Self Harm Scars In The Summer

Content/Trigger Warning for self-harm, including a picture of my scars further down.

An orange awareness ribbons

Sometimes I am very aware of my self harm scars.

How could I not be? They represent ten years of the worst of my mental health. Ten years lost to depression. Ten angry years. And it has been nearly ten years since I was cutting regularly. Four since I cut at all (a blip in the middle of years of nothing).

I can still see words I cut into my arms. I can still tell you what I used and where. I can still tell you which ones had stitches, which had infections, which hurt the most.

Something thinking about that makes me feel sick. Remembering. Sometimes it’s something akin to nostalgia. It was harmful, yes, but it was always simple in its way. Though not overly effective. Good for dealing with my anger but little else (and that is not an endorsement, but just the reality of it). I’m not ashamed that I self-harmed, nor am I ashamed to admit I miss it sometimes.

So I am always aware of my scars, and I was working on the assumption that everyone else was.

This is not the case.

They have faded over time, of course, they’re far from being red and angry. Some aren’t even as raised as they used to be. But they are not as noticeable as they used to be and not as noticeable as I think they are.

I know this because someone told me they hadn’t even noticed them. Which was a new sensation for me because I am used to people staring at me for a myriad of reasons (I’m scarred, tattooed, fat, currently going through a masc phase but not binding…take your pick).

It was a bit of a jolt to hear it and to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. My past has always defined me to some extent, good and bad.

This was a couple of months ago now. Before the sun came out. Before a tanned a bit.

White Lines

Now they’re very white. I don’t tan much, I burn but I’m very, very white. The sun seems to bleach my scars though, making for an alarming contrast in my eyes at least.

Some sars on my left wrist and an orange self harm wrist band from lifesigns.
My left wrist and a self harm wrist band from lifesigns.

Making me more aware of them as usual.

Any of course, once the weather turns slightly warm I stop wearing long sleeves so these white stripes are on display so to speak. And I’m working on the assumption they’re as obvious to everyone else as they are to me.

But maybe they’re not.

It’s a weird state to be in – unsure as I am though – it. I’m not getting stared at more than usual, not getting any more questions or overhearing people talk about it. People know me though, in the village, in both Abers. What else is there to ask or to say?

Not that what I say changes.

What To Say to Someone With Self Harm Scars

When it comes to people with self-harm scars, the same applies to any physical aspect of a person. You should ask someone why they have scars on their arms any more than you should ask a person why they’re in a wheelchair. If you wouldn’t ask a person why they’re fat, you shouldn’t ask a person about their disability.

A picture of the scars on my left arm, below my poppy tattoo.
The same arm as above but the underside.

Self harms scars are not a disability but the mental health illness behind them often is. And a personal health condition, and generally not the business of a stranger on the street.

So when you encounter someone, you should not stare and you should not ask them about it. Google exists.

I am actually willing to answer questions, happy to talk about it, though I’m not always great when blind-sided in the street but generally willing. Not everyone is me though. Generally best practise is to google this stuff instead of accosting strangers on the street. That’s just good advice for most situations.

Minorities and marginalised groups do not owe you anything, including information. We don’t have to use any emotional labour educating people.

I am willing to spend the time answering questions, performing emotional labour. That’s my choice. So feel free to ask me questions – email me or leave them in the comments. I have a curiouscat account for anonymous questions.

You can also read my posts Seven Things You Should Know About Self Harm.

Do you need help? Reach Out.

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bread

Queer, weird, geek, poet and now parent.

14 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    I am so sorry you struggle so much with the appearance of your scars! Mine are very, very hidden and truly most people have never even noticed them because of location. But even so, when I put on a bathing suit, I almost gasp when I see the damage to my skin. I am so proud of you that those scars have healed, however. Stopping self-harming practices is no easy feat! If you’re interested in my self-harm story, check it out here: https://www.reclaimingthesmile.com/self-harm/
    Jennifer recently posted…Stop Making Excuses For People With Anxiety and/or DepressionMy Profile

  2. Lydia C. Lee says:

    Good post. And good reminder for people to show a bit of respect and consideration, even if their curiousity is well meant (tho really just nosy!) #KCACOLS

  3. I think it’s amazing that you’re sharing your story with us. I sure it’s bound to help someone along the way. I agree that strangers shouldn’t ask questions that they have no right getting answers on.#KCACOLS

  4. I wouldn’t think to ask about scars like this, they look to me like they have actually healed really well #KCACOLS

  5. Veronica Lee says:

    I, too, think that you are amazing and very courageous to share your story with us. I would never, ever ask about the scars if I see them on someone. I think it’s rude and insensitive.

    #kcacols

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this, mental illness is invisible, but it can leave very real physical scars, which people seem to find equally difficult to understand. Sharing your story, is brave and may well go a long way in helping to fight the stigma xx

    #KCACOLS

  7. I would consider it rude to be stared at. However, as I get older I have found that people are quite rude sometimes. #KCACOLS
    Jo (A Rose Tinted World) recently posted…Free Things To Do In YorkMy Profile

  8. As you appear to indicate, the scars are more apparent to you than they are to others, but the knowledge is still there inside you. Good to see youh ave moved on, even if you cannot leave all traces of the past behind. So they are a useful reminder, perhaps, a sign that things have progressed in your life for the better. Well done. #KCACOLS

  9. Emma Dowey says:

    Summer is a tough time if skin is scarred – for whatever reasons. thank you for sharing because i think sometimes people are just pretty ignorant with comments/looks. #KCACOLS

  10. I love your honesty about your experiences and your scars, and I think you make a very important point about not questioning someone on their scars, or staring at them. x #KCACOLS

  11. Cassie says:

    I worked in a mental health hospital for quite some years so these scars are instantly recognisable to me. It’s quite interesting to hear how they feel to you as the beholder. I think you can see the chaos and turmoil that your mind was going through at that time but for anyone to see you now, they stand as a mark of strength that you made it out the other side. I have scars from various surgeries but I can’t completely relate to self harm. Nonetheless I still think our scars are a part of us and tell our story and don’t eve be ashamed of them. Big love and thanks for sharing this. I can imagine it helping a lot of people out there. #KCACOLS

  12. Sarah-Marie says:

    You are so amazing to be so honest about your mental health and brave to not cover up in the summer. (Not sure brave is quite the right word but I hope my meaning is conveyed) I have a friend who even in extremely hot weather still wears long sleeves. #kcacols

  13. Malin says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and your feelings about this, as well as your advice on what to say (or not) about somebody’s scars. #KCACOLS
    Malin recently posted…10 Sensory Rich, Frugal Fun Activities for Sunny Summer Days!My Profile

  14. Crummy Mummy says:

    This is something I’ve never thought about before – a thought provoking that will help raise awareness and empathy #KCACOLS

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