Remember this: your body is your slave; it works for you – Jack Lalanne
My Body tells me no, but I won't quit – Young the Giant
Scars. We all have them. Everything from childhood playground accidents to major surgeries.
I often find myself tracing over them. Remembering how they got there but often just plain wondering how they came to be since I was unconscious for most of them.
My left arm has a ragged mark that zig zags from my wrist to my elbow. They harvested an artery there. I chuckle at myself thinking I could hide it with some obsidian tattoo with bloodied writing stating “Death from above”.
When putting on my hockey pads, I often think about the scar that runs down the length of my thigh. The surgeon was fishing for a good vein as part of my heart bypass all due to my childhood treatments. They basically super glued the wound instead of stitching it – clever.
There’s the scar across my stomach. One of the originals. I am told that nowadays laparoscopic techniques are used instead of some ancient ninja with a katana. Okay I made up that last part.
Then there is the scar that runs down my chest, tied in with the scar that runs down the center of my stomach. One for a heart bypass and the other for the more recent liver resection.
You get the point. This ain’t no beach body. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to wear a turtleneck during the summer months.
Scars are often part of the treatment. Survivors hold them as badges. Wounds you may not see even on a battlefield.
Those are the scars you can see.
What about the disfigurements you can’t see? Those run deeper than fused flesh and bone. They say soldiers often combat the enemy only to combat themselves after the war – Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
You wake up screaming from nightmares that stay with you for days stemming from people who woke you up at 2 am to stab your arm. Depression hits at a moment’s notice and sleep may not happen for decades. Sounds like a war doesn’t it? Only there are no bombs save for the ones that may come from your doctor’s office. The alarms from IV units still ring in your ears. And yeah, the shouts of other patients stick with you too. Some morbid funeral march of moaning and groaning that you never get used to.
These are the scars that truly run silent and run deep. After a few decades of ‘the battle’ there is a light. As I’ve stated before, I tab my PTSS eccentricities as ‘my demons’ - Little creatures that you can step on, yet always seem to come back to nip at your heels. When you make your issues into something tangible, you often find yourself managing them. They may never go away but you can defeat them hour to hour if need be.
To that end, I’ve seen many shrinks. I have a Survivor’s Group that I attend every few months where people from all walks of life share vastly different stories yet there is an eerie commonality as well. These are all patches in my life raft. A leak here. A breakage there. A patch. A band-aid. A temporary salve.
Suffice to say, Survivors may battle more than most. Some would argue against this perspective but I just say we all have our own personal tragedy to deal with. Some more than others.
It isn’t the size of the disease but how you handle it. It has taken me over 38 years to figure that out.
Some speak about it. Some bury it. There is no rule book. There is no wrong way to deal with the fallout both literal and figurative.
For me? Outside of the help I’ve asked for over the years, I just do what is normal and therapeutic. If the alarm goes off, particularly after a bad night of sleep, I remind myself that it is my religion to take care of myself. I do think of myself as a soldier. I imagine the strength I build is wearing down pockmark tissue. The air that huff into my lungs is keeping evil cancer cells at bay. The organics I eat fuel a machine ready for any battle.
Still, deep down, I know I have dodged many bullets.
And I have the scars to prove it.