What Lurks Beneath My Sleeves: Goodbye to self harm.

I spent a lot of last night wrapped in a bath towel examining my body.  It’s strange to notice and acknowledge your skin but have very little feeling towards it.  It’s kind of like babysitting someone else’s child.  Or looking at the meat in the butcher’s window and being unable to imagine what the animal looked like when it was alive.

I haven’t self harmed for a year.  I just stopped a habit of almost a lifetime.    There was no dramatic going on strike, no downing of the razor blades.  It just happened that it didn’t happen.  I never thought I’d stop self harming, but I did, and it’s weird.   Even though all the mental terribleness of last year, I didn’t do it, didn’t feel the urge to do it.  At the moment it feels as though that part of me has gone.

(Reading all this back, it sounds melodramatic).

It used to be as much part of my day as making a cup of tea, and had the same uniform banality.  It used to horrify people, and their horror would be utterly lost upon me.   I always shrugged somewhat, and it’s not something I even really talk about.  I just never felt that it was a big thing.  Even as I write about it I’m aware of my own dispassionate tone.  It’s not something that’s shocking to me, yet when I see scars or wounds or burns on other people, my heart twists.   I want to hug them.  Or shout at them.

I kept it all very secretive, but invariably, my sister found out. She used to clean me up in the bathroom.  I felt horrible for putting her in that position, and I felt worse when my mother found out and was furious that Paula hadn’t told her.  

Initially, they thought it was a “phase” (I mean, c’mon, I was a Manic Street Preachers fan…), but then it kept going on, I hid more, and my mental health began to fall apart.  They just assumed that I was on drugs. In hindsight it’s easy to spot that I had manic depression, it’s easy to see that I wasn’t well.  Hindsight is a bitch, though.

I hurt myself out of self hatred, out of panic and out of the desire to calm down, when I didn’t know why I couldn’t be calm, and didn’t know what was happening to me.  I cut, burned and drank bleach.  I was scared and very lonely for a long time.   It wasn’t just me who was suffering.  My family suffered, every relationship I’ve ever had has suffered.  Everyone I was with tried to  help me stop doing it, including two who had self harmed as well.   But it was something I needed to stop myself.

I am absent from a school portrait in the year 1999 (whoops) because, as I was standing there, amongst my peers and my teacher, blood began to pulsate through my white school shirt as a wound reopened (self harm rule number 1- only robotic movements are allowed.  Stretch your arms and the wounds will open like a zipper).  I hastily grasped my arm with my hand but it began to seep out between the valleys of my fingers, and I left the room, found my jumper and wrapped some toilet roll around my arms.  And that was in the good old days, when my self harm was confined to a small area of my wrist.   I used to cover it up with my watch, and it was disgusting to peel it off, it was covered in gunk and blood. I remember feeling so humiliated, having been, “discovered”.

I used to have a “clean” arm that I proudly displayed when people suspected me of self harm.  That arm was clear and youthful and untouched for about a year before it was swallowed up like the other one.  And I earned a reputation as a bit of a cold fish as I winced from touch.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be touched, it’s just that it hurt to be.

As it became more extreme, I became more secretive.  There were times I needed stitches, and times I froze with shock and pain, but I never did anything, never went anywhere.  The only time I ever got stitches was due to a large wound on my face (partly accidental).

I do get upset about it sometimes.  My friends say, “You have BDD, you’re not ugly” but I have genuinely disfigured myself.  I have a real, concrete reason to be paranoid, and ironically, the violence was partially born out hating my appearance.  I just made it worse.   I wear make up nearly constantly (though these days I am managing to sometimes go without, so that’s good, and thanks to CBT), which is partly because of the scars on my face.  It is exhausting and uncomfortable.  It takes me ages to put it on because I freak out about it.  I am always late, and the worse I feel, the more make up I wear, so I look like the Joker half the time.  And I feel ridiculous sometimes.

I cover up.  I could, of course, not, but I am far too self conscious for that.  I don’t want to be seen and more than that, I don’t want to be seen as an “attention seeker”.   On the occasions I’ve not covered up and attempted to be open about it, people have disdainly bitched about me behind my back.

The summer is horrendous.  The scars itch and burn, and I have to wear cardigans, gloves and sleeves constantly.   My clothes become a moving prison, and I feel older, far older than those whom are my age drifting idly down the chlorine bright streets in strappy tops.  In the winter my skin is nearly purple.

When I watch romantic propaganda on TV, I feel very sad when I see someone stroke their lover’s arms.

In my dreams I have no scars and feel the breeze on my skin.  In which I’m wearing dresses.  And one some days when self awareness strikes me and I take a look in the mirror, I want to cry.  And I have a patch of skin on my shoulder that is bare and smooth and beautiful and I touch it as if it were silk.  It’s like a little piece of who I could have been.

