Scarred for LifeAUGUST 2, 2008
- Karen Williams at age 7.
- (Courtesy Karen Williams)
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Normally, when I'm walking down the street or if I'm in the proximity of young children, people tend to look at my skin and even ask audibly if I've been burned. They look at my jaw line because that's the remainder of the most serious scarring that I have. I'll tell them that it was from the chickenpox, and people say, "Oh my God! The chickenpox did that?" And I'm like, "Yes." And they say, "But I don't understand how the chickenpox could cause that type of scarring."
I tell them that as an African American, our skin is prone to what is called keloid scarring. And people tend to see that on me first, especially along my jaw line. I have the scars all over my body, but they were particularly worse along my jaw line.
If you were to look at me when I was a kid, I had a jaw line that looked like a mound of lumpy dough with pits and marks in it. It was like a little mountain, a little group of mountains off the body, or off the flat surface of the skin. It was very irregular and odd to look at.
I really had a difficult time. I was a normal child up until the age of six and a half years old, but once I became what they called the "chickenpox girl," when I went back to school, everything literally changed. The teasing was definitely something to be expected with a skin condition like that--ugly, spotty, chickenpox girl, leopard--they called me all sorts of ugly names. The kids would surround me when I would get on the playground, and they would call me chickenpox girl, and they would throw stones at me, and they would run me into a corner of the school and get on top of me and beat me up. Naturally, as a child, I reacted to that. I turned inward and I became very quiet, and it was very traumatic. It was very much a hard time.
I did wear turtlenecks for a very long time. Instead of a sleeveless top that you would wear in the summertime or a short-sleeved top, I would prefer to be in a long-sleeved top because I didn't want anyone to see the scars. Of course, people saw the facial scars--that was the first thing they reacted to--and there was nothing I could do about it. Everybody looked at the surface and they decided who they thought I was, and it was very frustrating--very frustrating.
I told myself, and I've told myself this for years, that I must be here for a reason that I have had to undergo such a rough time coming up. I believed that this experience, along with others that I've had in my life, were sent to kill me--to kill my spirit. I really believed that this was sent to destroy my life purpose. But that was not the case, as I would learn as I got older.
My parents took me to see this doctor, and he worked hard with me and became a mentor to me. He was like a father to me. Not only did he care for my body, he also cared for my soul and spirit because he poured so much of his wisdom into me about what it meant to be truly beautiful. But in the meantime, I would have to have a series of injections every week into my scars. It was torture. I decided after five years of treatments, after five years of lying on a table, five years of injections, five years of photographs, five years of being interviewed for medical journals, I did not want to go through the pain anymore. I said, "I will grow into the skin that I am meant to have, and it will be OK."
There is this beautiful quote that I just love that says, "What was a hindrance becomes a blessing, and what was an enemy becomes a friend, and what was darkness is now my light, and what was clutter is now my treasure." And my chickenpox condition and the scarring and the teasing and all of the pain that it caused, well yes, it was a hindrance, it was an enemy, it was darkness and it was clutter. But look at how time turned such a painful experience into blessing and friendship and light and treasure. It's just awesome, and I see all of that everyday when I look in the mirror. This is who I am. I have come to learn to love the skin that I'm in. I don't worry what people think. I truly do not care. I am Karen, and what you see is what you get and it's all right. That's how I feel.
- Music Bridge:
- Deputy Piano-Wired
- Artist: Alvarius B
- CD: Alvarius B (Abduction)