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When Self-Harm Scars Make You Feel Ashamed


“Always recovering, never recovered.”

A simple sentence that can be a harsh reminder. And that’s not to say your efforts or how far you’ve gotten were for naught – but to keep getting back up when you do fall.

I’ve learned over the years, of course, that it’s extremely important to know you are not alone. Others are struggling and surviving alongside with you and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I’ve always had a difficult time accepting the shame part. 

I’m very back-and-forth on my scars. On one hand, they’re a reminder of what not to do, proof I’ve held on this long. But on the other hand, I hate them – they’re a reminder that I was ever so weak to do such a stupid thing, and now I have to live with the physical proof.

The amount of shame and guilt I’ve dealt with not only from myself, but from loved ones as well, breaks my heart. I can’t help but feel they’re ashamed of me; of knowing me, being who they are to me, as they tell me to cover my arms up like a dirty secret. Maybe they don’t know how much that hurts – how damaging it is to someone who resorts to self-harm in the first place to shame them like that. If only they’d try to understand; if only they’d apologize.

And over the last decade I’ve relapsed and just keep adding to them. Like I said – always recovering, never recovered.

I have lived with these scars for half of my life and even when they’re hidden under long sleeves I never forget they’re there. Like there’s a spotlight constantly fixed and burning on them for everyone to see and it’s my own damn fault because I can’t find the light-switch. I’m never not aware of them. I never forget. Some days are easier to deal with – like, this is me, this is my body and my scars and it’s OK because I’m still here. Other days, I just want to hide; they’re ugly and forever a part of me and I hate them.

And I have this silly theory that self-harm is an addiction; one like any other, or maybe different. It may sound obvious, but think about it – is it ever referred to as an one? I turn to it in the most desperate moments because, if only for a moment, I feel better. And then I always crave it. Even years into recovery — it’s still there, somewhere, in the back of my mind.

For half of my life — 12 years — the razor has been my only true friend. The only one that’s never left. Never wanted to. It’s only ever seen me at my worst.

I don’t want to be ashamed of myself, my mental illness, my body. Every day is a fight to do the right thing. I know there will always be harder days. And I know I will keep learning to care a little less that I live with my past (and present) self-hatred etched in my skin. 

I am in recovery. I am a work in progress. And I’m still working on being OK with that.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

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 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Unsplash image via Matthew Henry


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