Scar Worries

Becca Atherton wrote this article for the American Adult Congenital Heart Association. Becca was born with tetralogy of Fallot, pulmonary atresia and pulmonary hypertension. She was adopted as a baby into a large multiracial family, where she is the second youngest. Becca was given a 13% chance of surviving to the age of five, but she is 19 years old and a college freshman at her local community college. She loves to read, perform American Sign Language to music and write on her blog.

Here is Becca’s story.

As all of you know, having a congenital heart defect means you have a scar—or a few of them. For the majority of my life, I haven’t felt too self-conscious about my scar. I like to thank the heart camp I’ve gone to since the age of eight for helping in that field. However, I won’t lie - when I started high school and my scar from my surgery in 6th grade was still bright pink and bumpy, I was self-conscious about it. I even went as far as to get special make up to cover it up.

I just didn’t feel like me. I felt like I was lying, or covering up my defect. Granted, my heart condition isn’t all of who I am, but it is part of who I am. If I take away that small part of me, I am no longer me. So with that in mind, I started to feel more comfortable with my scar. I wear v-neck shirts and scoop necks. I have no problem with my scar or my body.

But last weekend I was suddenly pulled back to my state of mind when I was a freshman in high school and feeling self-conscious about my body. I was invited to a BBQ for the organization that I give speeches for about my experiences with bullying. I was excited to meet the other speakers and learn who I would be working with. But then I started to freak myself out.

I started to worry that all the girls there would be in these tiny bikinis and have perfect skin. I worried and freaked myself out that these people would look perfect while I sat there with a huge, ugly scar on my chest. And I didn’t know any of them either, how was I supposed to make friends with people who looked perfect when I looked… like me?

Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. I forgot that there are people from all walks of life who also give speeches for this organization. Some talk about their past with eating disorders because they hated their bodies at one point too. There was another girl who had gotten bullied so badly she dropped out of high school and got her GED instead. There was another girl who wore the scars she got from suicide attempts on her arm.

I had convinced myself that I would be the only one who had insecurities about her body and herself. But I couldn’t have been further from wrong. The BBQ went great, and I really like the people that I work with. I know that they, of all people, will be understanding, kind and caring about how I feel and what I’ve gone through.

When I got home, my mom asked me if anyone had asked about my scar and why I had it. I smiled and shook my head and told her, “Mom, there were two girls who had cuts all over their arms. They don’t care about the scars. Maybe they didn’t even notice mine.” I told her with a grin. I have never felt more in my element than with this group of people besides when I had gone to heart camp. Like camp, these people and I had a connection and we understood one another.

But for those of you who, like me at times, have self-conscious thoughts about your scars—don’t. Your scar does not define you as a person. Yes, it is part of your life, but it is not your whole life. So don’t let it stop you from living the rest of your life. My scar doesn’t hold me back from wearing bathing suits and going swimming. I don’t let my scar hold me back from wearing a lower-cut shirt.

If you want people to forget you have a scar, then you start forgetting it first. I act like a normal, healthy, outgoing teen. That’s what people see me as because I don’t let my scar or my defect represent me. I represent me. Start letting your personality represent you and not your scar.

Author(s): Becca Atherton
Last updated: 2012-08-28

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