Joshua Dixon's Narrative
Updated: Sep 21, 2018
When I was younger, I was attacked by two pit bulls on the south side area of Chicago on December 5, 2007. I was coming home one day from just being bullied by kids at my elementary school. It had snowed about 5 inches the night before; the snow made it difficult for me to make it home on time. When I arrived home, I opened the backyard gate and as I entered the yard one dog tried to leave the yard; I grabbed him and brought him back into the yard. After closing the gate I slipped on ice, the male pit bull saw it as an opportunity to attack and kill me. The female dog which was my companion saw I was in need of help. Both dogs fought while I was in the middle of them both. I was being pulled from side to side as their teeth were biting into my face. As the attack was happening, I kept screaming the word “stop”, as I no longer could feel the pain as 80% of my face was missing. My father came outside and rushed to save me. He brought me into the house as he comforted me while the paramedics were on their way. When they arrived, I was rushed to the nearest children’s hospital where doctors saved my life as I undergone 26 hours of surgery. I was put into an induced coma for a month as doctors worked non-stop to reconstruct my face. When I woke from the coma, I had lost my ability to walk, write, and talk. I spent countless hours regaining my skills with the great support from my mother, being there for me along the way.
After being in the hospital for a few months, I could go home to my family. While being homeschooled, I’ve had surgeries every 2 to 3 months over the course of 5 years. I have had surgeries where I had a 40% chance of living and I still proceeded with the procedures. It was hard for me to live a perfect childhood because it was really risky for me to be around other kids my age and take part in childhood activities. If I was exposed to an extreme amount of germs and bacteria, I could have a high chance of inflaming my wounds with a deadly infection called Staph due to my genetics. My home was the best place for me, that was a cleaned environment where I couldn’t easily be harmed.
I would come in for surgery on a Friday and get discharged the next day because I wouldn’t take pain medicine. Then I would have over 200 stitches in my body and would have had an extreme amount of pain. I would just sleep the pain off as if it was nothing. As strong as my character was I still gave up on myself because I realized no matter if I had all the surgeries in the world they would never make me be perceived as normal. I hated this life, I used to always wonder “why” or “why me”. It hurt a lot knowing that I wouldn’t be able to live a perfect life, not having limitations on what you want to achieve. I used to get so upset because, it was like I was living in a pretend world where I thought I was normal but, every time I look in the mirror or in a post-accident photo it reminded me of who I am now “A Monster”
After coping with my nightmares related to my attack and learning to accept myself for who I am, I realized that helping people by using the power and resilience of my character was key to my happiness. I started by having a positive attitude towards things that were negative, by finding a funny side to them. I wasn’t afraid to tell people my story, no matter if they were hostile towards me or curious. The conversations I had with some people gave them joy when they were having a bad day. I didn’t know how much my experience or the power of my resilience, can motivate and inspire people to keep moving forward no matter what. Someone asked me a question one late evening after surgery, “why do you have to be so hard headed and get out the bed when you awaken from your crazy long surgeries?.” I responded by saying “If God gave me the ability to keep living after that sad day... Maybe he sees something in this life and believes I would do something flipping awesome one day... I have to keep moving forward and try not to give up, even when the going gets tough... It’s hard to live this life with so much pain with stitches that are evil but, this is all I have so, I have to live life to the fullest or do what Spongebob say’s ‘living life like Larry’”. That person was so inspired by my response, she told all her co-workers about me. I didn’t take it seriously at the time but, I used to think people were joking about saying I inspired or motivated them.
I changed lives by volunteering to help other kids that were feeling depressed about what had happened to them. I gave them the courage to get out the hospital bed and continue to be a loving, happy kid. By persuading them to go to the children’s center in the building to have fun and do whatever they pleased. I understood where they stand (as in perspective) because not too long ago I was that same depressed person thinking my life was over. I had to help them understand how they have to learn from their experience and how they can use that to become something better from it. “God and the stars above have a mission for us, we have to continue to fight through this testimony to see and understand the bigger picture.” By helping people helped me cope with all the troubles I was going through, it feels me with joy when I see that frown turn into a laughing loving smile. I talked to random people I could sense that they were having a bad day. I would comfort them by telling them that their day would get better. I would have an interesting random conversation to distract them from their sadness followed up with a hug. I love hugs and I didn’t mind giving out hugs to ones that needed them. Hugs are almost better than words, people rarely hug one another but, having a warm meaningful hug can end your sadness. Sometimes I would meet that person again that I helped in the past. They would tell me how I changed their life for the better and tell me how I gave them hope with my words. It was so amazing to hear from people I have met and they tell me, how much I inspired them and motivated them to keep on going. Because I kept moving forward, no matter how hard it was or life threatening it was.
Some of the kids I talked to years ago are now greater things with their lives. One girl, for example, she burned herself because she hated her life. After the incident, she hated herself even more and thought her family didn’t love her. She thought everyone was against her. I made her realize that her family still loved her no matter what she did, everyone was there to help her have a speedy recovery. It was just up to her to accept it. Now she volunteers to help kids that are burn survivors. She motivates them to keep moving on past that experience and she plays video games with them to distract them from their pain as well.
Over the past 10 years, I have had 59 facial reconstruction surgeries. I am still not considered “normal” according to society due to my facial dismemberment. Even though the experience was very painful, I wouldn’t take back any part of it back. I learned to accept I will never be considered normal but, I realized that this is who I am now and this is apart of my identity “this is what I call now call normal”. I came to an understanding with my long-lived experience that I’ve met so many influential people throughout the years I feel like a person wouldn’t meet in a lifetime. I have inspired, motivated and moved so many people; I feel as if I’m something or someone even though I feel like nothing. No matter what happens I can’t let myself give in to the self-hatred, I have to continue to help kids and adults when no one else would.
Art therapy is a key to a door that allows me to heal my soul from deep bleeding scars. I have seen how powerful it can be in someone’s life due to dire circumstances. I can use art as an escape goat to get away from my problems. Doing digital art makes me feel like I am separated from the world. It gives me the sense that I experience derealization, I feel as if I’m not there or I’m not real and that it’s just being controlled by the body. Learning how to use Photoshop was an opening to a new chapter in my life. It helped me develop my craft by enhancing my perception to see and feel things in a different way. It truly helps me heal scars that run so deep. It helped me fight with my PTSD, social anxiety, depression and self-esteem. I am able to create art based off of times in my life; by reflecting from that past and learning how I overcame that tremendous challenge or halts in my life that led to me becoming a better person. Those pieces remind me how hard it was but, it shows me how I never gave up and that I should continue fighting these scars that taunt my entire being.