Today’s entry in Inside me deeply, my journey to one face is about pain and hope. I want to let you into the pain of the monster in the mirror. And why I’m filled with so much hope.
My journey to one face (Pain and hope)
I’m currently on an airplane heading to the hospital in California to meet the doctors who will perform the operation. They’ve already taken some skin and grown more in the lab. They plan to take some muscle and some flesh to rebuild my face. To say I’m nervous would be a huge understatement. An understatement of biblical proportions to be honest.
I don’t know what to expect from the surgery. I don’t know on any level physically, mentally or spiritually. What healing can occur? I can’t stop thinking how nice it would be to not spend so much time hiding my face. How nice it will be to not worry so much about people seeing it.
It’s also hard to explain the pain I’ve been in for more than fifteen years. The pain of being seen as a monster. The monster that was seen every day staring back at you in the mirror. A constant reminder of what they stole from me, of the names, the stares, the questions, but most of all what caused it.
Every morning I woke from nightmares. I slept very little because of them. I was afraid to sleep to be honest. But I had another fear. Seeing what they did to me and the flashbacks that brought. If you walked into my bedroom and my private bathroom, there are no mirrors. All because it wasn’t me staring back. It was everything they stole from me staring at me from the mirror. I broke them all.
Some with my fists and others with chairs, hairbrushes, a toaster oven (yes a toaster oven) and everything I could pick up and use to break the mirrors with. Eventually Sarah stopped trying to have mirrors in the house.
Many times after seeing my face I’d cut. It soothed me somehow. Like causing real physical pain helped in some way cancel out the flashbacks and mental pain. It’s hard to explain but let’s continue.
You will hopefully never know what it’s like when you prosthetic comes off in public and the little kids stare and point, the gasps, or the questions. Like “What happened to your face?” or a worse one for me “Where you born that way?” Yeah that one hurt far worse because I wasn’t born that way and it wasn’t some freak accident.
What would you tell them? No I wasn’t born this way they stole my face. No one understands that, not without reliving it. No one but those closest have known this pain. They’ve lived with it and suffered with it as well.
They’ve seen me run out of places, refuse to come out of bathroom stalls and just fall apart completely and cry. It’s not embarrassment I suffer, it’s pain.
The pain of waking each morning to be greeted by a disfigured face. Having to apply a prosthetic and makeup each day and having to remember. I could never escape my rape, it stared at me daily. If I did nothing to conceal it then I was forced to relive it with the stares from others, and the questions. Another reliving moment, the questions. Those moments are the worst, the flashbacks, the terror. It’s all too real sometimes.
This pain is so deep and sad I found relief in cutting. If you didn’t know it’s a pretty dark place to be when hurting yourself feels good. When you think you deserve to feel it. When pain is the last thing left that connects you to reality. That is a pit so dark that I wish none ever had to endure it. I know this pit all to well. It was my home for many darkened years.
I try and hide the monster even from my wife. I’ve locked my door, not let her in until my face was applied. I hate her touching me there, I hate her seeing it. I don’t even show it to my family, or my son. If I could hide it from God I would. But he sees all and he is why I’m here in the first place.
Those are the mental pains caused by reliving my rape on a daily basis. Pain caused by worrying constantly about others seeing, and dreading the questions and looks that follow. A pain so deep I can’t share it even with my closest and dearest lover.
One so deep I dread her touch at times. Our song is so beautiful. Honestly by Stryper. She sings it to me and we dance. But honestly I dread the song ending because she always kisses my face, my prosthetic. I know in my heart she is telling me “I love you and this doesn’t matter.” But I hate people touching it. I can’t feel it, but it fills me with terror.
“Call on me and I’ll be there for you
I’m a friend who always will be true
And I love you can’t you see
That I love you honestly
I will never betray your trust in me
And I love you can’t you see
That I can say I love you honestly.”
Can you imagine that pain? Being so riddled with terror at your lovers touch. Not because they have or ever would hurt you, but because they can love the monster you can’t. I know the reasons, I know them well. It still hurts me more than any knife. It’s like I know I’m not worthy of her love.
There was physical pain as well. At 15 I was still growing. I had numerous surgeries to replace the cheek bone which had been so shattered and it couldn’t be repaired. Eight, yes eight surgeries for that. Three in the first two weeks and five that followed to put a larger cheek bone because I’d outgrown the old one.
The pain of that false cheek bone pulling lose and the surgeries was high. Nearly unbearable at times. Though in hindsight it paled to the mental pain. But at the time it was very real. Today there is still sometimes physical pain when I bang it just wrong. But I guess everyone has that.
The physical pain is behind me mostly. Hopefully this will be my last surgery. God willing, it will restore some of what was stolen from me. It will restore my face, my identity to the world. Restored without the need of a prosthetic and makeup to conceal me.
That is my hope. My face, my identity to the world can be restored to a place where a prosthetic and makeup aren’t required before stepping out my door. A world where I don’t get the questions, don’t relive things every morning and I’m not afraid of the world seeing my face. All of my face and not the concealed face they’ve seen all these years.
I’ve gotten so good at putting on the face the world is allowed to see. What awaits when that is but a memory? That is where my hopes lay. It waits and watches and prays. I’m hopeful with this face, a 100% me face that the monster will be retired from sight.
Out of sight, out of mind they say. It may not apply fully here but my hope is we can move one step closer to retiring the monster. Its job is done and my time has arrived.
So with hope this will be the last time under the knife and my face will be mine again. Here’s to a future of one face and no more hiding.
Part two will be thoughts following my surgery. For now this is my last entry on the matter. I am nervous, scared, anxious and hopeful for a new and better world for Michelle. I’ve prayed and begged for this moment and the hour of truth is close.
Richard Pryor said: “Everyone carries around their own monsters”
He was right. Sometimes we turn them on others and sometimes we hide behind them. Andre Gide had it right though when he said: “There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.” A lesson I take under the consideration as I ponder how to overcome the monsters worth the fear I have of them.
Raphael said to me: “Until you learn to free the monster and live for you, all you are eternally is uncertain.” He is right when I fear the past and lose myself the present and with that my future hangs waiting. All I could be now stands ready to be seized if I can but retire the monsters who haunt me.