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The 3 Types of Scars I’ve Experienced in My Life With Bipolar Disorder

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

I was a clumsy child and I am a clumsy adult, so I have lots of scars. They can be categorized into three types.

1. Accidental scars.

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These are the ones that resulted from my clumsiness. I have a huge scar on the inside of my left leg from tripping over a metal milk box. (For the youngsters among you, this was the box where empty milk bottles were placed and full milk bottles took their place.) Back in the day, you didn’t go to the emergency room for injuries like that, so the scar remains jagged and irregular, coursing across my inner thigh like a river.

There’s also a scar on my right foot from the time I dropped a Coke bottle on it. (Yes, this was during the era when Coke bottles were made of glass. I’m old, OK?)

And one that bisects my eyebrow, lengthwise, from when I bumped heads with another child and my glasses were pushed into my face.

2. Non-accidental scars.

The one that I am contending with right now is a medical scar. It came from a punch biopsy of my forehead to determine what a lump was. (It was a sarcoid.) I freaked out when the doctor asked the nurse to hand him the “puncture scalpel.” Seeing my distress, he changed it to “sampling tool.” That scar is fading, though, and I hope it will soon become invisible.

Another non-accidental scar came when I was in fifth grade. Some kids and I were at a bus stop and they thought it would be fun to throw rocks at me — actually crumbled pieces of the street macadam. At first they threw them at my feet, and I “played along” and jumped over the missiles. One kid, though, threw harder and higher than the others. The rock hit me in the forehead, and I started crying and bleeding all over my mittens. I heard one of the kids say, “We didn’t mean to hurt her,” as they scattered and ran, a sentiment that I somehow doubted.

My mother was sent for and I was taken to the doctor’s office, where to add more pain to the incident, I received three stitches, which were in some ways more traumatic than the injury that led to them. This scar was right along my hairline, and isn’t really visible these days. But, believe me, it still hurts.

More distressing (and the reason for the trigger warning on this post) are non-accidental scars that I inflicted on myself. Nowadays, they call this NSSI (non-suicidal self-injury), and indeed that’s what it was. I wasn’t suicidal. You could call it a suicidal gesture, I suppose. But it was not a “serious attempt,” was never meant to be seen, and was not “a cry for help.” In fact, for many years I tried to hide the three inch-long white lines on my wrist by wearing a wristband or long sleeves to cover them. Now I view them as reminders of how bad things can really get and what incompetent coping mechanisms I had back then.

3. Internal scars.

Some of these are most likely related to my self-inflicted scars. They came from a variety of situations, not least of which was being literally stoned while I was an impressionable young girl. There were many incidents of threats and bullying, which begin to pile up after a while. There were the internal scars that come with depression — feeling useless and worthless and unlovable.

There were also relationships, those that ended badly and those that were bad from the beginning. They reinforced the idea that I was useless and worthless and unlovable, and scarred my psyche.

Those scars don’t show on the outside, and I have worked hard not to let them become visible through my words and actions, as I used to do. I have not been completely successful, of course. Like the visible scars, I expect they will always be with me in some form. Like the visible scars also, I expect they will become fainter and harder to find unless I go looking for them, which I try very hard not to do.

They remain, but they fade, and I am satisfied with that.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Originally published: March 9, 2021
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