You know how people will sometimes ask you, “If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?” It’s something I’m sure we’ve all pondered, and at one time I probably would have said I’d like to reduce the size of my thighs. I have big thighs. I’m aware of this. However, now that I’m older, I have a different answer.
I would like to wipe the skin, like the slate, clean, on my forearm.
It’s strange to think back to when I used to cut. I started when I was 19, shortly after I started dating my first boyfriend and a couple months after I was put on an anti-depressant. It was not for attention, it was to help myself cope with the emotional effects of an abusive relationship, in part, and in whole the vast changes I was experiencing.
Throughout high school, I had never touched a drop of alcohol or any drug for that matter. I didn’t have sex. I didn’t party. I was a good, but naive young lady. When I got to college, the exposure was a shock to my system. Also, my best friend went to school in Minnesota and we drifted apart. I felt quite alone and unequipped to cope with all the changes in my life.
When I think back to what it was like to cut on a regular basis, I have flashes of memories, of wearing a sleeve fashioned out of old leggings to work so nothing was exposed, not questions were asked. I remember a customer at a cafe I worked at asking me, “What’s that from? Do you have an angry kitty?” I remember throwing away the knife I used to cut, eventually, to signify an end to the habit. Then, it’s like I didn’t think about it for a few years. I was still on anti-depressants at this time, but once I went off of them, I felt a shift in my psyche.
Once I was out of the fog of medication use, I was shockingly aware of the fact I have an arm absolutely covered in cutting scars. Twenty-two to be precise. The past two years, it’s as if I’ve become hyper-aware of their presence, which is odd because the further away I get from that time in my life, the lighter the scars become.
Maybe it was a defense mechanism to pretend like they were not there or to not notice that people looked at them. Now, I notice every single time somebody’s eyes stop on my arm and I try my best to cover the scars with long sleeves or posturing, but when you live in Charlotte and it’s 95 degrees with 90% humidity, there’s only so much you can do and I find myself frequently exposed.
I hate it. I put lotion on the scars, I try to cover them, and I’ve even recently considered getting a tattoo to change their appearance.
I’m becoming good at honestly answering the question, “What happened to your arm?”, with, “I used to cut.” No lies. End of story. Although, every time I have to address it, I am taken back in time and reminded of an incredibly difficult and dark time in my life. Fortunately, I’m becoming more and more seasoned at this interaction and I’ve been able to just leave it at call and response and not delve into memories and inner dialogue afterwards.
So, when people ask me, “What would you change about your body?” My definitive, unquestionable answer is to make my cutting scars go away.