The following blog was generously written by one of our clients. We appreciate that this is a sensitive subject and encourage you to call us on 02 9186 2544 or lifeline on 13 11 14 if you, or a loved one, need support.
“Yes, the scars are self-inflicted.”
These are the words I dread having to say. The moments that have led up to these words leaving my mouth are some of the the most anxiety and shame-provoking times that I face.
If you have visible scarring from self-harm, you will most likely understand exactly what I mean when I say that people are curious. It’s in our nature to be this way, to identify differences and to attempt to understand them. There’s a thrill in playing detective.
But although the questioning gaze of strangers is a reality of having visible scars, it almost always comes as a great shock when someone asks the question “what happened to your arms?”
Here I feel a great wave flush through my body, my heart pumps faster and stronger, and as I look at them, the scars appear so much more visible than they did before. In that moment I’m forced to confront the reality that some of my darkest and most secret emotions are on display to the world.
So what do you do when it seems that your mouth cannot possibly form the words to express what’s really happened?
Lie? I have to admit that I’ve told a whole lot of lies about my self-harm scars. Anything from “the cat hates me” (I don’t have a cat) to “I was in a car accident”.
The situation is a scary one for someone like me. I immediately think that the other person is thinking I’m crazy/dangerous/scary/attention-seeking. These thoughts circle through my head as I desperately attempt to articulate an answer to their question.
And to be honest with you, I don’t always say the right thing, and I really don’t have an answer that fits all situations, and I don’t always know when to tell the truth.
So, if you’re a health professional, a family member or friend, or even a stranger, please think before asking about my scars. If you must ask, please:
-Let me know why you’re asking (e.g. to make sure I don’t need medical care).
-Understand that the answers may be hard to formulate.
-Respect my wishes to not answer your questions when I don’t want to.
-Treat me like anyone else.
-Judge my character based on my scars.
-Touch my scars unless I give you permission to do so.
-Talk to anyone else about my self-harm unless I give you permission to (or unless you’re a health professional).
Above all, remember that people like me are people like you. We all have insecurities and fears, and we all deserve to be treated with respect. Nobody wants to feel alone or different, so please think about how we might feel when you point out our differences.
For more information or to speak with one of our clinicians, call us on 02 9186 2544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more posts like this see our blog titled Reflections or subscribe below.