Life In a Scar Suit

I always wear long sleeves, whatever the weather, so I don’t see my own skin a lot. But I just looked down at my arms and reeled in shock. They are at their least shocking ever, because I haven’t self harmed (apart from a few tiny-calm-down scratches during the summer’s high 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.  They are much better than that now.  But it’s not just my arms.  My face, my legs, my chest, my neck.  Everywhere.

Sometimes I struggle to remember why I did it. I often gave reasons I’d read about, rather than my own reasons, when discussing it with doctors.  I have never liked talking about it, or even acknowledging it.  I was secretive, evasive.  For the most part, I guess, it was to be calmer. I rarely self harmed when I was depressed- it was usually when I was agitated. I did it too because I hated my appearance. That was difficult to explain. Why disfigure yourself when you already feel ugly? I butchered myself. I treated my own body- the only one I will ever get, however unreliable it is, however ugly I find it- like it was a piece of meat.

I can’t imagine doing it again. The urge died in me a long time ago, I guess when I started to believe more in my own worth. I still don’t like my appearance- I don’t think I ever will- but I know people love me for more than my appearance, know my body is just a vessel. Still. I wish it were a more beautiful one. I wish I hadn’t wilfully made it uglier and that, no matter how well I am, I have that reminder to carry with me.  And, unless I continue hiding as I do, it is for other people to see, and to judge me by.  Not just strangers, and friends.  But doctors, too.  I still have to pull my sleeves up when I go to my GP.  Despite the fact I haven’t self harmed in years, and despite the fact I have never sought medical attention for it, I’m still treated as a self harmer.  Still-wrongly- seen as someone impulsive and self destructive.  I may as well have branded the words into my skin.

It is good, in a way, that my scars finally have the power to shock me, as they have shocked so many other people over the years. People have always winced and I failed to see what the fuss was about.

Now I see.

And with it is the sad, immensely sad, realisation that I am going to be living in this scar suit for the rest of my life. I will be buried in it, too.

14 Responses

  1. 😦 I’m so sorry you’ve been through this.

    *thousands of hugs*

  2. But you stopped. And now you don’t have the urge to do it. And you see your worth. That is beautiful.

  3. The urge died in me a long time ago, I guess when I started to believe more in my own worth…

    And with it is the sad, immensely sad, realisation that I am going to be living in this scar suit for the rest of my life. I will be buried in it, too.

    As awful as it that those scars remain – and without a desire to sound like a Hallmark Card – it’s splendid to hear that the inner wounds needn’t be so permanent.

  4. I saw your self-harm post last week, the randomiser picked it out for me, and I will admit I was a little shocked. I don’t know what I had expected, but it was all a bit more….. well, serious and permanent. I don’t understand the self-harm bit, (nor the BDD bit for that matter). Since I am a natural naturist I come at these things from completely the other direction, all bodies are different, all bodies are imperfect, all bodies are equally worthwhile and everybody must be accepted for what they are. (I by the way am a short, fat, bald, bearded, old, ugly bastard; but I don’t give a crap.)

    I thought about it a bit over the next few days and now I can’t see any difference between your scars and tattoos, which by the way I don’t understand either, and for exactly the same reasons. When you think that most people who get tattoos eventually regret them and the lengths they go to in order to try to cover them up, the comparison is more striking. I am sorry that anyone has scars, but more sorry that we all have scars that no-one ever sees.

    Be good to yourself, and keep well.

  5. I have a sort of tender, gentle feeling towards my own scars that I don’t think I could really explain at the moment. For what it’s worth, it is beyond inappropriate for your GP to do that to you–that’s not treating you as a self-harmer, it’s treating you as a child.

  6. Neen, it isn’t a scar suit. It’s your skin, your very precious skin that, despite being hurt in the past, still does its job. It’s part of you and you shouldn’t hate it or feel ashamed of it.

  7. Scars are proof that you are alive.

    My neck scar used to shock people and upset them. (Wisdom teeth extraction gone horribly wrong, has been closed and is now finally mostly invisible) To them it was horrible, especially when it was still open and livid purple.

