My name is Joy Zylstra. I am a 33 year old married woman and mom to three beautiful children. But that’s not near where my story starts. It’s also not where it ends. This is my first blog post, and will be far from my last. You’ll learn a lot about me, and hopefully a lot about you too in this journey together. For now, I’ll tell you a little bit about me and why I decided to start Scarred, Not Broken.
On July 25, 1993 when I was only nine years old, I walked into a cabin that I didn’t know had filled up with propane due to the gas stove accidentally being left on. The cabin didn’t have any electricity so I had to light a candle to see what I was doing. The next thing I remember was opening my eyes and seeing millions of sparks all over the floor. I was scared, so I screamed.
Long story short – I was in what’s called a flash fire explosion and suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 45% of my body. As mentioned, I was only nine years old. Perhaps in another blog post I’ll go into greater detail as to what all happened while I was in hospital and recovery for years later.
But this post is about why I started Scarred, Not Broken. Twenty-four years after my accident.
I spent five weeks in the hospital. I am blessed with a huge family (5 sisters and 1 brother and two amazing parents). In those five weeks, and the years beyond to this day, I didn’t spend one minute alone. My mom stayed by my side in the hospital Monday to Friday and my dad stayed with me on weekends. I had countless visitors; from neighbors, to classmates, to family, and family friends. I heard the screams down the hall of the other burn patients in the full burn unit. But, all of that didn’t help the feeling of feeling completely alone. During those 5 weeks in the burn unit, and for many years following, I felt completely alone. Not that I didn’t appreciate all the love and support I was receiving. But I felt like nobody knew what I was going thru. Not just the physical pain, but the emotional pain mostly. I was scarred. All over my body. My arms, legs, back and face. I was permanently scarred. And I felt so broken.
I suffered. A lot. I was suicidal as a teen. Depressed as an adult. I still suffer from depression. My life will never be “normal”. I don’t look normal. I don’t feel normal. As my dad has said from the day of my accident, I had to find a new normal. It took me too many years to find what that meant.
I went thru and felt many different emotions in my life as a burn survivor. But the worst one was the feeling of loneliness. Like nobody else knew what I had and was going thru.
This is why I started Scarred, Not Broken. I know I’m not the only burn survivor in the world. I’ve met so many over the years. But I also know I’m not the only survivor. There are people all over the world who are going thru or have gone thru traumatic events. With Scarred, Not Broken I hope to help people feel like they’re not alone anymore. That they are in this struggle together with others who have been there or who are still there. Not just burn survivors. Survivors of any tragedy. I invite you to join me on this journey. To help me help others to heal. To find the positive. To be OK again. One breath at a time. Because now I know I’m not alone. And neither are you.