This morning I found myself mesmerized over my scars from my knee surgery. What once were bloody gashes that made my stomach quiver when the patches were removed are now merely small blemishes. Today I can barely notice three of them, one of them was mistaken for dirt on my leg by my PT just the other day in fact. The largest and gnarliest is the scar across my shin, though it has faded to fine white line its the scar that still sends electric sparks off like fireworks in my body if its touched, tricks my leg into believing I have a bruise down near my foot (nerves are strange right?) and if its rubbed by my jeans it feels like my knee is swollen like a balloon but don't stress for me, it isn't. This scar is my story.
On the tough days, the days where I need a little reminder I will look at this scar and remember the battles I have fought to be here. The endless rehab hours, solitude, determination, patience, missed opportunities, lessons and most importantly belief that got me through it. My scars prove that I healed, that I can do anything I put my mind to and provide another part of my history written on my body.
Defined as a mark left on the body where a wound, sore or damage has not healed properly or connective tissue has developed AND/OR a lasting effect of Grief, fear, or other emotion on a by a traumatic experience. This is a scar. A moment that has left a mark of its presence in our life and our story on our body, or within our hearts. Both define a scar with a negative connotation- something that has previously caused destruction, turmoil or grief. Most of us solidify this connotation by feeling ashamed, self conscious and damaged when it comes to most of our scars. Though of course we all have a few that bring us to laughter or a geeky grin thinking of the fall or tumble that brought some on like the scar on my right big toe from when I ate shit skateboarding in a bikini in Forster and mum came to my rescue ( No I was not 10, I was 23). I think our greatest challenge in life is to think of all our scars as Alessia Cara says "No scars to your beautiful, we're stars and we're beautiful". To see these marks of our history as the very proof that we are survivors, warriors and as a reminder of all the things you conquered to make you who you are today. A sign that you can heal, and a reminder to others that they can too. As I'm writing this I have come across this quote " She wore her scars as her best attire. A stunning dress made of hellfire" by Daniel Saint. This made me think of Katniss Everdeen in her flaming gown and how it sent the crowd into uproar and appraisal and I want to wear my scars like I wear my gown to Opening Night- proud, confident , feeling radiant and damn sexy and YOU SHOULD TOO!
We all have scars, Every scar is unique to us and our story and though they may be similar to anothers each has marked our body in its own way. There are scars that we are proud of , and then the many that we are ashamed of . I have scars on my sides from where stretch marks lined my skin as I grew those dreaded womanly things called hips. They make me feel uneasy when they are seen but these hips are part of my booty that I love and one day will help me bear children. I have scars on my body from self harm. Scars that remind me of that time when I was 14 and my body was changing at a rate faster than others and quicker than I wanted it to, Out of frustration and high intensity anxiety moment fueled by tears my nails had dug a tremendous amount harder than I thought wishing that body was not mine. Boobs were growing and I was becoming a dancer with "Big Boobs" and friends were making comments about how large they were as they stood there with mozzie bites on their chests giggling and little did they know the punches they were throwing at my heart and pride. "Whats your bra size?" at a job was rapidly becoming my most hated question and I dreaded the moment to try it on and try not to complain or feel fat because I was overflowing like when your muffins come out deformed because you overfilled the mixture. By the way this didn't stop being a constant burden in my mind until recently. In fact only three years ago when I was 22 a close friend made a remark and laughed in what felt like ridicule when I said I was having a 'small day' which ended in me in tears having a moment in the bathroom before tech run. Ive now learnt to appreciate and love my body for its womanly curves and highlights. I love that I can wear no bra under a gown and receive compliments and actually accept them gratefully. I laugh at times at how something which I despised on myself for so long has now become a beautiful asset and pride. I always pray no one will notice the scars as they make me feel deeply ashamed at times but then again they are part of MY STORY, my adolescence and growing to love myself so if someone were to ask me I would wear them with pride, and maybe it will help some other girl love her body a little more.
