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To the Woman Who Called My Self-Harm Scars Disgusting

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To the woman who called my self-harm scars disgusting,

It’s summer. Hot, sunny, outdoor fun-filled summer. Granted, it’s a different summer than most, but it’s not stopping us from getting out and enjoying it the best we can. And that’s what I was doing, at a riverfront park sitting on a blanket reading my book. I was wearing a pair of athletic shorts, nothing out of the ordinary, perhaps even more modest than most women my age. I was minding my own business, not in your way or anyone’s at all. Maybe my shorts slipped up when I moved and you or someone else was looking, but regardless, you took it upon yourself to look me straight in the face, point at the scars on my thigh and say, “Can you cover yourself up? That’s disgusting and nobody wants to see it.”

In that moment, all the work I had done to overcome the embarrassment and shame I felt about my scars vanished. Instead I felt as helpless as I did so long ago. It took me more than seven years since I first started hurting myself to finally be able to wear a bathing suit without shorts overtop, to wear shorts or skirts above my knee, to not be consumed by what others would think, and most importantly, to finally be able to look down at my legs and not feel disappointed in myself. You saw my scars for a moment, I will see them every day for the rest of my life.

How dare you turn my struggle and triumph into an inconvenience for you? How dare you try and make me feel ashamed of my body, of my story? My scars are proof of survival, that you can rise from rock bottom, they show that I’m human. They are a part of me, and I’m not going to hide a part of myself to make you more comfortable. I’m not going to be embarrassed or guilty just because you can’t understand. You’re only able to see the physical leftovers of my story, not the fight that went into where I am today.

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When the words first came out of your mouth I was in shock, but the more I think about it, the more I feel. I’m angry, I’m hurt, I’m disappointed, and surprisingly I feel sorry for you. Sorry that you can’t be more accepting of fellow human beings, that we don’t all have airbrushed skin and pretty backgrounds. Would you have said the same thing if there were stretch marks instead of scars across my skin? I feel sorry that our world has the mindsets of people like you in it and instead of accepting and supporting those with mental health struggles, you shame them. No part of any human being is disgusting, no matter what, end of story.

Thank you for showing me this is a problem that desperately needs to be addressed, that next time this happens (this wasn’t the first it’s happened to me and won’t be the last I’m sure) I need to use my voice to educate you instead of letting you dismiss me. I need to tell you how wrong it is, instead of letting you make me feel like I need to get up and leave. And so to the woman who called my self-harm scars disgusting, I don’t hate you. I just hope you understand the impact your words and actions have. I hope that next time you let me enjoy the day, or ask me if I’m OK, but don’t ask me to cover up. That’s asking me to cover up a piece of me.

Getty image via Anna Gorbacheva

Originally published: October 16, 2020
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