The scars look good.  They look better than they’ve ever looked.   I still scrupulously cover up but they’re not so vivid, so painful looking as they were.  The scars on my legs, chest, stomach and face aren’t so bad at all.   I call my facial scars my “cat’s whiskers”.  Wearing low cut tops is still a problem in warm or cold weather, as the scars become quite red then.  The scars on my legs and stomach frustratingly resemble stretchmarks.   The scars on my arms mean that they look slightly swollen, discoloured and misshapen.  There hasn’t been any new additions for a long time.   They have faded, and they will continue to fade.

That’s the problem with self harm, though.  You’re left with the scars.  I think that, after a year, they should magically lift from your skin, like some sort of great crotchetted bird, and fly away.  Instead the realisation dawns on you that you’re going to get married (or in my case, probably not), write your first book, have a child and die with these scars on your body.  They tell the world that something’s wrong with you, that you’re “crazy” (who wants to be friends with the crazy person?  Who trusts the crazy person with their children, or their secrets?) and people shrink away. I have seen that flicker of fear, disgust and pity in peoples’ eyes when I’ve raised my hand to my face and my sleeve has slipped down my wrist.   It makes me cringe every time, because I’m not crazy.   I am genuinely Scarred For Life.  And it’s crap.  And I did it to myself.

But would I miss them, if they were gone?   I remember each one, from the first to the last.  They are still part of me.

I’m not one for posting visceral images, nor have I ever been the type of person who ghoulishly seeks them out. (There are reasons, I know, but I find it a bit ghoulish.  And posting them feels, even now, this one time, to be “attention seeking”.  I really hope nobody loses respect for me for this).  I’ve never joined a self harm support group or anything like that, so aside from the odd errant photos other people take on the days I’m around people I trust indoors, nobody ever really sees my scars.

And  here comes my first ever trigger warning:  you know the deal.  Please don’t look at these images if you think it would be bad for you.

If you’ve ever been curious, this is what lurks beneath my sleeves.

I’ve used High Pass Sharpening and turned down the brightness of these photos because the flash was too bright.

This is my formally “clean” arm.

So that’s what’s ten years worth of scars look like, at the beginning of the end.

84 Responses

  1. What a lot of pain to have had to bleed out. I’m sorry.

  2. Wow Seaneen
    I think posting those images is very brave of you and hopefully will stop someone reading goign down that path. It’s good that you can look back on last year and see that you achieved something even if you have not found that ellusive cure.
    I hate that other people look at scars and tut, or say something hurtful or the rest that just avoid looking. I once got told I was disgusting in a gym. But that’s ignorance for you. its a catch 22 as covering up avoids comments but whilst we hide away it will always be taboo

  3. That WAS brave, and they really do look like they are fading – you can almost tell which ones are the oldest. Mine never seem to show up at all in some lights, but if I get cold I do get the look of someone who has been sprayed across the arms with Ribena.

    Sometimes when you write these posts they almost feel like they are scars that you are fading away by writing them. Coming to terms with the destruction left by mental illness is almost as hard as coming to terms with the uncertainty of the future, but as always you do it gracefully. I hope you make the chance to shed those sleeves one day,

    Lola x

  4. Ouch! that’s what I thought looking at the pictures.

    Bit of a miletstone stopping even if it wasn’t like weaning off a habit. Something you just did.

    Whatever happened, reckon it was a positive happening for you.


  5. You stopped me. I’ve been thinking about it. Today at work I took an exacto knife, broke it out of the package, and handled the cool silver handle. I put it in my desk drawer — just for a bit — and checked in on my own blog and the ones I read. Your post came up first in the list.

  6. Oh Seaneen, yet again your words resonate with me. I am scarred, and most of the time it does not really bother me, i am trying to come to peace with them, but at the same time, it can catch me unaware and i feel so guilty/sad for myself, knowing that i will look like that forever.

    Yet, if I see someone elses scars, it sort of triggers me. I feel awful, and actually a bit shocked, which I shouldn’t. I feel odd when I see them, and usually have to remove myself somewhere else


  7. Well done for stopping Seaneen, and for your courage in showing them. It is positive. Take care, D

  8. You are a warrior, you fought long and brave, you got scars: they are your golden medals.


    • Dude. I self injure as well. I am African American and I was thinking about posting pics to my blog because I have alot of followers who are dealing with their own issues and I feel that it will not only give them strength to not be afraid of who they are or they experiences (Like you did for me just now, DAMN! I thought I was bad, and I mean in that in good way) but also be a sacrifice so they can choose other paths. Not to say it didnt help me or didnt help you, but their are alternatives….I just didnt find any in time….but you are Brave and I commend you. I dont feel ashamed anymore…

  9. Just a thought.. (probably disjointed sorry)

    My arms are pretty much idential expect for a few particularly thick raised and indented ones from more recent times. It’s been a year as well since I last self harmed. Recently my old psych nurse from a self harm group told me she’d support an application for plastic surgery on the NHS if and when I wanted to.(Her argument against the opinion of it being “cosmetic” is that it’ll help me recover) I went to my GP last month and got the ball rolling. I have my first appointment on the 19th.

    This is not to say your scars are anything to be ashamed of, I just guess, or at least for me ( I also experience the hellish summers and layered look) to have them improved would make life so much more easier.

