Summer has well and truly arrived in the UK. We’ve been given a heatwave warning by the MET office and temperatures reached highs of 30+ for us yesterday. While many will love this and run outside to bask in the sunshine at first chance… I, on the other hand, have mixed feelings.
Don’t get me wrong, sunshine and warmer days make me very happy. But this time of year also makes me feel uneasy. It’s not because the heat makes me uncomfortable or because I can’t handle it, it’s the fact that I can’t hide or cover up. “But why would you want to?”. Well…
I used to self-harm, a lot
I would post pictures of my scars, but it seems inappropriate and unnecessary. There’s a fine line between awareness/promotion that I don’t want to walk along right now. But for reference, they are up both my forearms and my right shoulder and very obvious since they’re a stark white against my skin. And there are many.
For the record, this is not a secret or anything I am ashamed of. I’m very open about it and joke that I wrestled a bear and won if people do ask. Metaphorically speaking, this is true. But what I am afraid of is the judgement and expressions on peoples faces when they notice. They wrinkle their noses at me like I’m some kind of putrid smell and avoid eye contact with me. It makes me feel tainted or diseased and that feeling lingers with me for the rest of the day, sometimes weeks.
I remember once waiting for a train in Stockport and there was a woman not much older than me at the time, sat on a bench on her own on this busy platform. It was a really warm day and she was wearing a grey cami top and jeans but hugging herself like she was trying to disappear or make herself as invisible as possible. I felt like I knew why, but couldn’t be sure. She eventually untangled herself and reached into her bag for a bottle of water and you could see she was covered in these thick, raised and painfully obvious keloid scars. They were everywhere.
My heart broke for her
There was no other reason for them to be there other than by self-inflicted means and I was right when I thought I understood because I was doing the same thing on the other side. Trying to hide myself from the eyes of strangers. I didn’t want her to feel that way and it is one of the only times I’ve ever felt brave enough to step outside of my comfort zone and take a risk.
I took off the light cover-up I had on, stuffed it in my backpack, walked over to her and reached out my most obvious arm and asked if I could have a sip of her water. She was a little confused at first and I was starting to regret my bold move, but she noticed my scars and her face softened and she gave me the biggest smile. I had a sip of her drink and sat down next to her and carried on waiting for my train. We didn’t speak, but it wasn’t awkward between us and when I got up to catch my train she grabbed my hand and said: “thank you”. All I said was “you’re welcome”, smiled back and got on my train.
I could see her still on the platform when I took my seat and rather than being curled up into herself, she had her hands by her sides on the bench and was kicking her feet like a schoolgirl. She was still smiling and I suddenly felt really proud of her, of me and what I’d just done. The silence between us hadn’t covered up our mutual understanding, and having someone acknowledge and empathise was really powerful
Moral of the story?
Be respectful of others and show empathy when it’s needed. It’s that simple.
This time of year takes a lot of courage for some people. They may be self-conscious about their weight, their bodies, their scars… anything. But if they want to wear that dress (male or female) and show their scars or fuller arms, don’t judge them for it. It will be written across your face if you do. I see it all the time and as recent as yesterday. Take a moment to consider the bravery it takes to put yourself on display and give them credit for it.
It doesn’t matter why someone has their scars, and it shouldn’t matter to you when you see them. Anyone with a scar they don’t love (be it from surgery, an accident, self-inflicted) will know how it feels to almost be ashamed and embarrassed by them sometimes. Don’t add to that burden with judgement and condemnation, it cuts people deeper than they ever could themselves.
Summertime makes this more of a regular occurrence and I’ve learned to harden myself to peoples stares and forget I might be an unusual sight to some. I’m 29 years old, but there are still times when I do notice and I have to compose myself, swallow that lump in my throat and fight the urge to run away.
So my message to those who deal with this, on any level, is – I’m proud of you. You are beautiful as you are and it took balls for you to put that short sleeve top or those shorts on. Your body tells your story that not everyone will understand or even consider. Your ‘flaws’ are your battle scars and badges of honour and you should wear them with pride.
Until next time ♡