I Am a Mother With a History of Self-Harm
As I push my beautiful, sweet daughter around in the supermarket, I can’t help but be hyper-aware of the stares. It’s hot today and I chose to wear short sleeves and shorts out in public. Normally I cover up, but my recent time spent in therapy and new antidepressant made me feel more confident. But after the fourth person began staring at my arms and not at my face, I started to think this outing was a terrible idea.
I have self-harmed for most of my life. I started when I was 13 to cope with living in an emotionally abusive household. I blamed myself for a lot of the abuse. The blame manifested into self-punishment. The need to punish myself for things I perceived as my fault continued well into my adult years. I am not proud of the very visible scars left on my body. While some shame still exists, I realize that the scars do not define who I am. I have overcome a tremendous number of obstacles, and I am who I am today because of that.
But the elderly woman giving me a disgusted glance will never know the strength I possess. The other moms I pass who give a wave to my baby girl, then frown after seeing my legs, will never understand that growing up in an abusive household makes me a more compassionate and loving mother. I want to tell the cashier who glances at my forearm while handing her the money, that my years of recovery in therapy have made me more self-aware and better able to manage everyday emotional struggles.
I am a mother with a history of self-harm. I have scars on my arms, hands, shoulders, stomach and legs. This does not make me a bad mom, an unfit parent or an unstable caregiver. I love my daughter. I know one day I will have to explain my scars to her, but I will be happy to have the opportunity to tell her about my struggles. And when I do, I will hold her close, give her a hug and a kiss, and tell her that she can always talk to me about anything without fear of judgment.
So, if you see me and my scars, it’s OK to look, but please look beyond the injuries and do not judge. You do not know me, but I would be more than happy to have the opportunity to explain, educate and show you that I am more than the marks on my body.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
Or if you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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Thinkstock photo via Peignault Laurent