    I showed my arms for the first time in Australia when I went swimming with the kids. They didn’t freak out like I expect everyone to; they wanted to kiss them better.

    Take care of yourself. You’re really brave. x

  10. I just wrote a really long comment and then my laptop reset itself. Argh!

    I wanted to say how brave you are for bearing yourself to us like this, in the most literal sense. I am so sorry for all the pain you have obviously been through. I cannot imagine the hurt from those scars.

    Like L – I usually find scars triggering. In fact, seeing recent wounds by someone who has self-harmed is almost always triggering and almost always has me harming myself within a few hours.

    For some reason though your scars are not. I think it is the intensity of them and the fact they are healed and fading. They are like old war wounds and they somehow stop me wanted to go down that route. I see how you have stopped and it makes me want to.

    I am so ashamed of my scars. For that reason there are very few on my arms and I almost always wear short sleeves. That stops me. My legs however are covered in purple squiggles. They show up most when it is cold or hot. My partner hates them and is angry with me for them. His anger doesn’t fade though although the scars will eventually. My scalp is worst though, for they are sadly still fresh wounds, not purely scars. Hair hides a million sins, but of course that makes it easier to carry on.

    Thanks for this post though. I hope you will not go back to your broken habit and hear is to many more harm-free years!

    Thanks xx Take care!

  11. I hope your scars fade one day. I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known that one day I would be well and happy BUT STILL HAVE THE FRICKING SCARS. Aargh.

    You are very brave, and I mean that. I wish I could sort of give you something nice, like a smile or a hug or a sunflower.

    *gives Seaneen an internet smiley* 🙂

  12. A big hug, to you and your scars (the ones that are fading and the ones that remain).

  13. it might be worth putting a trigger warning on those photos – i found them quite triggering and apart from the odd blip i’ve not s/hed for a while either.

    well done on stopping – i stopped about 2 years ago actually (it’s longer than i thought!) – unofficially this doesn’t work as i have done it on and off since then but very much more off than on and not in a persistent way. just once or twice here and there.

  14. About the itching and burning thing – I’ve heard that scars do burn much more easily than the rest of the skin, and they basically need to be covered with high-factor sunscreen whenever they might be in bright sunlight (covered or uncovered). My little sister spilt about a pint of boiling water on her leg last year, and we’ve found that it really helps, especially with preventing discolouration in the sun.

  15. I wanted to punch the bastard who stabbed you all over.

    Manic Depression=bastard.

  16. Thank you for your courage and honesty. I am a self-mutiliator, a cutter. I feel like it’s always looming over me, the urges, the manic-depression that spurs it on. I identify with you so much. To some extent it makes me feel less alone in the craziness.

    I am starting a blog devoted to the journey through mental illness. There’s so much I am angry about, so much I have done to hurt myself and even within the pain, there is a sometimes a bit of joy that I find and cling to.

    I just wish I had some piece of mind…


  17. *hugs*. I know how much pain is involved with any self-harm. I’m glad you’re getting better.

    btw – when I went on holiday before Christmas in SE Asia I decided to wear short sleeves. When people there inevitably asked about my scars I said I had been in a motorcycle accident (they all get around on 125cc Hondas there). It’s more common for people to have scars in that part of the world as health and safety at work and in traffic isn’t what it is here. Apart from people interested in the accident details, I had no problems.

    You could lie and tell people you were in an industrial accident, if you wanted to wear short sleeves…

  18. My brother self-harms on occasion and he has the scars to prove it. He’s never made it a regular habit but when he does I don’t know what so say to him. I tend to move the conversation on because that’s the only thing I can think of to: to just be a friend by acknowledging it and then getting on with other things. I certainly don’t want to critics or judge him for it. And I also don’t think saying “well stop it!” will do much either so I am at a loss for words when he shows me. Usually I make some exclamation when he shows me what he’s done but have no idea where to go from there.

    I have some scars on my left arm but I don’t quite regard that as self-harming since it was an attempt to kill myself by slashing my wrist. Self-harming is hardly ever about killing oneself, so I put my scars in a different – albeit somewhat related – category.

    Anyhow, I’ve just caught up on all your recent posts, Seaneen. I’m glad you had a relatively happy Christmas: a Christmas you can look back on with some nice memories unilke some of the previous Christmases you’ve had. I hope you have a much happier 2009 and than the 2008 and I really look forward to hearing your play in May.

    I shall try to get around to listening to Rob’s album at some point too.

    Take care.

  19. Ah, thank you for the advice, words and general loveliness chaps. Surgery is something I am considering.

    I’m glad I stopped you. It is not worth it.

  20. I think you are extremely brave for putting these photos on the Internet. There is so much shame surrrounding self-harm and it hurts me to my heart that you seldom wear anything with short sleeves.

    I know the pain of having to hide body appendages. I used to self-harm on my arms, my legs, my belly, my breasts. For a long time I would only wear long sleeves. But the shame ate me up. I decided that I wouldn’t let other people make me feel bad about myself so I started wearing short sleeves and eventually tank tops. I still get looks and stares. I just tell them to take a picture, it lasts longer. It wasn’t easy at first, but it did get better wearing short sleeves.

