I still remember vividly every time someone's finger would run over the fresh scars -
Panic, embarrassment, regret.
Yet all those years ago it was what I thought would get me through, I needed to feel something other than emotional distress the black dog brought me.
I look at them now and feel an odd surge of those feelings, yet seeing them turn white I know I have won.
Every day I have won.
I was around 17, and my friend Hayley and I were eating lunch on the school field. I was complaining about a scab above my eye, caused by constantly picking at a spot.
‘Just pick it off’, she said flippantly.
As ordered, I dug my nail behind the scab and the whole thing came cleanly off. Hayley fell silent, examining the recess left behind. I could tell from the expression on her face that I’d just altered mine irreparably. My first reaction wasn’t one of panic or dismay; I was happy. University was looming, and I was aware that this whole situation—not just the school, but also my friends – would soon disappear from my life. I knew immediately that I’d just been given a tangible memory; a free and subtle tattoo that’d link me forever back to that otherwise uneventful lunch on the school field.
My name is Hugo Campos, and I am original from Portugal, having arrived in London in 2001.
I lost the top of my finger while operating a wood cutting machine. This happened on my second year here, when I was working as a picture framer.
At first I thought I had just cut myself. Just skin, I mean. Not bone. It was only when my work colleagues told me, that I realized what really happened. After that initial shock came the physical pain and uncertainties about how this would change my life.
Fortunately, after the first months I got used to it and I hardly think about it nowadays. To be fair, it's one less nail to cut. It as saved me thousands of seconds over the years.
As for emotional scars, I don't think I have them. It was an unexpected, fast, accident. Besides the first days of physical pain I don't have any other painful memories from it. Even the initial thoughts of not being able to fully continuing using my left hand, soon disappear. I have always been a creative person and completely controlling/coordinating the use of my hands is very important to me. But because it was just a minute bit, I have learned how to work with it.
If there is anything that I can take fro the experience, It is that it’s as made me more health and safety conscious. I believe that one should always find something positive from everything! Even from the bad things. Like the Monty Python say, 'Always look on the bright side of life.'
I have 5 scars from surgeries and the one on my left shoulder is the largest and the oldest. It is made up of a scar when I was young from the chicken pox. I had just moved back to Montana with my mom and brother after my parents divorced. That time transformed my life.
I received treatment for the scar a few years after the keloid grew and again years later as an airman in the Air Force before my tour in the middle east during the first gulf war. In the last year, I have had three more scars from a shoulder surgery that overlap and add to the original scar area. When I look at the series of photos I see my face changing from tension and discomfort to a more relaxed self acceptance and joy. The photoshoot and the photos don’t reveal the stories of the scars but in a very over simplified way, it illustrates the many emotions I have with the moments. The scars don’t go away and yet no matter how I feel, they don’t force me to deal with the past or my present. They simply are and I am left to accept them, to live with them and manage them because they are there as long as I am.
I have a scar on my chin which will always remind me of one of the times in my life when I was at my lowest.
I had drank so much I fell asleep while cycling and although hurt and bleeding still managed to order cigarettes at a late night store.
I was struggling with feelings of despair, depression and helplessness because I could not accept being gay growing up in Catholic Ireland where I couldn’t find people like me.
I am older now, have sought help through therapy and am finally finding the real me. My scar is not very visible but to me it’s a reminder that the worst is behind me. I love my life!
I was born with Tricuspid Valve Artesia, a quite complex type of congenital heart defect. Growing up with only half a working heart isn’t always easy, as your stamina isn’t as good as it should be. But being reliant on other people’s help actually made me much more independent and strong willed than I would have been if I were born with a healthy heart.
The scars resulting from 2 open heart surgeries never really bothered me, but rather gave me a sense of empowerment and always remind me of the struggles I managed to overcome.
I could easily deal with these scars, but the scar that really bothers me is the one on my neck, which is a result of hardened tissue, which had to me removed when I was around 7 years old. The hardened tissue prevented my neck from growing, but sadly the operation left a big, zigzag shaped scar. When I was 15, I underwent plastic surgery for this and it now looks much more subtle and the neck is shaped more naturally. For reasons I can’t explain, skin heals very differently and unfortunately the scar on my neck never became as nude coloured as the ones on my chest even though it had much more time to heal.
