Monday, 20 January 2014

Body Confidence: Be Proud of Your Battle Scars!

Dealing with new scars on your body isn't easy for everyone. I've had scars for as long as I can remember and they've never bothered me a huge deal but during my teenage years I did start to feel a little insecure about them, especially as I was dancing during that time and my dance uniform showed them off quite a lot.

I realised last time I did a blog post about scars I didn't actually put in a picture of my own scars, which was a bit naughty of me really when I was telling everyone to not worry about them. These are the best pictures I could get while still preserving my modesty! The first one is my pacemaker scar, and as you can see the pacemaker is pretty visible as a lump under the skin, in the second one you can see my heart surgery scar, which you can see in the third one goes all the way down to my belly button because I had surgery on my abdomen after my heart surgery so they carried on with the existing scar.

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(You have no idea how weird it feels putting a picture of your belly button on the internet!)

It does surprise me how much people stare at my scars when I'm talking to them. I don't really think about my scars much so the only time I'm aware of them is when they get stared at. But I definitely think the staring was worse when I was a teenager and was around other teenagers. So if you're that age and becoming insecure by your friends and classmates staring, trust me it does get better as you and the people around you grow up. I think people stared at my scars, if not everyday, every other day, but now it's quite unusual for it to be as common as once a week. Everyone starts feeling insecure about themselves at that age so it's natural for everyone to be looking at each others bodies to try and figure out what "normal" is, so don't just assume they're thinking something mean. The thing about people is, they're far more likely to be thinking about themselves and how they're acting and how they look and their own insecurities than they are going to be judging or thinking about you.

Scars are an inevitable part of living, whether it's a little mark from a pimple you picked at a little too enthusiastically, a scar from falling down some stairs when you were a kid, or a huge open heart surgery scar, they're all a part of you and a part of your story. You can't and shouldn't wipe out a part of your history just because it's unpleasant. That goes for stretch marks too, I have stretch marks over my hips and bottom because I was really underweight as a child and I didn't have much of a bottom at all, so when I went through puberty, I grew outwards really fast and the stretch marks appeared (Yep, stretch marks happen to petite people too!). Even though they haven't got nearly as interesting a story as my scars, I still don't dislike them, to be honest I'd completely forgotten about them until I thought about writing this blog post. We should just be glad our skin is able to stretch that well, it would be much worse if it started cracking and bleeding! The same with scars, they're not painful or unsightly, besides people pay hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds to scar their body with tattoos to remind them of their past, you've got an awesome one for free that will always remind you of that operation you survived. Just because scars aren't as fashionable as tattoos doesn't mean they aren't as meaningful or beautiful. Not to mention giving you a bit of a head start when it comes to dressing up as a zombie for Halloween and coming up with awesome stories about your scar actually being from a shark attack for your nieces and nephews. And girls, don't worry, most guys find them cool, you're definitely not going to be missing out on any dating opportunities because of your scars. Men aren't idiots, they know the beauty industry is not an accurate representation of female beauty better than most of us do!

I never think about my scars when I'm buying clothes or choosing what to wear. I don't feel any less uncomfortable when they're on show and when they're not. Even when I was choosing dresses for my school prom, my scars weren't something I was considering. Although, I remember when I was reading Harry Potter for the first time (probably around the age of 8) I had a dream where I walked up to the mirror of erised and I saw myself without any scars, so maybe I was more aware of it than I remember but that's pretty much the only memory I have of wishing I didn't have scars. When I was a teen my best friend had scars too and we chatted about it. So, if you're a teen and feeling uncomfortable about your scars, just chat to your friends about it, I promise you that no one cares about them as much as you think they do and you might find out that someone else has a scar too.

I'll be putting my pictures up on my Instagram to show everyone that scars are nothing to be ashamed about or self conscious of. (check out my new instagram feed on the side bar, and there's a link to follow me there too!)

I hope this has helped you to feel better about any scars you have!

Friday, 17 January 2014


I'm so happy with my first two weeks back at university. My boyfriend and I have started a healthy eating plan so we're having lots of fruit and veg and no sneaky trips to McDonalds. I think it's a bit much to ask my body to run better by just changing my diet so I can't say I'm feeling a change but it's always good to be healthy. 

But the best bit about this week has been getting my results back. I wasn't that pleased with my first result as I didn't think the teacher really understood what I was doing and she said herself that she wouldn't choose to read the kind of stuff that I write. (My stories are a bit on the ethereal side, or rather my storytelling is ethereal, it's hard to explain really. If it was a song I guess you'd call it soulful). But I did get a 2.1 so I can't complain really. Then I got my results back for my Writing for Young People essay which was about escapism in children's literature. I got a first!! I couldn't believe it. I never seem to be able to get into the first category with essays, I always get 1 or 2% off but I finally did it. It was pretty good, if I may say so myself. 