    You have nothing to be ashamed of, so why hide?



  21. My scars look similar, though possibly not as many. Since I’m a guy and have dark hair, that obscures the ones on the back of my forearms quite well. My shoulders are pretty much just webs of scar tissue, though.

    Last year, after I started wearing short sleeves, my therapist asked me if I’d choose to get rid of them if there was some simple treatment that could do that. My answer surprised me. I’d keep them. I’m still not entirely sure why. I think maybe it’s just that I don’t think they’re something I should have to hide. For the first few months after I started not hiding them I was intensely aware of them whenever I went out. I sometimes forget that they’re there. It’s still weird wearing t-shirts to work on dress-down Fridays.

    For the most part people seem to take their cue from me about how they should feel about my scars. When I was hiding my scars, people would follow my lead and, if I slipped up, they’d treat them as something secret that I should be ashamed about. Now that I’m obviously not concerned about people seeing them, people don’t seem concerned that they’re there. But it was difficult getting to that point and the bit in the middle where I had my scars showing and was horribly uncomfortable about it was pretty awful.

    I sometimes wonder what the secret self-harmers around me at work (statistically there must be a few of them) think about me and my scars.

  22. Bloody Manics Fans eh?
    Seriously though, this post is brave and honest and eloquent, everything you so readily are.

  23. Seaneen,

    I am speechless at your bravery. It was HUGE to post this and no, it’s not attention-seeking.

    You are an example to self-harmers that they have the opportunity to get better.

    You had so much pain and look at you….you are gorgeous, a wonderful writer, charming and your soul is burning so brightly it scorches our eyes. You have come SO far and I hope you are proud of yourself.

    I think those marks can be a reminder of where you’ve been and where you aren’t anymore.

    Thank you so much for sharing. It took a lot of guts!


  24. Thanks for this Seaneen… this is an incredible post. I was just telling Emma (eccedentesiast) there is so much we can learn about our recovery from the people who have gone before us… about how important it is to understand that our reactions to what’s going on inside us are normal, that we’re not failures or freaks for feeling how we do or for acting out in the ways we do. And the best way to show that is to collect as many examples as possible… there’s just so much raw power in honesty. Thanks for posting this, I know it’s going to help.

  25. Seaneen,

    Thank you.

  26. Excellent post hun thank you.

    My arm looks deformed (this has been said by others, nice huh?) But I’ve only cut twice in the last 9 months I think but I’ve stopped keeping track. I’m very rarely triggered and haven’t had urges since the end of November, which gives me a sense of relief in its self. Well done on stopping, you’re right you have to do it for yourself, I’ve tried stopping so many times for other people and it just hasn’t worked. In April last year I just decided that was it, cut twice in October/November and thats been it. You’ve seen the cuts I’ve made on photobucket which I didn’t realise anyone could see, thanks for warning me lol. But anyway, here’s to less scars and more healing 🙂

    x x x x

  27. I stopped about a year and a half ago, and I definitely feel a twinge about the scars. Every lover I’ve had has been somewhat dense and required an explanation. I have to think very carefully about the clothes I buy. But as they fade, I think it gets easier to accept them. Not like them or hate them, but just accept them as any other part of the body, like the mole on my shoulder or the birthmark on the back of my leg or the spot on my knee where I wrecked my bike as a kid. The emotional load of them just sort of recedes with time. And I think it will always be a little sad, but hopefully it will be a nonissue. Years from now, as your skin heals and therapy continues to work its stuff, I hope you will walk down the street in shirtsleeves, and maybe someone will ask, and you’ll just shrug and remark that it was something that happened very long ago. And that will be all. *hug*

  28. thanks for the trigger – i don’t think i’d really asked for them before as i’m not generally that easily roused, but i think some people are quite easily triggered.

    i thought your post was excellent as well, btw.

  29. […] prefix the rest of the post by saying that a more optimistic post about self harm can be found here by the wonderful Seaneen.  It is also likely to be more articulate.  I can’t really excuse […]

  30. […] Interesting: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive reflects on self-harm scars. That’s the problem with self harm, though. You’re left with the scars. I think that, after a […]

  31. Thankyou for such a poignant post, which had me both smiling and crying.
    I have some similiar scars, although not as many. Like you I had a clean arm for a while too, until an urge to make everything symetrical overcame me. Most of them have faded to little white marks now, but there are a couple which will always be obvious. I alternate between hating them and liking them. They represent my pain, my anger, my desperation. But other people only see madness. I cover up all the time now.
    Well done on stopping. It’s been several months for me now and the urges are less frequent than they were.

  32. Seaneen, this is one of the most touching, honest posts I have read. Sometimes there are no words,but it touched my heart.

