“How did you get all those scars?” is not a question you want to be asked by a three-year old. But it happened. To me. Today. I panicked.
Because how do you tell a preschooler, who still believes in magic and Santa Claus, life can be cruel? How do you tell a child there was a point in your life where you hated yourself so much, you wanted to die? You must choose your words carefully. You must pretend you are walking on glass.
I wanted to tell him:
I hide in the shadows, because in the right light, scars on my wrists become visible. And these darkened lines on my wrists are only the worst of what I’ve done to myself, because the rest of the lines of self-abuse are practically gone. Because when I cut myself, I never cut in the exact same place twice, and I only cut deep enough to draw blood, not deep enough to scar: blood reminds me that I am alive, and that’s all I wanted to feel. And I couldn’t have scars, because if I wasn’t beautiful without scars, how could I be beautiful with scars?
But that doesn’t mean my struggle is any less real. Because, once upon a time I had hundreds of self-inflicted cuts well-hidden beneath my clothing. My upper arms, abdomen, and upper legs constantly stung, and when they healed, I made them again. Because I thought I deserved the pain. I wear my scars proudly, but I still hide them. They serve as a reminder of where I’ve been, but I’m still afraid people won’t accept them. And I want to be loved.
And I fear that if people know that I used to trace the names my attackers called me into my skin, that’s how people would view me. And I can’t be viewed that way, so I hid those too.
And every place I cut was for a different reason. My arms: because I’m not strong enough. My abdomen: because I’m not skinny enough, and that’s where unwanted hands were. My legs: because I couldn’t run away from unwanted advances. And since I couldn’t admit I was sexually assaulted, how could I admit I was harming myself?
But, there came a point when I needed people to know something was wrong. And I was never very good at asking for help, so I cut in places where people would see, and I cut deeper. The razor eventually traveled down my arm, towards my wrists, and I purposefully made the cuts on my legs look like I accidentally cut myself shaving. I needed help, but I couldn’t ask. Because strong people don’t ask for help, or so I thought, and I had been weak for far too long.
Even after the help came, I carried a paperclip in my pocket, because I was addicted to the sensation of metal running up my arm. That paperclip was like my security blanket, and I used it for far too long. And eventually, I gave that up too. And now I’m here, living my life, with only a few well-concealed scars remaining. But sometimes, the urge to revert back to old ways is great, so I use ice instead.
But, you can’t say that to a child. So, instead I told him:
“When I was younger, I was clumsy. I tripped and fell a lot, and sometimes I got cut. This scar on my hand is from when I tripped and grabbed onto a thorn bush. One of the thorns cut my hand.”
This answer satisfied him.
And it satisfies me.
Because even roses have thorns, and I want to be a rose.
Someday, I’ll be a rose.