A month before my 16th birthday, on a school camp, I fell down a mountain.
The mountain I fell down was Mount Doom (alright, Mt. Ngauruhoe but following LOTR filming it’s always Mt. Doom to me). Technically, I started sliding down it on my bum first, but when the snow turned into boulders and I dug my feet in to try and slow down, I flipped, and smashed head first into the rocks. I split my face open – you could see my cheek bone through the hole in my face. I ended up with 11 stitches in my cheek, forehead, and temple – 4 fewer than the man in the hospital at the same time as me who had 15 stitches in the massive wound the rebounding chainsaw had left in his face. I knew then that I was incredibly fortunate – I hadn’t broken any bones, I still had both eyes, and a helluva story to tell when I got back to school (and hadn’t had to deal with a chainsaw eating into my face).
What I didn’t anticipate is how much it would affect me afterwards. When my parents drove down to the national park to pick me up from hospital and camp the day after the accident, I had been with my friends and was feeling cheerful and happy, but on the drive back when we stopped for lunch I refused to get out of the car. I didn’t want anyone to look at me. Your face is so much a part of your identity that when it is misshapen by stitches and swelling and bruises, you feel monstrous. Especially at the age of 15. I was so worried that I’d still look bashed and broken by the time of the school ball and my 16th Birthday. My mother made me get out of the car that day and I’m happy she did. She taught me that strength came in all forms and sometimes you need to be brave so you can see that the stares you dread hold compassion, not disgust. Continue reading “Facing Fear, Acknowledging it, Beating it.”