    To me, it was a sign that I survived something that did it’s damnest to kill me. I’m not proud that it happened, but I’d rather have that scar than be dead and having nothing at all.

    And it’s a reminder to be grateful. A half hour’s time, and I wouldn’t be here to tell you about it.

    I know it’s not the same neccessarily for you, but you did survive, and you ARE here, telling me about it. I’m glad that you did.

  8. When I was 18 years old, they took out my entire thyroid, leaving me with a huge scar all over my neck, and with little ability to cover it up. Even though it’s faded away for the most part, it’s still the first thing I see when I look in the mirror, and I still feel like it’s ruined the only part of my body I used to like. But I did use to have fun with it. I told people that ninjas had caught me in a back ally. Some other time, I might have written that it makes me stronger, for what I’ve gone through, and sometimes, I really feel that way. I don’t right now, instead it just makes me upset, but it is true, even if we don’t feel it at the moment. When I see the wrinkled and scarred faces of my elders, they remind me that scars are what skin is there for. To collect the experiences of a lifetime, even the bad. Consider asking your doctor if there is any cream you might use, either to make the scars fade a little or to help make you more comfortable.

  9. I try to keep my scars hidden too. The long hot months almost kill me. I know they are marks of the mental distress i was in at the time. But i think most people i know would see them as a sign of weakness. And that people who care for me would want to say something to me about them, want some assuance that if i felt like that again i would turn to them.
    But these scars are mine , they were never for others to see and to judge. I dont want pity or scorn.. I want them ignored the way you ignore someones unsightly mole.
    I know a child psychologist who has scars all over her forearms, she wears short sleeves and a big grin everytime i see her. How i envy her. She seems not to care that her scars are there and who may see them. Me, i cant go swimming, i do the dishes in long sleeves, i have to wear cardigans at work, i avoid blood tests and its long sleeves all the time for me! , so i can relate to this post seaneen. Glad the blog is still in action , looking forward to some published work from u someday. (soon please!)

  10. Yeah, make up a cool story. Get tattoos.

  11. I self harmed for a solid 5 years and then on and off for another two. Recently i have been under so much pressure, the list of things i have to contend with is huge and it is so tempting to go back to it. I relied on self harm so much when i was younger and it was such a knee jerk reaction to anything bad that happened that i never really learnt any safe or sensible coping mechanisms. However reading this has reminded me of some of the reasons i must not. Thank you so much. You have summed up in a page a lot of the things i have been trying to explain to doctors, family, partners and myself for so many years.

  12. Also it took me years and years but i now no longer wear long sleeves all the time. It was so hard to do at first, i felt that everyone was staring and it made me incredibly uncomfortable and anxious….BUT i worked through it and it is so rewarding. My scars are a lot less visible these days but still obviously SH scars but i like that if someone asks i will be honest and open (most of the time) and actually talk to the person and show them i’m not “insane” or “nuts”, i’m just a normal person that had/has mental health problems. I like to think it’s opened a couple of people’s minds.

    It is SO hard and it takes courage but it’s so nice not having to hide and suffer in silence any more.

  13. The *great* thing about death + a few months, is that whatever we don’t like about our bodies will soon dissolve into the earth.

    I spent a bit of time meditating with a skeleton a few months ago. (They had one set up in meditation posture in the Walking Chamber where I did me retreat). Made me almost get over my girl’s hips. Almost.

  14. My son is a 31 year old Type 1 rapid cycling mixed states kind of guy. He, also, has lots of scars on his arms. His are from multiple attempts to end this…rather than specifically self-harm. However, self-harm and impulsive suicide attempts are not so different…are they? In each case, they are the visible leftover from intense pain, anguish, heartache, angst, and all of that…. The stuff that makes life hard to bear. He, too, is ashamed of his scars…also has some on his face….and wears long sleeves in public. All I can say is that you and he and the rest who struggle through this are the brave ones…the courageous heroes. Because you keep getting up and doing it again…day by day. Medications help my son, but he is never really ok. I want you to know…that I am your fan. You talk openly on this blog…and so many are no longer alone. I hope my son will talk to you too. You are both old souls… May tomorrow bring sunshine for you.

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