Scars in the Summertime (or: The Girl Who Lived or: I Have Overall Shorts)

I have three scars on my legs. Well, I have more than that, but three that are intentional, while the others came from general falling over-or-running-into-table-corner-type events. Two of the three came from the night I checked into the hospital, and one came from about a week earlier- or maybe it was the other way around. I would swear the first one is on my right calf, but that one is healing better than the one on my left calf, and the more recent one(s) got fairly immediate professional attention at the hospital and would have healed better, bringing my timeline into question. Why I did it…well, that’s a whole other post, but suffice to say that it was some combination of a test run for something much worse and a way to move the awful feeling from my brain to something physical I could focus on (more the latter than the former, in case anyone’s worried about that).

The thing is, I don’t really remember the events surrounding my getting these scars as any sort of straightforward timeline. I don’t remember coming home, but I do remember sitting on my bed. I remember calling my friend and I remember calling the Kaiser helpline, but I don’t remember in what order. I don’t remember why I even had an X-Acto knife, though I do remember which drawer it was in (that left one in the bathroom where all the junk that doesn’t really fit in anywhere else goes). What I remember very clearly is how I felt that night, and that’s so overwhelming that it doesn’t leave much any room for the play-by-play of the minutes or second of it. Ugh, it all feels so “Lifetime movie”. So “angsty high schooler”. At any rate, it doesn’t really matter all that much, because there they are.

This new decor came about last November, and even in Southern California that usually means long pants weather. It’s only now that spring is nearly over and the June gloom has burned off that people are starting to wear shorts, dresses, skirts. Grown-ass adults are even wearing overall shorts here in LA. I haven’t had to really think about the scars until now, aside from once or twice when I thought about pulling my track pants up to my knees when I started overheating while coaching gymnastics. But it was 100 degrees this weekend and I am one of those- again, fully grown adults- with a pair of overall shorts.

So…so what? They’re just scars. I’m open about having been to the hospital, about taking medication, and about ECT. If it comes up naturally in conversation, I’ll gladly tell someone about how much I love those damn nonskid hospital socks and how I got them. Just the other day, some of my improv classmates (shoutout Sat UCB 201!) went for happy hour after class and started talking about our favorite celebrity encounters. I think it’s clear by now that mine is Carrie Fisher, and that story isn’t complete with context. That’s all to say that I’m not embarrassed by all of this (because, as Carrie Fisher taught me, it’s not something to be embarrassed about). People usually roll with it, and if they’re uncomfortable, they don’t show it.

But there’s something about this physical proof that takes those stories and explanations out of the abstract and brings them abruptly back into the real world. When I’m talking about all of this, I usually seem fine, because I usually am fine, in that moment. It’s almost as if I’m talking about someone else, or like I’m describing the plot of a movie. It’s easy to take the edge off in your head when it’s just a story. But when someone asks how I got the scars (and people do), it’s a different conversation than “I’m depressed and seriously anxious”. It’s the stark reality of “I literally sat on my bed one night, wishing more than anything that I could just get up the nerve to kill myself, and basically practicing, however briefly.” You can tell that blade went deep, and that conversation gets uncomfortable, and quickly. 

And that’s if someone asks. The few times I’ve worn shorts since November, I’ve gotten some stares- not a ton, but I’m on high alert so I see them. Some people look like they want to ask about it, but (and I’m just guessing) don’t want to bring up anything upsetting, because regardless of how they got there, they’re not pretty. It’s not going to stop me from wearing weather-appropriate clothes, but it does make me sort of self-conscious. Which reminds me that even though I have a fucking blog about this, I’m still caught up in the weird social stigma of it all, and still don’t totally know how to feel totally ok with putting it all out there. Hearing other people’s stories helps; it’s like a secret-but-not-secret club (did I use the semicolon right?), but I guess there’s still a ways to go. I’m not really sure how to end this one. Does anyone have suggestions for really good scar removal products?

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One response to “Scars in the Summertime (or: The Girl Who Lived or: I Have Overall Shorts)

  1. Erin, you are a really good writer, and I applaud your courage to be so candid about what you have been going through. Did you see the news stories about Carrie Fisher that said she had sleep apnea, and that caused her heart condition? When I read that, I wondered if sleep apnea could contribute to depression.

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