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To the Stranger Who Saw 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.

To the stranger who gave me a double-take tonight while I was buying dinner:

Thank you for the kind, slight smile you gave me the second time you looked at me. We made eye contact, and I presume you saw my right forearm. How could you not have? Anybody paying attention and glancing at me would see it. There are red cuts all along my forearm and severe bruising, too. You can see just how fresh the cuts are — from one, maybe two hours ago? I can’t know what you were thinking, but I can say thank you for your smile, for possibly not judging me and just looking away in disgust. Here’s what I want you (and anybody else who sees my cuts) to know:

1. I do it, not for attention, but rather to punish myself. I’m already hurting, and I do this to hurt even more. I don’t want the attention; rather, I want to hide from it.

2. I’m in a lot of pain. Maybe not physical pain, but I am emotionally in a lot of pain — enough that I feel the need to take it out on myself and feel it physically. While it may not make much sense, sometimes the emotional pain is too much to bear, and to feel it physically can make it seem more real to me.

3. My scars tell a story, my story. I’m sorry you had to see them tonight. I try to hide my scars, but tonight after my run, I was trying to cool off by wearing my tank top into the restaurant. I’m sorry, yet I shouldn’t be apologizing. These scars are a part of my story and my recovery, my past and my future. I should not be ashamed of them.

I do fear judgment, but if I keep continually hiding, when will I ever be able to start a conversation and open up the dialogue about mental illness? I guess writing is a good place to start. Will you start a conversation and #BeThe1To?

Image via Thinkstock.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: November 16, 2016
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