  33. Thank you for your post and for being so brave as to posting the photos. My forearms have many long, vertical scars, upper arms short vertical scars, lower legs, many burns…you get the message. And like your one arm, i “used” to have my thighs, but no more…
    thank you again,

    PS i’m so very sorry your mom was so horrible…

  34. No fear, disgust or pity. Just a whole lot of understanding and compassion.

  35. this is a really great post molloy! i think putting the pictures up is a great idea as well nobody really things about what they’ll be left with xxx

  36. @ Tracy:

    My mum wasn’t horrible. She reacted out of shock and fear. It was a natural reaction. She’s very supportive now.

  37. My dear Seaneen

    I’ve got them too, just my arms. I cut when I was in my forties (older than that now….) because my bipolar was misdiagnosed. I’m OK now, but like you still bear the marks. I hope you like the lyric below – it spoke to me immediately the first time I heard it, but I’m still plucking up courage to sing it – Susannah McCorkle’s version is stunning. She had bipolar too.

    I am so glad you don’t need to do it now. Nor do I and long may that last for us both.

    Love from JB


    (lyrics by Fran Landesman
    music by Simon Wallace)

    Don’t be ashamed
    Everybody’s got scars
    From our various wars
    On the way to the stars

    Don’t try to hide
    Everybody’s got scars
    From crash-landing on Mars
    With these egos of ours

    There’s the one on your knee
    Where you fell off your bike
    Or the bite from a guy
    You could love but not like
    There’s the mess that you made
    Without counting the cost
    Or the cut from a blade
    Or the child that you lost

    Don’t be ashamed
    If you’re covered with scars
    That’s the way we keep score
    On this planet of ours
    I’ll show you my scars
    If you show me yours

    In the streets and the bars
    Everybody’s got scars
    On their way to the stars
    Everybody’s got scars

  38. Seaneen, Im so proud of you. I cant belive you have put these on the web. To all who dont know seany personally she hides the scars even from her family so I see this as a huge step. Up close even I was shocked but I know they are getting better and thats all that really mattes. What doesnt kill us makes us stronger and you are the perfect example of how people can turn their lives around.

    love you


  39. “who wants to be friends with the crazy person?”

    *Hands Up*

    I’ll take this particular “crazy person” over a lot of supposedly “sane” people that I’ve had the displeasure of knowing. You (and your lovely chap) are thoroughly enjoyable company and will be very welcome at the seaside!

    Hope to catch up with you in 2009.
    B X

  40. hey
    felt compelled to reply to this post. my first reaction to ur photos was of comfort and relief… to realise i’m not the only one with arms like mine (ours look almost identical) in the last couple of years i’ve been working up to letting people see. first my housemates, then not covering up if people came round…. now if when i’m at my parents house i still cover up in front of my mum but not so much my brothers and dad.

    when i start my clinical years at medical school (next year) I’ll have to wear short sleeves (well to the elbow anyway) so thats what I have to work towards. I’m still scared about the reactions of other health professionals (had plenty of negative ones over the years – enough to give me a complex about ti) and patients

    I’m learning to come to terms with my scars – tho i still feel ugy. Learning to come to terms with other peoples reactions to my scars is much harder.

    i hope as i get older (im 23) aand grow stronger i’ll have the confidence to say ‘screw u’ to everyone and nto have to cover my scars all the time.

    my friends are amazing tho and dont react at all to them and dont care. 😀 once people get past the inital shock most people are pretty good abot it


  41. Hi Seaneen

    Long time no speak but I still pop into your blog every now and then when I get a chance between work and cats and life in general :-). As someone who saw your scars accidentally (not sure whether you will remember this but we were in that cafe near the Old Bailey on your first day at work) and understood them for what they were, I wasn’t horrified or shocked but I was surprised and I winced at the pain they must have caused you both in making them and having to make them. I also understand now the trust you must have had in me to show me them properly.

    Would still love to catch up sometime – it doesn’t have to be a pub, a cafe will do. Hope your kitty got over the bookshelf okay.

    Stay gorgeous (because you are, both inside and out)

    Sam xx

  42. I commend you for sharing this part of your life with the world, Seaneen, and for finding the will and the way to stop. I’ve known other individuals who did similar things to their bodies & my heart always ached. I remember you once showing some pictures, if I recall, of your face & legs. Am I correct in that?

    Anyway, I wish I could give you a huge hug.

  43. Orodwen, no. I posted my face when I was covering up cuts with concealer, but that’s it.

    And thank you everyone, and hello Sam, I remember 🙂

  44. […] I haven’t self harmed in a long time and I want to keep it that way.  Right now, though, I can barely look at myself and with that utterly frustrating hopelessness at being stuck in this body comes the desire to strike out at it.  I realised that I’ve been constantly seeking assurances from people that I don’t look strange.  I feel swollen and odd, my body feels distorted.   I am constantly on the verge of tears.   I can’t help but feel that it’s an ordeal for other people to have to look at me. […]

  45. As a former self injurer (4) years I want to thank you for posting this, its reminded me that I never want to go back to that.

