Telling your friends and family
Whether or not you cover your scars will depend upon the specific situation you are in, who you are with, and where you are.
Often people will ask quite innocently ‘what happened to your arm?‘ This may immediately make you defensive, as it is difficult to answer, and you may feel that it isn’t anyone else’s business.
We suggest you only show your cuts / scars if you feel comfortable answering questions about them. Your scars will often appear worse to yourself than they do to others.
When a query comes up, you could say a variety of things ‘It’s a long story’ or ‘I don’t want to discuss it right now‘ or simply be honest and direct before changing the subject ‘I did it‘ ‘I hurt myself‘. If they persist you can always go on to say ‘ I was going through a really hard time in my life‘, or ‘I don’t want to talk about it‘. Be polite but firm, it is a personal question, so don’t feel you have to explain yourself or be over-polite. While it sometimes seems easier to make excuses (e.g. the cat did it), lying can backfire.
Children are naturally inquisitive and freely ask questions. It can be difficult knowing how to explain scars to children, and what you say to them will depend on your relationship with them, their age, and their maturity. Remember that children can copy behaviour without understanding it; you don’t want to influence a child’s behaviours.
Sometimes showing your scars can actually make you feel stronger and freer than constantly hiding them away, especially if it has been a long-time since you self-injured. Choose your attitude – how important are scars anyway? Scars can tell a story but they do not define who you are, just a part of your life that you have dealt with or are dealing with – everyone has scars of one sort or another.
Remember that recent cuts should always be covered with the appropriate dressing to prevent infection. Injuries should be kept clean and bandaged, in accordance with First Aid procedures. Recent cuts, rather than scars, are more upsetting for other people to see. So you might want to cover up when you have cuts but choose to have your scars visible when they have scarred over.
As your skin tans, white scars become increasingly visible. So if you have to wear short sleeved as a uniform, or prefer to hide your scars as far as possible, it’s best to stay out of the sun even within the privacy of your own garden.
Scars on wrists can often be covered by bracelets or watches. For scars on arms long-sleeves are the obvious option, but there are other choices.. In the summer when it is hot you might prefer a vest top with an open shirt so that your arms are still covered.
Another option is to wear the sort of elasticated bandage that people use for sprains, or tubi-grip bandages. This means you can still wear short sleeves and cover your scars in a way that other people won’t be too curious about.
For scars on legs jeans, trousers, long skirts and tights can be worn. Some people might suggest that you’d be cooler in the summer wearing less, so be prepared for such queries.
Covering up in general, ensures that you’re in control of who knows, and who talks to you about SI, but if you do show your scars, you will find that attention is given to them, so consider how you feel about that.