Dealing with old scars

Dealing with old scars

Dear Mookychick,

I am 15 and in my last year of high school, and going on to arts college in September (finally moving out!) and suddenly people have started treating me really differently.

It isn’t sort of a random change. It’s kind of my fault I guess. From the age of 11 till about 6 months ago I suffered from quite bad depression and never got any help till it was beyond my own control and I needed medical attention.

And now I have some incredibly visible scars on my legs, arms, neck and back. Though in the past 5 or so months I’ve learned to love life! And I started wearing the clothes I never had the confidence to wear before. Though now all the people around my school start interrogating me on my scars because they don’t exactly look accidental.

Also, I have smoked weed since I was about 12 due to it being a norm among the people who I’m around (though I strongly object to hardcore drugs). Somehow people became aware that I did so. God knows how.

So… now I seem to have built up the identity of suicidal druggy child. All the boys just stare at me and all the girls just stay clear. I really don’t want people to treat me like this. I hate it, as I’m just like everyone else really. Is this my fault? And how do I break their judgement?

Love, Anonymous Me xxx

The Mookychick answer to your problem

Magda says…

Hello lovely person,

Thank you for your email. It’s good to hear that you’re in a different headspace now to the one you used to be in.

It’s absolutely not your fault! As you know, you’ll get different types of people approaching you about your scars, or forming opinions about them. There’ll be people you don’t know so well, who are well-meaning, curious or nosy. There’ll be friends and family who have known you when you were depressed and still know you now that you’ve come through that. And there may be figures of authority as well (teachers and such).

It sounds like the change has happened because you’ve acquired the confidence to wear new clothes (good for you!) but this new style of clothing has also revealed the scars that people might not have been aware of before, and that’s why the change in people’s reactions to you has all come out in the open. Is that right?

So what you’re looking at is a choice of options, all of which have their benefits depending on the situation and the person:

1) You could look at scar reduction (I think the going rates nowadays are $500 to a more likely $3000 depending on the nature of the scars)… but that’s expensive and not 100% guaranteed to work. Any scar tissue that you have is affected by several factors including the nature and severity of the injury, the thickness and colour of your skin, and how you were treated medically. Even the direction of your scar will make a difference. While a plastic surgeon can improve the appearance of a scar, it’s unlikely that it can be removed completely. Your surgeon has an arsenal of techniques available to make your scar look less obvious – everything from collagen or steroid injections to laser resurfacing and skin grafts. Any scar tissue that you have is affected by several factors including the nature and severity of the injury, the thickness and colour of your skin, and how you were treated medically. Also, scar reduction will mean you don’t have to address the issue as much in future when you move, but you’ll still retain a reputation at school. Oh, and did I mention it’s really expensive? Sometimes it’s better to just work with what you’ve got. You’ll be a stronger person because of it, and somewhere down the line you’ll make some great, true friends who’ll accept you for who you are and have been.

2) Hiding the scars if you’re in situations where you don’t want people to see them (because of the placement of your scars, this isn’t a full-time option).

3) Replying to nosy people that makes them realise you feel good about yourself these days and you don’t really want to discuss your scars.

4) Increasing the distance between the unhappiness you used to feel and the new confidence you’ve discovered.

If people you don’t know avoid you and stare at you, don’t worry. The beauty of the situation is that you are going to art college this year so you’ll lose the reputation you’ve unfortunately gained and be able to start afresh. Yippee! September may seem like a million years away but you can definitely survive these uncomfortable months of isolation and bad treatment until you’re finally free.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to ease the situation – and these things will make it clear to people that you’re not the person you once were.

And what’s your situation like with teachers? Do people in authority know about your scars and weed-smoking past? Are they treating you differently because of it? If they are, I would take it out of the classroom and into the office. Talk about your intentions with your parents first, then see if you can arrange a small quiet meeting with your head principal to explain your past briefly, and to explain that you really are a different person now, both as a student and as a person, and would like that to be taken into account for your time remaining at school, because you’re planning on getting as much out of school as possible. To be honest, they should love that. And if the attitudes of teachers change, you might see that trickling down to the other people in your class/school too.

And – it goes without saying – hang out with the friends you like who have time for you and know who you are, really. Happy times when you can be your normal self are a restorative tonic – they’ll get you through the sh*t, and remind you that being you is a good thing to be.

People may be avoiding you now. In art college, students will be more accepting of people who have had all sorts of life experiences. When people ask you about your cutting past, you’ll need to be prepared for it. You don’t want anyone putting you in a box again.

Ways to briefly and positively explain your scarring past

“That was a tough time in my life and I had some problems, but I’ve worked through them and am better/stronger now.”

You don’t need a full-blown explanation – just a few sentences should do. And it could be part of your internal healing process – to understand yourself, come to terms with it, and move on.

Since the scars are visible, addressing them may be momentarily uncomfortable, but it will diffuse a lot of future discomfort. So prepare your answer in advance for if someone asks… and don’t stress too much. Life happens.

Natural scar reduction:

It’s easier to prevent scars forming on new cuts than it is to lessen the visual appearance of old scars. But you can still do things to make a difference. Vitamin E is famous for improving the skin’s elasticity. So Vitamin E every day. Even if you can’t see an effect, keeping doing it! Five years down the line it probably WILL make a visual difference! Similarly, calendula cream is simply amazing for scars.

There are also lots of scar creams/pads that can help reduce scars. Various sites recommend Elastoplast scar removal pads; ScarEase; Cicacare; Syprex; Rejuveness; ReTouch; Mepiform and ScarGuard. A lot of these are only available in America, and you’d need to research what types of scars they can help.