the mind geek

obsessed with mental health

Self-harm scars: wearing my mental health history on my sleeve

If I want to, I can hide my history of mental health problems from people I meet today, being well. It is up to me whether I want to tell them that I suffered from depression. A job interview, meeting my partner’s parents for the first time – at these kind of occasions I can choose not to disclose. However, the same is not true for my self-harm scars. It is possible to cover them up, but it’s restrictive if you really want to do that all the time. Think of all the times you automatically roll up your sleeves. Warm weather. Swimming. I used to think that I would have to hide my scars for the rest of my life, because I felt so ashamed. I really don’t feel that way any more. In most situations, I act the same way as if they weren’t there. I wear whatever I want. However, there are situations when I am faced with a dilemma of what to do.

For some situations, I have very clear rules. I teach children and I tutor university students – here I cover up. In any situation where I interact with vulnerable young people, who may or may not regard me as some kind of role model, I don’t want them to get ideas. I would consider doing a designated workshop/talk/event to raise awareness, and I have spoken about my past self harm on the radio and TV, but I don’t want young people to see my scars out of context, without being able to open a conversation.

I have to say, I haven’t really notice a big difference in how people treat me since I stopped hiding my scars. 99% percent of the time, people don’t say anything. I don’t know if that’s because they haven’t noticed my scars, or because they don’t want to breach the subject. Either way, people tend to leave me be. I have had one acquaintance ask me about it, and although it immediately made me feel panicky, she was very nice. She just said “It’s good when people survive that kind of thing.” Very true

On a side note, I have a tattoo that integrates my scars (the left one is real, the right one was a temporary one from a Time to Talk campaign). This of course draws attention to that area of my body, and anyone who wants to have a closer look at my tattoo automatically gets a close-up of the scars. They would probably be less noticeable without the tattoo. That’s something to bear in mind.

Read my blog post on self-harm, written before I recovered.

Watch my video on not hiding my scars.

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This entry was posted on February 13, 2016 by in On my mind and tagged , , , , .
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