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Self harm scars

(20 Posts)
Clate Wed 12-Dec-12 00:19:13

FWIW a good friend of mine is a nurse and she has SI scars. She wears very thin white cotton tops with long sleeves under her uniform and there has never been a problem. She explained the situation and all was fine.

SantaFlashesHisBoobsALot Wed 12-Dec-12 00:14:58

Totally get that Stuffing. <hugs> Just thought I would share what a group of us narrowed down to a basic guide for people trying to understand self abuse, whatever form it takes. Sorry if its of no use / isn't accurate to you / offends in any way.

ATouchOfStuffing Wed 12-Dec-12 00:06:55

Santa I didn't really get the guilty thing - I knew it was my body and no one else knew I was doing it. I didn't care about me (not suicidal mind) but skin heals and it felt quite superficial and detached. If anything, for me, it was punishing myself. I felt it released anger/tension and was a reminder that I was human/weak when I couldn't tell anyone how much was going on. I was the joker of the year and everyone felt happy to tell me their problems (which I am pleased about and it wasn't because of those issues) but it meant that I didn't feel I could confide in anyone as I was 'strong'. I used to look forward to my allotted time and made sure I couldn't be interrupted. I enjoyed feeling physical pain because it felt like the pain inside was being let out with the blood. I always wore long sleeves to avoid them being seen and on the one occasion my mum did see them, briefly, I lied and said it was a work accident blush and she never asked much after the initial OMG 'elf and safety rant. My dad still has no idea, and many of my friends now don't know either, even ones I was friends with back then. Actually, ESPECIALLY them!

chickenyummychicken Tue 11-Dec-12 22:51:58

my partner is a student nurse second year and a co worker on placement (nurse on the ward ) had tubigrip bandage on his forearm. he later disclosed it was to hide self harm scars.
zero issues from employer (nhs) or patients.

SantaFlashesHisBoobsALot Tue 11-Dec-12 22:35:30

Today I was discussing the 'cycle' of self harm with a friend of mine (we're both trying to stop again, she's doing much better than me - she's on five weeks clear, so proud of her). Its important to understand that its an addiction. Stopping will always involve slip ups. And the cycle goes like this;

- You feel shit, so you cut.
- The action of cutting calms you down.
- Once you move past calm, you get anxious.
- You then feel guilty, and angry at yourself.
- So then you cut again.

This cycle can take minutes, hours, days or weeks depending on the individual and the incident of hurting yourself.

Oinkypig Tue 11-Dec-12 22:28:12

I wanted to share my experience, I work in the NHS and have to be bare below the elbow and I have severe obvious scars. I found it difficult to start with and was very self-conscious but the longer it has been since I stopped the less I care about my scars. I do get asked about them by patients and on one memorable occasion a consultant in a theatre full of people but it doesn't bother me(much) anymore. To be honest people i i work with just have sympathy and a bit of admiration it hasn't prevented me from doing a job I love.

The make-up just wouldn't be effective to cover them but there are other options, I had some laser resurfacing which worked well but unfortunately it was a small trial patch and the surgeon only borrowed the laser, he had hoped to get the PCT to buy one but then the economic downturn happened. It might be an option in the future.

I don't let my mum see my arms ever, she does know but I know it upsets her to see the scars. It's not that I think she judges me or even makes me feel guilty I just prefer to keep them covered and she respects this by being thoughtful if we are out shopping or if I need to get changed.

I hope your daughter continues to do well in her recovery!

Brightspark1 Tue 11-Dec-12 22:09:21

london that YouTube clip is amazing, I will definitely follow that up though it looks as if it needs some skill to use it. It would be good for a special occasion. hermoine I applaud your attitude, but DD is a long way from taking pride in her appearance or in herself, she is making progress but she's only 16.
Please keep posting, I am trying so hard to understand and I hope I manage not to show any reaction to her scars and be matter of fact about it, reading your experiences and how you have managed to come out the other side helps me to understand ... And to hope

LondonElfInFestiveCheerBoots Mon 10-Dec-12 18:11:49

Bio Oil has helped shift a few of my scars, luckily I don't scar at all badly and my arms never really scarred but my legs were pretty bad and obvious. Mostly, other people can't see them the way you and she can, remember that - my friends can't see mine in a swimsuit even when I think they are blindingly obvious, and this is people who know they are there.

No one would really ask about the scars though, even blatant SH scars tend not to look like SH scars after a few years.

