Talking about scars can make for pretty interesting and illuminating conversation, but as with anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Molly O’Shea — a body-positive coach, health coach, and personal trainer — recently published a post on her blog addressing just this.
O’Shea has prominent scarring on her right arm as a result of a horrible car accident. “I fractured my neck, along with some pretty other painful injuries, including scars on my right arm,” she explained in the About Me section of her website. “Just to put into perspective how serious it was, I fractured my neck where [actor] Christopher Reeve [who played Superman] did. He became quadriplegic due to his neck fracture. Thankfully, I survived.”
In a post titled, “How to Ask Someone About Their Scars,” O’Shea discusses the polite way to inquire so that the person with the scar isn’t offended, or made to go through recounting what may have been an extremely traumatic experience. “For me, when people are genuine when they ask, I can feel that,” she wrote. “Usually the question will start with ‘Do you mind if I asked what happened to your arm?’ Every time someone asks me, especially with that beginning, I always say, ‘No, I don’t mind at all; thank you for asking.'”
Check out the full article on Yahoo! Lifestyle!
Life post-surgery can bring on a lot of different emotions. More often than not, people say all the wrong things to try and make you feel better. Today, I want to talk about the different emotions I experienced post-surgery and how I felt like my feelings were sometimes invalidated.
If you didn't read my story, let me give you a quick recap. In college I was a Division 1 collegiate volleyball athlete. Going into my Junior year was in a serious car accident. I fractured my neck (C2) which is the same place that Christopher Reeves fractured his neck. I also ended up with some big scars on my right arm from the glass of the car. I was lucky to be alive and walking. In order to heal the fracture, the doctor put in a rod for 6 months to let the bone heal. When the rod was taken out, I thought I was going to be the same volleyball player as before. This may seem like a silly expectation, but I was told that I would be back to normal after my second surgery. To me, normal was feeling like a strong athlete and contributing to my team. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I wasn't able to gain the same strength that I once had, which started to show in my abilities. Slowly I went from a starter to a bench player and I ended my collegiate volleyball career crushed.
During my recovery, a lot of different emotions overcame me. Sadness, defeat, loss of identity, isolation, self-esteem issues and anxiety just to name a few. I felt like a different person; I couldn't connect with this new Molly. I was valid to have moments of grief; I was valid to be self-conscious of the scars on my arm. My feelings were valid but they didn't feel that way 6 years ago.
After trauma or surgery, people will always try to say things that make you feel better. While this is great, people don't understand that often they can be invalidating your experience. I would often hear comments such as, "at least you're alive", "good thing those scars aren't on your face", "at least you can walk". I know that these comments are 100% true, but that's not the point. While these people were trying to make me feel better or help me put things into perspective, they didn't realize that these comments were actually frustrating. Yes, my scars aren't on my face (which I'm very thankful for), but does that mean I'm not allowed to feel self-conscious about them anyways? I didn't want to talk about my struggles because I didn't want to seem ungrateful. I felt that my feelings weren't valid so I kept a lot of things to myself.
There will ALWAYS be someone that has it worse than you, but that doesn't mean you still can't have your struggles.
If you're reading this blog and are going through a similar experience, or even are about to go through surgery, I want you to remember that the feelings you have are valid. Don't let other people, consciously or subconsciously make you feel otherwise. I spent too many years bottling everything up, but now that I'm more open with my feelings, I understand how helpful it can be. Try and confide in a friend that's a great listener or could understand what you're experiencing. Kate and I still confide in one another and talk about the difficulties of life after surgery because we know that the other will be able to connect.
If you're having a hard time finding that safe space, feel free to email us! If there is anyway we can support you, we would love to do so.
Last week, I wrote a blog called Leaning into Fear - Part 1. I wanted to talk about my experience with anxiety after my car accident. I've always been a worry wart, but about 4 years after my accident, anxiety hit me hard. After countless therapy sessions and some reframes, I'm finally in a good place. I wanted to share the steps I use when anxiety starts to set in, especially for anyone that has experienced trauma.
Here's a quick recap of my first few steps from last week:
1.) Understand the root of your fear so you can start to move forward
2.) Remind yourself you're safe
3.) What are your triggers?
As I mentioned, my anxiety involved catastrophic thoughts. I was in worst case scenario mode 24/7. Not only did I have to remind myself that I was safe, but I also had to remind myself how catastrophic these thoughts were. Yes I could get shot tomorrow, but the chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time at that exact moment was slim.
