I found this photo when I was doing the slides for TedX. I forgot that this photo existed and for a long time, I always thought I never had photos from my time in hospital when I was 11. The only reason this photo exists is because of that dog. This was the first time I had smiled in months.
I found it in a PowerPoint I had made when I was 17 for an English project. I remember it now. It was the first time I talked about my surgeries. So what happened between 17 and 24 that made me forget these photos existed? PTSD.
When I found it, I couldn’t stop crying. This is why I kept crying giving my talk. Even on the actual TedX stage, I had a screen in front of me to show my slides and when I looked down, I began to tear.
I had come out of an emergency surgery where everything had gone wrong and mistakes had been made. My mum was told to sign a form in case I died and my dad was told to fly over “just in case”. I’m not the only little girl who has lived through this. So we need to talk about it. What hurts more than the physical pain was having to deal with other people’s emotions. Mainly the pity.
This girl didn’t need your pity.
This girl didn’t need your sympathy.
She needed empathy but for those who’ve never lived through it, that’s next to impossible.
To ask that of my 11 year old friends, WAS impossible, especially when adults weren’t showing the way.
So what’s the solution? To listen. To ask questions. To ask if there is anything she wants to talk about. To ask if there is anything you can do to make life a bit easier. Or sometimes, the solution was simply to talk about what’s going on in your life so she didn’t have to think about her life.
Let her be angry. Let her be sad. Let her have all her emotions + please don’t put her on the pedestal of being a “survivor” or “success story” too young.
These conversations are hard but these little kids in hospital battling their bodies everyday deserve to have people who work through the hard. Be courageous enough to be uncomfortable in these conversations. Don’t avoid the ill people in your life cause you don’t know what to say. Just say something. And for god’s sake, no one needs your pity. #ScarredNotScared