Talking of the makeup route, watch this YouTube - its a demo of 'Dermablend' makeup, could be an option?

wavesandsmiles Sun 09-Dec-12 21:20:08

Hi brightspark, another thought just occurred to me. As I explained, it was from ages 15 - 23 that I was mainly self harming. My mum was openly ashamed of this, and still, for example, winces if she catches sight of any of my scars. This has possibly definitely added to my insecurities about them. However, I don't think it can be denied that in certain professions there will always be some stigma, and there is no way that in my day job I could let my scars be seen. It was almost a decade to the day since my last major episode, that I got my tattoos - it was not something decided on a whim, and was my way, aged 33 at the time, of reclaiming a sense of contentment with my body.

I do remember talking through the fear of other peoples' reactions to my scars with a psychotherapist. I did an experiment one summer when I was away from home on holiday, of going about in a vest top. I personally didn't cope too well, but everyone is different, as you have seen from the replies here.

I think you have received some great advice in terms of not projecting your fears/concerns onto your DD. Have you got any support for yourself? I really think that if my family had been able to access some support, that they, in turn, may have been able to support me better, and leave me feeling less ashamed of my scars.

Oh, and my psych team, back in the day, said that once I had been free of injury for 2 years, I could get a surgical referral. That REALLY helped me stop. Turned out to be nonsense - they were well aware that my scarring was far too extensive for it to be an option, but at least it sort of worked as a preventative measure...

hermioneweasley Sun 09-Dec-12 20:43:41

I would say wear them with pride. They are part of her autobiography and instead of seeing them as a symbol and reminder of the shit times, i think they say "I've had shit times and I'm still here- I rock".

topsi Sun 09-Dec-12 20:38:07

there may non surgical options to help, certain creams and/or treatments. Maybe start off with some Kelokote and massage. Speak to a dermatologist or skin care specialist.

fluffydressinggown Sun 09-Dec-12 00:47:50

BrightSpark - I worked in nursing with scars on my arms so please don't let her be concerned about this, you have to see occupational health prior to employment but it was fine smile I learned very quickly that patients are bothered about themselves, they are unwell and focused on how they feel, I think in working for the NHS for seven years I was asked twice by patients about my SI.

I don't know what to say about it being preventative, for me, the scars have not been enough to stop me from SI-ing, I suppose it can work either way, sometimes I think - no more because I have so many, sometimes I think - fuck it what's one more. I don't know if I would mention it because it puts pressure on (iykwim).

Although I have largely left my arms alone after the scars I caused at 19, and I do think that part of this is because I very consciously never hid them. I remember in the immediate aftermath I was horrified, I could not imagine anyone liking me with my scars or how I would manage in summer. But it has been ok, sometimes I have to take a deep breath, but by and large my SI scars on my arms have not defined me. I got married in a sleeveless dress, I have been on holiday, in fact I rarely wear long sleeves. I get asked and I just say 'I used to self harm' people have nowhere to go then smile

My Mum found my SI very upsetting and I know my husband has found my recent scars difficult to handle, I think your feelings are normal but you are right, it is important not to project. I think acknowledge how crap it is, but encourage her to live with her scars because I think that really helps.

Gosh this is long! Sorry. I have photos of my bare arms which shows how much they have faded if that is of any use to you or your daughter? As a guide sort of thing.

SirBoobAlot Sat 08-Dec-12 23:53:48

I'm 21 and still battling with self harm after a few years clear. I have always done lots of little cuts, and especially in the sun light it is obvious. My arms are worse than my legs, and it used to upset me for a long time.

Maybe discuss with her about keeping her aim as a nurse in sight when she's ever tempted to cut again. It helped me when I was first stopping (and cutting is like any other addiction or stress relief, you get hooked) because I was pregnant and didn't want my DC to see my arms. This kept me going for almost three years.

That said, I have a friend who self harmed in ways much similar to your DD, so has quite large scars that are very obvious all up her arms. She is now training as a midwife, there hasn't been a single issue with regard to them smile

It sounds as though you are a wonderful supportive mum. If you have any questions about self harm / how to discuss it with her, then do ask, I'm sure we can help to some degree, even if we can't make it easier for you.

Brightspark1 Sat 08-Dec-12 22:37:49

Thank you all for your replies. They are honest and thought provoking, giving me another perspective. It hadn't occurred to me that for some of you, it is the scars that actually help to prevent further SH. I obviously need to think very carefully before I open up the subject with DD. As her mum, I find her scars upsetting and a visible reminder of what she (and us) have gone through, but I have tried so hard not to judge, and to remain calm, and to protect her from the judgemental attitudes of those that have treated her in A&E. It makes me angry that her SH got so much worse when she was an inpatient and it was so badly managed. But I think i need to separate what I feel from what she feels about it, instead of rushing in trying to make everything OK.
She has been using Bio oil, and it sounds like its worth continuing. Tattoos aren't an option if she wants to be a nurse and she's underage. Hopefully they may fade as she is only 16 and her skin might be more resilient or am I clutching at straws?

wavesandsmiles Sat 08-Dec-12 08:23:20

Hi brightspark, it is such a hard situation for your DD. I sh significantly from age 15 to 23, and, whilst I am pretty much over it, still have the intermittent relapse - these have been triggered by major events such as exH leaving me and my babies, my dad dying suddenly.

