By Casey Desrochers
I’m a mom with scars. I don’t mean emotional scars (though I definitely have those, too). I don’t mean a c-section scar. My pregnancy, labor, and delivery were all textbook perfect—so perfect that I never want to do it again. But no, I mean scars that I inflicted on myself during a stage in my life where I did not know how to cope with emotions.
Between my sophomore and junior years of high school, we moved. I was a perfectly sheltered only child at that point. It never occurred to me that my life would ever change. But there I was, sitting in the parking lot of an unfamiliar school, wearing the “wrong” combination of uniform – all of the girls were wearing the skirt, but I was wearing the pants. I was dressed like the boys. I was completely an outsider and at sixteen, had never felt that way before. Could that day have gotten any worse? Of course it could!
Once I worked up the courage to go inside, I found myself sitting in the wrong homeroom, wearing the wrong combination of the uniform. I finally made it to the right homeroom, late, of course – and everyone turned to check out the new girl. I tried to smile and interact, but inside, I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted and absolutely miserable.
A couple of weeks into the school year, as I was sitting at my computer chatting with friends back home, I looked down and I found that my thumb was bleeding. I had scissors in my hand. I remember being completely confused. Then, I pressed the scissors onto my inner arm and a paper-thin cut filled with blood. The feeling of relief was incredible. I felt like I could breathe….finally.
As time went on, I got worse. I had new friends, but I was far from happy. I never considered suicide. The cuts weren’t about dying. The cuts reminded me that I was alive. I felt calm and free and ALIVE. Those feelings were fleeting, though, so I would have to cut again. And again. It wasn’t about attention, either. I was VERY good at hiding my cuts.
As it progressed, I confided in my friend, who in turn notified my parents. I wish I could say that it stopped there, but I just got more creative. I hid my razor blade and cut my stomach and legs instead. I got better at pretending I was okay. Then one day, I made a huge, gaping cut on my thigh. I could see the tissue beneath and it scared me. It hurt. It never hurt before. After that, I just stopped. I threw away my razor blade. I was able to fight the urge – a fight that continues even today, fifteen years later.
The scars that cover my left arm are the most noticeable. I have had people, even total strangers, ask me about them. I can handle that. But I have a four-year-old daughter, who is now noticing my scars. I remember the first time she asked me about them. I was doing her hair (in a ponytail, of course, because the creative-hair gene is nowhere to be found in me).
“Mama, what’s that?” she asked as she pointed at my arm. I froze. The day had come. I always knew she would ask. I should have been more prepared. “Oh, that? That’s nothing for you to worry about, my little bug.” UGH! I had done the one thing I swore I would never do. I wanted to always be open and honest with her. So, after I finished that amazing ponytail, I got her some chocolate milk and sat on the couch with her.
“Baby, remember earlier when you asked about Mama’s arm?” She nodded; of course she remembered. She’s four. She remembers everything. “You know how we talk about how cool it is that people are all different? We can have different skin colors, and hair and eye colors, and some of us have tattoos?” Another nod – good, at least something I say has been getting through to her. “Well, on my arm, those are called scars.” I thought it would end at that, but oh no, not my curious girl! She asked what they were from. Here it was…be honest? Make something up? The words just poured out.
“Well, chickie, when Mama was a teenager, she was very sick. But she’s all better now!” And she nodded, accepting that. “Mama, want to play the matching game with me?”
And that was that. Then, the other night, we were curled up watching a movie and I felt her tracing her fingers up and down my arm. Then she leaned down and kissed it. She turned those huge blue eyes to me and triumphantly said, “All better!”
My girl is perfectly okay with my scars, but she doesn’t really understand, not yet. I hope that she grows; we can have more conversations about it. I hope that as things get hard for her, because they will, she will know that Mama will be honest with her and that she can always turn to me.
But at the same time, I worry – what if my scars are part of the reason she struggles? Is it possible that one of her friends will see my scars and judge my daughter because of them? What if a parent of one of my daughter’s friends sees my scars? How can I teach my daughter to be strong, when I was obviously so weak?
I think about what my parents went through. How confused and sad they must have been. As parents, we want nothing but the best for our children. We never want to contribute to their hurt or their anger. But sometimes, all we can do is wait and watch. Wait and watch and love.
About the Author
Casey is a 33-year-old mother of one. She lives in Arizona with her husband, their four-year-old daughter, and three dogs. Casey likes to write serious articles that also showcase her cynical sense of humor.