These past six months have changed me forever.
Six months ago, I would sit with my mom and cry until I was out of tears and gasping for breath. I cried for many reasons, but one of them–a major one–was the state of my body. It was so incredibly scarred and discolored, and it was all I saw when I looked in the mirror. This ruthless disease was tearing me apart, physically and emotionally.
I would look at people with beautiful, glowing skin and furiously burn with envy. I didn’t think it was fair that I would never look like that. And I was angry because I felt like those people didn’t really appreciate how perfect their skin was.
Some small naïve part of me failed to mentally prepare for the scars that would follow surgery. I was ready to have the terribly diseased areas removed from my body. I was focused on healing, on surviving, on recovering. I didn’t even think about the long, large, deep scars that would be branded onto my body to remind me of what I’d been through…I hadn’t prepared myself for that.
After surgery, I just went numb. The tears completely stopped. I would matter-of-factly state to my mom that no one would ever want to love or marry the jumbled mess I had become. I would break her heart every day with my shattered self-esteem and painful comments. I felt ugly. Hideous. Unlovable. Broken.
Then, somehow, my past crept up on me. I started thinking about my pre-teen/teenage years and how I had managed to gather my strength at that time. Developing early and taking years to grow into my own body ensured that I was an awkward teenager (to say the least). It was during those years that I learned to look into the mirror and see beyond the physical aspects of the face that was staring back at me. I learned to gather my inner beauty and shamelessly wear it on my sleeve. Sure, I was awkward, but I was beautiful and I wanted to share it with everyone.
If twelve-year-old Pooja can live by this frame of thought, then shouldn’t a Pooja who has lived nearly twice as long be able to adopt it as well?
Yeah, I’m scarred–so what? My scars tell my story. They are a celebration of triumph over the horrible struggles I’ve faced. My scars will NOT defeat me. I have more than enough inner beauty to conquer the war I face with my body every morning.
Whenever I see people who are truly beautiful to me, they are beautiful because they harvest their inner beauty and display it, boldly. That beauty comes from honesty–an honesty I’m slowly learning about. These people courageously love themselves enough to be honest with the world and allow everyone to see a bit of who they are.
I strive to be one of these people. So next time you see me, if I look a little different, it’s not because I got a haircut or bought a new outfit–it’s because I’m a more honest version of myself. You’re going to see me.
Of course I’ve had moments when I’ve hated my body. I’ve wanted to scream at the mirror for the reflection it throws back at me. Often, when I’m getting dressed, it takes a few deep breaths (and reassuring nods from my mom) for me to find my strength to face the world, but I always do. And I always will. And I’ll still have moments when I hate my body. But that’s okay, because although I am scarred, I am beautiful. And damn it, I love myself.
*“58 Inches” is the total length of surgical scars on my body.