I need to say something and it will come across as a rant, but well, this has been milling about my mind for a while and it’s time to get it off my chest.
After I was sexually assaulted I developed a fondness for hot showers. The kind that would fill the entire room with enough steam to completely hide the mirrors, the water hot enough to leave my skin a shiny pink, the rush of the water loud enough to drown out any sob that managed to escape me. It was one of my escapes.
These showers typically came after a sexual encounter of the drunken variety – I had a routine of sorts. I would arrive home, fling my clothes across my tiny studio apartment and crank the water as hot as it would go.
Then I’d lather.
One lather to rid myself of any remainders from the previous nights tryst, a second lather just to make extra sure I got every spot, and then a third just to be extra extra sure I could no longer feel any trace of him anywhere on me. My body accustomed to the heat, I’d then turn the water that final minuscule bit hotter and let it slowly numb my skin before collapsing to the shower floor, diligently taking apart a razor and slicing it across the skin of my left arm.
If I could turn back time I’d happily go back to the moment sharp things were discovered and stop them from ever being created.
It is not my scars that cause the anxiety to build inside me but rather the reactions. You see, most people don’t know what to think. They fear my scars and what it says about my mental wellbeing. I had a parent once tell me they couldn’t trust someone who had a history of self harm to take care of their children, as if I was going to pull out a blade and slit my wrists in front of them, or worst, cause the children harm.
My favourite reactions however come from the men I sleep with. And in case you hadn’t picked up on this yet, the majority of the men I sleep with are casual encounters (don’t blame me, blame modern-day dating), making this all the funnier.
They kiss them!
And not even casually, they make a big production out of it. Eye contact, gentle caresses, whispered soothing words, the whole shebang. As if with their magical healing kiss of true love (bud, I can’t even remember your name) they can take away the pain of my past and vanish the scars on my arm.
Here are some instances when this move would be appropriate:
1) If your partner has already approached the topic. Then yes, it could indeed be a very sweet, heartwarming, romantic sign of acceptance.
2) If you are a magical being, or Prince Charming, or Harry freaking Potter and your kisses actually truly hold healing powers. In which case, kiss away my dear, I’d love to be rid of my scars!
That is all. Under no other circumstances will it bring tears of joy to my eye when you bless my battered arm with a kiss.
And I don’t want to come across as rude or abrasive but here is the honest truth: I don’t want to acknowledge them in a casual setting! It makes me uncomfortable as they are not something I like to be reminded of. I don’t believe that my scars are a sign or strength, nor are they a sign of weakness, rather a sign of a mental health system and an approach to mental illness that failed me. Perhaps if, post-suicide attempt, I’d received the proper treatment instead of being sent home with a boxful of anti-psychotics and anti-depressants and the idea that I should feel ashamed of myself for the very thoughts running through my mind, the following few years would not have been quite so bleak. But alas, the system failed me as it continues to fail so many others and the scars littered across my body are all the proof I need.
So men, and the occasional friend who likes to broach the topic on a night out at a busy pub, take note:
I am happy to discuss my experiences with mental illness with you. But maybe over a coffee or a bottle of tequila (your pick) in a safe environment where no one can overhear us. Just because you can see them, does not mean you are automatically entitled to know where they came from and why.
And for the love of god, do not kiss your way down my body only to linger on on my mutilated left arm. It’s not sweet, nor is it sexy and it will most definitely not endear me towards you. It is a complete waste of your time that will have me faking an orgasm in an attempt to bring our romp in the sheets to an end as quickly as possible. My clitoris (for example) would much prefer the extra attention you are wasting on sensual caresses of my arm.