So I want to start this on a semi-positive note: I happen to like my body.
I KNOW. I’m so vain! But I do.
After pinching my thighs and thinking, “Why? Why!?” since I was eight, at 24, I feel extraordinarily relieved that I can catch a glimpse of my naked self in the mirror before hopping in the shower and think, “Ooh la la!” rather than “DISGUSTING! NEVER EAT AGAIN!”
This was, in fact, the first January in all the years I can remember where my New Years Resolution (remember those? Sorry) didn’t include losing weight or restricting calories.
I’m never going to be stick thin. Food is like, my thing. (I’m the friend you email for restaurant recs, which I think is quite a title in NYC -- and I also just ate two Cool Ranch Doritos tacos and they were the edible equivalent of pure joy). I have an ASS and birthing hips. I have cellulite. So do a ton of other women. I also love working out. I like feeling strong.
My face is my FUCKING FACE, and no, I’m not going to cut any of it off anytime soon. (However, I will totally put makeup on it, ‘cause eyeliner and sparkly things are so fun and pretty.)
BUT—of course there’s always a “but” when women talk about their bodies -- there’s this part of my physical self that I really, really don’t like. I’m even tempted to say that I hate it.
As if the headline didn’t say it all: TRIGGER ALERT! TRIGGER ALERT!
xoJaners, meet my suicide scar:
While I was writing this article, my friend told me she thinks SUICIDE SCAR would be a great name for a metal band.
I hate explaining the inception of this POS, so I’ll keep it short: I was 15, and had been cutting for a couple of years. At the time, my arms, neck, stomach, thighs, and ankles were covered in tiny horizontal slices. This one was obviously not a regular cut for me.
It was with a pair of scissors. [Deep breath.] A guy I had been dating for like, a month, ran into my house a millisecond after it happened and took me to the hospital. (He was a cock, but at least he had some premonition this was happening before I got to the other arm, right?). My parents watched me get stitched up.
Do you feel sick? I suddenly feel sick. (I don’t think it’s the tacos.)
Psych eval, inpatient, outpatient blah blah blah, lots of long sleeves. I couldn’t eat meat for a few months, and maybe I jabbed a lit cigarette or two into my wrist after, but my regular cutting ritual came to a sudden halt.
God, I fucking hate it.
I slathered on Mederma after it healed. But Mederma can only do so much.
Just like I have this belief that I’ll be a badass mom, ‘cause I’ve done lots of drugs, and got involved in many shenanigans -- so yes, I’ll know when you’re high and when you’re lying -- I think I have a sixth sense for detecting other people’s scars. These kinds of scars, I mean.
When I was a fitness instructor, college girls taking my classes were less aware of their flesh in their tiny workout tops. They’d hand me a free-weight or something to sign, and I’d see those mangled lines inside their forearms, freeze up like a dog that’s been caught eating the innards of your sofa cushion, and have this urge to grab their wrists, and pull them in close to me.
I didn’t, though. I unfixed my gaze, took a deep breath, and pretended like I didn’t see a thing. It’s just too personal, right?
I have this fear, when I start banging someone regularly, that we’ll be laying together, post-coital, faces turned to one another on opposing pillows. And I’ll be vulnerable and simply not paying enough attention, and my head will be propped on my hand, and this five-inch length of scar tissue will be in the guy’s face. He’ll see it, and look at me, and see me for what I really am: A fuck up.
This scar makes me feel like such a fuck up.
I know I was a teenager. But this mark, to me, is something that won’t get off my body—not without surgery—that signals that I’m sick. Crazy. That when I snap, my mind tells me to self-destruct.
I went to treatment in January. (This scar is merely a piece of a much, much larger puzzle -- but you already figured that out, right?) Nearly all the women there had scars. Their mutilated arms made me feel like less of a freak.
Still, seeing scars on others’ bodies stirred that sadness. (“How could this wonderful girl hate herself so much? If I was really wonderful, would I not hate myself that much?”)
And even among the many self-inflicted wounds, my scar got attention.
“You did THAT?” one girl said. She OD’d and cut after a break up, or getting arrested, or maybe both. Then she came to treatment.
“What is that, on your arm?” this outspoken heroin-addict asked me. I was standing, leaning on her table, and talking to her as she ate.
“I cut myself,” I told her. I flipped my arms over and looked down.
“I can’t believe you would do that to yourself,” she said, almost angrily.
Every time I interview for a job, I’m in long sleeves. (I have some rad chiffon blouses for summer.) When I talk to my boss, I keep my wrist down, and am completely conscious when a little bit of the tail of my scar sticks out. My heart goes THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP. I’m afraid she’s going to ask me about it.
Yet, outside of treatment, no one ever does. Because it’s too personal, right?
Out of the many-a-things I’ve written about on the Internet -- doing drugs, having casual sex (haha), and being diagnosed with a mental illness -- writing about my scar makes me the most nervous that a potential employer will see this, and move on, and no one will ever hire me again. It’s so… Hideous. Alarming.
About six months before I graduated high school (and I remember it, vividly: my mom was driving, I was sitting in the back seat, and my older sister was in the front) my mom said, “Caitlin, maybe for your graduation present, I can pay to get your scar removed.”
I looked down at my wrist, touched the tender skin around it, and hardly got out, “I’ll think about it.”
I knew I should want to get it off of me. Like a symbolic tattoo, though, I thought it would be an important reminder that I’ll have to stay focused to conquer this ugly thing that happens inside of me, and that I will heal, always, eventually.
And though it conjures strange memories, and scary thoughts, and a little bit of shame, I needed to write about this now.
Because this isn’t too personal of an issue for me anymore. And I’m finally getting better.