I went to nursing school when I was 18. I was an excellent student. Until clinicals. I once had dry heaves when a patient handed me a used Kleenex. This is not hyperbole. It happened. I fainted with astounding consistency. Usually the only warning I had was the carpet pattern mysteriously growing larger and larger as it rushed towards my face.
I did not become a nurse. It is fair to say that I am a medical lightweight. If someone vomits. If someone appears as though they might vomit. No point looking for my lunch, it is lost.
Now that I am a teacher, if a student approaches me with a hand suspiciously over the mouth, I become an auctioneer – barking, “Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go!!!!!” as I wildly point towards the restrooms.
So, I currently find myself with a bit of a conundrum. The scar on my chest makes me feel both faint and nauseous. Oh sure, I joke about it. I say, “I look like I was in ‘The Revenant’.” But looking at it? Taking a shower? I have to do some serious self talk. To be clear, this is not necessarily linked to the emotional journey of losing a body part or parts. This is a straight up BLECCCCCCCCCCCCCHHHHHHH reaction. I had the same response when I had my thyroid removed. Initially, the scar made it look a lot like I was the recipient of a head transplant.
I have a lot of scars. There is one on my ankle from an ill-fated bike ride that my brother attempted when I was a toddler. I have no memory of it. He wells up whenever he sees the scar. There is something validating when someone sees your scar and feels your pain. Unseen scars seem a little more difficult to handle.
We all have unseen scars. The internal wounds usually cause the most damage. Abuse. Betrayal. Disappointment. Injustice. So often, we emotionally limp around without ever feeling seen. The seeing is important to feeling OK. I have no plans to pull a Mardi Gras, but if I am completely honest, there is a part of me that thinks – if you could see this. If you could feel what is happening up under here. It is NOT pretty.
The more rational part of me remembers that scars are like road signs. They only mark the names of roads. They are not the journey. You may have to look at the sign to verify where you are currently, but to focus on the road sign would be to miss the ever changing scenery. The journey is so much bigger than one road.