, if I have an important meeting, I’m tempted to cover the scar at the base of my throat with a collared shirt or scarf.

But those days are no longer everyday.

It’s a work in progress, but I’m slowly coming to terms with my scars. Because, for better or for worse, they are part of me.

Columnist Joanna Buoniconti is a freelance writer and editorial intern at INCLUDAS Publishing.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The Recorder - My Turn: Learning to Love My Scars
The Recorder - My Turn: Learning to Love My Scars
Newsrust - US Top News
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