I was a preteen when I first started self-harming and I would hide my self harm scars. It was infrequent at first, but then it snowballed. I self-harmed to distract from my intense emotions, to avoid emotional pain by inflicting physical pain and to make my body reflect the pain I was feeling. I was self-harming regularly until just a few years ago. A decade of self-harm has left me scarred from head to toe. Many of these self harm scars are faint, but there are also many that catch the attention of anyone looking my way. (Yes, I can tell when you’re staring.)
My self harm scars have created problems in my life, apart from just the itching and pain. I show up to every interview in long sleeves, no matter the season. I get judgmental looks from mothers when I’m around their kids in public places. But I refuse to be ashamed. Now that my skin has healed, I’m wearing shorts and tank-tops this summer for the first time in a long time. I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in my own skin, and I rarely want to tear it open.
Stopping Self Harm Scars
Stopping self-harm has been one of the most difficult parts of my recovery. It’s an addiction. For a long time not even the pain on the faces of my loved ones could make me stop. Eventually I made promises that I needed to keep, and these promises, coupled with the threat of behavior chains in DBT helped me slow down. As I learned to use other skills to ride out the intense emotions, I relied on self-harm less and less. As I built a life worth living, the desire for a physical manifestation of my pain subsided. Now I can go months without self-harming.
Do not confuse my lack of shame with pride. I am not proud of what I’ve done. I certainly do not advocate for self-harm as a way to solve your problems. Quite the opposite. But what’s done is done. I can’t undo the damage I’ve caused my body. I must live with the choices I’ve made. But I also refuse to hide. I would, of course, cover up around someone who found my scars triggering, but I will not tailor my appearance to the general public. People need to see that self-harm is not something that makes you “crazy,” a “monster,” or “emo.” It’s something that can enter the life of anyone. My scars tell the tale of where I’ve been. To use the often quoted phrase, “a scar means you survived.”