Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Self-Harm Scars: Gradual Exposure

Before you read this post, I must mention that although I have tried for it not to be, some individuals may feel triggered so please if you're going to read at all, read with caution. I just feel that a brief story of how my self-harm got worse was essential within this post.

Back in the day, many moons ago when my self-harm was classed as 'superficial', a word that I despise as any form of self-harm is serious, no matter how dangerous or life-threatening, I would constantly wear long sleeves throughout the whole of summer, throughout the night and especially when I was around other people. At this point, it was still quite a secret and I didn't want anybody to know, I didn't even know what I was doing to myself and I defiantly had never heard of the term 'self-harm' before. It was when I was scrolling down my tumblr feed one day, about a year after I had started this destructive behavior when I saw a graphic photo with the phrase underneath 'self-harm', this gave me the answer and name to what I was doing to myself and I soon became aware that it was much more common that I had initially realised. At this point in my life, my thirteen year old self didn't realise that it could get worse, I had no idea. I was young and still oblivious to the damage that one could do to themselves and I was so ashamed by this behaviour that even if I had no fresh wounds, I would still not show my arms in fear of being judged and people finding out.

As life went on, my mental health deteriorated more and more. I was finding new ways to self-harm without leaving visible damage. I would abuse pills and attempt suicide on frequent occasions. In 2014, my mental health team suddenly got more strict and serious and decided that I could not go back home. This resulted in me being admitted to a psychiatric hospital where I met many other young people who were just like me. On my first day at the ward, the first thing one of the other patients said to me was "have you ever had stitches?" and by this point, I was already well aware that self-harm could proceed to get much worse as this had happened to me, but only with the injuries on my legs. I didn't recognise at the time that these wounds were beginning to get worse, they by no means were severe but they were getting worse. A few months later, still on the ward, I soon noticed my self-harm getting worse. My wounds were getting deeper whereas before I would cover my arms in scratches and I began having to have wounds stripped together with surgical strips or glued in order to reduce scarring and to push the edges back together. By this point, I still didn't really realise how quickly my self-harm had escalated but my scars wounds started to heal, leaving very obvious marks compared to what I was used to. My mum began to see my scars frequently and ever since, I have felt comfortable around her and my brother with short sleeves as well as other close family members. 

About a year later, after a few different self-harm related incidents which I am not going into as I don't want to give anybody any ideas. I had my first A&E trip regarding the depth of my self-harm wounds where I received stitches. I still thought of my self-harm as superficial and it wasn't until the next visit to the hospital that I realised the severity when I was required to have both internal and external stitches as the wound wouldn't have held external stitches alone. This was a big reality check for me and when I started to realise how much of my life I was missing out on due to my self-harming behaviours. These behaviours carried on and still occur, but not very often at all. With any habit, it is difficult to break and relapses do happen. I wish that I could have seen my scars in two years time before my self-harm got worse because it may have put me off.
I am finally starting to feel more comfortable wearing short sleeves in public but only around specific people. Having to hide my scars has had quite a big effect on my life, I have to wear long-sleeves at work, at sixth form, when visiting my dad and when on holiday as I haven't yet felt comfortable enough to wear short sleeves around these people.

But for anybody who doesn't know how to feel comfortable around your family with your scars out then gradual exposure is the key. If they already know about the issue, it may be easier. I would start by gradually rolling your sleeves up when around them, but only a little at a time. Another idea is wearing short sleeves to bed, because then they may notice but wont be able to stare or analyse them. Once you've gotten comfortable with your sleeves rolled up to three-quarters, try a bit further up with the goal of being able to have your arms out up to your elbows, and so on. I found that this method really helped when other family members started to see my scars for the first time and I have found it helpful with the relatives of my boyfriend. 

There is absolutely no reason to be ashamed of your scars, unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness but more people would be kind about it than horrible. It is also worth mentioning, that if you haven't self-harmed and are thinking about it, please do not. It is addictive and although at first wont feel like it, it will control your life and it will get worse. I didn't think it would but the thing with habits is that they are toxic and usually have to get worse to give you the same release and effect. This may sound ridiculous, as it did to me when I first heard but there are some people out there who wants their self-harm to get worse, and if this is the case, I will add in some photos below of my arms as I despise the scars on my body and would give anything to turn back time and not start to self-harm. It is hands down one of my biggest regrets, also I am not saying that my self-harm was worse than everybody else because it defiantly isn't. And lastly, I am not trying to show off anything and I really hope that there aren't people who may think that as that's pretty twisted, self-harm is not cool, clever or impressive. It can be life-changing, terrifying and lonely, I just want to raise awareness in order to try and help others before they lose control like I did as I am now at a point when my scars will fade, but they wont ever go, all because I let my self-harm get much more severe.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Always find comfort in someone else's story . Hope u r doing good

  3. Hi Beingtay. My name is Tony and I am from India. I too have self harmed scars on my left hand. I don't worry of that scars because of the fact that scars cannot be removed completely. But I will try my best to get rid of them for my satisfaction. I am sorry to know about your scars but I hope you are back on track living a stronger life. The important part is that I can understand you. Cheers

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