My heart holds its own invisible scars also. To the stranger it seems whole and plump but only I myself know the marks it bears as you do for your own. The holes from the times your heart broke that you sewed yourself through tears, overseas travel, new experiences and of course self development books. The childhood traumas that burst and ruptured all over again when we turned 21. The small bruises from the mistakes we have made, the friends we trusted, the lessons we learnt. But just as the marks on our skin, this branding upon our hearts is OUR STORY. Let them remind you of everything you have experienced, overcome and struggled through and let them become your wings to soar. I love hearing the stories behind someones blemish of victory- whether that is a made up shark attack tale that has me laughing or a heart felt tale of a survivor that has gone through battle. I challenge you to sit down and think of your scars as a roadmap to your life. Start from the first, possibly a birthmark and trace through the milestones of the incredible life you have lived. I did this today and it made me cross between laughter and welling up but feeling god damn proud at the end of it. From my scar near my right eye from when a boy punched me because I teased him when I was 4, to my other eye where a scar lays from when my cousin slashed my eye open with a ping pong racket that time he wouldn't let me play... Dad you are right I was always sticking my face into things and never learnt!. To the scar on my hand from the 20 or so stitches after my abuelas german shepherd lost the plot and chewed my hand (which has now lead to a fear of dogs) and the hole that remains from thinking a belly button piercing was sexy, again Dad you were right. These are my stories, they made me who I am today and I look forward to being 90 years old explaining to my grand children where all these jagged wounds came from and feeling proud of the history I have lived.
Most of my life has been spent grasping outwards towards the gratification, rewards, materialism, and food that I "think" will make any bad day or time better. Most of us do this regularly ...
- You didn't get the job you were working so hard for = a night out with the girls drinking wine to feel better
- Someone broke your heart = you post a hot new photo to get ALL THE LIKES and start to believe in yourself and worthiness again
- Life feels lonely = but you booked a great job today so you will be BUSY and HAPPY
- Something ruined your day = Buy a new outfit or hell a whole new wardrobe and reinvent yourself
We do this all the time hoping, wishing, believing that grasping outwards towards these things and the happiness they can bring us will turn life around, will rid us of this emptiness and loneliness and make us feel "worthy" "enough" and most importantly like we have it all together. Yet this action is the very thing that destroys us the most- there comes a time where the tipsy warmth wears off , the amazing project comes to an end and you are back to unemployment or your friends are too busy to come to save you and the reality of it all seeps in. We say hello to the guilt, the sadness, the "life is unfair" conversations , the never ending "what if" anxious spirals our minds spin and we are back there at the beginning.
For myself work provided the instant gratification and reward system that would allow me to pretend that I was happy because I was busy every single day living what others would call a "dream life". When my heart was broken, I booked a job that meant the world to me. I busied myself with rehearsals and assisting and taking class and going out for drinks with the girls to meet new people and I convinced myself that I was Okay. Look at me go ! Im booked and blessed (cue vomit), busy, have so many friends and I didn't spend one moment thinking about the boy. Cut to one week later when the job was over, I was waiting for checks to pay my rent and my friends had gone back home well needless to say - I WAS NOT OKAY. An even deeper anxiety, worry, and sadness ate away at my little heart. I was breaking down and fast. This was not a one off occurrence either there has been a gazillion of times in my life where my successful work, my identity as a known dancer, and my butterfly social life have provided momentary bliss as I'm sure it has for you too. Over 200 likes on your photo or an email from an agent no matter how much you believe it will not "fix" you or the problem.
Until the very opportunity of grasping outwards ceased and was unattainable I may have been caught in that endless task of convincing myself and others that my life is fabulous and of trying to control every minute detail of my life and steer the ship to the right even though the current is dragging me to left. Sarah Wilson describes it perfectly in her book "First we make the beast beautiful" when she likens the flow of life to a river- "we try to dam the river with piles of logs and other obstacles because we think the river should flow differently" (our outward grasps to control others and situations) but eventually "the pressure builds...the flow wins out and Boof!" our attempts to manage and control explode leaving life to flow as it pleases and had planned to all along. This was my life- I tried to control my career, my relationships, my experiences and pre planned each moment until the day I tore my ACL and realized that even though I was doing everything "right" SHIT STILL HAPPENS.
