Every evening when I get home from work the first thing I do is shed my office clothes and pull on a pair of shorts. It feels amazing. Of course I only do this if I’m home alone, or if I’m not planning on leaving the apartment again. If I’m going to wear shorts out of the house, I make sure to throw on leggings under them. A few weeks ago I went out in a romper without anything underneath and I’m still feeling anxiety over it.
It’s not like I’m a particularly modest person. I wear backless dresses and low cut tops and tight clothes. But my legs have self-harm scars on them, and when people see those they give me a special disgusted face that I don’t feel any particular need to see on a regular basis. Every time I leave the house I have to think about whether there is something that people will learn about me from my body that I don’t want them to learn.
Not only is this a pain in the ass, but it’s also emotionally taxing. I feel like I’m lying to everyone around me simply by wearing clothes that cover things I would rather they don’t see.
Who would want me if I didn’t falsify what my body is really like? I portray an image of youth, of athleticism, of health, and yet the moment you raise my hemline you’d find that my body is really marked by violence, self hatred, death, and ill health. I have found myself frustrated in the past about people giving off an image of being stable, having friends, being well adjusted, only to find out after becoming enmeshed with them that in fact they are deeply screwed up people.
It’s one thing to be with someone and slowly develop these fucked up scars after you’ve already trapped them. It’s another thing entirely to ask someone to fall in love with you when the moment they look at your body, your real body, your unhidden body, they see clear evidence of instability, violence, and self hatred. Who can love someone like that? Perhaps that is why I marked my body in the first place, to illustrate to people what it is that I actually am when they think they’re falling in love with something else.
But now that I’ve made it clear just who and what I am, made it clear for an indefinite period of time (because who knows when these angry red worms inching their way over my skin will disappear), I don’t know if I am capable of accepting the rejection, the disgust, the confusion, the fear, the pity, the anger. No one simply reacts by saying “yes. That’s you. That’s ok”. No one reacts like they would just seeing a pair of legs. There is no such thing as simply existing when your body is the site of damage.
There is an intensely broken feeling to all of this. Even though I have no desire right now to date or even be desired sexually, it’s really fucked up to feel like the only way someone could want me is if I hide myself. I know that I will always be wanted “in spite of” not because of. How can I feel like any sort of relationship (even a friendly type relationship) is based on openness and honesty and all the values that I care about when every day of my life I consider and carefully cover up certain facts about myself?
What kind of a human being am I if I feel that I have to bury things about myself to everyone I know (except a select few that I feel brave around)? What is wrong with me?
Intellectually I understand that what is fucked up is not me but is in fact a society that says we need to hide every ounce of evidence that we might have mental illness, a society that indicates that someone who self harms is unstable, possibly violent towards others, immature, attention seeking, and completely different from everyone else the world except others who self harm (because seriously who does that it’s so fucked up), a society that polices bodies.
But emotionally, I cannot stop feeling as if I need to expose myself just to see if anyone I know would still treat me the same. I can’t stop feeling this desire to scream to everyone that I have scars, that I’m fucked up, that I hurt myself. My body is not what you think it is. My body is not appropriate. My body is not healthy. My body, simply by existing, fucks with your norms and I don’t know if I’m ok with that because someday, maybe, I might want someone to just look at me and not have questions or fears or emotions, but just see me.
I don’t know that there’s a point to this post, just a fear. A fear of my body and what my body has become, of the permanence of scars. A fear of what people see when they look at me. A fear of the fact that I’m hiding because if there is one thing I hate in this world it is hiding the reality of my self. And somehow, I don’t think it matters how many people do see, how many people I am brave to. Because every time I put on a pair of pants and meet someone new, I’ve hidden something. I’ve chosen not to let them see a truth about me.
I suppose we all do this every time we meet people, but the physical act of covering something brings it home in a way unlike any other, and it’s a way that is intensely guilt inducing. It isn’t simply “not sharing”. It is actively hiding. It’s a choice, every single morning, every single time I change my clothes and I am so sick of weighing myself down with guilt over it.
This. All of this. Every time I take money or cards from a customer, my scars all down my arm show and I cringe inside. You’re right. It’s actively hiding, or ignoring that you feel really, really weird/uncomfortable/not right/angry/resentful/whatever else you may feel when strangers see what you’ve done to yourself.
I have no experience like you have posted. But, I do have the experience of being a boneheaded idiot in regards to such scars. It may have even been someone like Fay. I was in checkout at a store and I noticed scars on the cashiers arms…I made some sort of off-hand comment about vicious cats and she replied, “No, I used to cut myself.” Well, what could I do but dig the hole deeper? I believe I made at least three lame (read stupid) suggestions about her scars. If I could go back and slap a hand over my mouth, I would do it in a heartbeat. I think the problem always is that people don’t know how to react…and then they react in less-than-helpful ways. Maybe accepting that other people are flawed in their ability to recognize and appropriately respond will help you deal with the daily idiocy. I truly wish I could apologize to whomever it was I no doubt insulted, but I was just so embarrassed by what I said, I left that Meijer’s store like I was on fire. What I wish that she could have said to me was, “I used to cut…but now, I am healed and the scars just remind me of how strong I am and how far I’ve come.” But that would be about making it easier for me, wouldn’t it?
Thanks for that perspective. I absolutely don’t blame others for not knowing how to react. I wish that we had a better societal understanding of self harm and more scripts around it, but I get that it’s kind of scary to see. It does lead to a lot of hard situations for those with scarring though.
Wow. I have scars on my thighs too and I’ve never been able to put into words how I feel about them and why I feel the urge show people that they’re there, but this describes my feelings perfectly. Thanks for this.