On Working with Scar Tissue in the Body, Mind, and the Country
It’s been hard to write for the last week, glued as I’ve been to the internet, as if watching a 100-car pileup on the 405. I can’t turn away and I feel sick, too sick to eat much more than yogurt for dinner most nights.
The good news: I’m walking well and today is my last dose of antibiotics for the partial incision infection. It is healing. Somehow despite everything my cells march on, stitching together into a thicker version of themselves.
Scar tissue is an odd thing. It heals stronger than normal tissue, but is more inflexible and has to be broken up since it won’t stretch. It has compromised blood flow and won’t grow hair. Instead of the basket weave appearance of normal tissue, scar tissue has a more complex and randomized structure. The chaos makes it stronger but also more inflexible. As a result of trauma, the body favors stability at the expense of flexibility. I start with a new physical therapist tomorrow and we will tackle this exact issue: adhesions that are a form of protection but also cause pain and immobility.
It feels like parts of the country are in a similar place. We’ve have had deep wounds ripped open of racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia. Just like cells, some people start to clean out and heal the wounds and others harden into scar-tissue-like stances of rightness. That’s great for creating stability in a destabilized land but it also brings inflexibility, pain, and reduced circulation.
I’ve noticed during my recovery that just as the body lays down scar tissue, so does the mind. I’ve dipped into old ways of thinking that have had me down for days. Trauma creates clumps of neurons that translate into habitual thinking and beliefs about the world. Just as it takes exercises and bodywork to break up scar tissue in the body, it takes self-reflection and active choices to shift thoughts in order to build new neural pathways that eventually, if chosen more often, will fire more readily than the old.
I find myself reading article after article, looking for someone who has the magic words, the outlook that can soften and free this lumpy and hardened tissue without further traumatizing the area. How to debride and cleanse the wounds without causing more trauma? I’ve heard some great ideas within the din and I still re-board the fear, grief, and anger train, still find old thoughts firing just as much as the new ones I actively turn toward. While those emotions are important to allow I also want to find a way to be resourceful and of use, and I can’t serve well from that calcified position.
I joked today that I picked the wrong week to come off narcotic painkillers. A part of me wants to take a Percocet, lie down, and call it a day. But the rest of me knows that’s not how healing works after the initial phase right after surgery or injury, that grinding out exercises and moving through pain, without creating further injury, is how optimal healing takes place.
So here it goes. Another day: another set of exercises, another meditation, another prayer. The choice to do practices to create and sustain a strong core-self so that my outer self can be receptive, flexible, soft, undefended, and therefore open to connect with people who think like me and those who don’t. May I have the strength to do the work on my body to walk well, the work on my mind to stay clear, and the work on my heart to love deeply and widely. More than ever, this feels like necessary work.