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What I Realized About My Own Physical Scars After Watching Netflix's 'Skin Decisions'

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I have 25 visible scars on my body representing 103 of the surgeries I have been through. I know for a fact that the seven long thick lines across my stomach represent 52 surgeries I’ve had on my digestive system alone. The two on my ankles represent the many times doctors failed to find veins in my arms and had to resort to using odd places. The two between my thighs represent even more desperate attempts to try and get the things back to working. The one across my back is a story from when I was a baby and the small one over my right breast is the time I had surgery on my heart. And yet through all the scars, I rejoice in having no regrets.

You know, I get this statement all the time: “ You  would’ve never known you’ve had all those surgeries just by looking at you.” And I chuckle internally and think to myself, “Well, I hope not, because I’ve had a lot of work done.” They only see the “me” I present to them fully clothed. But if they ever looked underneath my shirt, or searched along my scalp, or glanced inside my mouth, they would see even more invisible scars that are connected to very visible experiences.

Physical scarring can be the enemy of our eyes because the physical mark says one thing and the story behind them tells another. To me, having scars is a signal to the rest of the world saying, “Hey, something happened and my body will never be the same.” I may change, but the memory of that scar will last forever. How daunting this thought is — to have a mark on your body that can last forever.

And what happens when that scar is connected to a source of pain?
Does that mean the pain lasts forever?

I know I have one scar on my stomach, it was where my last feeding tube used to be. And every now and then I remember all the pain I had with that button and how it was a source of both physical pain and emotional anguish. And even though I’ve had that scar for 10 years, every now and then when anxiety is high and my fears try to drown me, I jump out of bed in the middle of the night touching that scar as if I was 16 years old again. But then, I have scars that have no emotional connection, scars to me that simply exist. Scars that have remained because I was either too young to know their pain and scars that have become too old that their pain simply fades away with time. When I look at them, I don’t see pain or even feel pain, I just know I had an experience.

And then I wonder, what would my life be like if I never had any of these scars? Would the memory of them be enough? Would the pain that caused them, be enough? If I had the option to make them go away, would I take it? Would I leave the ones that don’t hurt and opt to cover up or hide the ones that do? What loaded questions, right?

While watching the show Skin Decisions on Netflix, I asked myself these series of questions. I found myself judging and empathizing with all the recipients on the show. It was like my heart was divided because I couldn’t understand their decision to get their scars removed, however, I empathize with their pain. I blamed the doctor on the show for even agreeing to do the procedures in the first place. But then I came to the conclusion that my feelings toward the patients and even the doctors were so misplaced. It wasn’t the doctor’s fault for finding a solution, and it wasn’t the patient’s fault for seeking an answer to their “why.”

For me, it was our society’s fault — the way we think about and how we perceive beauty. Somehow, we’ve allowed a narrative to be pushed that glorifies perfection and dehumanizes differences. In a way, these individuals looking to remove their scars aren’t the perpetrators, more so the might be the victims, looking for a way to navigate through the indifference of society’s expectations of beauty.

Nevertheless, what I’ve learned through watching the show Skin Decisions is that even though there are options out there to remove my scars, removing my scars will never make me forget the experience. And to be honest, I don’t want to forget them; they are a part of me and have made me who I am today.

My “skin decision” is to keep my scars, embrace my scars and accept the experiences behind them.

Originally published: October 20, 2020
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