Body Conscious

There came a point where I started to ponder what would happen when I met someone new and the conversation would turn to: “so what’s been going on with you?”  How would I start to talk about my surgery and where would I begin and at what point do I start/stop talking about it?  I was anxious.

I felt the need to explain enough of the operation for them to get an idea, but I didn’t want to delve too deeply into the decision making process and all the angst I felt; it’s a lot to go into and I was very conscious of the conversation then becoming all about me when I wanted to have a conversation on equal terms.

For a while after the operation I didn’t bring anything up with random people I met through friends and at parties. I managed to steer the conversation away from me by putting the attention on them.  If I was asked how things had been I would answer with ‘yeh, all good. How about you, what’s been going on?’ and so forth.

There was also the conundrum of how to approach the subject with anyone I would potentially start dating.   As things progressed I felt the need to warn them that I had a large scar down my chest and chose to do this when it would come to a point that it might be seen.  I’d put a slight pause on things and say “just so you know I have a large scar down my chest from an operation” and left it at that.

It bothered me greatly, it would be an interruption at any given moment and I felt very conscious about my appearance and whether it would unnerve, shock or scare someone; it’s not like I can hide away from it.

I decided it was best to approach the subject with a little bit of information and explain that I’d had open heart surgery but that it was more than a year ago and emphasise that I was fit and well now.  What quickly became apparent was that the subject could not be left alone and understandably, they would be inquisitive.  I was happy to talk about it and felt comfortable enough within myself to do so, I was just very conscious of how I may come across and also when to put a stop on the conversation.

This decision of when to tell them played on my mind constantly.  I wanted to get some advice and thought it would be best from a female’s perspective so decided to speak to my sister and explain my concerns.  She pointed out that I should behave as if it’s not there, don’t bring it up and carry on as normal. If someone reacted in a negative way when they saw the scar, they weren’t worth bothering with. She also pointed out that she thought it would actually be a turn on for most women and that I now had an extra asset so I shouldn’t be shy and should just relax. “You don’t know what anybody’s thinking,” she said.

I had come to a level of acceptance within myself about my new body image but I was trying to preempt what other peoples’ reactions and possible concerns would be instead of allowing things to just be.

I had come to a point where I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see a scar all the way down my chest and identify with it. I was so used to it I just saw myself as I was. The scar had healed and was now a part of me, no different from looking at my hand for example, and that’s ultimately the way it is, no need to make something of it.

So this is how I have been ever since, carrying on as normal as if there is nothing to look at or bring up.

This change in attitude has brought about a huge sense of comfort, self acceptance and emotional release. Everything is normal, not only with my body image but mentally as well.  By releasing the internal and then outward pressure I was putting on myself I have been able to feel more confident in my appearance and carry on like everyone else.

I didn’t realise the full benefits of this change in thinking until I went away on a long holiday (seven weeks) in Australia, Thailand and Cambodia. There were many occasions when I was on the beach or in groups of strangers and would have felt very conscious about my appearance previously; timid to the point of leaving a t-shirt on, and yet now I didn’t with this simple change in attitude.

The below picture was taken on K’Gari (Fraser) Island, Australia at the bottom of Eli Creek in February 2016, two years after surgery.

Eli creek

 

I found that by acting as if there was nothing abnormal about the scar on my body (which there isn’t) I have been able to carry on like everybody else, every time it was brought up, if it was brought up, I would be more relaxed and I found it was better to allow people to come to me rather than for me to put it on them by bringing it up as I had done previously.

People are in general very accepting of a situation or scenario and the only person who was getting torn up about it was me. I had invented a huge burden for myself which was completely made up and now I could let that go.

There are so many different shapes, sizes and colours to us all as human beings, and I still fitted perfectly within this group, I just needed to remind myself of that.

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