I used to very rarely go without long sleeves and feel genuinely sad that my wardrobe is so limited. My scars on my legs have faded considerable, as have those on my chest, but my arms never really faded - I also have keloidal scarring. Surgery was never an option for me as my arms are completely covered from wrist to shoulder. Again, make up is of limited use when scars are keloidal.

What I did, about 18 months ago, after years of fretting, was start work on having my arms tattooed. Sounds a bit weird, but I have always liked tattoos, and had a few anyway. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be proud of my body, and so I designed a really beautiful full sleeve tattoo for my right arm, which is pretty much finished now. It took a while due to finances, but the tattoo artist who worked on it was so careful about covering the scars. It isn't a standard tattoo at all - very feminine despite being all black. Anyway, I know that tattoos aren't for everyone, but I work in a senior management position and also teach. I wear long sleeves for work to cover the tattoos, but on nights out and days off, I can, once again, wear short sleeves. To me, it feels more socially acceptable to have tattoos than to have obvious sh scars.

Half of my left arm is now covered, and hopefully end of next year I will have the lower part finished.

Anyway, this was my way of beginning to make peace with my scarred body. I have to admit that the past month or so has been tough, and my untattooed lower left arm has been attacked a little. But only very minor injuries, and I haven't touched my right arm at all - so the tattoo has helped in more ways than one. I think that it will take time for your DD - as others have said, it really does take time for the scars to fade, but once that happens, it is possible to find a way to accept your body.

mumtoaandj Sat 08-Dec-12 08:03:13

I have my scars dating back to 2001, they kind of stop me from doing it again.They have been embarrassing and have had to wear long sleeves during very hot weather, and arm sleeves at weddings etc but now i am late 30's most women cover their arms up anyway.

ATouchOfStuffing Sat 08-Dec-12 02:20:27

My scars actually partially keep me from continuing. Going through a really low point at the moment and no one to talk to and for the first time in years the idea popped in. I am clearly a lot more self conscious now or something though, as the thought of re-explaining/excuses is a put off as well as the fear of getting back into the cycle and exposing my lovely DD to it when I try so hard to be happy for her. I have stopped for 9 years now and the scars are much less obvious, so I hope that is a consolation.
Used bio oil for pg and it worked wonders for preventing stretch marks too.

fluffydressinggown Fri 07-Dec-12 23:34:18

I have self harm scars on my arms, it has never really been a problem for me in terms of work and I have worked in a bare below the elbow environment.

There is surgery, but it can be hard to get a referral and they usually like you to be SI free for a decent period of time. You are also still left with scars.

I have been seen by the red cross scar people, they couldn't do much because I am so pale but I think for the vast majority of people they do a really good job.

I think it is really hard to make peace with scarring your own body, I don't have much advice on this really. I feel regret about what I have done, but I decided to make myself suck it up and deal with it because otherwise my SI would always be holding me back (if that makes any sense?)

Scars also continue to change for quite a while after you did them, my oldest scars are 9 years old and I think it took them a good 4-5 years to settle down. I have some on my legs that are 4 years old which needed stitches etc and they were not visible at all after 2 years or so.

Hope this is helpful smile

Hoophopes Fri 07-Dec-12 23:00:03

You used to be able (may still be able to ) ask your Gp for a referral to the voluntary service the Red Cross offer for make-up for scars. They match the product to suit skin tone, and it is waterproof. You then get it on prescription. I did this, but didn't for me find it helpful for anything other than people not being able to see from a distance. But that may be my experience. Also, there are patches you can buy that are meant with use of wearing to reduce scarring - perhaps gp would prescribe? no use of them, though.

I know someone who has awful scarring, nothing can cover what that person has and she works in the NHS with bare below the elbows policy - yes she had to pass Occupational Health, but they are old scars (the past) and after time people do not comment.

I used to use Bio Oil to help the appearance, it takes months of perseverance to make difference, but for me it did help somewhat.

Brightspark1 Fri 07-Dec-12 22:53:40

DD has managed to mostly stop SH after 2 years of determined cutting. She couldn't get hold of razors so she used pencil sharpener blades, can lids and bits of glass. Many of her cuts got infected, many needed stitching or butterflies (which she would pull out ). MHwise, she is in a much better place and has been discharged from CAMHS. But now it's as if she has woken up to her appearance, and her arms are an absolute mess with a lot of scarring, many of them are keloid. She is hoping to follow a career which involves being 'bare below the elbows'. Does anyone have any experience or knowledge about using make up or whether surgery is an option?

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