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To the People Who Stare at My Self-Harm Scars

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Hi. I’m one of those people you might have stared at. One of the people you may have nudged your friends in the ribs about to point out. I’m the person who just happens to be in the same place as you trying to go about my day. You may have decided I was worth a long, hard glance. And that’s OK. I understand that sometimes, when something is different, you can’t help but look. But there’s a big difference between looking and staring.

I have self-harm scars. All over my body. Some of them, over the years, have turned white and aren’t noticeable, but others are bright red scars, or keloid scars, that I know will either never go away or will take years to fade even slightly. I’ve accepted that. I know what I look like. I’ve had to get used to my new body. I have to look at myself every single day and remember each one of those scars and how they came to be and I am trying so hard every second to not be constantly self-conscious of them. And I usually have them hidden, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. And that’s usually when people stare.

I know looking is sometimes uncontrollable. You may see something different to what you’re used to and you can’t help yourself. Sometimes I don’t mind that. One quick glance is easy to pass off as merely that — a quick passing glance. But when you stare, it’s a whole other story.

I spend all of my time trying not to be self-conscious. And staring instantly throws me into that place. That place of, I’m a freak, they’re staring at me. I’m so stupid. I’m too different. I’m ugly. I’ll never be beautiful. I’ll never get anywhere in life. All people ever see are my scars, etc, etc, etc. It’s an instant feeling of my heart sinking down to my feet, of my stomach instantly knotting, my face becoming red and wishing I could run and hide. It reminds me of all those mistakes I made, all those cuts and sometimes, it makes me feel like I should just relapse because what difference would it make if people are going to look at me like that anyway?

I don’t mind people staring if they’re informed. I’ve always said if someone were to look at me judgmentally, learn my story and get to know me and continue to look at me judgmentally then I would let them — they would have the right to. But when people don’t know me, they don’t know my history or my story or what I’ve gone through — and they instantly judge me on something they do not understand. And that’s not OK with me.

So, to you, the people who stare: please consider how you are making that person feel. Everybody has their own story, their own history and their own incredibly valid feelings. Consider how judgmental eyes, nudging and pointing will make that person feel. I can guarantee you the person is more than aware they look “different” and they’re probably just trying to maintain their confidence to get through the day without hiding — I know that’s how I feel. So please, educate yourself. Be informed and be kind. We are people. Regardless of looks, we are human beings just like you.

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 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via berdsigns.

Originally published: July 13, 2017
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