Kitten scratches? That’s how my therapist/colleague addressed the scars on my arms today. I had to change into a gown at work today to have some work done on my neck and the gown had short sleeves, exposing my arms.
I’ve been pretty open on this blog that cutting has been something that I have done over the past couple of years. This, https://truthfreedomjoy.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/a-story-in-scars/ has some explanation, but to summarize; I have cut. Cut enough that there are scars and the scars are very visible.
I was alone in the room with the Physiotherapist and the concept that the scars on my arms had been caused by kitten scratches was ridiculous and I knew he knew that. So I was honest and I said they were caused by self-cutting. And every bit of fortitude that I had went out the window. As his manager, I am in a position of being seen as competent and strong and in control. Cutting doesn’t exactly exude those qualities and I found myself feeling like crawling under the bed instead of the usual sense of strength that I have at work as I tried to give him an understanding of the issue. He was understanding and we had a brief conversation but I could sense that he was somewhat uncomfortable so the discussion was short. It isn’t any different from it ever has been; discussions surrounding mental illness makes people not all that comfy.
I was brought face to face with the fact that there is no way to explain or describe the “why” of cutting without sounding like it, and you, are pretty much “crazy”. No matter how much I know that it is a safer outlet for dealing with the emotional pain of loss, grief and depression…safer than a more permanent option to get away from the pain…when you try to offhandedly explain it to someone you are suddenly very aware of just how not “normal” it appears.
My psychiatrist worked very hard with me about not feeling shame or embarrassment about the cutting. He took so much time to explain that sane, healthy, “normal” and rational people cut. That cutting is a coping and processing mechanism. That yes, how I described the need to transform the emotional pain to a palpable, tangible form of pain to process is valid and is not “crazy”. That’s all well and good but the truth is that society and our culture and the vast majority of people I will ever run across will look at the scars and hear my attempt to explain and they will see it for what it is perceived; a physical representation of weakness, instability, unreliability and mental illness. The truth is that mental illness is still equated with all those attributes and that doesn’t bode well for those of us who know that we aren’t any of those things.
Yes, I live with mental health issues. The majority of people do at some point or another in life. Does that make me unstable or weak? No. Do the scars scream that to people. Yes, sadly. What’s even worse though is that, regardless of my journey and my education in these matters and my work within myself, there are times that I see them for that. And I feel the embarrassment and the shame. I feel the weakness that they proclaim to everyone else. I feel that deeply and intimately, and it hurts. Today is one of those days.