You can't see my scars: The truth about my self-harm.
When I speak to audiences I speak in general terms rather than specifics so I can connect on a mass scale. These speaking events rarely allow me to dive into specific issues but always result in a filled email inbox or series of social media direct messages filled with various mentions of personal trials, broken homes and emotional trauma. Something that stood out to me in recent weeks were the messages related directly to self-harm.
I had planned to whip up something on this topic in short order but the specific catalyst for this article was a moment on a recent flight from Cedar Rapids, IA to New York, NY by way of Chicago's O'Hare airport. Seated across the aisle, and one seat back, was a young lady wearing a typical pair of fashionable jean style shorts. As she sat down I noticed an abundance (by abundance I mean a massive amount) of horizontal scars beginning at her knees and disappearing beneath her clothing, a sure sign of cutting. Clinically this is also known as self-harm or self-injury.
Due to the close proximity of individuals within earshot on this small airplane I let the moment pass without speaking to her. I hate that I let the moment go but I thought it was best as I was unsure if she would want to discuss such a personal topic in a public place. Though I had to let the moment pass, out of respect to this young lady, she did remind me it was high time to address my experiences with this topic publicly rather than in sheltered email inboxes and personal social media messages.
You can't see my scars because they are covered with tattoos. Often found on upper legs, forearms, or inner wrists, for accessibility or concealability (is that even a word? If Beyonce can have Bootylicious I can have concealability right?), I was no exception. The inner wrist and lower stomach were my primary locations for small self-inflicted surface cuts. This provided me with temporary relief from the emotional pain of rejection I felt from my parents after their divorce, from my fellow students at school because I didn't feel like I belonged with them, and the general public because I felt like an outsider in my small town.
Ultimately, these activities escalated to a scary moment for me when I pressed by left arm against a base board heater for a good length of time at the age of fifteen. I lied and told my parents that I’d fallen asleep with my arm resting upon the heater so I would not get into trouble or be looked at as more of an outsider than I already felt I was. The bad news, this was a pretty severe self-inflicted burn and the scar is still pretty apparent even beneath the tattoos that now cover it. The good news, the experience scared me enough to start talking about these emotional issues I was wrestling with rather than seeking temporary relief through physical pain.
Out of fear I began to channel my emotional pain into writing about my issues because it felt safer than cutting and less risky than speaking to others due to my worry of being judged. Once I determined that judgment would be withheld I began discussing my issues with my siblings too. Both of these methods of coping gave rise to positive results which made me realize there are other ways to handle emotional issues outside of self-harm.
I understand that you may not be a writer or may not have non-judgmental friends or family available to discuss what you are going through. If that is the case and you are struggling please feel free to reach out. You are not alone. I understand. I have been there.
If you need anything, I'm always here to help. Message me any time. I'll answer all of you, it just takes a while, please be patient with me. In the mean time you can now check out the Relief & Resource Center for some of the topics that have been requested I discuss.
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