OK – it’s officially summer. Blue skies and over 30 degrees in London. #Heatwave. Perfect timing for something I have been wanting to write about for a while now…
Since the first sunny days, my facebook and twitter feeds are filling up with body-positivity messages and I really enjoy reading them on the morning train, as a nice way to start my day. When you go out into the daily flurry of norms, oppression, and shaming, it seems like a good idea to apply some shield of protection. Kinda like mental sunscreen. While all the positive messages in the world can’t make me un-see and un-hear all the poisonous ones I’ve been exposed to over the years, they do provide a powerful reminder that there is another way, another voice, another possibility. And sometimes that is all we need to know to start changing how we feel about our body.
One morning, as I was on the train to work, taking-in the encouragements to wear whatever you want no matter what size or shape you are, I suddenly noticed that I was wearing a T-shirt. And I realised that I had put it on without thinking. It was the simple pre-coffee-brain ‘it looks warm outside -> grab t-shirt -> go out’ logic. And for me, after a life-time of hiding the self-harm scars on my arms, it also was something like a moment of revolution.
A few years ago the idea of wearing a T-shirt to work without thinking about it had seemed utterly beyond reach. This is why I’m writing this today for everyone who has self-harm scars, no matter if the scars are from yesterday or from 20+ years ago. I’m writing this for you, because I know how many voices there are around us (and inside us) who tell us to hide and to be ashamed. And I just wanna offer you an invitation, another possibility: to turn that on it’s head, to embrace the sun (wear sunscreen!!!), and to show off your scars.
You can go ‘hell yes, I totally gonna do that’ or ‘no thanks that’s really not for me right now’ – self-harm and scars are very personal issues and there is no right or wrong when it comes to how you choose to deal with them. I just wanna put this out there, my experience and how I see it, because it’s one possibility, and I wish someone would have told me that earlier.
Here is what I see when I look at my scars today:
Today I look at my scars and find them beautiful. My scars are part of my body. They are a part of me like the experiences of this time is a part of my life. They remind me of a time where pain and joy lived very close together. Where I would lose and find myself over and over again. Where I experienced the most intense struggle, worry, exhaustion, and loneliness – as well as the most amazing love, friendship, and kindness.
Today I look at my scars and they remind me of the battlefield in the everyday. They remind me of all the weird stuff (worrying about how to survive the next day, how to ever fall asleep again, and how to know that I’m alive) right next to all the normal stuff (worrying about homework, what to wear, and if I liked boys or girls or both). These little fading white lines on my skin belong to this incredible young person who didn’t know why she was drowning in waves of fear and pain sometimes, but did her best to keep her head above the water. So that she could do her homework, dance the night away, finish school, fall in love, grow up, make mistakes, and try again.
Today, I look at my scars and don’t regret them – I know that the self-harm was me coping the best I could back then. Of course it would have been great if I’d had less fucked-up stuff to deal with so that I wouldn’t have needed extreme measures of coping in the first place. But I am no longer ashamed, not of the fact that I did self-harm, and not of the traces this has left on my body. The only thing I regret is ever hiding them. Every hot day in long sleeves. Every trip to the pool that I skipped. Every single minute I spent worrying what other people might think, say, or not say. Isn’t it a little weird that we go through hell, manage to come out on the other side, and then worry about what people think about the scars…? The way I see it, I have missed out on too much already and now just wanna enjoy my life – I had enough worry, now I deserve some fun.
So today, I look at my scars, throw on a t-shirt, and simply don’t give a fuck anymore. I do acknowledge that this ‘simple’ is actually a complicated process of baby-steps that may well span out over a few years (as it did for me), but take the fact that I am here right now as prove that it is possible. And feel welcome to show off your scars as much as you like. Enjoy the summer everyone :)