I have a large scar running across my abdomen. Whenever I see it, I am reminded of the day my youngest son was born. It reminds me of pain and fear, and of unbearable joy and love. I almost died that day, and had three surgeries, all done through the one incision that caused that scar. It was the scariest day of my husband’s life. But it brought the tremendous blessing of our beautiful son. I would not give up that scar. It’s a badge I wear of the trauma my body went through. It brings with it a flood of happy and sad memories.
I know many people who bear such scars. Scars on their face from skin cancer. Scars on their arm where they were burned. Scars on their leg where a vein was taken out to repair their heart. Scars down their chest to remind where surgeons went in and actually held that heart in their hands.
Anyone who sees us can tell we’ve been through something traumatic. There’s no hiding the scar from open heart surgery. People see, people give you knowing looks, and most importantly people understand. “Yes, I’ve had that surgery too,” they say. “I remember how it felt. It will get better. It really will heal one day.”
No one can see the scars we bear from rape and abuse. They are buried deep inside. They are larger and uglier than any visible scar I’ve seen on any person. But on the outside we look whole. People don’t see, and therefore, people cannot understand.
There are days when I wonder if it would be better if those scars were not invisible. I don’t know. I can’t tell people what happened to me. Maybe it would be simpler if they could just see it on my face. I could walk down the street and see other survivors just by looking. There would be a lot of us. We could smile at each other warmly, give each other gentle hugs. “I remember how that felt. You really will heal one day.”
Maybe we wouldn’t feel so alone.