Justyn's story: finding power and beauty in my body and scars
I had an accident when I was one which left me with third degree burns. I grew up in a household with a history of domestic violence and there was always a very tense and controlling atmosphere in the air.
** Trigger warning: this story notes the details of a physical injury **
My mother used to clean the house thoroughly and soak the 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 and reached up and pulled the pot filled with the boiling hot water down over my body.
I turned my face to the left so that the water went more dominantly on the right of my face, torso and back. I was found by my older sister and taken to hospital where I had to have a skin graft from my upper legs to the scolded 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.
No after care
I was told and remember when growing up that there wasn’t much access to support. I didn’t have anywhere to go to where I felt able 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.
Only recently, I discovered a charity called Children’s Burn’s Club which was founded by Pat Wade MBE. It offers support to young burn’s survivors and their families to help them come to terms with burn trauma and altered body image.
In 2018, I was a mentor on their annual children’s summer camp. I was able to go on a week residential with young survivors and partake in fun activities and open / educational discussions around body image.
Learning to open up
I have found, 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 it 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 for me and opened up so many opportunities.
The confidence to run my own event
I have found the motivation to hold my first event, BRAVESCAR x A TIME 2B BRAVE event in Croydon on Thursday 16th May during Mental Health Awareness.
Mental Health Awareness Week’s topic is ‘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 have curated a panel of fantastic and insightful speakers and there will be workshops on different areas of wellbeing as well as 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 had reconstructive surgery on my burns to improve its appearance and relieve certain tension areas. For me, that decision was a personal journey, and something for me, not others approval or acceptance. I am also a (soon to be / end of May) qualified level 3 personal trainer with Nike London. I am passionate about helping others understand and love their bodies and I would love to be a part of their journey to transformation and self love.
What I wish i'd 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 opportunities that you don’t even know yet, but you have to be brave and present to silence the negative voice in your head, then you can work hard at whatever opportunity life presents.
Also, 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!
If you have been impacted by Justyn's story and have / are being impacted by domestic violence then please call a domestic violence helpline. Also remember that Samaritans are available 24/7 for free on 116 123 (UK) to offer emotional support.
Practical tips to improve how you think and feel about your body
- In our daily lives, let’s be aware of the ways in which we speak about our own and other people’s bodies in casual conversations with friends and family.