Sunday, 28 August 2016

An Open Letter

I am writing this for myself. I am writing this for others like me. I am writing this to educate you. 
I see you looking when I am on the tube wearing shorts in this impossibly hot weather. I see you looking when I am on the beach in a swimsuit. I see you looking when I’m out with my friends and I am wearing a dress. 
I see the look of disgust on your face. I see you when you nudge your companion to “look at her leg”. I see their faces too. Disgust. Revulsion. Horror. 
I hear you when you gasp. 
I hear the not so whispered words:
“Oh my god look at that!”
“What a fucking psycho!”
“Stupid fucking attention seeker!”
I see you pull your child away telling them to “be careful”.
I hear your laughter when your companion tells you “careful she doesn’t hear, she might have a knife” 
I know why you avoid sitting next to me on the bus, on the train, at a table in a bar. 
Do you know what I am referring to yet?
What it is that I see every single day of my life?
What sometimes makes me cry so hard I feel like I’m never going to stop? 
What makes me feel ashamed, disgusted, ugly, worthless, crazy, fucked up and so on?
I have scars. 
The ones you tend to notice the most are the fat ugly silvery purple scars that I have on my left leg. 
You may notice others too. On my right leg, on my knuckles, on my forearms. I have scars. 
What you don’t see, however, is the scars across my heart. The scars across my self esteem. The scars across my personality. 
If you look closely, you may catch a glimpse of these scars when you pull your child away. Those scars look like tears. You may catch a glimpse of those scars when I hear you and your companion calling me names. Those scars look like hurt in my eyes. 
I am a self harmer. I have been for pretty much all of my life. It hasn’t always been as obvious as the ugly mess you see now. Before it was more sneaky, more volatile and more dangerous. 
I know you wonder WHY I do this to myself. Everyone does. Some people keep that question to themselves. Some people ask outright. Others simply answer the question for themselves. 
Allow me to answer that for you now. In my own words.
Why do I cut myself?
I have mental health issues. The most prevalent being Borderline Personality Disorder. I won’t go into detail about it but you can do a quick Google search in your own time and you will find a wealth of information. 
One of the symptoms of BPD is self injury (SI). There are many different types of self injury. I won’t list them. It isn’t decent. 
Self injury is not necessarily attempt at suicide. The behaviour I engage in is referred to as non-suicidal self injury (NSSI). 
Owing to my BPD I struggle with feelings and emotions. I can easily get overwhelmed by them. I often don’t know what they are or why I’m feeling them. It’s stressful. It’s scary. It’s upsetting and when I get to a point where I am just too overwhelmed, I cut. These feelings and emotions may be positive, they may also be negative.
Why self injure though?
I’m sure you’ve seen old movies where a woman becomes hysterical and a man shakes her and slaps her across the face? This is to bring her back to centre if you will. To calm her down. 
When a heart stops beating, a medical professional will use electricity to restart it. 
When your computer stops working, you disconnect the power then reconnect it. That usually resolves the problem. 
All of these things are a jolt to the system. They stop a process before it gets so bad that you can no longer fix it. 
That’s it. That’s self injury. That’s what you see on my skin. Me. Surviving. 
I hid my survival for a long time. I was ashamed. I was disgusted. I was scared. 
I am a good person for the most part. I am kind and caring. I am honest and loyal. I will give you the shirt from my back if you needed it. Yet somehow I am defined by my scars. By my survival. By my exterior. Just because I harm myself, it does not logically follow that I must harm others too. 
It’s hard enough surviving with everything that goes on inside my head. Don’t make it harder by judging me. Mocking me. Shaming me. 
So if you see another person with scars like mine, don’t stare, don’t whisper, don’t be disgusted. Know that we have struggled. Know that things got so difficult we had no choice but to hit the reset button.
But most of all, know that we survived!
Thank you for listening.