Having to deal with a very visible scar has been very difficult for me when I was a teenager and I always covered it up with a scarf. It’s only been since I was around 25 that I stopped wearing scarves so much and stopped caring less about what other people might think. It’s probably me who sees the scar the most, but sometimes that’s the only thing you see in the mirror.
Undergoing numerous surgeries brought me a lot closer with my family and friends. But most of all, these experiences showed me how valuable time is and to really appreciate your body and health. It gave me a great sense of optimism and tenacity because you don’t know how strong you are, until your only choice is to be strong.
On my hands, feet, elbows, wrists, ankles, there are tiny flecks of scars from a thousand cannulae.
I have scars from central lines that allowed life saving drugs to keep me alive countless times. Those that made my heart beat when nature could not. Powerful antibiotics to fight the infections I can’t. Water when my kidneys failed and I needed rehydration. Blood when I was having transfusions.
I have a tracheostomy scar. My heart was so weak I couldn’t breathe without assistance. My lungs so full of fluid from heart failure, the ventilators pushed air into my lungs for my first few years.
I have a portacath scar under my right arm, where my mother used to push needles into me so drs could access my bloodstream, when all my other veins were so damaged or tiny.
I have ECMO and bypass scars, chest drains from a fight with chylothorax, my immunity leaking from me into tank, a bone marrow harvest site on my lower back, when my stem cells were used as trial therapy to see if my own heart might heal.
I have a tiny scar above my liver, where doctors pushed a tiny tube and saved my life by accessing my heart through my portal vein to place a stent.
I have a sternotomy scar from my heart transplant, the one that dominates my body. It opened my rib cage to allow my old heart to be cut out and that of my donor to be put inside. I have scars inside too, heart and soul.
This happens when I was 3. My Dad was working abroad and this weekend he was to come back home. My parents planned to visit grandparents after our traditional sunday lunch of chicken soup.
I always was very active and curious kid and that day I was so excited. I guess the reason why I pulled this pan on me because I was curious what was inside….
I don’t remember pain. I remember a dark bathroom…. and the fact that day was cloudy, no sun, really cold water, and me in blanket in car on my Mum lap, her face, which I couldn't fully see because my face was partly cover by blanket.
Next things that I remember are of the hospital. Not very nice nurses, baths in cold water….. light in hospital room during the night….and my family standing behind small windows in door. I was so upset that they couldn’t come to me.
I also remember small boy who was laying in bed next to mine. We’d swap toys all the time, I remember he was smiley and jolly all the time.
As a little girl I hated fact that because of the scars I had to wear special clothes, a shirt which was so tight and uncomfortably hot during the summer. I also hated all of those exercise such as climbing on ladder etc. Always caused pain, sometimes still do.
In kindergarden kids were OK, but still remember one mum's asking if I can infect her kid!!
I think the worst time was when I was teenager. I had a swimming suit with long sleeves, during summer t-shirt's sleeves to the elbows.
All of those stupid questions and opinions which I heard….And boyfriends.... I was so ashamed to uncover my arms or show this different texture of my skin.
But with time slowly I started learn that scars shouldn't affect my life, or define my personality or who I am.
I learned that if someone is judging me by my scars I don’t need to worry about taking the time to get to know them, so sometimes they kind of helped.
Your project idea and the process of doing the photo shoot with you actually helped me to accept them. I can’t say I am happy with them ;) and still if I'm on some important business meeting I'm kind of trying to hide them (especially my left arm) but I stopped searching for some miracle surgery. Big thank you for that;):)
My brother was chasing me with a mallet at an afterschool club – I ran to push a door open but pushed the glass part of the door and went right through!
I felt blood trickling off my finger so pulled back my T-shirt to find where it was coming from, only to find a shard of glass through my arm..
I pulled it out and started to bleed profusely – I felt faint to say the least!
Everything was stitched up including the artery, but it left a wide scar due to the extent of the laceration..
I was high on shrooms by myself in our hotel room in Amsterdam – I kept seeing faces so was running around in the dark trying to escape them..