  46. I’ve always felt so alone.
    Because I never met another person who had self-injured to the point I have.
    I think there is a difference – neither good or bad – between people who don’t understand that extent of self injury and those who do.
    I feel… better… to know there is someone who feels the same I do.
    I am scarred… as bad or worse than you. I am so… ashamed. I have the same worries and agonies about living life this scarred. I haven’t self-injured in over three years. I am PROUD of that. But even though I’ve stopped I can’t get rid of my scars.
    I HATE knowing that I’ll live with this for the rest of my life. I did this for a little over ten years… to think that for the next thirty, forty, fifty years of my life I will have to always carefully plan what I wear and how I present myself so as not to offend or get weird looks or have to explain… I shudder to think about if I ever got into a relationship – how on EARTH would I explain this? This is part of my past, I don’t want this… insanity… connected with me. But I am scarred from head to toe and NOTHING will change that.
    One day, maybe I’ll adjust. But its been three years and, while my scars are better than they were… they will always be visible, always be plain… and I can’t escape.
    I always feel so different even from people who say they self-injure, because their self-injury and my self-injury are light years away.
    I gave up three years to a hospital, I only went to a few months of high school, and I’m a bundle of scars… I’m different enough. I’m only 20.
    I’m PROUD of myself, stopping what few thought I could.
    But I’m not proud of the things I did to myself all those years.
    Sometimes I wish I could just erase this.
    I can’t tell how … oddly pleased I am to ‘meet’ you – or read what you wrote. Maybe you can understand that. When you think no one can understand what you’re going through, and then find out – there are other people who cut to those lethal levels – and RECOVERED. That’s the thing. There are people who cut that badly, I’m sure, out there (though few and far between). But there are so few people who get over this, who stop.
    I used to think that the people who ever truly recover are those who, like me, lost EVERYTHING from it. Whose life became the self injury and they had nothing else and who decided that, given the choice, life was better than death or life trapped in an institution. If I hadn’t lost everything, I don’t think I could have recovered.
    But it could have easily gone the other way.
    I don’t think I’ll ever go back.
    Anyway, thank you for posting this. Seriously.
    And I’m sorry about the rant. I just am … yeah.
    You are an amazing writer.
    Thank you.

  47. Thank you for writing this post.

    I am at a similar point in my life, the cause of my self injury is slightly different from yours but the damage the same. I, now 25, si-ed for 2 years (when I was 19) and destroyed my left arm. Even though I hate the fact that for the rest of my life I will be dealing with the scars on my arms I can not really picture it any other way.

    As silly as this sounds I usually feel like I am different from everyone else, alone in the world (Especially because I am a male and all self injury resources are directed at females.) I feel something like what Clark Kent must feel during the day, knowing who he is to everyone is a lie. Bottling up so much potential just to fit in.

    But it feels nice, in a weird sort of way, to know that I am not alone in this. And that the way I am feeling is… is common.

    Good Luck to you
    and thank you for your words

  48. I just wanted to say that you have a wonderful way of writing, it was quite beautiful to read ❤ also your insecurites about seeming like you may be attention seeking or melodramitcwere greatly unfounded. It didn't come over that way at all.

    Well done to you for overcoming this and I hope that time will give you a little bit more confidence not to have to dress head to toe in the middle of summer. I know how hard that is. : )

    Chin up

    ★ ☆ Lola Doll ☆ ★

  49. Thanks for thi

  50. thanks for this moving post. I si’d for a long, long time and have not done so now for 6 years. I am now a mum, and a totally different person to the one who completely mutilated her body. Every single day I still feel sad that I can’t change my skin. I feel like I am still being punished for feeling so sad a long time ago, and finding the only way I could to get through things.

    My children think I have zebra stripes all over me – and I don’t know if I could ever tell them the truth. It is tough to be permanently covered up. I love to swim and can’t really do this anymore because of the stigma.

    I have a really good career now – but so much of my past is a big secret and I hate the summer time when everyone in the office is wearing strappy summer wear and I am wearing big cardies! I actually feel jealous every time I see a person walking with bare arms. And this is all as a result of things which happened such a very, very long time ago.

    The fact of the matter is, is that self injury attracts such a huge stigma. I can’t imagine ever being able to wear short sleeves or short skirts every again. Don’t get me wrong – I am proud that I stopped hurting myself – and proud of you and amazed at how eloquently you write. But I don’t think it gets easier….I just wish I had known how it would have felt such a long time after I got through this, that it would still dominate my life.

  51. I think your arms are still pretty. i have them not as bad as you but they kind of look alike. i like the scars and have no regrets and i dont diguss people who are destructive to themselves, i know what it feels like.. i dont allways cover my scars. if I want to wear a t-shirt, ill wear a tshirt, if someones insulting me ill tell them to fuck off. i mean.. scars are from the past. so theyre not even worth judging cause without scars i would be exactly the same person! i do have some trouble now with new scars, im feeling more guilty than ever, i know my reason but others dont, and they often never will. so theyll just end up disappointed. and thats just really unfortunate.

