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I Shouldn’t Have to Wear Long Sleeves to Hide My Self-Harm Scars

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

I’ve always been an insecure person. I didn’t have many friends in high school. But when I went away to college, I wanted that to change. I tried to be friendly and happy and “pretty.” Of course, I had to hide the fact that I had a history of self-harm. I swore I could keep myself from cutting and no one would find out. It actually worked pretty well in the beginning. I made a ton of friends and was even kind of “popular.” It was everything I had ever wanted for myself. I always wore long sleeves, so I looked perfectly “normal” on the outside, even though I dressed differently than everyone else.

One day, the girls in my dorm were making fun of me for wearing long sleeve shirts. One said something like, “What are you horribly ‘deformed?’ Are you a cutter? I’ll show you there’s nothing wrong.” She grabbed my wrist and pulled up my sleeve in front of all of my friends, and the room went silent. It turned out that yes, I was ‘horribly deformed,’ at least by “college girl standards.” Yes, I was a cutter. And yes, she had just showed everyone there was something wrong with me.

Things went downhill from there, which felt largely like my fault. As soon as my scars were revealed, I knew my run as a “popular girl” was over. I stopped working at trying to be happy and friendly and perky all the time. If I couldn’t be popular, at least I could make myself forget. When the other girls became closer to one another, I became more of an outsider.

That incident was a long time ago. Cutting was not well understood then. I knew a few people in high school who had cut themselves, but none of them had scars like I did. Those college girls and I never really talked about what happened. I never wore short sleeves, and no one ever mentioned it again. But I knew I had been marked as “different.” I felt like I would always been an outsider. People liked the fake me, but not the real me.

I still struggle with telling people I’m someone who cut. People might think I’m lucky because I can pass as someone who doesn’t cut, but this leaves me feeling like an imposter. I can pass for “normal,” so I am given “normal treatment.” But I know it will come crashing down someday. Every day, there is a chance someone will grab my wrist and pull up my sleeve and I will be revealed like I was in college.

I wish I was brave enough to show my scars all the time and not care, but I hide my scars at work, at formal events and at school. I’ve never really learned a good way to tell people about my scars, and if they find out, I often feel like I have a lot to lose.

Even though I have fears about my scars, sometimes I try not to hide them. That way, no one can expose me. I wear shorts and short sleeve shirts because I’ve learned it’s easier for people to know what I’m going through right away so they won’t be surprised later on. At least then I get to choose if I want to tell them about it. I know sometimes people who cut get criticized for showing scars, but I just want to go to the pool or the park and enjoy summer days. It is not my responsibility to make other people comfortable with my body. Other people don’t have the right to tell me to cover my scars. And it’s not their right to show others my scars.

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 image via fakes_designer

Originally published: August 16, 2017
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