While telling myself that my thoughts were catastrophic, I would take deep breaths. Bringing yourself back to a state of relaxation is incredibly important. Luckily, it only takes 2 minutes to get your body back to a state of relaxation. This can be done through breathing. After a few minutes of focusing on my breathe, I felt more in control.
The last thing I would do when I was feeling anxious was to distract myself. I'm a sucker for watching Friends or The Office on repeat. Those shows are my go-to's; they always put me in a good mood. When anxiety kicked in, I would turn on one of those shows and just let my mind take a break from the world. I use this method more now when I'm feeling overwhelmed with work and I just need an easy fix .
The biggest lesson I learned when dealing with anxiety, was that I needed to relinquish control. It made sense that I was having catastrophic thoughts because my accident was so random, but it was out of my control. I felt like I needed to be in control of everything. At the time, I was not a very go with the flow kind of gal. I would avoid events that could potentially cause something catastrophic to happen. That was my way of "controlling" life. I really had to learn to let go of the idea that I can control everything. I can't control life and death. I can't control if I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time. What will be will be.
Remember that everyone's anxiety is different. There are people that will be able to relate to this blog, and some may not. It took me about 6 months of seeing a therapist regularly to get to where I am today. I don't suffer from anxiety anymore. I do think I still have some anxious tendencies, but with these methods that I've described, I know how to handle anxious thoughts that come my way. If you have the chance to go speak with someone I strongly recommend it. Seeing my therapist totally changed my life, and I still go to her because I think it's important talk things through with someone who isn't involved in your life.
"You're strong enough to be scared." - JJ Virgin
In this blog, I want to talk about fear. For someone that has anxiety, fear was something I needed to learn to confront. For Part 1 of this blog, I'm going to go into detail about how I started facing my fears and how you can too.
Fear is a funny thing. A common human emotion that most people experience daily. Fear shows up in different ways. Some examples of my fears are:
My post the other day on my IG (molly_o_shea) discussed how I used to struggle with bad anxiety around my loved ones getting hurt. I've always been a worry wart, but this feeling escalated after my car accident. Who knows, maybe it was because it was a random event and made me realize we can die at any moment in life. So I struggled, badly. My head was clouded with death. I would picture loved ones getting shot randomly, get in a car accident or an earthquake would hit and boom everyone is gone. Daily sobfests started to become tiresome, for me and my fiancé. I finally started to see a therapist to confront this anxiety and these fears. This wasn't a quick fix, this required going down into my roots. I needed to understand my past before I could move forward.
I thought my anxiety was just something that happened from my accident, but after a few sessions, I started to realize that fear has been with me since I was young. Understanding this helped me. I realized that it wasn't just happening because of the trauma I had experienced. Yes, it was definitely heightened, but understanding that slightly put me at ease. This put me on the right track for understanding when my fear was setting in. Without that understanding, you can't lean into fear. We need to learn into fear. If you don't lean into it, it can be debilitating.
I understood that my fears stemmed from random acts. Earthquakes, gun violence, car accidents, getting hit by a car are all random events. They can happen in a flash. It's not like someone getting sick and being given 7 months to live. It's that idea that you wake up, kiss your fiancé goodbye and poof that could be the last you see of him. That was my life. That became my normal way of thinking.
So I understood when my fear was setting in, now I needed to tell myself, you're safe, they're safe. My fiancé used to walk home from work, and I would worry everyday about him getting hurt in the dark. My therapist had me start practicing the idea of being safe.
Let me give you a little example:
Learning what my triggers were was the next step. When did these intense fears set in? This time last year, the election was a big topic on TV. I felt it was important to stay informed, so I would watch the news and keep up with what was going on in the world. I realized that the news was a HUGE trigger for me. Anytime I seemed to watch the news, something bad had just happened. Whether it was seeing a mass shooting, a terrorist attack in France or laws and legislations I did not agree with being talked about, my fear would spike through the roof. As much as I wanted to stay informed, the news was not a good mix with my anxiety. Instead of totally cutting myself off from the world, I subscribed to theSkimm. If you haven't heard of it, subscribe! They send you daily emails of what's going on in the world, but the way they write makes things not feel as daunting and scary.
These are just a few of the steps I started with when dealing with my anxiety. This took me months to master, but my life has completely transformed for the better! In my next blog, I'm going to go deeper, with more steps on how you can start leaning into fear. Until then, remember that you are not alone! If you need to talk more on this topic, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. <3