Important: this article is only helpful in regards to self harm SCARS.
You should never have fresh or unhealed cuts uncovered on your body for a number of reasons. Mainly, it carries a large risk of infection. Contact me if you need ways to safely bandage or take care of fresh wounds.
For whatever reason lots of people have scars. They're pretty normal. Scars caused by self harm however, are are more difficult to deal with as they are self-inflicted and this can be obvious to other people. Sometimes the scars from purposefully harming your body aren't very visible and people around you might not notice, which is definitely a good thing. But if you have been self harming severely and/or for quite a while you might find that you have very prominent scars. Regrettably, this is what I did to myself, and this article is my experiences dealing with the consequences of having damaged my skin so much.
The first time I was able to show my scars to someone, was in my first Camhs appointment where I didn't have a choice. This was really stressful; I was unprepared and unwilling to show the doctor and I really didn't want to but I had to anyway. It had set me up to never want to show myself again. It wasn't a good experience at all. For the next few months it was summer and I would hide myself from everyone. I would wear jumpers and long sleeves and thick bracelets and I wouldn't wear shorts or tights because some of my scars are so severe that you can see them through the fabric. This caused me to be really hot and really uncomfortable and really stressed out because I was afraid constantly that someone would see. Most people in my life already knew that I had self harmed, including my mother, brother, grandparents and friends. This was because my self harm got very dangerous to the point where I needed to have lots of stitches in hospital and stuff. It's important to remember that you can never hide self harm forever. It usually escalates, and by then people always find out. Also at this time I was in treatment for another illness and I would have a lot of blood taken and a lot of obs taken to monitor me, so nurses would see also. I refuse to let my mum come into the rooms. I would have loads of questions because it was usually a different nurse each time. Some of them would look angry and tell me off, some of them would ask what happened when they obviously knew fine well. Most just looked sad or sympathetic and tried to talk to me about it. But I didn't want to talk about it with them - they were strangers. Again, this felt really uncomfortable.
After months and months of being forced to show myself to strangers I was finally able to show some of my own family. It started with some of my cousins around the same age as me, some a bit younger. I would be able to wear short sleeves and shorts the park when we were out and although they would ask just like everyone else, they're my family so it didn't matter. I could talk to them about it really easily. I didn't have to go into much detail and I just told on the basics (that it was self harm but it's over now) and that was that. They are really close to me and they took it really well.
I found the best way to reveal myself to people was to just do it casually. For example, one day I would just show up to meet them and I would be wearing a short sleeve top. Obviously people noticed, but these people my family and friends and there were no bad reactions. Of course the reactions were like this only because this people already knew beforehand.
important: I would never recommend suddenly showing your scars to someone who had no idea you self harmed in the first place. This would be really really stressful and upsetting for them and it would probably cause them to react with sadness or even anger. Always inform someone that you will have scars before you show them so that they have some idea of what to expect and that the shock isn't too much for them.
I was really really scared about showing my mum. I was ashamed of what I done to myself and I was really afraid I'd hurt her when she saw. Thinking back on it now I realised that she was already really hurt knowing that I done this to myself and that showing her the scars wasn't that big of a deal. I'm not going to lie - it was really difficult for the both of us, but it's done now. Often my mum still gets upset at seeing the scars, and she's said things like "oh my god, that one is so thick,", and she looks really sad about it. I had no idea that me self harming would hurt as many people as it did. That's partially why I've stopped.
Family and friends will eventually get used to seeing your body. Your scars are just another part of you and people you know will love that part of you just as much as they love the rest of you. However, there is still a huge problem with strangers. You might be comfortable enough to wear shorts leaves and shorts and show yourself in the hot weather and when you doing something like swimming, which is amazing. No matter where you go as long as you have visible scars, people will see and people will make comments. I've had to learn how to handle these, and what the best thing to say to someone is. I could do another article on responses to people's questions and such like. It seems awful at first, people invading your privacy and staring at your body. But it's a consequence of something you have done so you have to own it. You have to learn to manage it, and you will. It takes time, but eventually you will stop caring what people think altogether.
Long story short, people are nosy and morbidly curious and will often ask uncomfortable questions if they see your self harm scars. The only way to avoid this altogether is to not self harm in the first place, but obviously that's far easier said than done. I'm always here to give advice based on experience for what to do in these situations, and also I know a load of ways to cover up scars if you really don't want them showing. Just remember, you can get past it. You should feel comfortable in your own skin, no matter what it looks like. And one day you will. Be strong
Teenagers With Experience is an online platform ran by teenagers for teenagers. We provide support through sharing our own experiences and providing advice based from this. If you need support, feel free to reach out to us on one of our social media platforms. We will do our best to support you and if we feel we cannot we will direct you to more suited, professional support.