I recently ran into a great brand on Twitter and immediately ordered a tee shirt from them. RockScar Love was founded to “celebrate sexy scars, the lessons they teach us and the strength they create.” In this mission we are totally aligned. White Horse Medicine does much the same.
I love the idea of celebrating scars. Celebrating them is not the same as dragging them out at every dinner party or staying stuck in the past. Celebrating them is about embracing the changes they bring and living your life the better for them. This is the philosophy I’ve had for my own life. I am a card-carrying member of Scar Clan, a term made popular by Jungian psychoanalyst and storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves.
Why are scars so important? In my work, I talk a lot about the body as storyteller. Our bodies are the holders of our wisdom, our experiences, and our legacies. The body can be one of our greatest teachers if we’re willing to listen to its whispers. Most of us need reminders to tune into this wisdom, having been trained out of it by educational systems designed to create good worker bees for a long gone industrial age. rather than healthy individuals. The legacy of this is an entire culture fairly cut off from our deep body wisdom as electronics, schedules, and demands on our attention increase.
I have many scars, some more important than others. Each has forged the opportunity to better become my own healer, making me stronger in my abilities. I’m grateful for the wisdom wrought by healing from each of them.
Some scars are outward, easy to see if you look. Others are hidden away, only to be shared with those closest to me.
For instance, there is the 8 inch long scar down the middle of my spine right in the thoracic region of my back, and right over the back of my heart and lungs. This is where the blood clot that was strangling my spinal cord was removed in 9 hours of neurosurgery in 1985. For decades I cringed in fear when someone reached to hug me and usually patted me on the back sending shockwaves up my spinal cord since there is no longer bone there to cover it. This doesn’t seem to happen much any more. The hugs have become deeper and more genuine as I’ve aged.
There are also four cesarean section scars, superimposed on each other, where the surgeons attempted to hide the one from the previous delivery each time they delivered one of my children. Yet I know that all four of them are there. Each one represents a moment in time when I said, “I DECIDE” about being a mother after the doctors that saved my life urged me not to try.
Then there are the less visible scars.
Invisible scars can be the most difficult to heal. We can even kid ourselves that they aren’t as important as the physical scars. They also don’t elicit as much support from family and loved ones, especially for those of us intent on reclaiming the quality of life that we envision for ourselves. Even a powerful commitment to living a full life doesn’t make it easy to ask for help with things people can’t see.
Like the faint imprint of psychic terror felt when I finally awoke in a hospital room and found I was alone. An accidental scheduling conflict in the family left me without family support about the time I was fully becoming conscious after a week in intensive care. The hospital psychiatrist called to console me gave me a valium. I hallucinated. A highly sensitive central nervous system is a family legacy. So long before PTSD was a vivid a part of our national healthcare discussion, I was triggered each time my family members would leave on a vacation or a business trip. I literally panicked…until my body’s own wisdom taught me what was happening, that is.
For years, the loneliest of all of my scars was the one that I carried as a daily reminder of my Big Bang: the silent agony of daily pain. Chronic pain is something medical science is just beginning to understand. Dancing with chronic pain becomes a relationship unto itself – a demanding mistress. Yet one that I have always refused to give more power than truly necessary. I lead where I want my life to go. My pain follows.
There is also the dark, almost imperceptible scar from what I call The Event That Shall Not Be Described. Like many trauma survivors I experienced a re-traumatization about two years after the Big Bang – my term for the vascular event that caused my blood clot. A sexual assault that should have terrorized my 25 year-old self was simply filed away somewhere in the midst of “more important” physical rehabilitation, new motherhood, and loads of laundry. Because of this, healing this scar wasn’t fully integrated for many years.
And lastly, most insidious of all are the dozens of scars left by years and years of not being able to easily find what I needed to heal medically and psychologically. The constant campaign to integrate more open-minded therapies and energy medicine balanced with input from conventional medical experts was exhausting. I was truly on my own for decades.
