It’s been almost two and a half years since I burned myself. When asked about my burn scars, I’ve found two main things I can do for myself: first, tell my story with honesty and kindness. I was surprised how understanding and compassionate even strangers are. The other is to create a social network of burn survivors. Below is a list of resources that I discovered helped my recovery:
- The Getaway 2010
A weekend camp outing by Alisa Ann Ruch Burn. This was the first time I took off my compression garments in front of a group of strangers. The seminars were extremely informative and play time was the most fun I’d had since my burn in 2009. It was the first time that I zip-lined—I discovered that I could transfer the courage to try a new personal best to my new life with scars.
- AARBF monthly group support meetings
The local representative visited me as I was being discharged from the burn unit. At that time, I wasn’t open to the possibilities that AARBF could have possibly offered me—I just wanted OUT of the unit and to move on with my life. However, without this resource, I’d not known about World Burn Congress (WBC).
- Phoenix Society’s WBC 2010
The Phoenix Society (see www.phoenix-society.org) provides a number of resources. When I was at the World Burn Congress, I attended the BEST seminar—it was the key for me to become comfortable in my new skin. I even swam in the heated outdoor pool without a neck-to-ankle exposure suit for the first time! Evidently I asked some great questions because I was later interviewed by National Public Radio (NPR). I was also asked to speak at breakout session of about 40 audience members—that was the first time I told the truth of “what happened?” to a group of strangers. That was most cathartic. I also met a sweetheart, who moved from New York to California where I live. We celebrated one year of knowing each other on 10/22/11.
- Another tip I garnered from the BEST seminar helps others see me as a human being…just kindly smile. When I notice the few people throughout my day furtively glancing at my scars, I kindly ask, “They’re burn scars. Would you like to know what happened?” You can see how relieved people are. I also learned that people take cues from me. If I feel and act like I’m more than my burn scars, then others do, too.
- Phoenix Society’s Online Chat
The caring moderators and burn survivors provide their experiences with any stage in recovery.
Associate with people who understand burn issues. You can learn details from other burn survivors’ doctors and individual daily experience nuances. You can help each other such as by giving daily massages. I’m delighted to be able to share with others that “I remember feeling that way when I was only a year post-burn, too.”
My Dad and his wife spearheaded prayer circles for my recovery when I was in the hospital. With all my Mom has done for me, it is almost as if she gave me life for the second time. I definitely would not have survived the hospital or 10 month recovery ordeal without them.
- Telling the truth about what happened
When I was asked, “What happened to you?” I would ask, “Do you want the truth or a cheeky answer?” All but one person has ever said, “The truth.” It braces them for the severity of my situation and they see me as a human being. Moreover, I discovered it is cathartic to tell the truth. I have found people to be understanding and compassionate.
- Finding your own path Although I’m a fashonista, I still daily feel anxious about what to wear—especially with a new group of strangers who might see my scars. I ponder whether to wear something to cover them or just leave my arms of scars exposed? One person even thought I had textured henna—I was thrilled! I even created outfits around my compression garments, which were bold black instead of attempting to match my skin tone color.
These suggestions have helped me so far to evolve with my burn recovery. I hope you find them helpful. I’d love to hear of other things you’ve done. And I am so grateful for everyone’s gracious assistance during my recovery!
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