Wear Your Scars – Don’t Let Them Wear You…

We all know people who have scars – physical scars from an accident, from life-saving surgery, mental scars from experiences we’d rather forget. But so many of us allow these scars to hold us back from the rest of our life. So many of us are ashamed of the way that these scars have changed us and so many of us have stopped living, despite the scar a living ‘tattoo’ of our life being saved… Here’s Lilly Laudanum’s tale…  

We meet such a wonderful array of ladies through our classes and shows – and some men too – all who have been changed by an event in their lives. Beautiful people who have lived through an experience and are now covering up or holding themselves in such a way as to compensate or hide their scars – both mental and physical. A few months ago, I met such a beautiful and inspirational group of ladies. Some of the group had had reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. Brave ladies who had won a fight. They showed me their scars and I let them into a secret – I showed them mine…

Some of you don’t know this but my legs are covered in burn scars after having petrol poured on me when I was 5 by my own dad – yes, he even lit the match. I remember that day clearly, as it was April Fool’s Day. I was wearing my favourite dress – a little blue and white gingham dress (I used to call it a ‘bouncy dress’ as the top part was sheered with elastic and the straps were those tie straps…), white tights and a jumper as the spring air wasn’t yet warm enough. My dad was an abuser, an alcoholic and criminal (my poor mum used to wear long trousers and polo necks to cover the signs of his daily beatings and we would get up in the mornings to find him slumped in front of the fire where he’d fallen asleep wrecked the night before… I could go on to tell you more but this isn’t a sympathy post, and it isn’t a bout him and being a victim, it’s about me being a survivor!) – but to a 5 year old, this was all normal behavior. My mum had to go out to the nearby shops – only a 5 min walk away, and took my younger brother who was still in the buggy, leaving myself and my 4-year-old brother with my dad, who was “fixing” a moped in the area between the house and the shed. For some reason, after she had gone, he began pouring petrol on the floor and setting light to it. The next thing you know, I was standing in the petrol, which he was still pouring and he dropped a match into the pool of fuel. In the 70s, kid’s clothes were made of flammable fabrics and in a flash, my little blue dress caught fire, as well as the tights I was wearing. I remember my dad flapping around trying to pull me out of the flames as the tights melted onto my legs, but it was my 4 year old brother who pulled me out into the rain and we walked around the area where we lived crying and calling for help. So you may ask, why would a mother leave children with such a dangerous man? Well, how could she imagine in the space of 15 mins that some horror like this would happen? Don’t forget, she was a frightened woman, also, a shadow of her former self. She was the one who saw us wandering the green where we lived and I remember her running, with a look of terror on her face, towards us, to get us back home to call the ambulance (and taking a beating from my dad because he didn’t want an ambulance to come in case he got in trouble – consequently he ended up taking us to hospital in the car – I could smell the alcohol stronger than the burned flesh and clothing…) To cut a long story short, I was in isolation in intensive care for many months so the skin could grow back on my legs. I had to learn to walk again as the new skin had grown back webbed on the back of my knees and i was in and out of reconstructive surgery quite a lot during that time to make my legs look like legs again. Crazily, like anyone in an abusive situation, I didn’t think it was my dad’s fault. I never told the police as he begged and cried, saying, “Daddy will go to jail” and using emotional blackmail to manipulate the situation for his own needs. A few years later when I was 6, we escaped from him in the night, leaving everything behind, telling no one where we went in case he followed through his threats to kill us, or hurt those who knew where we were.    

Let me just say again, this recollection isn’t about sympathy at all, it’s just telling you the facts. I don’t want sympathy for this small event in my life, it doesn’t need to be brought back to life in that way and what happened to me isn’t who I am, I am who I am.

Roll forward a few years through school and although there was the occasional mention of “chip pan legs”, I chose quite quickly not to let this experience be me. I chose not to be “the girl with the burns”, I possibly created a larger than life character to compensate for the quite major thing – but that is no bad thing. I became the drummer in a band, the joker, the one that does crazy stuff, the one with the wild hair… Although I still covered my legs a lot of the time. I realised, though, if I allowed the thing that had changed me and could have killed me to stop me from living, then that moment will be the moment that I will be trapped in forever. I am not a victim of violence, I am a survivor and that moment in time is just that – a moment in time which I have moved through and moved past, onto better things. I have not used this moment – or these scars – as an excuse to go “off the rails”. Sadly, there are some that get stuck in the victim mentality, who stay anchored to that event in their lives, whether physical or mental, and cling to it as it is familiar. We all like/feel some comfort in familiarity. They might drink (or worse) to help numb the pain but sadly, they are prolonging the pain and giving oxygen to a moment they wish hadn’t have happened. I wish I could help these people. Getting the scar is painful, living with a scar can be painful, but letting it live your life for you is prolonging that pain. It takes a very brave person to take a deep breath and change: to choose to live, and to choose to live as a survivor. But change happens in a second, isn’t that worth giving a try?    

As I said earlier, we see a lot of ladies on our courses who have some part to hide, but hiding does the opposite: it draws attention to the very thing you don’t want others to see. Deflecting attention and holding your head up high. Learning to hold yourself with confidence will make the scar – whatever it is – disappear.       

The way I see scars is not a case of having to hide them and limiting the things you do daily because you don’t want anyone to see your ‘disfiguration’, but wearing your scars with pride. These show you won a battle (whether small or huge), a war or overcame something huge and lived to tell the tale. None of us are flawless, we all have scars, whether that is mental scars from a trauma, scars of the heart where it’s been broken or scars you can see. Please don’t let your scars hold you back, see them as a sign of strength and move forward with your head high, ready for the next challenge…

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