I think that every one of us feels a little bit damaged. It’s impossible to walk through life without acquiring some scars along the way: We experience loss. We get hurt. We have our hearts broken. And you would never know of the pain borne by the stranger you pass on the street, just as we never realize how calm waters can belie a stormy sea. Our suffering as individuals is quiet, and often goes unheard. It’s not until we admit to our own brokenness that other people often realize that there’s even any damage at all.
For me, that damage takes on a quite literal context: I was fourteen years old the first time I self-harmed. At the time it was but an act of quiet desperation, an attempt to find relief during a period of my life when I felt tremendously unhappy, unwanted, and alone. I couldn’t have known at the time that I would become addicted, that two years down the line I’d no longer be able to conceal the evidence of my behavior beneath my flimsy track uniform, and instead graduate to wearing long sleeves and pants full-time, my skin constantly cracked and puckered like the porcelain visage of a china bowl.
Nearly five years of this passed before I decided that I’d had enough, that I didn’t want to be struggling with this into adulthood and I started making a conscious effort to curb my destructive impulses. It’s been almost two years since I came to that decision, and since then my eyes have turned to the future: How to go about living in the skin I’m in.
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had a desire to get tattooed — I just never knew what I would get. I had ideas of course, most of them small, meaningful pieces that I anticipated getting later in life, but they always changed over the years and none of them ever came to fruition. It wasn’t until I made the decision to stop self-harming that getting tattooed became more than a tenuous, noncommittal thought and something that I started to seriously consider pursuing.
At first, I just wanted to get a quote on my arm. As of this post, I have the line work of a lantern and roses (the first of two sessions) spanning the length of my entire upper arm instead. I fell in love with the art of tattoos. I fell in love with the notion that my skin could someday become a tapestry of ink instead of scars, that something so beautiful could be born from pain, could possibly be a part of me. It is my personal kintsugi of the flesh: Skin and scars bound not with gold but with ink, adorned but never hidden.
After sweltering under layers of clothing for so many years, I question if the antidote to my shame could possibly be so potent. But I know that I’ve grown tired of hiding. Don’t we already hide enough? Don’t we already sweep everything unsavory under the carpet? Doesn’t that just add more fuel to the fire? And by breaking the silence and sharing my experiences, could I help someone in similar shoes? Could I encourage someone to do the same?
Could I matter?
It’s a noble goal, and perhaps a lofty one. I don’t know if I’m ready to be so forthright in real life. But I’d like to start here, by documenting the process of reclaiming my body for my own reference, as well as for those interested in undertaking the same journey. Eventually, I’d like to also write about how these changes translate into my daily life, as I slowly renegotiate the boundaries between myself and the world. I’ve taken small steps already — steps that I’d like to talk about on here — and can already see the difference between the person I am today, and the girl who used to keep the blinds shut tight, swathed in a cloak of blankets and darkness so no one could see.
Only though honesty and acceptance can I shed the shame I’ve carried for so many years. Only through vulnerability can self-hatred segue into self-love.
I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting here. I’ve tried blogging before and was never consistent with it, so there may be a period of trial and error here. But I would like to make a post featuring my line work and how it healed soon (I go back in for shading next Saturday). Later on, the results of my second session…and whatever projects I pursue after that. I’ll do my best to never post inherently triggering content, but if you’re the sort of person who’s sensitive to photographs of self-harm scars, then I’d advise that you proceed through my blog with caution, or otherwise forgo it entirely.
Until then: Hello. My name is Micayla. I am 20 years old. I am an adult survivor of self-harm, and I am reclaiming myself, from myself, one scar at a time.
Thank you for joining me on this journey.