I am a zebra and my stripes are stained red, I used to say, back when my arms and shoulders were littered with red lines from my scissor or my razor.
Today, I am still a zebra, but my stripes are faded and just a hint of a shade darker than my skin.
They are on my shoulders, and they litter my left arm.
They are scars, the visual representation of the emotional trauma I’ve been through.
I don’t try to hide them. In fact, I do my best to highlight them. I plan to get a tattoo overlaid on top of them, with the words “He is Here” and “Joshua 1:9.” That, more than anything else, will draw attention to the lines on my body.
The thing about these scars is that they’re not an accident. They’re not like the scar on my knee from when I broke my nose, or the scar on my forehead from when a rock fell on my face. Those scars are there because of a fluke, something that happened against anyone’s will.
These scars are there because I wanted them to be.
Four and a half years ago, I was a freshman in college. I had a bad day, and I came back to my dorm room, sobbing. I lay on my floor in agony for a few minutes before decided that I was finally going to do it.
I was going to cut.
I grabbed my scissors and started drawing lines on my skin. And I did it again, and again, and again, for years, up until this past January, in fact.
I’ve been to hospitals and counselors and doctors and group therapies and pharmacies and every other imaginable place to try and figure out a way to curb my addiction to cutting.
And yet, I always came back to it in the end. This past October, I went to the hospital for a week. I had cut the day before and was feeling suicidal, and when I left the hospital feeling so much better, I swore I would never cut again.
For the first time ever, I didn’t like what I had done, and I wished I hadn’t.
But I did. I cut once more. Because, like an alcoholic or a drug addict, I just couldn’t say good-bye to my self-medication. I still wanted to cut, wanted it badly. Every time I read an article about someone who cut, or saw it mentioned in a book or on TV, it woke something up inside of me. It awoke my own desire.
Something changed that last time, though. After I did it, I stared at myself and felt regret. For the first time ever, I didn’t like what I had done, and I wished I hadn’t.
I still have the mark from that last time I cut, and when I look at it, I wish I could erase it. I wish there was some way to make it go away, to go back in time and undo the cutting. That’s never happened before. I’ve never regretted the actions I’ve taken to help me deal with my depression.
But this time I did. And that, I think, is going to make all the difference.
This time, when I look at the scar, I feel sorrow. I feel sadness. Not the soul-crushing sadness that depression brings, but the soft kind that comes when you realize you can’t take back your action and there’s no use beating yourself up over it anymore.
They’re a good reminder of what I’ve been through and what I’ve survived.
That’s what I’m going to try to avoid doing. Beat myself up — literally and figuratively. I’m not going to shout angry things in my head, and I’m not going to take up arms against myself anymore. Because I no longer want it. I no longer need it.
My scars will most likely stay with me forever. And I’m not mad about that. They’re a good reminder of what I’ve been through and what I’ve survived.
I just know I’m not going to add anything else to the collection I’ve already got going on.