The scar suit is how I refer to my body. My body! Isn’t that odd? It is how it feels, sometimes. As though I have been zipped in and trapped there and all I have to do is wriggle out one day.
I finished my first placement. I got really good reports (and flowers!) and feedback. I was blessed with an incredibly understanding mentor who I felt I could open up to about my mental health. It was something she saw as a positive. She saw my arms when I was practicising injection techniques then saw that as soon as someone walked in I hastily pulled my sleeves down.
I confided in her about my fears about my next placement, which is a medical placement. This means a uniform, bare above the elbow- my greatest of horrors, short sleeves.
She was amongst the few people who told me that this was something I needed to talk to university about. My scars aren’t the kind that you have to look hard to see. They are very noticeable. Even though they are 3 years old.
I have an odd relationship with them. I can talk forever about mental illness, I can discuss deep and shameful and embarrassing things I’ve 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 arms, looking puzzled, looking sad. He kisses my head and tells me I’m beautiful. Occasionally I feel like Polly in Girl, Interrupted, stricken with panic and horror at what I did to myself. That’s the kicker, really. I did this to myself. Even though the person that did it seems so far, so distant and unfamiliar now, I still did it. It was me. How could I hate myself so much I mutilated myself? And it is mutilation, there is no other word for it. “Self-harm”, “self-injury” doesn’t convey the aftermath, it doesn’t remember that the cuts leave the scars and the scars leave their scars on you and everything and everyone you touch. And so very hilariously, I went through most of my life believing I was deformed, that my nose was huge and I was an alien-looking hideum, and then when the delusion dissipates, the reality remains. Maybe in some way, to anchor myself in hatred, forever and forever, no matter how happy my life is or became, to mar every happy moment with a big, red welt. To hold my husband in my scarred arms and my child against my scarred chest and to never, ever be allowed to forget.
Or maybe not.
I spoke to my tutor about it, and she was great. She was incredibly understanding (as I would expect her to be, as she’s a mental health nurse), even though there is realistically nothing she can do. I have to go on a ward, at some point or another, the arms have to come out. I knew I needed to talk about it and I found it very hard to keep my voice even, found myself rambling and at points wanting to cry. Partly because she was so gentle and lovely about it. It’s the gentleness that makes me cry.
She asked to see them, which was difficult in itself. I absolutely hate anyone looking at my arms. I almost always keep on long sleeves, I spend my summers sweating and burning in coats and cardigans and this has been my life for the past 10 years, longer, in fact. I see women in light dresses drifting down the street and want to drift after them, in their aura, their freeness, to feel like that.
I hate what people think about me when they see them. That I must be violent (I’m not), that I must be fucked up (I’m not), that I must have been abused (I wasn’t), that I must be unstable (I’m not). It’s not a tan or vitiligo, it’s scarring and it is obvious what they are from. Once, two years ago, I was feeling particularly brave and went to Tesco in a t-shirt. On the way back, some twatty little shit slapped my arm as he ran past and laughed.
She mentioned my two long term options. One is surgery, which would have to be skin grafts. That in itself will leave a scar, but maybe a better one. It is an option I’m not discounting. The second is the Red Cross camoflage make up service which I referred myself to three months ago and who haven’t gotten back to me today (I emailed them today to chase them up).
Without these, what are my options? To accept them. To accept that my body is a little bit different, to accept that I once felt like that but I don’t anymore, to accept I have scars and that’s that, they are part of me, not some foreign, shameful thing. To reconcile who I am now with who I was then, to celebrate it. (Pride? I can’t imagine ever feeling pride). How sad, she said, to feel the need to cover up on your wedding day (many people have said this). This is the rational, well-meaning advice I have gotten time and time again which has always gotten the same response from me: It is easier said than done.
But I really can’t go the rest of my life like this. I can’t. It is time to accept them. This is my body. It’s not a scar suit.
To accept them means I will have to have responses ready for people who ask (and they will, and they do). To be quite strong in the face of that and to be calm. I hate that thought, though. I just want to be normal.
But to accept them means not living in heat and burning in the summer and not clutching onto my sleeves with my fingers when I talk to people. To feel sun on my skin. To see what goosebumps look like again.
First I will (weather permitting) stop wearing my coat. Then roll up my sleeves. Then try above the elbow. Then nothing.
Please wish me luck, because this to me is the equivalent of walking around with my bare arse that has, “NUTCASE” written on it in shite.
Hopefully, the sun may even help.