I decided to write about something quite personal and close to my heart. It is a sensitive subject for many people who suffer or struggle with mental health issues. I realise that everyone will have different thoughts and feelings about this topic. However, I am speaking here of my own thoughts and emotions now, as a woman over forty-five years old, discovering I have very mixed feelings about this topic now, as I look back.
I’m talking about scars. A lot of people have scars – all sorts – scars from operations, from injuries, as a result of criminal acts, because of medical conditions and no doubt, many other reasons that I haven’t mentioned here. I am talking about ‘self-inflicted’ scars caused by self-harm. Self-harm can take many forms; in my case, they took the form of cutting, burning etc, severe and chronic anorexia, many over-the-counter drug overdoses and quite a few addictions over the years I was ill.
In my opinion, the public’s view of ‘self-inflicted‘ injury is often inaccurate. Yes, I was in control of my actions (sic) but those actions were not the underlying reason for my self-injurious behaviour. I was often unfairly labelled by hospitals as a self-harmer/attention seeker which wasn’t the case. In most instances (as with a huge majority of cases), I was carrying out actions which were mainly caused as the result of having serious abuse inflicted on me over a long period but the person or people who ought to have been held accountable for my trauma never were, and rarely are.
I’m not going to discuss any further detail about the whys and wherefores of my self-damaging behaviours which became a way of life for very many years. I am now speaking of the present and the future. Currently, as a mature woman, I very frequently find myself feeling awkward or embarrassed because I have many old and quite unsightly scars all the way up both arms. It is summer again and we’ve had some hot, sunny days and this always creates a dilemma about whether to wear long sleeves or not.
That isn’t because I carry endless shame or guilt about my scars – to me, they are evidence that I survived an extremely dysfunctional and seriously traumatic childhood which also continued into some years of my adulthood. However, I do find, as a mature woman, that it is unusual to see such scars on somebody of my age and that people often do notice this and sometimes I feel stared at for a little too long than to be comfortable. Occasionally, I have had the experience of being the subject of a shared snigger between two people who obviously have no understanding of mental health or are just appear ignorant when pointing and exclaiming. “ugh or eww – what have you done to your arms?”
I do find there are many situations where I feel I have to cover up with (simply to spare other people’s own fear and embarrassment). There are some instances where I, myself, would feel uncomfortable, misunderstood or perhaps even judged, such as in the company of some older people, going to an interview, family gatherings (such as weddings) where those gathered are fairly distant relatives who don’t know much, if anything, about the truth of my past and even in my church, strangely enough (perhaps it’s because I’ve not at this church during a summer before).
I also find that a few of my Carers, particularly when they first start working with me, don’t quite know what to say, especially if they are helping me shower and dress when my scars are painfully obvious. I usually put them out of their misery by talking about it openly rather than attempting to hide it rather uncomfortably behind the shower screen.
I’m aware that this post has ended up rather longer than I first intended it to but as you can see, it is something that I feel passionately about. I am very happy to chat with any readers who want to understand a little more, or perhaps share their own experiences with me if they have been affected in a similar way and are feeling alone or isolated. You can find my email address at the top of the page in the ‘Contact me‘ section.
Thank you to all those who are continually there for me x
10 thoughts on “SKIN DEEP”
I don’t have those experiences, Ellie, but hopefully you are able to tell anyone who asks that ‘that me isn’t around, now.’
You’re quite right, Mick – the ‘me’ that I was referring to is thankfully, now in my past. That’s not to say I don’t have my own issues and challenges now with mental health and my own BPD which I have written much about over the years. The topic is obviously still close to my heart and I really feel for others who are struggling with this. A comment made to me at my doctor’s surgery yesterday referring to the old scars on my arms (which unfortunately will never disappear) is what triggered this post.
Just shapes on your arms, now, Ellie. They’re only still ‘scars’ if you allow them to be.
I think this may be the first time you’ve mentioned this topic since I began reading your blog, Ellie. I know you had a traumatic childhood, and I can understand that the pressure this put you under must have been immense. I’m glad that, as you mentioned to Mick, you eventually managed to find your way past this problem. Your success in doing so might give hope to others still in the midst of trying to cope with it.
Yes, I think you’re right, Bun – I haven’t mentioned my childhood for a good time now. It’s odd how one comment from a stranger can set me back for a brief period and I can truly empathise with anyone going through the same trauma and coping strategies now. I do understand it’s not usually a good idea to go and revisit the past especially when that past isn’t a nice place to be.
I am so glad I’ve come through all that now and have generally moved on in better and healthier ways. I have a much better quality of life now with good people around me and being in college. My next goal is to branch out into a new field of voluntary work in September which I will write more about in the coming weeks. I’m looking forward to that.
Voluntary work? That sounds very interesting, Ellie. Best of luck with it. I look forward to hearing more about it. 🙂
ellie, it was brave of you to write this. I find self harm hard to talk about to people who mostly don’t get it. I keep trying though. we have to educate the ignorant. love to you, and many hugs, xoxoxo carol anne
Thank you, Carol anne. It’s not something that I’ve written about for a good while now. I think it is one of those subjects that tends to be taboo a lot of the time. It’s strange how I felt the need to write this although I’ve been able to stop self-harming some good time ago. Unfortunately, the scars fade but never go away. Hugs too, Ellie xxx
people who ought to have been held accountable for my trauma never were, and rarely are. – Sadly the case in so many families. And so rarely discussed in public. It’s something I care for a great deal.
I also understand the issues with scars, I know someone who used to self harm and went through the same issues. How twisted that even the scars bring you unwanted reactions.
Anyone with a soul understands. Stay brave ☺
Thank you very much for your comment and for your caring and understanding. I am so sorry you too, have experienced such trauma. So much abuse occurs and is kept behind closed doors. The guilty people are not the ones who are damaged to the extent that the victims or survivors are (and I do class myself as the latter now, although I still carry the pain). My scars (and those of others), both physical or psychological, are forever a reminder. Unfortunately, justice is rarely dealt in these cases.