Then for my next essay, which was for my Short Stories module, I got another 2.1. The essay was on omission, which is the writing practise of leaving out certain information and how by leaving out something you're actually adding a whole backstory to the piece. For example a simple awkward line between a divorced couple might hint at a whole other story, but it's all up to the reader's imagination, which adds depth to the story, a story beyond the story if you like. And next I got another first for my short story collection!! It included three short stories. One about a mad woman and the storyline is her murdering her son but you don't know if she actually did or it was all in her head (lots of omission going on there), one about a homeless boy walking through a desert, which is just really descriptive and one I wrote in hospital two years ago that I brushed up and that was about the first time I was in hospital and someone died in the ward. (They don't sound that good when you try and explain them but I promise you they're better than they sound!) I may be all happy and positive in real life but my writing is madly depressing I'm afraid. But anyway my tutor loved it and said I'm really good at creating a vivid setting and a strong sense of self (okay, so I have no idea what that last one means but it sounds good). And he said I was talented, so I feel really spurred on to do good in everything else now! I'd really love to publish a book of short stories so it's good to know I have three good ones to put into a short story book. I'm afraid I can't put any of my writing on here because it would make getting it published extremely hard. But you'll definitely be hearing about it if I do get something published! 

The best bit about everything is that I'm done with my short story module now so I get every Wednesday off and as long as my marks don't change when they're moderated I've bagged a first for that module as my 2.1 was high enough that I averaged out at a first. Woppeee! 

I'm feeling quite positive about getting a book published now. It is really difficult being a writer but I think I'm just about naive enough to think it's possible, just wise enough to know how to do it and just mad enough to keep working at it. I'm going to get a book published if it kills me! 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Living in the Grey

I know I usually do a lot of posts about what we might call the lighter side of being disabled, because I think there's a good amount of humour there and it involves a lot of things that most people don't know about disability. However the subject I'm posting about today, I have never seen covered before, in blog, tv or magazine. So it's not too far away from what I usually write about in some respects.

Life to a lot of people is black and white. The longer I've been ill the more I can see this statement as being true. Humans like putting things in boxes, black and white boxes most of them. There are those who are disabled and there are those who aren't. Unfortunately life isn't that simple. Where do I fit into all of this? I am disabled, but it's my engine that isn't working to full speed not my kinetics. My legs physically work, I can physically put one step in front of the other. You could watch me walk down a corridor or up the first few steps in a flight of stairs and think me no different from any other person. But look away for a minute and look back and you might well see me clutching my chest for breath.

In day to day life it does not bother me that people don't know I'm ill. Why should it? Everyone wants to be treated equally right? Everyone wants to be perceived as normal. But there are people in my life who are not my close friends or close family, people who don't see me everyday but know me well enough to approach me in a public space, maybe go for a coffee or chat for a bit in the street. It's these people who bother me. You can almost see the confusion in their faces when they look upon me in a wheelchair in town when I was perfectly capable of walking from the disabled parking into the lecture room the other day. I don't know why it's so hard for people to understand that I have an illness which means I have good days and bad days. One day I might feel well enough to walk from my car to the lecture, sometimes I may not have a choice if I don't have carer with me to push me (wheeling yourself around is far more exhausting than walking!) and another day I might have a carer with me, oxygen on my face and be confined to the wheelchair for the day. But in any case, it is not difficult to imagine that someone may be unable to walk around town for hours or around a supermarket with their shopping, but can walk a little way into a lecture hall or up some steps into a shop. Surely I am in the same position as a young toddler in a pushchair, I can't be expected to walk all the way around town but it shouldn't surprise everyone that I can stand up and put one foot in front of the other a few times. Unfortunately I do get funny looks when I get out of my car, apparently healthy and then get into my wheelchair and I have had abuse from people when I've parked in a disabled bay. I got fully blown shouted at by a woman in a Mcdonalds car park because I'd pulled up and forgotten to put my badge up straight away.

I understand that society labels people and that being "semi-disabled" isn't currently a label. But it does create a bit of an identity crisis for people like me. I've given in, I don't mind being seen in a wheelchair or being considered disabled. But I know people in a similar position to me who reject the label and try valiantly to keep walking everywhere, to never be seen in a wheelchair or wearing oxygen because they feel like a fraud, because they're not completely paralyzed so it's like they don't feel right considering themselves disabled. And as painful as it is to admit it, I can see exactly where they are coming from when I think of the looks I get in public places when I stand up. I think we all fight the lazy stereotype. I went through school being called lazy by my friends and even teachers for not doing p.e. or saying no to walking down to the shops, or getting a lift home from school even though for sixth form I was at a school that was practically a road from my house. There's a sense of having to prove yourself, prove that you're not lazy, that you're normal or that you're disabled, because the truth is you're not any of those.

The fact that it isn't a huge bother to me isn't the point. There are other people like me, and there are people a lot younger than me who struggle with this identity crisis and when it's reinforced by people you know and like it can be very confusing. The name of my blog is a nod to the identity crisis everyone goes through being a teenager but for me was complicated by being 'the girl with heart disease'. I've embraced it, because it's a part of me, and if you are struggling with the same, that is my advice to you. Just be who true to who you are. It's okay to be different and it's okay to want to be normal.

I don't think the whole disabled identity crisis has been covered properly before, at least I've never come across anything written about it before. I wish I'd had someone to talk to at the time. I hope children's hospitals invest in nurses who can deal with the emotional side as I think it would have helped a lot. I don't know how much of what I was feeling I understood at the time, but just someone saying it was normal would have helped me a lot. So to anyone out there who knows a teenager with some kind of sickness or disability, tell them from me that what they're feeling is completely normal and you'll come to terms with it on your own soon but talking to someone will make it easier.


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