Behind My Scars

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Photography by Sophie Mayanne

* Trigger Warning: This post talks about suicide attempt and self-harm and also contains photos of self-harm scars, which could be a trigger to some. If you choose to keep reading, please tread carefully *

"Every scar, every wound, every ache inside of you is a story. And stories are the wildest, most powerful things of all. Because stories can build galaxies or make entire universes break and bleed and fall"        ~ Nikita Gill, You are made of stories. 

I have Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (also known as Borderline Personality Disorder), which is a debilitating and persistent mental illness. And because of this illness, I've struggled with self-harm all my life - I mean it, I started hitting myself at the age of 3.

Self-harm and suicide attempts, particularly cutting myself, have been my ways of coping with the intensity of my emotions. It just so happens that my emotions are intense and changing all the fucking time, so my urges are there all the fucking time too.

I am lucky to currently be in recovery; I started therapy (privately) over a year ago and I've now learned better ways of coping. Nowadays, I really do manage to use healthier ways to cope rather than go for my beloved razor blades. I've had many therapists, but when you find someone that you're comfortable with, and who really gets you and who is genuinely interested in helping you long term, well, then things really do start to change for the better.  

Don't get me wrong, the therapy process is extremely difficult, and being in recovery does not mean that there are no relapses; these things don't change overnight; it's a long, painful & slow process.

Once upon a time though, I was very ashamed of how I coped; I was ashamed of all the suicide attempts and the self-harm episodes, but now I know that there is no shame in having a mental illness, and actually we need to end the stigma around mental health and really change how we communicate about and manage mental ill health.

Mental health is just as important as physical health. But because of how poorly we deal with such issues, we are losing more and more people to suicide and accidental death, as a result of self-harm. And this is happening because society isn't providing an environment where we can talk honestly about our struggles. But most importantly, the appropriate and necessary treatment just isn't available! So, even when people do communicate, they can't access the help they need.

In my opinion, the society we live in has blood on its' hands; we could be doing a lot more to help those living with a mental illness. I'm not trying to downplay the importance of taking care of our physical health, but my Buddha, we are really clueless as to how serious, crippling and dangerous it is to live with mental ill health. And we're failing to help the most vulnerable.

The NHS failed to help me when it came to my mental illness. However, I have many physical health issues, which are all being appropriately dealt with - and I must add that, most of my physical health issues are a direct result of my mental health deteriorating so drastically; my mental illness affects me physically. I mean it; my body literally paralysed itself at one point, and partly thanks to that, I was forced to find a private psychotherapist and a private psychiatrist - something the NHS should be providing. 

I can't end this post without saying that the NHS Mental Health Services are NON-EXISTENT, and I know this from personal experience - even when they do provide any support, it is invalidating, detrimental and short-term. After having group therapy provided by the NHS, for example, I actually deteriorated but I was told that there was no other option. And had I continued to rely on them, I would have eventually killed myself. This is no exaggeration, I was knocking on death's door and there was no help for me, and sadly this is the truth for most patients waiting for mental health treatment from the NHS.

My loved ones, who were understanding and supportive of me, forced me to go after professional help, and this is the reason I am here today to tell the tale. 

Years of self-harm have left me with a number of scars - most of these scars are on my left arm, there are some on my right arm too, and some faint ones on my stomach and left thigh. But throughout the years, my left arm has definitely taken the brunt of my self-harm episodes.

Photograph by Sophie Mayanne

Photograph by Sophie Mayanne 

Photograph by Sophie Mayanne 

I've spent years feeling extremely ashamed of my scars, and for a long time I hid them under long sleeves and baggy clothes. One of my worst episodes consequently ended with me having thirty stitches, and it is now one of my biggest scars. I've had a hate-HATE relationship with that scar for years. However, now I see all my scars as a part of what I have been and still am going through; they’re a part of my life, my story and my survival.

You know how people go through brain surgery or heart surgery or breast cancer surgery and are then left with scars? Well, to me, my scars are no different to those battles. 

My scars are a part of me; they're proof I'm surviving this war. They're proof that things are really hard, but I got this; I'm alive.

I am no longer embarrassed of them. They remind me of how much I've survived and how far I've come. So, random lady on the train, you can stare at them all you want, but don't be surprised if you find me staring back. Because I stand by them, and you have no idea what I've been through.

One thing is for sure, I won't be hiding these stripes anymore.

Photograph by Sophie Mayanne 

And as a way of celebrating these beautiful imperfections and also a way of raising awareness, I took part in Sophie Mayanne's 'Behind the Scars' photo series - where the focus are scars and the stories behind them. A year ago, it wouldn't have crossed my mind that one day, I'd be celebrating my scars. Recovery is real, and if I can do it, so can you.

If you are interested in taking part in this awesome project or simply want to check it out and/or support it, please click HERE. You can also find Sophie on Instagram.

It's about time we celebrated our stories and our perfect imperfections, don't you think?

Please note: I am talking about MY experience, and MY experience will be different to someone else with the same diagnosis. We're all individuals and we cope and manage differently. This is simply my account, please do not take this to mean that all those with a mental illness or with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder have the same experiences or act the same way. Each to their own. We are all UNIQUE - no experience is ever experienced the same way. 

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