Warning, some readers may find this post triggering.
When I was thirteen I went into a McDonald’s whilst waiting for a train. It was quiet, and the girl behind the counter came over with a big smile on her face, her peroxide hair swinging from a pony tail tucked through the back of her cap. As she reached me, she called out, ‘What can I get you?’
I placed my order. As she looked down to the till, her eyes moved across the counter and rested on my out stretched arms, money in hand ready to pay. She backed away from the till and without making eye contact, walked into the maze of the McDonald’s kitchen and disappeared.
Confused, I waited five minutes to see if she’d come back, but my train was going to arrive any second and I left without my cheese burger.
I ran it over and over in my head on the train until it clicked that my sleeves were rolled up and she had seen my arms. So she had run away from me. Could it be that things had gotten so bad that I was now repelling people?
Skip to my seventeenth birthday. On the tube, just went through Camden station. There were four or five of us heading home after a day out in Leister Square. A group of younger, emo girls got on the train and sat down opposite us. The biggest girl of the group was cladded out in black, and was leading the group. She could have been me a few years earlier. She was wearing a low cut top and I couldn't help my eyes glancing at the bare skin exposed around her collar bone and chest. And there lay two scars.
I felt physically sick. She smirked at my obvious horror. Could it be that society had brainwashed me so much that I now couldn't bear to look at what resided on my own skin? Was I that far detached from the me that used to cut herself that I now earned the right to judge others?
I felt physically sick because it hurt to see someone going through what I had. But the feeling of judgement also left me feeling sick – and guilty. I had been told by my mother to hide my scars at all costs – that people would judge me if I didn’t, and that it would ruin my life and any opportunities that came my way.
Thank god I saw that girl on the tube that day, because I learnt after then not to hide my scars. Not because I’m proud of them, but because they are a part of me and my history and to deny them would be to deny a part of myself. I realised that day that the more people that do not hide, and do not deny themselves, then the more people that will understand, and hopefully one day the stigma around self-harm might just disappear.