Justyn's story: finding power and beauty in my body and scars

I had an accident that left me with third-degree burns. I grew up in a household with a history of domestic violence, with a very tense and controlling atmosphere in the air.

The accident 

My mother used to clean the house thoroughly and soak used clothes in a tub on the kitchen worktop. As a child, I was very curious and adventurous, so one morning, I turned a bucket over, reached up and pulled the pot filled with boiling water over my body. 

I turned my face to the left so that the water went more on the right of my face, torso and back. I was found by my older sister and taken to hospital, where I had a skin graft from my upper legs to the scalded part. I was told it was a life and death situation, but through my mother’s prayers and the tremendous work of the nurses at the hospital, I survived. 

Justyn profile for blog

No aftercare 

I was told, and remember when growing up that there wasn’t much access to support. I didn’t have anywhere to go to open up about my body and scars. I also found that my family, particularly my mother and older sister (who found me) didn’t receive much trauma support. 

Finding support 

I discovered a charity called Children’s Burn’s Club, which was founded by Pat Wade MBE. It supports young burns survivors and their families to help them come to terms with burn-related trauma and altered body image. 

In 2018, I became a mentor at their annual children’s summer camp. I went on a week’s residential with young survivors and joined in fun activities and open and educational discussions around body image. 

Learning to open up 

I found that although it can be difficult to open up and talk about your story, it’s so important. It can be a powerful tool for your own mental health and has helped me to grow in confidence and learn to find self-love. 

I began sharing my story by making a vlog series called BRAVESCAR on Youtube, which won the Vlogstar Challenge Rising Star Award in 2017 at a finale held at BAFTA. Being able to make art from my story and educate others has been so precious and opened me up so many opportunities. 

The confidence to run my own event 

I found the motivation to hold my first event, BRAVESCAR x A TIME 2B BRAVE event in Croydon on Thursday, 16 May, during Mental Health Awareness Week 2019. 

Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme was ‘Body image - how we think and feel about our bodies. I felt it would be a great idea to bring people from all walks of life together, to discuss their stories, and then equip them with practical tools to improve their relationship with their bodies, both mentally and physically. 

I curated a panel of fantastic and insightful speakers, and there were workshops on different areas of well-being and performances from some talented acts. 

Rewriting my trauma 

My mission is to constantly find ways to rewrite my ‘trauma’ narrative and to do things that make me feel confident, comfortable and brave in my own skin. I have reconstructive surgery on my burns to improve their appearance and relieve certain tension. For me, that decision was a personal journey and something for me, not others’ approval or acceptance.  

I am also a qualified Level 3 personal trainer with Nike London. I am passionate about helping others understand and love their bodies and love to be a part of their journey to transformation and self-love. 

What Justyn wishes he had known earlier   

I wish I had known earlier that your story is your power and that it is yours to make something great from. It has so much beauty and offers opportunities you don’t even know yet, but you must be brave and present to silence the negative voice in your head. Then you can work hard at whatever opportunities life presents. 

The pain in your story is not the only part of who you are. You are much more than that, and you can be much more than that - lead with your character. Your power is your truth - be brave and speak it! 

Getting help

If you have been affected by Justyn's story and have been impacted by domestic violence, please call a domestic violence helpline. Also, remember that Samaritans are available 24/7 for free on 116 123 (UK) to offer emotional support.
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