Living The Scarred Life

If you are into YouTube, then you’ve probably seen the insanely personal and painful series that Shane Dawson did with Jeffree Star. If you haven’t watched it, go and watch it. I think it’s safe to say that Shane Dawson is creating the most compelling TV right now. I hope Netflix or Amazon jumps on this ish, because it is RIVETING.

Jeffree is a controversial figure in the beauty/YouTube community, and he’s never been one to pull back the curtain. He’s happy to keep up the persona, let himself be hated, and laugh about it all the way to the bank. But the walls come down, and he reveals some incredibly honest and ugly things in this series. And his opening up reminded me a lot of my own struggles that have recently resurfaced.

TW: Self-harm, cutting, self-injury
(Do not read on if these topics will cause you trauma.)

I think I was 14 the first time I ever cut myself. I had a terrible experience with a boy, and I literally had no idea how to deal with the boiling emotions inside me that built to a frenzy of self-loathing. I cut the top of my hand wide open. I still see the scar every single day.

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The first cut is the deepest.

From then until my early 20s, I injured myself regularly. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Dysthymia, but even after meds and therapy, self-injury was my most reliable way of coping. And so the scars piled up. My arms looked like a cross-section of an untidy city with a bad road planner. Some of them overlapped, some shot off in random directions, but all stayed. A visible reminder of a period of pain and trauma that my brain literally could not process without making a visual reminder.

I’ve made peace with my scars. They are a part of my life. The visible ones on my arms stand out quite starkly, though some have faded. The ones on my upper thighs rarely see the light of day and have almost completely faded away. I even tattooed over parts of them. They make up who I am, and we peacefully coexist these days.

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Scars, new injuries, and my beautiful tattoos.

Until a couple of months ago. For some reason, my body broke out in a mysterious rash of hives that have stumped multiple doctors and stubbornly refused to be treated. The unrelenting itching drove me to distraction…… and drove me to scratch and pick. For someone with a history of self-harm, scabs and open wounds can be a slippery slope. Wound interference is a huge part of my self-harm compulsion, so having multiple sores was too tempting to overlook. In a few weeks, I had slid back into old habits of interfering with wounds and causing giant craters all over my body.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. All of a sudden, the fear and uncertainty of new business ventures, fears of inadequacy in my marriage, stress over not taking good enough care of my family… suddenly all of those feelings had an outlet. The pain, the depression, and the fear were assuaged as long as I had something to pick. So I did. I picked and picked until I didn’t care if I ever got better from the hives. I needed them to not feel like crap on the inside.

My doctor finally talked some sense into me. He explained that the endless cycle of reopening wounds was causing a tidal wave of infection in my body, which in turn raised my blood sugar. Since making such big strides in my diabetic health, I’m very careful not to do anything to disturb the blood sugar balance. So that was a big wakeup call. He expressed concern that I wasn’t feeling any pain from the multiple open wounds, as though my brain was literally shutting off my pain receptors to give me free reign to pick. My counselor encourage me to take a break from sessions with her to return to a specialist that had helped me through the worst of my self-injury in the past. I started taking meds, and finally found something to help reduce the itch. I wear long sleeves and pants (in the Texas summer heat!) to keep my hands off my scabs. My body is slowly but surely starting to heal.

But the work is far from over. With the return of self-harm compulsion comes a return of shame. The scars that have long since ceased to make me uncomfortable suddenly feel stark and vivid. The addition of hives and fresh wounds are unavoidable. I feel like the whole world can see my own personal “crazy” and it is MORTIFYING. I am ashamed to have my body in this state, but I am not ashamed enough to stop.

So how do I move forward? As simple as it sounds, I just do. I refuse to be defined or paralyzed by this. I’ve lived through much worse with my self-injury. I’ve lived with wearing long sleeves before, and I’ve lived with having giant bandages on my arms. I’ve lived with the stares, the weird looks, and the concerned faces. And I survived all of it. I have a 100% success rate of living through tough times. I’m still here and I’m still managing to live and thrive.

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Living and thriving and look cuuuuuuuuuute!

Eventually, this tumultuous and painful time will pass. The physical evidence will fade, though I’ll probably be left with a few new scars. And I’ll soon make peace with them. They will be welcomed into the tableau that covers my body with its visible monument to my struggles, my pain, and my triumph. And I will find peace again.

If you are struggling with self-harm, it’s okay. You aren’t weird, you aren’t broken, and you aren’t bad or wrong. You also are not alone. If you need to talk about it, reach out to me or to others. You have nothing to be ashamed about, and you deserve all of the love and kindness as you navigate these murky waters.