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Dealing with Scars
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It only takes a single act of self-harm to potentially leave a life-long scar on your body. Some people may struggle with self-harm for many years and it may take the form of a behaviour that routinely leaves potentially permanent scars on the body etc. cutting, scratching, burning. Essientally, scars are permanent. They will fade significantly over time but will never go away completely. There are, however, things that can be tried to help reduce their appearance.
A scar on your wrist, for example, may feel large and obvious to you, but in reality may not be as obvious to others. You can buy large watches and other pieces of jewellery to divert attention away from your wrist.
Likewise, if you have scars on other areas of your body, you can dress according to how you feel most comfortable. Remember - you DO NOT have to cover your scars - learning to accept them and not be ashamed or embarrassed by them is the ultimate goal.
Oils and Creams
There are a variety of difference oils and creams available in high street stores which are designed to reduce the appearance of scars and other skin conditions, such as stretch marks, which many, many people have. Some stretch marks are naturally occurring, whilst others may be the result of pregnancy or a sudden increase of loss of weight. Selfharm.co.uk cannot endorse individual products, but research suggests that some brands do make a significant difference in helping scars to heal and fade. If nothing more, the act of rubbing in creams can be very therapeutic and help you to feel more connected with your body.
Some tattoo artists will have worked with people recovering from self-harm and covering scars with a memorable tattoo is an option. It is not always possible for scars to be covered completely, especially if the skin is uneven, and of course you need to be sure you actually want a tattoo as you are essentially covering one thing with something else – tattoos can be difficult (and often painful) to have removed. If you do decide to have a tattoo, make sure you visit a reputable artist who only uses sterile instruments and is able to show you evidence of his/her qualifications and previous work.
As we saw on Embarrassing Bodies, special concealers have been developed for people wishing to cover scars and burns from serious accidents and house fires, and they are increasingly being made available to people who are recovering from self-harm. The concealers are unlike the make-up you buy for normal use on your face - they are much heavier and extremely robust in water, which can enable you to go swimming. It's important to have a consultation when looking at make-up options so you can be 100% sure you are not only using the correct shade, but that you are also fully informed about how to use it. As with many things, practise is key, so don't be disheartened if your first few attempts appear to make little difference. If you are interested in finding out more, speak to an understanding GP or read more online (just search for camouflage make-up)
In extreme cases you may qualify for cosmetic surgery, or elect to pay for it to be done privately. Surgeons can perform skin grafts over especially scarred areas, especially those caused by burns. As seen on Embarrassing Bodies, large scars that have not healed well can sometimes be cut away and tidied up. Whilst surgery can ‘improve’ how a scar is seen, it cannot remove them completely, and sometimes self-harm scars will simply be replaced by those from the surgery itself.
All these methods may help you disguise or reduce the appearance of scars, but as we said, it's important to remember that scars are permanent. Learning to accept your scars is an important part of recovery. Your scars are important as they signify a stage of your life that was difficult, and can become reminders of the stronger person you have become. Learning to see your scars positively is not easy, but often the biggest hurdle is dealing with other people. Society still struggles with self-harm and makes certain assumptions abou the people who go through it. This is massively unfair. Your scars are nothing to be ashamed of - if others find it hard to accept them then that is their issue, not yours. Don't ever feel you have to justify who you are. If you want to get some support with learning how to deal with bodily disfigurement, then contact Changing Faces, an organisation that does just that. The website is http://www.changingfaces.org.uk/Home