To Hide or Not to Hide Self-Harm Scars
For a long time I didn’t wear sandals. No, not because I don’t like them or because my toes have an aversion to open air but because of the scars on my ankles – that’s where I used to cut. My ankles looked like there were pink, wriggly worms embedded in them.
And I was scared that everyone would see them and know what happened, know what I did.
I figured people would take one look at me (zero in on my ankles for some reason) and then judge me as being a freak and a lunatic and I would be ostracized from normal, human interaction.
That was a bit of an overreaction on my part driven by the shame of self-harming in the first place. I’ve gotten over it.
Self-harm is not rare, weird or freaky. In the US it’s estimated that one out of every 200 girls between 13 and 19 years old cut themselves regularly. And, much worse, a study in the British Medical Journal estimated that 13 percent of 15 and 16-year-olds injure themselves on purpose (this would include all forms of self-injury).
So while people can’t agree on the number of people who self-injure, what we can agree on is it isn’t rare.
And make no mistake, there are plenty of adults who self-harm, it is not a problem restricted to teenagers alone.
And, of course, the vast majority of people who seriously harm themselves are keeping it secret. It’s the kind of behavior that flourishes in the dark.
Hiding Self-Harm Scars
But even once the self-harm stops, you’re stuck with the scars forever. Sure, the mental ones can be worked out through blaming your mother (jk) but the physical ones are not that easy to get rid of.
And honestly, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to want to hide them. This is a self-protection mechanism. No one wants to put themselves out there for the world to judge particularly if they feel ashamed of their own actions.
And this, I think, can be a very good instinct. When you’re not feeling strong it’s not the right time to possibly put yourself in harm’s way, in the way of people who would judge you and not understand. It’s OK to want to protect yourself from that.
But it’s also OK to stand up and say yes, this is something that I did, and I’m OK with it. It’s also OK to stand up and realize that whatever small minds would judge you simply are ignorant. It’s OK to stand up and say, it’s hot out, I’m wearing sandals. Damnit.
Now I’m not saying that it’s always the best ideas to show off scars, for example, in the boardroom, you might want to cover up, but I am saying there is nothing to be ashamed of. We all have a past and even a present and we all have scars from what has happened and what we’ve done. The only difference between someone with self-injury scars and someone without is the visibility of the scars.
Tracy, N. (2012, March 26). To Hide or Not to Hide Self-Harm Scars, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/03/to-hide-or-not-to-hide-self-harm-scars
Author: Natasha Tracy
the only thing i take issue in this post is the notion that there are places you have to cover up. your example of the boardroom not being the best place to have scars uncovered annoys me. why ? if we are fighting stigma & asking for acceptance, why are we censoring ourselves ? why should i be ashamed if i'm in a boardroom ?
I actually found that when I stopped caring about what others thought, I started to heal. Instead of taking extreme measures to cover my scars up, I encouraged the curiosity people have and had about them. It gives me a chance to tell my story to them, and to warn them of the perils of my addiction. And for the ignorant people who want to write me off as "devil possessed" or a "lunatic..."
Hmmmm....nice shoes you got there.
You are correct, there are many ways to self-harm which is why I included the self-injury number above - it includes all forms of self-injury.
You have a great point - those who care about you will care about _why_ you cut. Yes, they will care about _that_ you cut as well, but people who care about you don't want you to get to the place where you feel like you have to.
- Natasha Tracy
I completely agree with you - men self-harm too. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. Thank-you for reminding us, you make perfect sense.
It is totally your right to cover up, but remember you have nothing to be ashamed of.
And yes, definitely do some therapy on it. You'll feel better when you know you're not doing it any more.
Glad I could remind you you're not alone out there :)