By Anne Hjelle, author of Skin Deep.
"What happened to your face?"
As a victim of a brutal mountain lion attack in which half my face was ripped off, I fully expected this question to become commonplace. People are naturally curious. They can't help but stare. But, in the nine years since the attack, I have only been asked this question twice.
Why is that?
Through intimate conversations with close friends, I came to realize that most of them had no idea how deeply I have been affected by the attack. Some were afraid of prying; worried I would deem their inquiries inappropriate. Most were concerned that their curious questions would release a flood of emotions I had buried deep within myself.
In January of 2004, I was ambushed by a killer cougar during a mountain bike ride in a local Southern California wilderness park. With the help of my good friend and a group of strangers - a miracle of circumstances, really -- I survived. Although I eventually returned to mountain biking, every time I explore the wilderness, I think of the attack. Perhaps, to outsiders, and even my close friends, it appears as though I was left unaffected by my experience. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Despite being a private person by nature, I decided it was time to bare my soul and expose my true feelings about the attack. By speaking out, I feel that perhaps I can help others fight their own private battles. The questions I faced and lessons I learned during my nine-year journey are universal.
How can I deal with such a traumatic accident? How can I possibly maintain a positive outlook when facing such overwhelming circumstances? Will life ever return to the way it was before? Will my friends and family abandon me when I need them most?
These questions plagued me in the beginning of my journey but, over the course of nine years, I found answers to them all.
In my new book "Skin Deep," I dig deep to allow readers to experience the brutal attack and painstaking recovery right alongside me. I expose my deepest fears and divulge my greatest revelations. I describe my heartache as well as my victories. Through this journey, I hope to leave readers uplifted and empowered. My hope is that my book will reveal new strength in readers and give them the boost they need to overcome obstacles in their own lives.
Let's take this journey together.
Anne Hjelle is the author of Skin Deep, published by Endeavour Press.