‘… and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see the scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, ‘I survived’. This is a quote from the book that I am reading at the moment called The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. These words come from Little Bee, one of the two main characters where little further she continues with ‘… sad words… But you must see them the same way we have agreed to see scars now. Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive’.
I reached a stage where I am able to tell my story, and it took me a long time. I lost my language, among other things, after the attack. Language is an important part of my identity – of any of us – I’m bilingual, yet, I was not able to name the event, any of the emotions, any of the memories in any of the languages. And it was not even converting the event into a language so I could tell it to others, it was translating it to myself. All I could do is relive them, feel them again and again and rewind the recorded events over and over again.
I learnt that when one goes through a traumatic event, our language centres are not priority destinations for blood flow but rather amygdala which is the fight and flight fear centre of our brains. Our brains during the traumatic event are focused on keeping us alive and prepared for the next bad thing, and that is about it – which is great for survival. On the other hand, it sucks when it comes to storytelling. As much as I love neuroscience, biology, psychology, they didn’t help much when I was trying to make some sense out of the shit that had happened to me…
Until it did. How? I’m not sure, my memory is a bit patchy – I temporarily lost some of my memory, and then it slowly came back, but I still struggle with some parts of the timeline, not only of the event but of the immediate aftermath as well. Anyway, I was first silent for a few months, and then when I came to visit the man who is now my husband, we started talking about it and talking about it and talking about it. We retold each other our versions of the attack, we listened to each other, we connected some parts of the attack that didn’t really make sense, and we went through our stories countless of times – between our therapist, ourselves, friends and anyone else who wanted to listen.
This constant retelling helped slowly make sense out of it, but it also refined the language I used to describe and explain the event – at first, it was rough, simple and as much as I knew that the descriptions were not as accurate as I would want them to be – it helped. Then, the more I analysed the attack and myself, the more exact I became in choosing words when telling my story. It was like catch 22 – the more sense it all had, the better language I could use and the more accurate words I used, the more sense I could bring to my trauma.
Why am I so overly concerned with language, I don’t know – but I was always like that – I need to understand how and why and until I do, things don’t make any sense to me. Am I stating the obvious? Probably, but things started unravelling for me when my therapist explained to me what happens in our brains, and what happens to our body when trauma occurs. Then, he gave me a list of books to read, and I did – to learn more about the trauma itself, but more about other peoples’ experiences, what LJ Astoria calls ‘thinking like a therapist’ – it all slowly started to come together.
Nevertheless, I still was not able, as in I was not patient enough or brave enough or stable enough, to give my written account. Now, after I finally managed to gather myself and have the guts to put everything on paper and make it permanent – as if it wasn’t permanent enough – now I see how much good it brings to me, but also to my family. I am getting rid of the frustration and pain, of guilt and anger, of sadness. I am able to analyse it better, to clarify it better and to store it better now when my burden is out in the open.
I should have done it earlier, but it was not ripe and ready – it may have looked ready on the outside, but inside it needed some more time. The time has come for my scar and my story to be seen as beauty – because I survived. My scar is my fuel. Don’t let your trauma hinder you, make it your fuel.
The post first appeared on PTSDChat.org