The when, the how and the why questions around my faded self harm scars have not mattered in such a long time; the difficulties that led me to deliberately hurt myself were so long ago and are no longer applicable to who I am as a person. That stuff is finished, it’s over with and it’s left nicely tidied away somewhere that it no longer runs through me day to day.
15+ year old problems are not relevant to my relationship status, professional job, friends, hobbies and desires for the future yet they have been so ever present, like they had some kind of authority, holding me back, getting in the way of where I am going!
The unmistakable self-inflicted scars covering both my arms jump out and whack people in the face; they then bounce back and hit me. This is why I hide them and why I have always hidden them, as when they are present I, me, the well-rounded and successful woman that I am tends to get forgotten about, playing second fiddle to the judgement and assumptions people make.
What kind of things am I talking about? How can this impact so much on somebodies life who claims to have put it behind them?
A few examples:
The Occupational Health Assessment for a new job
What relevance does the number of alcohol units in your weekly shopping, recreational drug use a couple of times a year or some counselling way back when really have on anyone’s ability to do the job at hand? Often not a lot and when it is something you know you will be judged for, have no intention of ever disclosing or needing reasonable adjustments to accommodate then I am sure many people will lie by omission; speeds up the recruitment process!
So why did I admit to having lived with depression and hurt myself to manage those feelings as a teen? Because working in healthcare, most trusts require workers to have certain vaccines which are administered in house. I couldn’t disguise my scars enough to hide them therefore my only option was to be open with the understanding, compassionate and non-judgmental healthcare staff reviewing the forms. Surely they would understand the irrelevance of historic self-harm on someone who has just been offered a job?
The occupational health nurse explained through her lecture (as I slunk down into myself and for all intents and purposes begged her to sign me off as fit to work) that if my manager ever caught glimpse then I would be pulled up on it .. presumably to embarrass and humiliate further? Who knows. Perhaps had that ever happened then the person would have shown kindness, compassion, understanding and appreciation that what’s underneath the shirt has no impact on competence in the workplace. The humiliation was crippling! I’ve since picked myself up and moved on to much better things.
Imagine the situation .. foreign country, language barrier, it was hot so I was in a vest top underneath a hoodie rather than a lighter shirt or something. I was only wearing the hoodie because my bag was overweight and never considered that they’d want me to take it off to go through the scanner.
The feelings that crept up inside me, from the bottom of my feet racing up through my body to my head were so powerful, so intense, all consuming. The feeling was fear – I was scared! I was scared of being exposed in the middle of one of the last places you want anyone to think you’re some kind crazy person!
I don’t know what they said to me or even what I said to them, but somehow I kept it on, raced through, grabbed my stuff and got that plane back home.
Hot Days, Stuffy Offices, Gym & Nights Out
I’d always tell myself I hated clothes shopping, I did/do in a way, not because I don’t like clothes or don’t care what I look like one season to the next but because some things are just not meant to be worn with a cardie. I want to wear whatever top or dress I want, not spend ages looking for long sleeved items which look okay and can be comfortable.
It can take a surprising amount of effort to cover up, look and feel good without drawing the kind of “.. omg are you not hot in that?!?” kind of attention. The truthful answer is that yeah I probably was!
Sex & Relationships
Alright so generally people have got over it pretty quickly, not noticed or cared in that moment but none the less my scars being seen & being touched was never far from my mind. .. what are they thinking, will they tell their mates, will they run a mile?
“.. that’s sick that is, seriously sick” right well you can put your pants back on & fuck off now thanks!
I am so lucky now to have such a lovely partner who no longer really even sees them, scarred skin is not me & the only bearing on the relationship we have is how my experiences have positively shaped the person I am, the person who is loved & cherished inside & out.
Routine medical appointments
.. or the avoidance of them unless absolutely necessary after countless interrogations while there for a blood test, jab etc. Don’t get me wrong, I understand & appreciate why people ask & want to assess current risk but when it’s no longer an issue & interferes with why I’m there then I don’t want to have to address it. Of course trying to explain that to people often only serves to arouse their suspicions & feed the assumptions they have already made.
I often wonder how this could affect me if I was to have a baby. Even more so the child.
I have no time for those who have judged me so harshly, that is about them much more so than me as they do not even know me. Of course it is natural to be curious too and I’m sure that sometimes when people do catch a glimpse, the feelings the feelings brought up for them are not always negative.
Regardless of what other think, the main thing is that I do not like the scarring on my skin! I don’t see the scars as a reminder of everything I have overcome, something to celebrate or to wear with pride …I have those things inside & I do not want it on my body. It does not benefit me & from my experiences throughout my 20’s they hold me back & affect my confidence. They are always there, always a consideration of some sort.
They are so old now that they are as faded as they will ever be, but still very noticeable & obviously self-inflicted. Hours upon hours of research around the kinds of treatments available, have led to dead ends, or ends that would only get so far & not really improve their appearance.
Skin as damaged as mine cannot be rejuvenated or repaired, there is no way to remove my past’s parting gift … so what about a cover up instead? I love tattoos & piercings, body mods are something that I have collected since aged 15 and have always fit with me & who I am.
Now I just need to find someone willing to take on this mammoth task to cover the old self harm scars.