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To the Staff at Disneyland Who Made Fun of My Self-Harm Scars

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, 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, or “NEDA” to 741741. for eating disorders. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Dear “Happiest People on Earth,”

It has taken me a long time to write this, but considering I have still not come to terms with it over a year later, I have finally decided to write this letter. Last June, I visited my family in California. My older sister and then 3-year-old niece flew in with me from the DC area to spend time with our aunt, uncle and little cousin. I was excited to see them after a long absence, and they spoiled and pampered us with day trips, pool and spa days, and so on. I really needed the love, as I had just discharged from treatment for an eating disorder and severe depression, and was finally learning to enjoy life again. Part of that was being able to accept my own body, including weight gain and even self-harm scars. I was able to go to the pool (in a bikini!) for the first time in years. I was enjoying the best vacation I ever had, just when I needed it the most! And the best was yet to come.

Our aunt and uncle invited us to Disneyland. I hadn’t been to any Disney park in almost 10 years, since I was 11, and I was thrilled to finally go back to the “Happiest Place on Earth.” The day was everything I could have hoped it to be. We went on so many rides, ate such great food and met so many wonderful people. Our whole family had a great time and it was shaping up to be an extremely meaningful day for me.

But then, towards the end of the day, something happened to change all that. We stopped for a much-needed coffee break at the Starbucks near the exit of the park. We stood in line for quite some time, but I wasn’t even impatient on waiting since I was deciding on which drink to order. Anyway, I just had the day of my life and wanted my day at the park to last as long as it could.

But as I made it closer to the front of the line, I overheard the baristas gossiping about some of the customers. I even heard some of the employees talking about scars and making jokes about those that were self-inflicted. I looked around the store and realized nobody else in line had visible scars but me. They were making fun of me.

I silently cried as I waited for my drink to be made. This caused me to feel even more humiliated and embarrassed. The barista who prepared my drink noticed her coworkers were not-so-quietly making fun of me and that I was staring straight at them while they did it and that they were so callous, they didn’t even notice.

The kind barista tried to distract me by asking me, “What’s brought you to the ‘Happiest Place on Earth?’” I tried to go along with her welcome distraction, telling her it was a treat from my family and that I hadn’t been here in since I was a little girl. She got one of those little pins that said “I’m here celebrating ___ today!” and filled in the blank with “a visit after many years.” It was a greatly appreciated gesture, but it did not erase the pain of being humiliated by her colleagues.

After saying thank you and picking up my drink, I walked out of the store, still crying, and rejoined the rest of my family. When they saw me crying, they immediately became protective and lovingly demanded I tell them what was wrong. They went through a great deal of trouble to treat me to a perfect day, and suddenly and, unexpectedly, that was falling apart. I hesitated telling them because I knew it would only make them angry and complain to a manager. I was already hurt and insecure and did not want to make things worse.

It had taken me years to accept my own arms and live with what I did to them. I was finally able to wear a short-sleeved shirt. I don’t just have a few scars; I have many of them. Dealing with all this took me years and many psychological and medical hospitalizations.

I am not proud of my scars by any means, but the fact is, they are a part of my past and they are part of who I am now. There is nothing I can do about them. To hear others ridicule them is to feel exposed. Like perfect strangers know every emotion that led to every scar. Because believe it or not, words hurt. And jokes… well, they hurt like hell.

So to the employees who made me feel so ashamed and insecure about my body and my past: Please watch what you say. I know I cannot control what you think, but I hope you can control what you say. I am stronger now but cruel things casually said out loud could really push someone over the edge. You don’t know me and you don’t know my struggle. While your words hurt me emotionally, they didn’t hurt me physically because I have come a long way and I accept life and disappointment on my own terms. But someone else may not be recovered. And no one should feel ashamed, especially at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Thanks for listening.

The Girl Who is No Longer Ashamed of Her Past.

Lead Photo by Sogol Salehi on Unsplash. Photo in article via contributor.

Originally published: October 14, 2018
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