I don’t know where to begin here. So…feet up? I prefer ending with the face.
Every time I take off my shoes, my attention is drawn to the fact that my right ankle and foot are slightly larger and more purple than the left. This is the side that the truck hit, and my injuries were most severe here. There’s still a lot of pain and tenderness in my right foot, ankle, shin, and knee. For a long time after I came home, this area was always extra cold. But, unfortunately, it also misinterpreted “heat” as “cold”, leading to some very near mishaps with bad burn situations. Close vigilance in the way of actually reaching down and touching my supposed “freezing” foot, only to find out it was burning hot, prevented some pretty bad situations.This is a little better now, but still continues to be a problem. I’m sure the reason I don’t notice it so much anymore is a combination of gradual improvement, I’ve gotten used to it, and I’ve found adaptations. Seems you can basically pretty much get used to anything, unless it’s constant disabling pain. Thank goodness I don’t have that anymore!
More about my temperature: a common result of brain injury is the body’s inability to control its own internal temperature. During the fall/winter/spring, or simply anytime I’m indoors, away from the sun and in air conditioning, I’m cold. Freezing cold. Sometimes it gets so bad that my body starts shaking uncontrollably and can’t stop. This is embarrassing for me, and bewildering for strangers. Fortunately it only happens infrequently, but still…
To counteract this I wear gloves simply all of the time, even indoors. Except in the heat of summer, I carry a blanket around to throw over my legs while I’m sitting. I always wear two pair of pants, and often three shirts. Big change for a girl who always called herself hotblooded and used to wear sandals in the depth of winter.
Next comes the scar from the feeding tube. This is what left me with my “second belly button.” The feeding tube completely saved my life the seven weeks I was in a coma. I had the feeding tube in until long after I learned to swallow again. The doctors had to determine me to be getting enough nutrition from food to not need it anymore. Getting it out was not fun. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?
My entire midsection is a network of scars. I use lots of lotion to keep them soft, but even so some of them are raised and hard. Whenever I am tempted to call them ugly, my husband sweetly corrects me and tells me they are the most beautiful things in the world to him. Because of those scars, I am alive. I go along with him, but I secretly still think they are ugly.
Sometimes they itch madly. Occasionally, for no reason, my neck flushes bright red–a side effect of one of my medication. When this happens, the tracheostomy scar in the front of my neck seems to positively glow white in contrast to the crimson of my neck. I can feel the heat rising up from my neck, and it quickly transfers to my embarrassed cheeks. Is there a word for infinite embarrassment? That would possibly be me at these times. But such a trivial thing!
Sometimes I manage (after getting dressed in the morning) to forget about most of my scars for hours. Then I change my clothes, or take a bath,and am startled to see they are still there. My short term memory loss continually gives me the gift of forgetting–and rediscovering–over and over again.
For a few weeks, when I first came home, I flirted with the idea of trying to hide my tracheostomy scar with a scarf. After all, it’s not very pretty. Aren’t women supposed to be all about trying to look attractive, hide our flaws? Aren’t we taught to dress to minimize our imperfections, not flaunt them?
And then I started thinking about that scar, what it said about me, my life, my experience, what I had been through. Of all my scars from the wreck, it was by far the most visible. By trying to hide it with a scarf, wasn’t I saying “No, no, it wasn’t ME that was in that accident! You must have heard wrong! That was someone else entirely!” Wasn’t that sort of pretending that the most significant experience of my entire life was somehow shameful, incidental, something to be quickly forgotten and covered up and brushed aside?
I decided otherwise. It was hard for me. I’m pretty vain. I don’t ever try to purposefully flaunt that scar because I still find it very unattractive, but it is a key part of me and what I’ve come through. Just like my silver hair, and my lined face. I came by this silver hair and these lines honestly, and I wouldn’t trade a single day. So what was I saying about the scar by trying to hide that? After all, I survived what my scars represent. By not hiding them, especially the visible ones, I hope I’m sending the message to people who see them that they can survive too. Because, unfortunately, bad things are coming to us all. We have to stick together, scars and all.