The Slow Journey to Accepting My Self Harm Scars
I love reading pieces in the media about people who have come to accept their scars, even love their scars for what they are and what they represent. I love seeing videos where people talk about their journey’s, I love seeing that side of people where they are simultaneously so vulnerable and so strong. It takes a lot to share your story, especially if it’s a traumatic one or one you’ve always tried to hide.
Yet so often the story I don’t see represent within these areas is the story of people who come to accept their self harm scars. Who maybe have even come to love them for the struggles they represent and the fact that they show the person has fought and won - time and time again. Self harm scars are one of those things that so many people are reluctant to talk about, and so many people with them hide their scars away because of what society might think, or what other people will say, or the judgement cast down on them.
I don’t know what separates self harm scars from surgical or accidental scars. They all represent a time of pain, a time of trial and tribulation. Whether it’s because self harm scars could be viewed as a ‘choice’, whether it’s because people are more likely to view surgical scars or scars from accidents as ‘brave’, I don’t know. I don’t have any of the answers.
What I do have is a rather considerable collection of self harm scars on my right wrist, forearm and upper arm, along with the tops of both thighs and some scattered closer to my knees. They are vivid. They range in colour from purple to silvery white. They range in size from thin as a hair and barely a centimetre across, to several millimetres thick and several inches long.
They are visible.
There is no getting away from the fact that I have self harm scars. Unless I spend the rest of my life covered from shoulder to wrists to knees, the world will be able to see what I did to myself. And that’s the crux of the issue, really. People are awkward around them because they know I did this to myself. This was no life saving surgery. This was no awful or funny accident. This was done in the dead of night, during the lonely days, when the sun was barely visible above the horizon with slow, deliberate movements.
I want people to talk to me about them. I want people to get over the awkwardness that surrounds seeing scars in straight lines and ask questions. I can’t say the conversation will be an easy one, but the more people that ask, the more people will understand. I want to move the conversation surrounding self harm and the consequential scars from one laden with shame and awkwardness, to one that is more open and acknowledges the pain that people have been in without damning them for their actions.
I also know a lot of people with scars want nothing more than for people to not look, and not ask questions - which is where the difficulty lies. It’s easier to pretend not to have seen than risk upsetting someone. At the end of the day - the thought that someone is in such turmoil that the only way they can release their feelings is by physical damage is a difficult one for many people.
But I don’t hide away. I would never reveal fresh wounds to people, but old scars - I refuse to hide them. Unless it’s a cold day and the only way to get to work is by bundling myself up like the abominable snowman. But during long, hot summer days I will wear strappy tops, I will wear swimming costumes that reveal every single scar in all their glory, I will wear whatever the hell I want to wear. People can stare all they want. People can stare, and keep their burning questions to themselves because they’re too awkward to ask them and I will walk down the street and across the beach and through the woods with my head held high and my arms in full view because I’m not ashamed.
I used to think I should be ashamed. But those days have passed. These days I’m proud of what I made it through, and that I’m still here and still fighting. And trust me, every single day is a battle of wills and trying to make it through without hurting myself in one form or another because for a long time that was the only way I could cope with life. My scars are a visible reminder that I made it through the bad days and the worse days and the days that weren’t bad but I was addicted to hurting myself anyway.
I’m still here. It’s been a long journey. But I accept who I am. Every last, flawed inch of me.
*I’m adding in a postscript here because I didn’t know where else to put it, and this is a topic I’m going to be writing more about. My personal experience of self harm has been the ‘traditional’ cutting route, but there needs to be a lot more conversation around self harm that is more hidden, or is confused with acting out etc. Those conversations are coming. I promise.