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Straight Talk TNT: Former cutter now worried about his scars

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: I’m 18, heading to college, happy to leave high school behind and become my own person. The trouble is I have scars on my arms from cutting when I was younger and depressed. I have moved on, but the scars have not and I’m afraid to wear short sleeves. What should I tell people? I don’t want to wear long sleeves forever. What would the panelists honestly think of someone with “cutting” scars? Thank you for helping me see how I look to others. ~ Doug, Toledo, Ohio Katie, 18, Auburn: I face the same issue. I see my scars and think they’re extremely noticeable. Yet some good friends have never noticed them! People with self-injury scars look for the marks on others, while others hardly see them. Yes, a few strangers have glanced at my arms. But it’s my story and I share it with who I want. I have used vitamin E oil and Mederma to fade them. There is also plastic surgery. Sarah, 19, Redding: A good friend attempted suicide and has scars on her forearm. She got a tattoo of a sparrow over them, more as a symbol to herself than anything. When she told me the reason behind the marks, I found her journey inspiring, as I, too, have suffered depression. Matt, 17, Villa Park: You can’t stop people from passing judgments. That said, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Say you were mauled by a bear and laugh it off. In a way, you were. Molly, 19, Berkeley: I have a friend with more scars than anyone I’ve ever seen. They go way up and down both arms. They’re hard to notice at first, but then they look like sleeve tattoos. I don’t know his story, but he wears them without shame and they don’t seem to get in the way. Scars are personal and most people won’t ask about them. I’ve got a few scars, mostly on my legs, that I try to keep covered. I spent a lot of time with unhealed cuts, so my scars are a nice reminder of pain healed and of being in a different mindset now. Brie, 20, Santa Barbara: A friend who use to cut just tells people about it. Most people are understanding. Plus, if you’re up front, people won’t wonder if you’re still cutting. Katelyn, 16, Huntington Beach: A friend with past self-injury scars wears short sleeves all the time. I myself have eczema scars on my legs and wear shorts. Showing your scars isn’t about others’ opinions; it’s about your mindset. Your scars don’t have to be a source of shame; they could be an inspiration for others. Christina, 19, Marysville: Honestly, I would first feel alarm and then sympathy. I have no outside scars to show my pain, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any inside. Gregg, 20, Los Angeles: If you have moved on, that’s what will be noticeable; the scars will be of little concern. Dear Doug: I hope the panel’s comments are helpful. If you were my own child, I would tell you to push yourself some (we all need a little push), but to keep returning to whatever you feel comfortable with on any particular day or situation. I would also encourage you to be smart. Everyone on this planet is flawed and scarred, but your scars aren’t hidden so for certain things, like job interviews or court dates, do not feel guilty about hiding them like the rest of us can. Finally, I would congratulate you on your hard-won emotional intelligence and encourage you to continue improving it. The book, “The Other Kind of Smart” gives exercises to boost emotional intelligence. ~Lauren For more discussion, to ask a question, or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit http://straighttalkTNT.com/ or write PO Box 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628. __________ More from Lauren Forcella I remember when cutting first came on the scene and I didn’t understand how anyone could do that to themselves. If you are in that boat right now as a parent or other adult, I refer you to our many past articles on self-injury where the kids themselves explain what goes on in their mind and how cutting is a type of addictive pain reliever from stress. You can find our columns on “cutting” by going to our website at http://straighttalkTNT.com/ and looking in the topics list under “Health.” I encourage young people to write about your cutting experience (past or present) for a book of essays from Straight Talk TNT. Please don’t worry about being a “good” writer, or having to use your real name if you don’t want to. It is your experience that is important. We are all teachers for each other. Our submission guidelines are on our website at http://straighttalkTNT.com/. ~Lauren