Lying in bed, stalking instagram and seeing all the experiences and jobs that I could not do, the life I wasn't living and realizing I had no control over anything brought a storm of emotion and turmoil for me. Weeks of resisting and strong resilience until I finally hit the ground, cracked and started from a blank slate. I sat in it- sat in the grimness and mud of it all. It stank, it hurt and it was godly lonely but its exactly what I needed for this to change me- to grow. I felt the discomfort mentally and physically and didn't resist but instead went inwards to find the real me . For once in my life I can say I have found a place within myself where I am Happy- whole heartedly joyful with life as it is. No outer rewards such as an amazing career, gratification for my talents, fancy social life, or lover... simply my soul, my body and my mind and when those tough moments come I sit, I watch, I wonder, I let it pass and then I get curious. I write out my manifesto in my diary, get brutally honest with myself and the messiness I have brought on and then find myself at a place where the world is silent and I am smiling through my eyes at myself. This deep inner happiness is nothing in comparison to the short bursts of excitement rewards bring.
If there is one thing this time in my life has taught me it is that in order to grow I must let go. I must ride the wave that life is offering and resist the need to control. Smile at the unknown and find joy in the uncertainty of it all. I don't know what next week will bring, I don't know if my knee will fully recover, I don't know if I will book that dream job or find my life partner or god I don't even know if my bus will be on time tonight or not. Let go and embrace the endless possibilities, take one step at a time and see where it leads you - maybe to the picturesque instagram worthy lookout you wanted or maybe you wound up on the other side of the cliff but find a hidden gem of a spot.
I know I'm not "cured" of this controlling, worrying, fomo life but I'm getting a hell of a lot better at sitting in it, laughing and loosening my tight grip and just seeing what happens tomorrow let alone next year.
When I was a child I had an obsession with my hair. It had to be perfect, not a bump in sight and tight enough so that I grew a receding hairline and had a free face lift. If it didn't give me a headache I knew it wasn't tight enough. I had a ritual where I first used the spray bottle to drown it with water, next was the gel for all the whispy bits, the bun contained at least 50 pins and consisted of 20 or more attempts to make it perfect and then hairspray galore to complete it . If there was a bump, out it came and I tried again otherwise something bad might happen .My best friend bore witness to my craziness when I did my bun and began a flustered anxiety attack about the bump.. she told me it couldn't be more perfect but still the rage grew and tears were coming and before I knew I grabbed my bun screaming and ripped it out. There had been many red flags but I think this was the point my parents knew i was kind of crazy and something had to be done .
My father suffers from mental health issues so anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder were no unknown territory to our family. From a young age I watched him battle with himself , with us, the drama that accidently mixing the wrong medication delivers and the times it became all too much . I guess I was predisposed genetically to picking up these traits and my parents knew I might be on the road myself when perfectionism became my all time goal as did constant panic attacks. I would rip pages out at school if they were messy and not just one, but the entire thing and rewrite every page with an all consuming fear and disgust boiling over me, I would count the lines on the pavement and some nights I spent over the toilet bowl because life became too much.
I am so grateful that I have a family where honesty and talking out loud is super important. We didn't pretend Dad was ok or that my actions were normal. If Dad wasn't having a good day it was explained to us, if I was fixating over things and making myself sick from it they spoke to me as to why I was feeling like that , Dad sat next to my bed countless nights and took me through breathing exercises and when they saw I was heading towards a dark road they found a 3 month anxiety clinic being held by Macquarie university psychology PHD students and enrolled me in it . I didn't have to be dragged there, I actually looked forward to hearing that I wasn't the only crazy child and receiving some help to hush out the demons.
