On being a mid-30s self-harmer
Posted by lucyd
3rd Jul 2015

It's school sports day. Nearing 30C.

I have a child in Year 4 and another in Nursery.

I used to be a governor at the school, before depression made it impossible to continue.

I am there, on the playing field, cheering my children on, with scars that reach from wrist to armpit.

Everyone is looking at me. I know everyone is looking at me.

When you're a teenager, self-harm scars are as commonplace as pierced ears or tattoos.

When you're a 36-year-old mother of two, they are written in neon lights.

My school mum colleagues are lawyers, doctors, accountants. They are store assistants, customer service advisers, mature students. They are nurses, teachers, stay-at-home mums. They're respectful members of society. And they look at me. They look at me.

What do they see?

I can tell you what they should see. They should see a woman - a professional, self-employed woman who has two children, a husband, a mortgage, a busy voluntary life built around the church, a Ford Focus and a cat - who has spent the past 18 months at the brink. A woman who has been consumed by an illness that, though it was mental, was every bit as invasive as cancer. A woman who kept getting out of bed and doing the school run when it felt like the world was closing in on her. A woman who had to spend whole weekends in bed to counteract the effort of getting through the week.

They should see a woman who has pasted on a smile and made playground smalltalk. A woman who has supervised homework and piano practice and driven her children to after-school clubs. A woman who has fed and nurtured and cooked and bathed and sung night-night lullabies.

They should see a broken woman. A woman who thought cutting would help to relieve the unremitting hideousness of depression. A woman who discovered that it didn't, and so took two major overdoses. A woman who, despite her nice middle class roots, now has a social services file.

Most of all, they should see a woman who is trying to come back from all of that. A woman who is deeply ashamed of her teenage-style attention-seeking scars. A woman who faces an internal battle every summer morning over whether or not it's too hot to wear a cardigan. A woman who adores her children above all else.

What do you see when you look at me?

I know it's not pretty. But I am not scary. I am not a freak. I am a 36-year-old self-harmer and I am so, so ashamed of that. But I can't erase the past. All I can do is move forward.

What do you see?

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