Me, a Monster?
by Michelle Lauren
She stared at me and stated, “You look like you are from a horror movie.”
It was the first day of burn camp for young burn survivors. She was a burn survivor camper. I was a burn survivor counselor. She had scars, just like me, but seeing the scars on someone else was still scary and suspicious.
Until this point, the only identification of scars this young survivor had was what she had seen in the media. She genuinely believed that scars made you a villain, a monster, or evil.
This is how our world portrays people with burn scars. With this image it is no surprise that this young girl could only identify scars as bad. This brings the question, if this is what this young girl thinks of my scars, what is she going to think of her scars when she gets older? Is she going to think she is ‘out of a horror movie?’
Thankfully with burn camp programs and support in the community she was able to learn that she is not, but what about others who don’t have that support?
As a burn survivor, this young campers comment was hard for me to look it over. When people identify how you look – something out of your control — as generically bad, it is hard not to think...am I bad? Is this who I am? Is this how everyone perceives me? Is this what that young camper thought about herself or me? Is this what others who have been through a burn injury think of themselves?
The media is playing with the natural fear response in humans: to fear fire and things that can hurt us. It’s a good thing to fear fire, but it is not okay to fear the people who have been through it.
We cannot continue to teach others to fear the people who have overcome the trauma of a burn injury. Instead we need to teach others the resilience, perseverance and strength it takes to overcome a burn injury! The truth behind the people with scars.
We need to spread awareness!
Michelle Lauren is a Minnesota native. At 2 years old, she was burned over 91% of her body. She learned how to navigate life with her scars on her sleeves. After attending a camp for burn survivors in Colorado, she fell in love with horses. She is now an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning and a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Michelle is currently pursuing her master's degree in Strategic Leadership and Business Administration. She is writing a book about her burn survivor journey. Visit her website for more information.
Portrait by Christopher Grey.