I am not ashamed of my scars. I refuse to be. Most are discreet, but sometimes they get noticed. In the early years, when there were fresh ones in various states of healing, I would scoff when someone asked, “What happened?” My responses varied from the barely believable “I was attacked by a cat” to “It’s a long story.” It frustrated me how many people seemed oblivious to the epidemic of self-harm. Are that many people truly ignorant or is it just more comfortable to accept what is an obvious lie and move on?
There’s a lyric that goes: “My scars remind me/ that the past is real.” My scars tell a story. Each one represents a journey, an emotion, a torment attached. Each one is a piece of my life, a piece of me. Some people think of scars as memories they want erased, events they wish hadn’t occurred. Seeing them brings back memories too painful to live with. But seeing mine doesn’t cause me distress. I don’t stare in agony, berating myself for how I have permanently marred my skin. My scars don’t renew the pain I struggled with back then. They exist purely as fact, written on my skin. They are what they are and nothing more. I remain unapologetic.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I am proud of them. At times I see the scars and I feel angry. Angry at the past, angry at the help I needed, angry that things went so far. Yet there is an element of pride knowing I am conquering the battle of self-injury. But that doesn’t equate to being proud of the permanence of these scars. Sometimes I feel afraid of them. I feel afraid that I’ll want to go back. I feel afraid of the capacity I have for self-destruction.
Please don’t be afraid of the marks that you see. It is OK to ask for my story. It’s OK to acknowledge you see what is going on. I don’t mind. Please don’t look away with embarrassment or discomfort. Only through honesty and openness can we beat the stigma of this disease. This is an illness of great shame and secrecy. Please don’t continue to let it exist in silence. It is OK that this has happened to me. Don’t fret that you wish you could “take this away” from me.
I am never ashamed of the scars that remain; they are part of my identity. This journey I have been on has shaped every bit of who I am. That journey included the pain and suffering that led to each one of the scars. I will not live in the past, but I will never forget where I have been. I am fiercely proud to be alive today. Don’t look at my scars with pity. Be proud I am standing in front of you today.