Mothers, wives and women who self-harm

Trigger warning: self-harm

I recently found myself in a situation I haven’t been in for a number of years. I was having a massage and had the shameful experience of having to explain the fresh signs of self-harm on my body.

Self-harm has been an sporadic visitor to my life since I was a teenager, when my major depressive disorder first appeared. Its visits were more infrequent as I got older and matured - my mental health levelled out as my life did.

I do remember trying on wedding dresses and having to hide my body from the dressers. I was so ashamed of the scars but more so the ones that were more recent and obvious still. ‘I fell over on some oysters,’ I once told a curious waxing technician.

Self-harm itself was largely absent from my life after I met my husband, got engaged, married and had a child, because I just couldn’t associate self harm with these wonderful, life changing, life enriching things. Ever since I was a girl, I’d imagined my wedding, I’d imagined becoming a mum, I’d imagined being proposed to. They are so quintessentially part of the ‘female experience’ we are sold – and that is an experience that allows no room for mental health issues and the darkness that can bring.

I am still very uncomfortable with the scars that been left on my body. Mostly they are in covered places because there was something about self-harm that always seemed immodest to me, like it needed to be hidden away so it didn’t make other people uncomfortable.

It’s nearly 20 years since I first self-harmed and it remains one of those unexplored areas of my mind where shame is gathering and growing, nurturing itself in my silence.

But as Rumi said: the wound is the place where the light enters you.

As women, we can still be mothers and wives, holding these important roles while also having a facet to our identity that is darker and reflects the deeper underbelly of our life experiences.

It is not ‘the whore vs the Madonna’ dynamic we are avoiding. It is ’the crazy cat lady vs the Madonna’. We don’t want to be the highly strung overstressed stereotype - the damaged, unstable woman. We don’t want to be Marissa from the OC, we don’t want to be Marnie from Girls, we don’t want to admit that we are anything less than perfect.

So here is my admission: that I am flawed and imperfect, awkward, hypersensitive, but I am always earnest, always trying to be my best – whether as a mother, as a wife or just as plain Hannah.

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