Even worse was having my reality – my story – belittled, invalidated, or ignored in a rush to catalog diagnosis codes and document my compliance level in medical records by busy doctors too rushed to really care. Here are just a few of the dozens of interactions I could fill a book with:
Just be quiet…let me read your chart! Your cervix refusing to dilate has nothing to do with a spinal cord injury 10 years ago.
Oh, really? So the nerves in the area of my spinal cord that were damaged that happen to regulate internal organs aren’t relevant? Thanks, Doc.
I use this protocol for migraines with all my patients, it doesn’t matter if that’s not what the last ER doctor gave you.
The Reglan this ER doctor insisted on giving me in spite of my adamant requests for Phenergan instead resulted in a violent attack of temporary dystonia and aphasia. My sensitive central nervous system struck again. Like 1% of patients that take this drug I thought I was having a stroke and was terrified out of my mind. My body wisdom foreseeing this just didn’t fit into his reality.
No, what you’re eating isn’t important to your digestive health. Eat whatever you want.
That one was rich.
As I mentioned I could literally fill a book with these kind of awful experiences. Thank goodness for integrative medicine. Thank goodness for the spread of good information in the digital age. And thank goodness for becoming my own expert at healing my body. I don’t put up with such nonsense any longer when I can help it.
There is a great swell of unity happening on social media platforms worldwide among the members of Scar Clan. Those of us who have been through something life-changing and will never be the same are finding our collective voice. The thing that binds many of us together is the experience of being harmed by a deficiency in the healthcare system when we needed it the most.
We are patient advocates, the sacred holders of the patient voice in a two-way dialogue and exchange of energy. Doctors and patients healing together. Gone is the old way…the one-sided: doctors and caregivers doling out to a passive patient population. (Okay, so I was NEVER very passive, but that’s another story.)
The following is a passage I wrote in collaboration with the spirit of my beloved medicine mare, Hebetallah Al Tawuus (the Peacock’s gift in Arabic) recently sold to a breeder in Saudi Arabia. It first came to me several months ago after I connected with Doctor Julie as a reference to my becoming a medicine woman. And it is supremely relevant to the exploding patient advocacy movement, community building among groups of people devoted to healing.
Although this is written in the feminine it is addressed to all. We are all medicine men and women in our own lives.
You are Medicine Women, of the great Scar Clan, having lived through your own Great Something. Your hearts have been carved deeply by Life as you registered It fully, instead of turning away.
Your tribe is one of timeless human beings defined not by geography, race, nation, nor language – but by your courage. You know them all. You speak many of their tongues.
You are Mothers. In time with the heartbeat of the Great Mother, you nurture those in your care and give birth to things that serve your tribes.
You are Magicians – once Magical Children and adventurers. Reluctant outliers and disruptors, things you once thought shameful are in reality your Gifts. You call forth innovation and sustainable solutions to transform your challenges, and therefore help others with theirs.
You are Warriors in both spirit and flesh. You have climbed mountains, often pushing a great boulder of physical or spiritual challenge with you as you climbed. This striving has made you stronger.
You are Seeing Women, who walk in two worlds. Your sight has led you to come in from the darkness, protect yourself from harm, and reclaim the gifts once thrown off to please others. You now serve a Greater Vision.
You are Storytellers. Your body is your history and the vessel of its wisdom. Your wounds are evidence of the truth of your stories. Once lost without a destination and a map, you now gracefully guide your own ship over the River of Life by listening to its whispers.
Dwelling together in the great community of Man, the members of the tribes who are hurting each other hold the keys to undoing their own suffering. By sharing your stories you give light to solutions for the challenges of growing up and transforming your spirit children – your cultures and their systems.
We must share our stories. All of us. We are the holders of wisdom for each other. Doctors and patients, teachers and students, warring neighbors, friends and enemies. By first binding up our own wounds and then unselfishly witnessing each others’ stories, we all heal.
This is our call to arms. This is the call of the white medicine horses. And this is my prayer.