Two weeks ago, Sonia from Life Love and Hiccups started the story of her scars. In the comment section of her blog, I also shared a little of the story of my scars, of the feelings that I had towards them and the stigma that followed. I have been thinking a lot about this recently, and a reaction from a man in the supermarket last week has renewed this desire to share.
I want to share the reactions that I have had to my scars, the misconceptions that I feel people develop. Some of these, honestly are my feelings about a situation, the way that I have read a look given to me and so I admit up front that some of them may be different to what the person intended. Unfortunately, a lot of these people are strangers, and so I only have my feelings to work with here.
To the man who I helped in the supermarket last week… My scars do not stop me from being a nice, helpful person. I saw that you were struggling to find the product you were after and so offered my assistance. I could see your expression changing to frustration as you stood staring at the myriad of different products available. I asked if you needed help because I wanted to. I also saw the way you looked at my arms, the way you started after you said thank you, as if you wanted to take back the words. My scars, do not have an impact on my ability to help you find the chips you were after.
To the first doctor I saw at the antenatal clinic when I was a 16 weeks pregnant with my first baby… My scars do not have an impact on my babies heart beat. My refusal to talk about them, after explaining to you that I was already under the care of the mental health team attached to the hospital was warranted. You implying that you would be surprised if a ‘personal life me’ after looking at the scars on my arm could have a baby with a heart beat was not. I wish that I had been as mentally strong then, as I am today.
To the nurse at the emergency department… Yes I do have scars that cover my arms, and at the time I did have several fresh ones. This does not mean that if I present with self harm thoughts that the appropriate response is to tell me to just get on with it, especially when I am then treated worse again by the staff under you when presenting with self inflicted injuries.
To the elderly woman at the bus stop… My scars do not impact on my ability to parent effectively. Looking me up and down while you tut tut at the tantrum my ridiculously sleep deprived 4 year old is currently throwing is not necessary. It’s always interesting that in winter, when I have a jumper on, I don’t get the same tut tuts. There is always one of course, but there isn’t the same eye sweep before landing on my scars.
To the random check out person… Please do keep asking how I got the scars because it gives me a chance to educate someone. I don’t always feel up to answering, truthfully sometimes I like saying the truth just to make you squirm, but if you forward enough to ask a stranger why they are covered in scars then you deserve the uncomfortable truth.
To be completely honest, I have had the scars so long now that there are times when the questions or looks catch me off guard. I’m not proud of the scars, not the same sense that one would think of a trophy but I do see them as proof that I have survived. They are a part of my history, the parts that make up the person that I am today.
Linking up with Ann from Help! I’m Stuck who is hosting I must confess this week.
Shit Tegan, I’m sorry you have to endure such ignorance and judgement. That comment from the staffer at the antenatal clinic is just breathtaking.(not in a good way). Some people really should not be in caring professions. Yes, you have survived and you should definitely be proud of that. xo
I find the parts of your story that are linked with the hospital the most disheartening. These people are professionals who have access to the private lives of so many that they see so much more than someone on the street. They have a (limited) privilege of insight into your life which allows more for understanding and if not understanding at least NOT JUDGEMENT. For those you see out and about, they have as much insight into your life as you do theirs and although annoying and at times upsetting, I would put their looks in the same boat as the looks we often give to those denim, non arse covering undie wearing people in the shops. Much easier to say than do I know. And to those who ask you what happened, it makes me happy. It makes me happy that someone is giving you the chance to break the stigma towards mental illness and self harm and if they are willing subjects then they are more willing to hear and less likely to judge someone next time they see scars on someone’s body as they pass them by.
People are just so rude! I have to say I generally don’t even notice scars, and if I do, I would certainly never say anything …
Gee what a shame all these people are so judging, do you find that they are mainly older ones? From the sounds the dork at the hospital wasn’t young. Scars don’t define who we are, they are just a part of where we have been. xx
I cant believe the nurse at the antenatal clinic acted that way! Although perhaps she was the same midwife that told me I was starving my baby to death and I should sleep with her because Im not fat enough to smother her. In that case I’d believe it. These people really need to rethink their profession or keep their judgemental opinions and actions in check.
I don’t know what to say. Just like I wouldn’t know what to say if I spotted you and your scars while I was out and about but I know this, there is no way I would acknowledge them or ask you about them. That’s just plain rude and insensitive.
I really don’t understand why people have to offer comment on anything and everything – I’ll never understand. I like how you ended this – that your scars show how you have survived and are now an integral part of you – that’s strength and acceptance right there. x