“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
~ Khalil Gibran
I carry my scars’ weight in my neck and shoulders.
I feel the unbearable heaviness of their being in the disorders that wrap their tendrils around my brain.
Some have suggested that the scars we carry cloud our vision. They say they distort the light, leading us on misguided rampages and keeping us from “the good.”
Sometimes I wonder if such people believe the scars on one’s soul are like a monocle — something one can take on and off as the mood demands. Need to be objective? Take off the scars. Must you act “respectable”? Hide them deep inside your heart so they can’t be seen. Need to not be angry so you please a flannel-graph Jesus? Turn down your scars’ volume, please.
But I cannot quiet my scars nor can I separate who I am from who I once was. I carry these scars as much as they carry me. They are a part of me and they make me who I am.
I see through my scars but my scars gave me sight.
It was my scars that first inspired me to speak up as a teenager about self-injury and substance abuse, even as I struggled with the same things. When I felt silenced and pressured to shut up, it was my own experiences of pain that inspired me to keep speaking. I did not want others to be alone in their pain.
It was my scars that later inspired me to become educated about child abuse and mental illness and pursue the advocacy work I embrace today. When I felt like it wasn’t making a difference or that no one cared, my own experiences of pain gave me the courage and strength to carry on.
It was my scars that led me to meditation and prayer, to finding better ways to be healthy in the face of what the world brings. In those moments that make me want to snuff out my life, my scars are an ever-present reminder of how far I’ve come. They form a map that lead me back to the child I once was and are a testament to the fact that, Yes, I have stayed alive, and yes, I can continue to do so.
There is a purpose to my being, and my scars light my path.
I think we give our scars either too little credit or too much blame. We either believe they do not make us strong or believe they make us blind. But the fact is they are emotional and mental reminders of our fortitude and they aid our vision, not hinder it.
For a long time I was ashamed of them. I was ashamed of how I was wronged and I was ashamed of the crutches to which I clung — to which I still sometimes cling — in response. I was ashamed of my depression and my anxiety and my self-defenses. They revealed my humanity and I was not comfortable with being human. I wanted to be calm and in control; I wanted to write with poetry, not pain. I wanted my God to be with me as light, not darkness. I wanted to cover up my scars and paint my face with porcelain and painlessness.
But hope and healing came to me in the darkness, not the light. And we forget that while, yes, God made light, God also made the darkness and the darkness was also good. In the darkness of night the body and soul recover, rebuild, reset, and resurrect the will for another day.
So here’s to the darkness, and here’s to our scars.
Here’s to the cracked lenses we see through, that make us who we are.
Here’s to not being ashamed of the scars we bear, because they are not distortions but rather guiding lights. We are daily transforming ashes into a phoenix and that is amazing.
Image courtesy of María G. C.