It's that thing no one talks about, but everyone who's in the club understands. That thing where you cast a look down at someone's arms when they say they were depressed, and you look for the tell-tale signs on their skin. Do they cover them with bracelets or sleeves? Do they show them off, uncaring? How many do they have? What do theirs look like?
And then you wonder, how many people can see yours? They're faded to white, now, and they generally don't even enter into your thoughts. You go about your day, your arms bared to the world, and you never think about the days when you couldn't do that. When everyone went into the pool, but you couldn't without showing them off. The days when you hid them from everyone because you knew they'd look at them wrong.
They were never about attention. They were only about coping. It was another way out, but no one gets that. And really, sometimes it's too exhausting to explain.
And then maybe you decided to write love on your arm on that day that seems to move around the calendar. And someone asked you why, and you thought about telling them. Instead, you make up some mumbled excuse about how it's about spreading love and support and acceptance, because it kind of is. It's just that you can't tell them the other reason, not without drawing attention to them. So the message gets lost because you don't want to talk about it.
Now, I want to talk about it.
I was a cutter for about 10 years of my life. I'm not unique, and I'm not special. I am one of many people who used self-harming as a way to cope with changes in my life and depression that threatened to overwhelm me. I used it as a crutch and it was an addiction. I disappointed and scared a lot of people who love me, but generally, most people who knew I was a cutter have forgotten about that part of my life.
I can't forget, though, and that's why I'm writing this post today.
When you think of body positivity, what do you think of? I think about loving yourself, with flaws included. But it can be hard to love yourself when certain things remind you of times you'd rather forget. Some people are proud of their scars. They're marks of courage and coping. They're representative of the times they battled the shadow, and they won. I wish I could see mine that way. That, to me, is the ultimate in overcoming a hard time in your life.
But I've never really seen my own scars that way. To me, they're a sign of weakness. I abhor being weak. I spent a great deal of my life feeling that way, and now, as an adult, I work on my strength of character to never appear that way again. But these scars remind me that I failed myself on a lot of occasions. They also tell a story -- a story I don't want everyone to know. And luckily, most people never notice my scars because they're only visible when I'm cold or something rubs across my skin. But I notice them.
I wasn't ever going to get a tattoo. I didn't think they were for me. I loved them on other people, but I thought that marking myself with something so permanent was a big decision I wasn't prepared to make. However, I realized sometime last year that I've already marked myself with permanency. I've already told a story, lived a story, and those lines on my skin are the words of that chapter. And choices I made when I was at my lowest are not the permanent marks I want to carry with me the rest of my life.
My tattoo is a Gemini symbol. I'm not particularly into astrology, but I am a Gemini and I loved the tattoo design. It's small enough to cover most of the worst of my scars without showing them off or playing them up. It's ambiguous enough to mean anything, and I get a lot of questions about what it is and what it means.
I give those people the astrology explanation. It seems to make them happy. It makes me happy. I love my beautiful tattoo.
But I love it more for what it represents to me. I loved myself enough to take my marks of weakness and turn them into something beautiful. I marked my skin with a story that means something more to me. I don't forget who I was when the scars were made. I don't think that making scars on your skin is necessarily weak or wrong. But I do think that for me, this was the right choice to empower myself into being that strong woman I always knew I could be.
I was a cutter for ten years of my life. I'm no longer that person. I still carry the scars, but they don't define who I am anymore. Instead, I'm stronger. And for that, I am proud.
Follow Elizabeth Hawksworth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@liz_hawksworth