CW: self harm, trauma
“People who are hairy, notice hair.” My mom told me reassuring me that no one would notice mine.
This sentiment is the same with so many other attributes, experiences, and illnesses. Somehow those who have similarities find each other. I notice the tiny scars on people’s wrists, I notice the large scars on people’s forearms. I am envious of folks’ confidence in wearing tank tops and short sleeved shirts. I am envious of those who don’t wear 3 layers even in the heat of a southern summer.
I know more people who suffer from depression and anxiety than don’t. I have more interactions with people who have chronic illness. The magnet of similarity of experience brings us together. The universe knows we must be in community.
At my brother’s wedding in Hawaii I wore a strapless dress. I did not cover my arms filled with scars except with a thin tattoo I was proud of getting a few weeks earlier. No one asked, no one stared. I don’t know if I didn’t notice because I just didn’t give a shit or if no one noticed because no one else had been there.
The shame of my past lives on my skin so clearly. The sharp lines, the horizontal bumps that line my left arm are evidence of the pain I needed to see. The anxiety and sadness and anger that would eat at me until I could release it. The rhythm of the blade against my skin created the release of these emotions which would allow for sleep.
I didn’t sleep for weeks in high school. I would go downstairs and watch infomercials. Infomercials could convince me to buy anything. The only item I could convince my mom to buy was the twisty mop. We got two for the low low price of 19.99. I think we also got some microfiber cloths.
After I witnessed a horrific car accident, I was compelled to paint all night. I made so many drawings and paintings. I couldn’t stop even when I got black paint on the white carpet in my bedroom, knowing my parents would be upset. I made my strongest painting that night. I’m still proud of it. It contains everything that lives on my skin.
Disaster and trauma always build the compulsion to create for me. Maybe that’s why I sought out disaster in my relationships. I knew that if I had fuel for my art I could keep making. Little did I know that disaster was actually snuffing out my creativity completely.
I didn’t make art for 6 years. I pretended I was too busy, but really I couldn’t make. The life within me was gone, like a pilot light that has no gas. I no longer could heat myself let alone spread my light.
Setting myself on fire does not equate with the ability to create. That lesson has taken longer to learn than it should’ve. Should is a word filled with shame and blame. I use it a lot. I should’ve known. I should know. I should be better. It’s a word that makes me feel smaller than I actually am. It is a word that I use to minimize myself.