By: Alexis Chapman
The morning of March 23, 2007, changed my life forever. At the age of 30, a catastrophic house fire took away the only life I had ever known.
The trauma of being burned backed me into the same corner that all burn survivors have felt their back against. We were given two options: remain a victim of our trauma or survive. While remaining in bondage to my trauma was my first choice, I wasn’t ready to give up on the second chance that was just given to me. Learning to function with limitations, process people staring and saying abominable things to me was part of the surviving stage of trauma recovery. Handling harsh words and questions that overstepped the boundaries of common human decency, while being able to function independently pushed me past surviving to thriving. At this stage, I embraced and accepted being a burn survivor. For years, I thought this would be as good as it gets. I was wrong.
I recently learned that I had the option of experiencing a stage beyond thriving. It’s called transcending and at this stage, my trauma was transformed into my trophy. My trophy represents me, all of me. To the world, it represents that I’m alive and I’m never hiding again. To me, it’s a permanent reminder that I am loved, I am worthy, I am beautiful and I have a gift to share with the world. My trophy wasn’t given to me, I had to claim it, just as you will have to claim yours.
Are you ready for your trophy?
If you feel yourself doubting, remember how many battles you have already won. You have all that you need to reach the level of transcendence. The first step is to stop hiding. You will experience every great thing that life has to offer if you stop hiding. This is deeper than letting people see the physical you, the core of transcending is allowing people to see who you really are, not simply what you look like. There’s so much joy that I would have missed if I had remained hidden.
Your scars, both internal and external, don’t change the essence of who you are. They don’t erase the contributions you are called to make in this world. They only have the power to keep you stuck in your trauma if you let them. Once you become present to exactly how you are giving the trauma power of your present, you can proactively knock down every wall that you have built between you and the rest of the world. It’s not easy, but it’s one of the most important journeys you will have.
The second step is being willing to ask for help. I had a support group and family that were prepared and equipped to empower me. Others have friends, therapy and/or church to help. Regardless of the support you choose, don’t try to embark on this journey alone. There will be obstacles and people will judge. The majority of people who judge you aren’t even close to having their life in order, therefore, it’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in your goals.
We all have one event or moment that has the power to define us. We have the choice to determine how. They say the best gifts are wrapped in sandpaper. I say the best gifts are wrapped in flames. My trauma empowered me to discover who I was and the legacy I will leave. Are you ready to be seen? The world is waiting for you.