Trigger Warning: Self-Injury
This is my second personal contribution to this series as the creator (Nattily, from Notes on Crazy). This is the topic that started the idea for me, so I think it merits a short context explanation.
I have a history of self-injury since early adolescence, though I have only used it to cope once in the last seven months. I am proud that I have found alternatives that work for me, but I do not wish to pass judgment one way or another on self-injurious behaviors.
One evening my boyfriend and I were discussing my self-injury scars, what they meant to me in the past, what they mean to me now, and how he sees them as another part of who I am. It was a calm and honest conversation, but obviously about a sensitive subject. He went into another room for a minute, and by the time he came back I had convinced myself that the worst of my scars were not scars at all and that our entire conversation had been an attempt a manipulating him.
The fact is, they are scars. I know this. He knows this. We both knew it then and we still know it now. Yet even now it is hard for me to say out loud, because it is so much easier to believe I am capable of deliberately hurting other people than deliberately hurting myself.
I am now able to admit that yes, those are scars, despite being so completely convinced for a short while that I had made it all up. Remembering how certain I was and how desperately I tried to convince my boyfriend that I was a liar and was trying to hurt him, my pathetic attempts to “come clean,” is a lesson for me that when fear and shame creep in, the voice that doubts me is not my own, and I have the ability to bring my real voice back.
POINT: Those are scars.
COUNTERPOINT: I’m making them out to be worse than they are in order to manipulate people who care about me and to draw attention from people I want to care about me. Some are self-injury scars, but the ones that look bad are just stretch marks. I’m just too embarrassed to admit it because I’m ashamed of my weight. The ones that really are scars aren’t that bad, and they are only as bad as they are because I scar so easily. The cuts were never bad at all. I never needed stitches or had to go to the doctor or anything. It’s a fluke of my skin that there are any marks at all, and remember, the ones that look dramatic aren’t actually scars. I’m lying to people when I don’t admit they are stretch marks. I lie because I am comfortable with manipulation and because I am a bad person.
ACTUAL POINT: Those are scars. For one thing, I do have stretch marks on other parts of my body – plenty of them – and I’m not ashamed of them. I even kind of like them because they remind me that I am in recovery from an eating disorder and at a healthier weight now. Those marks look nothing like the scars, especially the ones I’m claiming are not scars. My stretch marks are curved or zig-zag, are in clusters on my legs and hips and the clusters are fairly symmetrical on both sides of my body, and they are slight indentations which are slightly lighter than most of my skin, and turn red in the shower. My scars are perfectly straight lines, they are either in isolation or in blocks of parallel lines of perfectly equal length, they are only on one area of my right leg, and they are slightly raised and darker than my skin. They are, quite simply, not the same. Further, and more importantly, while I have never gone to the hospital to get stitches for self-injury, that does not mean that my wounds were superficial or “not that bad.” The important thing behind self-injury is the emotional component and its function or necessity as a coping mechanism. The physical consequences are secondary. Of course, there is also the matter than because I have a very high pain tolerance, it is very likely that my injuries were more severe than I was aware at the time. This would explain why the scars are worse than expected, and why they heal so slowly. As far as manipulation goes, I know that I have shown my cuts and scars to people hoping for a certain response, but the occasional cry for help is not the same as chronic and damaging attention seeking behavior. I have spent half my life using self-injury to cope, and I have done an impressive job at keeping it a secret. When I lie about self-injury, it is not to say I have done it and make it sound like a big deal, it is to say I have not done it and that no one should worry about me. My scars are a part of me, just as my childhood and adolescence of not having the resources I needed to cope with fear, anxiety, and depression are a part of me. I have the right to both acknowledge my own challenges and to ask for support or otherwise demonstrate that I am in need of help whenever such a situation arises.
CONCLUSION: Those are scars, and that’s ok.