I just wanted to write a little something about my weekend takeover for an Instagram account called ‘behindthescars_. The whole idea of the account is to encourage conversation and provide a platform for individuals to tell their stories whilst unintentionally raising awareness of little-known conditions.
As someone with Erb’s Palsy, I know all too well the importance of raising awareness of conditions people haven’t heard about in everyday life. I guess that’s one reason I took the opportunity, so if one person learnt something it might just go on to help someone in the future. Another reason I chose to take the opportunity to tell my story was to show other people that these scars on my body are nothing I will be ashamed of anymore.
Growing up, I really struggled to accept my arm as part of me and I was anything but proud of my scars. I avoided questions about my arm and lived most of my childhood in denial about my injury. I felt angry that my life revolved around surgeries, physio, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, splints, more physio, specialist equipment, support in school, legal assessments, court visits etc. I felt embarrassed and a failure for not being able to do things like everyone else. On top of that I was autistic but wouldn’t didn’t go on to receive a diagnosis until I was 15 following a mental health breakdown.
Fast forward to today. I am 26 years old. I have had many operations (both related and unrelated to my arm) and I have many scars as a result. Some from surgeries, some from the lowest points in life when I ended up self-harming and others from just being generally quite clumsy! My most unique scar- that Prof Kay told me to always be proud of is the one on my inner elbow; a harry potter shaped scar. At the time I thought he must be joking to think I’d ever be proud of it but now I can see his point. Embrace what life throws at us because the weight of feeling constantly embarrassed by my arm was so much more draining that the effort it took to work on changing my life for the better.
My scars are a reminder of where I have been and the journey in life that I have had to travel. Some I wear with more pride than others and some of my scars get more judgements than others, but I’ve learnt to accept that they are and always will be a part of me now. They don’t define who I am and I have the ability now to tell people why they are there and what they are from. If I could talk to the younger me, I’d tell myself that I’m okay. I’m perfectly fine the way I am and it’s not for me to compare myself to others. There really is no such thing as ‘normal’. Participating in the Instagram takeover gave me a chance to prove to myself I could embrace the things that are slightly different about me and nothing awful would happen.
A little message for anyone else struggling to come to terms with their injury or scars or anything else in life, be proud of all that you are because each of us with Erb’s has a similar but yet unique story to tell. And even though we might not have two working arms, we have something so much stronger than that; a community that understands and reminds us, we aren’t ever alone.