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Victoria S. Hardy

Victoria S. Hardy

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Exposing Fear

As a kid I spent a lot of time pretending I was invisible and some time wondering if I really was, yes, I was an odd child. And still to this day I feel comfort in remaining unseen, but instinct tells me it’s time to get rid of childhood meanderings and be seen. It is an arduous task for me to break habits that have carried me for 40 years and I struggle with the exposure. It’s almost like an out of the body experience to put myself on stage and drum, to know that many thousands have read my words and that pictures and videos of me live on the Internet. Sometimes, because my protective anonymity has been removed, fear strikes deep in my gut and I wonder what I have done.

I don’t know the reason it is easier for me to hide, except as I child I learned it is best to be small, quiet and invisible and there is comfort in old, familiar behaviors. I saw a lot of disapproval in the eyes of adults when I was young, with the exception of a few relatives and a handful of teachers, I always knew I didn’t measure up, there was something about me that people did not like. Was it because I was chubby and wore a squeaky brace on my leg? Perhaps I was disconnected and slow. Or maybe I was too quiet or too loud. I never knew the reason, but it only added to the knowledge that invisibility equaled safety.

For a couple weeks I have been attempting to write an article or a personal revelation to share with the world, why I feel I need to do so is one of the things I am attempting to figure out. I have revealed myself more in this last year than in any other time of my life and perhaps it is all just about taking a stand and finding my worth.

In a matter of days I will face a woman who caused me great harm and coming from the suck-it-up style of upbringing, even making that statement is hard for me, but the truth is, I was caused great harm. I will face this woman with an attorney at my side and a board will decide if I have the right to sue her. The woman is a doctor and the harm she caused was unneeded surgery, coupled with a mistake that lead to my spending weeks in the hospital, a couple months with an ileostomy bag, open wounds that would nauseate any horror movie fan and months of recovery. I was left missing 4 inches of healthy colon, vicious scars, wrecked stomach muscles, a lot of bills and physical issues that cannot be discussed in polite company.

As I try to define how I feel about this situation, my mind hesitates to go back. Reliving the days and weeks of trauma, fevers and unbearable weakness is no fun place to reside, not even for a minute, but the time has come that I must face what happened to me. It is nearly beyond my ability to explain how it felt to glue an ostomy bag to my stomach, to see that piece of intestine poking through my skin and even harder to explain the horror of seeing the 6 or 7-inch open wound left in my abdomen. And I struggle to relay the helplessness and fear of being so broken and sick and the shame and loss of control I felt wearing a bag to collect my feces.

Perhaps I am just beginning to understand that I am angry and felt abused by this doctor. I am supposed to understand that for this doctor it was not personal and for the most part I do, but for me, how can it be anything but personal as I live with the scars and the aftermath. In her world I am just a nameless, faceless patient, one of many and easy to forget, but my life has changed dramatically and I have daily reminders of our interaction.

It is also difficult for me to express my feelings of loss because I strive to find the good in all things, I look for the lesson and the reason and I try to grow through what I have learned. And as this world is dual, my lessons are double-edged swords. Life has changed and I am a different person from who I used to know and I see both positives and negatives in the updated version. I have a new suspicion and fear of doctors, their treatments and their pills and this has already created some challenges. My body has changed, my drive and my goals have changed and my limited amount of self-confidence has been altered.

And it is perplexing to attempt to understand and explain how this traumatic event has lead me to put myself out there like never before, when I was comfortable with my body, I was hidden and now scarred and wounded, I am exposed. Despite my fear of being seen and unmasked, a well-honed survival instinct has guided me to step on stage with my husband and to begin a writing career. And it is this same instinct that tells me I must reveal my story without shame.

I was injured and nearly killed when I trusted doctors who wanted to handle my case “aggressively” and I believed that their decisions were being made in my best interests. If I am guilty of anything it is trusting the “experts” and desperately wanting to feel better.

And now, I am dampening my natural tendency to crawl into my hovel and lick my wounds and I see that I must stand and state that I have been injured and I am worthy of compensation for those losses. I must hold my head up and declare that I am valuable, not just a guinea pig to be used for the sake of some intern’s education and then thrown away. The scars, both visible and invisible, do matter and my experience, and the near loss of my life, is important.

Next week, I will get in my car and drive to a state that offers both good and bad memories to face a woman who is only a sharp reminder of pain, loss and helplessness. I will find the strength that is my birthright, I will know that I am not invisible or unimportant and I will stand Victoriously.

Thanks for listening and Keep Seeking.

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