I want to stand, unafraid in the face of judgment

Sitting in my office one afternoon, a man I work with wanted me to explain what I was working on. Glancing back and forth between his eyes and the computer screen, I could see he wasn’t looking at the spreadsheet I had pulled up. He was looking directly at my arm as I pointed at the rows and columns that made up the entire screen. As I was helping him make sense of the formulas and results, he was silently trying to make sense of my scars.

Self-harm scars are incredibly personal.

The scars may fade, but they will never fully go away. Each person becomes who they are through their unique life experiences. Some decisions, like self-harm, may not make sense to others, but understood or not, they are sincere and honest actions. No one self harms for no reason. It does something for each of us. We wouldn’t do it otherwise.

As an adult who had self-harmed, I am part of the population who don’t fit the stereotype, and therefore, feel confined by my actions. We feel scared or ashamed of sharing our self-harm, so our painful stories go untold. Whether we started self-harming as an adult or carried this behavior on through adolescence and into adulthood, it becomes a deeply embedded coping mechanism.

Self harm is not fun. It’s not glamorous. It’s not just a teenage girl issue.

My scars don’t make we weak or crazy. They are a result of an overload of mental and emotional suffering.

Please don’t call me a cutter. I am more than my coping mechanism.

I am an adult, with self-inflicted scars.

While I have scars, I don’t want them to be the first thing people notice about me. I want them to see my character, my strength, my kindness and my candor. And if they do notice my scars, my hope is that they see them for the battle wounds that they are and the resilience I have built as a result of personal wars. They were born out of battle; a battle with my mind and experience. Unless you’ve been in that moment and had that internal struggle, it’s hard to understand what it’s like to feel like you’re losing yourself and losing control and the only way back is to hurt yourself. It’s like sawing your hand off because it’s the only way to save yourself.

I don’t hide my scars, nor do I flaunt them. It has taken nearly 15 years for me to get to this point, but I am proud of where I am. There was a time where long sleeves were my only option and finding a bathing suit that covered enough of my body took half of the summer, a bathing suit cover up and meticulous planning.

Even now, as I have reached a point in my life where I am generally comfortable with the white lines that nearly cover my forearms, there are times when I consciously wish them away. I don’t want to answer the questions they provoke. I don’t want relationships, friendships or potential employers to create preconceived ideas about who I am based on the fact that I have gone through extremely difficult life moments and my arms and legs did not make it through unscathed.

As an adult, this is not something I should feel ashamed about but it’s hard to be honest because many people simply do not understand.

However, I have found that sometimes showing my scars actually make me feel stronger and freer than constantly hiding them away. How important are my scars anyway? How important are they to others? My scars tell a story, but they definitely do not define who I am. Everyone has scars of one sort or another; mine just happen to run so deeply through me that surfaced through my skin and formed etchings of my own design.

I want to stand, unafraid in the face of judgment, and say, “I hurt and it shows, but I want it to stop,” and hope that I will neither be judged or shamed.

Instead, take my hand and try to understand.

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