  52. Your story… Wow. Well, yesterday, I had a huge fight with my family. i couldn’t stop shaking, and crying, and he hit me, I am 17… I ran into my room, and all i could think was CUT CUT CUT. And i did, twenty times over and over again… And it relaxed me. Now i look at my wrists, slashed and I am sad… It didnt hurt enough. And then stumbling across your pictures. i was shocked! I am so sorry that you hurt like that. The shock factor was amazing. i need to stop before i hurt myself like you did. I am so sorry. Thank you, though, for shocking me into reality. ❤ I have been struggling with cutting since i was 15…
    I wish you the best of luck. :]

  53. i’ve seen and I’ve read all of the posts.. I do not self harm, but unfortunately my daughter does or did. to all you that have posted here, i wish i could just bundle you all up and give a big group hug. The stories that are told that triggers an episode, are just shocking as those that my daughter has also experienced, unfortunately i was not there to protect her from the cruelty and abuse she has had to deal with..
    Feeling helpless is an understatement. I pray for all of you that you can one day feel confident and unashamed of your scars. I can walk proudly with my daughter, regardless of the scars on her body,
    i am looking for a group support for not only my daughter but also for myself, to learn more about why and what triggers the episodes now, and for my daughter to see that she is not alone in all this trauma. I wish you all, the very best and please take care of yourselves, take that step, if your not seeing a psychologist, find one and confide in them….. you are precious to this world. Thank you for having the courage for posting your stories for other to perhaps avoid the harming and to seek alternative help.

  54. I have been cutting for about half a year. I understand that’s not a very long time, but it has still changed me. I don’t know what brought it on, but it became an addiction. I understand what you’ve been through, even if it is on a smaller scale.

    Your story has changed the way I view myself. I know that if you can just put it down, I can too. You have inspired me and I want to thank you very much for sharing my story. I want you to know that I do not think you’re “crazy” or ever were “crazy” because I know I’m not crazy either…and I’m a cutter.

    Thank you again for sharing and I wish you the best!

  55. Seaneen,
    when reading your post, i feel everything you felt, and i do too cover up. But after looking and reading, i look at my own scars and it finially sinks in that they will haunt me forever. After reading your post, i have taken my blade and put it in the bin.
    I know, later, i wil have that urge, so much that i will ruffle through the bin to relieve myself of the pain i can’t handle.
    But i would like to thank you, for opening up my eyes, hopefully this can help me stop x

  56. Wow – I just stumbled across this somehow from my random internet searches.
    It’s just such a sad story, and it’s just amazing that you have the strength to write about it now. I have had my hard times in my life but I have never been that far down the road as you were, and it’s just hard to imagine what you went through (and I suppose are still going through).
    I think it takes a lot of courage to even be able to talk about stuff like this, and I dont think it sounds like you were seeking attention (as this is a year old post haha). It’s really healthy to open up about stuff like this.
    It sounds like you’ve helped a lot of people by posting this, and that is just amazing. Thank you, in so many many ways.

  57. HI, i aprreciate your strength i have never have the courage to post your strength nor will i ever i feel that way but thx

  58. I dont feel alone anymore. Like seriously. Sometime I think I am only one…..

  59. wow… this is an extremely difficult thing to do.. i understand the anger you felt toward yourself.. and it is a very real, burning hatred. you are an extremely honest person, and although not everyone can be proud of their scars, i believe that there is a reason for you to be proud. you overcame this obstacle, and it made you stronger in the end. thank you for this inspiring story

  60. it was very brave of you to talk about your self injure, and i almost cried at the whole hiding away skin and future concepts since i think like that too.
    when i saw the pictures i thought ouch. it looks really painful. some of the scars look like mine. i don’t have nearly as many, have a bout 10 permanent deep cuts all together and a number of faint scratches. i always feel embarrassed about not wearing sleeves when it’s hot, but i don’t really have a choice since it gets just too hot to wear a jacket.
    i’ve managed to stop and gotten through some major difficulties and stress issues. i don’t want to start again since i want to be able to cover the scars i have easily enough on my wedding day, hopefully.
    the scars won’t ever go away they are permanent, even though i want to get rid of them, i also want to keep them. same as you really. they feel like apart of me now.

  61. i was wondering if i could put this on my blog.
    this really saved me, and i want people to know that i will be okay.


  62. Thank you.
    Like others have said, i, too thought i might be alone with this. Most people i have known who also self harm will perhaps have scratched themselves barely breaking the skin a few times. i know i know it’s not about the severity, but God, I wish my need was satisfied by a scratch.
    My arms are like yours. In fact, when i saw the pictures my initial thought was: ‘those are my arms.’
    i have met two people with similar scarring but they wouldn’t know that they had, as i keep my scars safely tucked away, always. My closest friends wouldn’t have a clue.
    It is so scary to think of a future with this sort of scarring. i can honestly say it has caused me to try and convince myself to give up my dream and career choice before it had begun. Still not sure on that one, but i hope i have the courage, like you, to out myself sooner or later. Maybe i’ll just say i got attacked by a very angry hamster. 😉

  63. Thank you i think you are very brave. my arms arnt this bad but im only young and i dont want my scars to hold me back. so im trying to stop. reading this gave me hope so Thankyou. xx

  64. […] a few tiny-calm-down scratches ages ago that didn’t even leave a mark) in such a long time. Two years ago, I posted photos of where my scars were at that point. Sometimes I struggle to remember why I did it. I often gave reasons I’d read about, rather […]

  65. Thankyou.
    You’ve given hope to someone who thought there was none.
    I’m genuinely so very sorry that you have had so much pain in your life…no one thinks any less of you for the photos. If anything, they are a testament to a part of your past and to how far you’ve come (as your scars are fading).
    I wish you all the best.

