This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Sexuality and Intimacy After Burn Injury. Cindy Rutter, burn survivor, discusses learning to love your new body after burn injury.
Sustained a Burn Injury in 1959
I think, as a burn survivor, one of the most crucial things that you can do is to love yourself first and foremost. And that means loving your body first and foremost and learning to accept that this is your reality. You can't undo the scars. They're not gonna go away. So learning to love yourself, to accept how your body looks, to know what feels good for you to — also learn, like, to touch yourself, to feel yourself because until you do that and you know what feels good for you, nobody else can make you feel good.
And to be able to communicate that with your partner, that, to me, is work that has to be done. I talk about the need for looking at your own body, and if that means standing in front of a mirror naked so that you're comfortable with what you're seeing, so that when somebody else sees it, you have an air of confidence about you. Body image goes hand in hand with sexuality and intimacy, and you've gotta feel good about your body to then be able to feel good about your own sexuality.
I believe not only peer supporters, but also mental health professionals can help you with that through conditioning, through the work that they do and just being able to share it and giving you steps to help you recognize how to love yourself. There's a great book, Body Image, by Tom Cash, that has exercises that help people learn to identify ways that they do feel good about themselves.
I don't know if there's a timeline to get comfortable with your scars because I think everybody is an individual. And I also believe that we have ups and downs throughout life where you may feel really great, and then you might hit a lull and not feel so good about yourself.
I think it's an ongoing process. I think we are continually evolving in who we are as human beings, so it's a process that can literally take forever. I believe even with my burns being 60 years old, that I continue to work on myself and my body image and my self-confidence.
Visit https://msktc.org/burn and get the answers you need from experts who conduct innovative and high-quality research, provide patient care, and work to improve the health and overall quality of life for people with burn injury. That’s https://msktc.org/burn.