Trigger warning: You may not want to read this if you are trying to break a self-harm habit.
I was at a lake with some friends, some innocent Springtime skinnydipping. The air was cold but the sky was so bright and hot. I felt loved and brave. I pulled my tank top over my head and stepped out of my skirt…and that is when I remembered that my thighs are covered in scars.
The same thing can happen when I am at a job interview and suddenly remember the scars that trail up my wrist. Or I want to wear shorts in the heat, and the thick pink slug of a scar on my calf comes out of hiding. I go through my life thinking I have so many secrets, and then – pop! There they are, in clear daylight for anyone who is observant enough to spot them.
I am feeling a familiar twinge in my cheeks as I write this. I am embarrassed. It is so hard to even think about them, those impulsive acts of self-harm, those babyish silent tantrums. It makes me feel cliched and ugly, self-absorbed and foolish and unable to cope with a perfectly normal life.
Even when I used to do it, it did not feel like I was doing it. I would walk to work with stinging legs, bandages itching under my jeans, and I did not feel like a person who self-harmed. It’s how I used to feel about drinking as well; the side-by-side knowledge and denial. I did it; I knew I did it; I had no difficulty laughing at people who did it as if they were not me.
I have read about people who describe getting a rush from it. They consider it a kind of addiction. That’s never what it was for me. It was nothing more than anger. I would attack myself the way you attack any enemy, sometimes out of rage, sometimes out of calm and self-satisfied spite.
And when I finished, I felt like I had paid for whatever had pissed me off. I felt absolved. The only part of the whole mess I enjoyed was buying Neosporin, bandages, medical tape. I felt like a loving mother as I patched myself up. It was soothing.
I haven’t done it in many months, maybe a year. This is thanks to lots of help from wonderful people. I have been fortunate enough not to feel the urge – or at least, no urge so strong that it can’t be sated with a pinch or a harmless, private slap.
My final confession is that I think I will be sad when my scars fade. They are a pain. They are the only outward sign of a disease I like to pretend I hide so well. But they are familiar. In a strange way, the word I want to use is “earned.” And there is still a part of me, some possibly diseased part of my mind that believes I still deserve to carry them with me.