  66. Seaneen

    I have tried to post twice but my comp is playing up i just have to say you are so cool to put photo’s up.I am a male who is now 40 had a breakdown 6 years ago and although i had never self=harmed i ended up cutting for a couple of years.The reason i did it was to prove to myself that i was ill.Ive stopped now and have tried to cover them up with Tatt’s but still visable
    anyway much love from a plastic Padd in Lowestoft xx

  67. […] said and done, but self harm and my scars are a total no-go. I very rarely discuss it online (although I have posted photos here before, when I last tried to come to terms), I almost never talk about it in person. Occasionally Robert has caught me staring down at my […]

  68. […] comments… Accepting Life In th… on What Lurks Beneath My Sleeves:…Poppyshakespere on Would you want a mental mental…outwardlyintrovert on Would you want a […]

  69. I’m incredibly proud of you for posting this. It makes me feel less alone and know that there are others out there who have gone through this… I would enjoy talking to you more if possible.

  70. You know, I have a fresh, shallow wound on my leg right now, and it isn’t the first, nor the last I expect, but I was searching for information on how to not permanently damage yourself and I stumbled upon this post.
    I know it’s a few years old now, but I felt the need to put my thoughts into words.
    I never thought of my scars as something in need of hiding: I’ve only ever hid fresh wounds. It’s amazing how blind even your own family can be, sometimes. Of course, mine aren’t as bad as most in these pictures, but scars nonetheless. I don’t think of them as memories of wounds, or proof that I’m guilty of self harm. They’re a part of me as much as the rest of my skin, just newer parts.
    I don’t ever want to forget my pain, or what I’m going through. I am effectively forcing myself to remember in the process by gaining these scars. Sure, they will fade, but hey won’t disappear. They’re choices I’ve made, and situations I’ve avoided. They tell a story.
    However, I’ve made a decision tonight. I’ll choose a part of me to write that story on, and I’ll leave the rest alone for other stories, because I’d like to have tattoos, and if I some day feel like covering up my newest skin I’ll have that option.
    That’s all I had to say tonight, I guess. Thank you for reading.

  71. I have started self harming again only this time I’m cutting.. I use to burn my arm with straighteners that was about 2 years ago I’m nearly 15 now and my scars have nearly gone. I lost my granddad who I was really close to me but also I lost 2 people I know, which made me really hurt and I started thinking about self harming again but I took running up and it helped a lot, but just this Christmas I’ve felt worse than I usually do my parents are always having ago at me, and I just feel like I’m on my own! I don’t want to do this but I also don’t want to tell people. I just can’t cope with stuff anymore so if you have any others things I could do instead of self harm, I’d be great full.

  72. I think you are extremely brave, please don’t be ashamed.
    Some people don’t understand, but also,some people are horrendously ignorant. It is them who should be ashamed.

  73. You’re a life saver. I can’t even begin how helpful -I don’t know if ‘helpful’ is the right word, but nevertheless it was oddly calming to read this. Gives me strength somehow.

  74. You saved me from cutting tonight xxx

    Thank you for your post, I look like you and for a while I tried just wearing whatever I wanted to but I got so many comments from strangers about how ‘naughty’ I was to have cut that I’m ashamed to say I’ve reverted to long sleeves all year round.

    It’ll be Summer soon and I dread it. I hope I’m brave enough to wear short sleeves again. I hope we all are.

    Good luck everyone xxx

  75. too late i already cut tonight didnt do much for me but maybe next time i wont :/

  76. A self harmer of 40 years, badly scared and still going. I am judged daily by my scarred body but can’t hide my neck and face so am just honest and accept consequences.

  77. you’re beautifull!

  78. you are so so so brave i cant put it into words. thank you so much for sharing this. Im 15 (almost) and ive been searching for some kind of relief. A ritual. Self harm. But when i put the blade against my skin im always way too scared to push it deeper. I dont have the guts to make myself bleed. And after reading this, ive realised self harm is not a relief. Its the opposite – in the long run.
    You should be tremendulously proud of yourself, for being able to put up these photos and help others, without feeling ashamed. You are so strong and i dont know how to express what im feeling right now. Sorry this is probably a shit comment but im a bit overwhelmed i guess

    Just thanks, hope you have an amazing future. Xx

  79. That’s exactly what it is… The BEGINNING of the end they will fade much more – not completely but they will fade and you will learn to not be so afraid to show your arms xx

  80. I think that it’s beautifully brave of you to share your story. It’s very admirable. Stay strong.

  81. I get lots of comments on this post and want to say if you’re reading that I haven’t self harmed since.

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