In an ideal world, no one would feel the need to cover self-harm scars, and no one would be made uncomfortable by their exposure. But as it is now, many people struggle in their daily lives to judge whether, when, and to what extent they should cover self-harm scars.
I stopped hiding my self-harm scars so I could feel free. Let me explain: self-harm insists on making its history known. It leaves evidence of itself on your skin in marks both faint and bold and in times of both struggle and recovery. These self-harm scars can make you self-conscious, remind you of a painful past, and draw unwanted attention. The common impulse among self-harmers and those with a history of self-harm is to hide them. But hiding self-harm scars, for me, just never felt like freedom.
Questions about self-harm scars and dating, sex and intimacy cause many people with visible self-harm scars to worry: "Are self-harm scars a turn-off?" "Should I try to hide my scars from my partner?" "When is it appropriate to explain my scars to a partner, and how can I best approach this type of conversation?" What are the right answers to these questions about self-harm scars and dating?
There are ways to explain self-harm scars to children, but I haven't always known what to say. When I was in my first year of college I had a job working with children at a daycare. Children are curious by nature and they ask a lot of questions about their surroundings. If something is “out of the norm” they are going to ask questions about it. One night, I wore a dress which showed a few of my scars. I had a small child come up and ask me, “Teacher, what happened to your leg?”
The workplace can be a stressful and triggering environment for self-harmers. First, we have to make the decision of hiding our scars or not. If we don't, we face questions, scrutiny, and gossip from our coworkers and bosses. Secondly, we may, and probably will, be triggered to self-harm at some point. We can't control what others say and do, or what is asked of us while we're working. Thus, it is essential for us to find ways to minimize stress and stay on the course of recovery from self-harm in a triggering environment like the workplace.
Reminiscing without self-harm can be hard but you can make memories without scars. With the social media today, practically every step you take is recorded. Whether you are tagged in photographs from the night before or you tweet about the meal you had, life is not a secret anymore. Technology has made it so you cannot forget some of the memories from your past because, well, they may show up on an app or in an online journal or blog you forgot about. Sometimes the most difficult memories are the ones that crush you without warning and reminiscing about these memories can cause self-harm.
Not hiding self-harm scars can be a tough decision. When someone sees a self-harm scar and brings it up, panic often takes over the body and mind of the person who self-harms. Battling the embarrassment that comes with someone questioning a visible scar from self-harm can often bring forward many negative emotions and anxiety. From there, the battle becomes you fighting against your own insecurities. But not hiding self-harm scars is an option.
When you are struggling with self-harm, it is very rare that when someone asks about a visible cut or burn, you will answer with the truth. There are the occasional few who will honestly answer that question and admit to their struggle without embarrassment or insecurity. While that kind of behavior does occur once in a while, more times than not people who self-harm use cover stories for self-harm scars.
In the realm of reality television and social media, people on shows about plastic surgery and ways to change your body have become royalty. People have a genuine interest in following the lives of absolute strangers just to imagine how it would feel to have their skin sculpted into anything they wish. You’ve seen shows and read articles about people getting surgery to look like Barbie dolls or celebrities. Not only is it frightening to get that much surgery, it is sad that people don’t feel comfortable enough in their own skin and appreciate who they are.
I’ve stated many times how helpful books can be when overcoming self-harm. There have been numerous books I have discussed that helped me when I was struggling to understand my own addiction to cutting. In a world where self-harm is seen by many as taboo, it is good to fall into a story where the topic is relatable and real.