The story

I’ve got quite a variety of scars because I’m also quite accident prone. I’ve got operation scars and falling off bike scars, but also from my late teens when I was cutting myself. I stopped doing it when I was about 19.

I guess self-punishment was my way to deal with guilt about being gay, but eventually it developed into some sort of false friend, a soothing mechanism when the emotional distress was too much. But you do feel the emotions as you talk about it.

It’s treating yourself well to acknowledge your own emotions and there’s a sort of warmth to that, and I’m really happy to talk about it.

How did they make you feel? And how does it make you feel now, looking at them?

I’ve generally been open about them. For a while I used to get a slight thrill revealing them when wearing short t-shirts. I think it’s a bit similar to being gay – you feel a general strand of non-acceptance, the way your parents behave or general cultural values.

The self-harm was a visible sign of being different, a visible edginess, so I liked showing them off as part of my identity. I’m more chilled out about it now and don’t seek to show them off, but I don’t try to hide them either. I sometimes describe them as go faster stripes. they are quite neat and quite chunky and bold.

Your older self. Would you change them?

No, not really. I’m still having therapy, I still at times do things which harm myself. I’m still trying to sooth with self-positive things like meditation and breathing exercises rather than getting wound up and turning to things that are more harmful, but I do see it as a learning experience very much part of me and my story, so I don’t really have negative feelings towards them at all.

What four words describe your scars?

The first which comes to mind is smooth, because they’ve got a texture, then strokable, because I stroke them because they’re smooth. It does kind of remind you about looking after yourself. Standing up for yourself. So maybe self-care is another one, not that that’s really one word.

Disgust, but this only applies to the scars from my accident, not the self-harm ones. I broke my knee unicycling and I had to have some metal work on my left knee. It left a big L shaped scar on the back of my knee and I really don’t like the look of it. It’s a bit wrinkly and it slightly turns my tummy a bit, so I’m more embarrassed by that one than by any of the ones I did myself.

Do people notice them?

People look at them and often don’t seem to know what they are so they ask me about them. They seem surprised that they are self-harm. I then generally reassure them and say don’t worry about asking me, I’ve got them on view, I’m not hiding them. That’s normally the way the conservation goes.

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