The next three months I realized my main fear was ( and still is !) people's perception of me especially when it comes to image - aah that's why I want to vomit when I walk through the school gates and the older girls are standing around but I'm convinced they are looking at my legs thinking I'm a weirdo and now I must convince mum to let me wax. Other leaders of my anxiety were my necessity to be on time, my need to be liked...by everyone, and life to basically be perfect . A goal which we all know we are kidding ourselves of.
Hearing the other children speak of their fears let me know I wasn't alone in this , there was nothing more comforting to my little soul. We learnt endless exercises and I cherished my giant folder, but the one that helped me the most was the "what ifs" detective work- an exercise where we would write down 10 bad things that would happen if our fear came true- then we would work through each event and in the end see that even the worst possible response wasn't as tragic as we envisioned it . It allowed me to be logical and see that yes one day i might run late to dance but it didn't mean that my mother would die. On the last day we faced our fears , for me this included walking into a bookshop with my hair in a teased mess and asking for a hairdressing book- yep you guessed it the bitch laughed at me (didn't she know I was a little anxious ticking time bomb ?!) but I used my exercises, breathed and realized it wasn't all that bad - actually it was pretty hilarious.
This exercise changed my life. Mum would run me through it every time I was about to combust into thin air and she actually still does it to this day. When anxiety kicks in all logic and rational thinking flies out the door for me and it is replaced by intense fear, panic, dread and usually fantasies of how the situation could turn out. This exercise allows me to see that the world is not about to come crumbling down, I will not die , the worst possible scenario is not near as life threatening as I imagine it . Yes it may hurt the ego, my feelings, or create an unwanted situation but there is usually always a solution.
That clinic improved my anxiety ten fold - daily melt downs turned to monthly instances . All until an event when I was 15, ( to be shared one day) my anxiety hit an all time high again. I couldn't sleep and would lie awake imagining scenarios and the different ways it could play out and would actually live in fantasies of my brain almost convincing myself at times that's how it happened or would turn out. Soon it was hard to decipher between reality and the dark vortex that my mind would spin when the lights went out. I didn't want to be on this earth any longer , and that was when I first met the monster called depression . If it wasn't for my therapist, my parents love and openness to accept life and let it help me grow into a warrior and my close friends I know I would not be here and I would not be who I am today.
It got better again, but that's the thing with anxiety - it never goes away .No matter how hard you work at it you aren't "cured" so to say . Its still a daily thing. I still wait in line to audition holding back the vomit and wanting to bash my head against a wall. Lets not even begin on the anxiety after I didn't get the job. A few years ago I used a paper bag to breath for my first full blown panic attack in years when I was late to a performance of grease and even though I had plenty of time to get ready , I was dying on the inside . I had failed and terrible things were awaiting me, I will be fired right here right now. Thank you Shan and Karla for calming me and helping me see through my over reaction. Now not every friend will know how to deal with your anxiety and moments, some are amazing like Lauren who was patient with me and helped me through a moment in Melbourne the other day , and some just see you as "crazy", a "drama queen" , over reactor and will be annoyed constantly and want out of your friendship. I've had plenty of those but I'm better off without them , not everyone will understand you and that's okay :) The main thing is that you love and understand yourself.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this blog, I think I just felt like sharing my own experiences to show people - if anyone even reads these things- that they aren't alone and that some people understand :) I think I seem quite outgoing and bubbly and like i am confident but my secret is that on the inside I'm wishing I could fall off a cliff. Social situations sometimes make me numb with fear and I am processing and thinking way too much about every eye, body movement and word. I fear phone calls and even saying hello to people I know on the street- "will they think I'm a loser?" "Its going to be awkward" "They will definitely ignore me". I also never realized how much confidence I lacked in dance class until a teacher in LA brought it up and made me dance by myself- I thought holy shit I have been hiding this so well, even to myself !!!
Even though I wish my brain wasn't overloaded with anxious thoughts and In turn sending my body into havoc... I think my anxiety has helped me ! It has made me constantly work hard to achieve the best of myself, be loyal, get things done and go out of my comfort zone . If you suffer from anxiety and are reading this I hope you have endless love and support around you and that you find some positives in it also !