by Rheanna Egleton

The problem with self-injury is that you don’t consider what comes after. When you’re in that moment, and your mind is racing, whirling, churning and the only thing that can make it stop is to harm yourself, you don’t consider the long-term effects.

As someone from the BAME community, I am more prone to keloid scarring, that lump of scar tissue that never quite goes flat. I’ve had it before on piercings that I have l decided to remove. And even after they have long since closed over and healed internally, the skin has never been as smooth as it once was. Some have flattened over time, but often they haven’t. They start red and angry, then they fade to a shade or two lighter than your skin tone, but you can see them. I always look around at other people with cartilage piercings to see if they have the bump at the back of their ear, just to see that I’m not alone.

When I was in the darkest of places, I didn’t consider that those bumps of scar tissue I had on my ears (and that one impulsive sternum piercing) would migrate to other parts of my body such as my thighs or arms. I didn’t consider that years later, my arms would show my frame of mind from some nights when I was feeling the lowest of lows. I didn’t consider that years later I would still have visible scars that I would feel the need to explain or hide. Because when you’re in that moment, and your mind is racing, whirling, and churning, you don’t consider the long-term effects.

There is still that stigma in society that makes you feel ashamed of self-injury. Despite all the talks and apps and free resources that are now available, there is still a stigma. People look, whether they do it purposefully or if it’s just curiosity remains to be seen. The problem is that when they notice the scars for the first time, their perception of you changes. They see someone that is not capable, or strong or is perhaps a bit ‘crazy’. You get looks of pity, shock, and confusion which makes you feel incredibly self-conscious. And it is so frustrating, because why should you be judged on a moment of time when your mind was racing, whirling, and churning and you didn’t consider the long-term effects?

It makes getting dressed in warmer weather a complicated task, much like one of those yes/no decision charts. First, you ask yourself whether you’ll be around people who you know well, who understand the struggles you have faced. If the answer is yes, and you’re just staying inside, it’s easy- wear what you want! If the answer is no, you won’t be around people you feel 100% comfortable with, things can be a bit more complex because of that mental health stigma I just mentioned. For me, at least, I have always worried that if my place of work sees my scars, they will deem me incapable of doing my job. Perhaps that is me just projecting my fears upon myself, or maybe my employer will see me in an unflattering light. I worry that if I meet someone for the first time and they see my scars, they’ll find me strange or won’t take the time to get to know me. Either way, it’s just easier to wear long sleeves. Cardigans and jumpers are like a safety blanket, keeping me safe from judgement and pity. I look at those people who wear their scars proudly with envy, as it’s proving a long and difficult journey learning how to be comfortable showing my scars, just like it was a long and difficult journey to stop creating new ones.

So even though the scars are years and years old, why do I still feel the same shame I felt when they were new? Why do I feel ashamed at all? The scars are what they are, perhaps one day they won’t be risen and shiny, or perhaps they’ll always look this way. 

Occasionally everyone’s mind races, whirls, and churns, and I think part of being human is accepting that it’s okay to not always consider the long-term effects.

You can read more of Rheanna's writing on her instagram account