“What are those scars from?”
People who ask already know the answer, and I know this because they’re looking directly at the inside of my left forearm. But they ask anyway. Maybe because they’ve realized I’ve noticed them looking, and they feel the need to mention it. Maybe because they’re curious as to why I’d cut myself.
Sometimes, they want to tell me about their experience with the same thing. Similar scars pucker the skin on their wrists or thighs, which they’ll show me. These are the people I want to talk to most. The people with whom I share some strange camaraderie, whether or not we share the same reasons for our self-harm.
I’m honest when people ask me about the faint scars left over from years of self-abuse. I started when I was 11, I think. Yes, I think about it a lot. No, I haven’t cut myself since I was 21. Yes, it’s very common. Of course you know someone else who self-harmed.
The one question I can’t answer is, “Why?”
It’s not that I don’t want to answer, it’s that I honestly don’t know the answer. I was abused and neglected by my parents, so some might say I turned to abusing myself for control over my body. Others would explain it by pointing to the depression. I was numb emotionally, I had to feel something physically.
It could be both, it could be neither, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is it happened, and just as people notice now, people noticed while it was happening. Not much was done about it. No school guidance counselors approached me, no teachers took me aside, kids bullied me for it, my dad hit me for it.
So no wonder I’m ashamed of it. It makes sense that I’d get a tattoo in an attempt to hide the scars, that I’d wear long-sleeved shirts to avoid people noticing. I can try as hard as I can to be honest with people who ask, but I can’t stop cringing at the word “cutting.” I won’t spend hours talking about it like I will with other issues I’ve gone through.
There are so many reasons someone might cut themselves, but no matter the reason, it deserves to be noticed and taken seriously. I still hear jokes about self-harm, as if it’s not an act of violence toward oneself, and I just can’t wrap my head around that.
If you’ve hurt yourself in the past, just know you’re not alone. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you can open up and tell people about it if you’re comfortable. Anyone who judges you for your past can fuck off.
If you’re hurting yourself now, reach out for help. Tell a therapist or a trusted friend. Professors are mandatory reporters and can help you get the care you need. I still pull my hair out, and I ask my friends to ask me what’s wrong when I do. Because it’s okay to need help, and it’s okay to ask for it. You deserve it.