It was also a day filled with internal chaos and struggle, some minor food anxieties as can be expected around any holiday, but mostly, my struggles had to do with body image, although not in the way one might expect.
My body is covered in scars.
Some of these scars are from old injuries when I was a child--from falling over the fence surrounding the portion of our yard my rabbits played in, from old softball injuries when I scraped half my leg open sliding into a base, and of course, from mosquito bites (and poison ivy!) that I could not keep myself from scratching. But those are never the ones people notice when they look at me. People notice the scars on my shoulder, the scars that blanket my forearm and wrist, and now, the newly healed ones on my thigh, which are not always completely hidden by whatever shorts I choose to wear.
These scars all have stories, although there are so many I cannot always remember them. But I can point out the ones from when my longtime best friend and I had our first huge fight, which led to the demise of our friendship. I know which ones came from desperate efforts to feel something when it seemed impossible to feel anything at all. I know which ones were half-hearted attempts to end my life and which were whole-hearted attempts to keep myself alive. I know which ones grounded me and silenced the voices and memories when they all came on too strong.
But none of these are stories I want to share when someone asks what happened to me. And after all these years, I still freeze whenever someone asks about my scars. Sometimes I can muster out an excuse about a biking accident or a pet or lately, about an accident at work, but usually I just shrug off the questions, quietly say, "Nothing," and change the subject.
Every move I made this weekend was guided by how I could best make my scars invisible to my family. Not once did I feel comfortable in my skin, not once did I relax into the safety and support I was enveloped in while with my relatives. It turns out the only person to ask about them was my 12-year-old cousin, although I'm sure he was not the only one who noticed my scarred skin.
I have a hard time admitting that I struggle with self-harm. It's something I would rather avoid talking about because I feel a great deal of shame, embarassment, and guilt around it. I feel like everyone hears that and recklessly judges who I am based off lies and stigma they have bought into about people who self-harm. I feel like when people see my scars, they see me as my scars and not as a person.
I've heard it said that scars are battle wounds, that they remind us where we've been or how far we've come; people say that scars show strength and survivial. In the Tumblr community, people refer to self-harm scars as beautiful because they resent the struggle and the overcoming of something all-consuming.
My scars are the farthest thing from strength and beauty. My scars are hideous reminders that the past is indeed real and that my life is not something beautiful. My scars show weakness and doubt. They make me ugly and imperfect, and I am reminded of that every time I run my fingers over the braille lines I have etched into my skin and read the stories I carved into myself. My scars make me damaged goods for all eternity.
Once something is damaged, it can't become beautiful again. It's always going to have remnants of the thing that damaged it, no matter how much effort is made to repair it. My scars damaged me, damaged my life. And it's never going to be beautiful and undamaged again, no matter how much work is put into repairing it.
So why try to make something beautiful when it will always remain scarred?