I fell into a coffee table and cut myself badly in my groin (again, near the artery!) – I could only see the full extent when I switched the lights on of course..
Skin flapping away with blood everywhere.. I didn’t want to visit hospital as it would’ve just stopped my drinking time..
So I strapped it up and hobbled every day carrying on the antics of drink & drugs..
I finally decided to call 999 on my return to London, to which I was picked up by an ambulance and taken to A&E..
They stitched me up there & then, which was pretty painful as the wound had started to dry up and fold in on itself.
My recovery was hindered by me constantly moving about – they said if I didn’t rest up I may limp for the rest of my life..
I took work off for a week and rested up, so thankfully to this day don’t have a limp!
I got too drunk at my nans 80th birthday party and was told to leave by my dad as I was causing a bit of a scene!..
The only way home was to walk down a National Speed Limit road with no pedestrian pathway.
I was hit by a car on a corner and completely flopped all over it..
My aunt, a policewoman at the time, was called to the scene to find it was her nephew in the accident.
I was in hospital for days on end – pissing into a catheter and generally healing!
I must admit, I do like my scars – they tell a story and I’ve never gone out my way to get them purposely, so I think they’re kinda cool..
Given, most of them are from being drunk or on drugs (I’m now 2yrs sober)..
I don’t wear them as a badge of honour but don’t mind talking about them whatsoever – it has made me interested in other people’s scars..
I’m not embarrassed about them – if anything I’m proud to come out alive with them..
I guess I would show off about the stories when I was drunk, but now I don’t point them out so much..
I guess it’s just all part of growing up..
People tell me scars aren’t important and to just ignore them, or that they are really cool, or that you should never feel shamed of a scar because you were stronger than what tried to kill you. Yes, I’m a survivor it’s written all over my body, but, all these comments do is remind me of what gave me these scars, what changed me and what made me scared to live.
These scars will never go away, they show in everything I wear and as such will remind me everyday of the sunny afternoon that changed my life for the worst. It’s inescapable. Every time I look at myself.
These scars do not feel as if they are mine. They belong to my father; he was sat pillion on the motorbike I was riding. After 5 hours of riding and less than a mile from our destination an elderly man at a junction didn’t bother to look. My father spent a month in a coma, 2 months in hospital has permanent brain damage and he has changed forever – but that leaves no scar visible for everyone to comment on. The scars I have remind me of him. Every surgery reminds me of him. Every difficulty I now have reminds me of him and how on that day I feel like my dad died. These scars don’t belong to me and were carved into my skin against my will. I did not ask for them, I do not want them. I do not want any memory of how I got them. I want to forget. All people see are my scars, they stare at my scars, all people want to do is ask me about my scars. So I tell them;
My body was smooth and contoured to size,
I was energetic and so far succeeding with life
I was born perfect, bearing my fathers eyes,
A man in a car pulled out and BANG I soared high
Flying and plummeting I cracked the earth
Breaking my bones, soul and worth
Owning the road, cars stopped to give way
Dr Attasi pushed through and scooped up his prey
This surgeon carved and slashed abstract lines
Into my body that I had once known as mine
He took his time making a mess
Like a toddler with crayons doodling at recess
He knew he had failed that is why
On his rounds he says with a hidden smile, “we need to try”
Try for what? Isn’t it over?
I can’t do it again, there’s nothing leftover
Who cares about fixed and bolted bones?
Gently look at my skin and hear my groans
They echo down the hospital corridors
Yet this Dr wants another go, he wants an encore?
He wants to go again and make me weak
And so he did over and over again 12 more tweaks
I gave up my body my skin in tow
My skin was being kneaded just like dough
Being pierced open then stitched up again and again
Leaving me scars that I now had to maintain
To show with pride or to hide with distain
I feel shamed like this, to be marked in permanent stains
I have no tattoos but am permanently inked
With the scars that the good Dr managed to chink
In the armour that is not iron but skin
On a sunny afternoon, a man in a car, and my last carefree grin
It was my first memory.
Crashing in silence.
Just a background headache noise
A buzz I remember.
The big bandage at school.
And the pick pull of the 52 stitches.
We sat around
A lawyer's shiny teak desk
Up to my chin.
Probing for memories.
Talking The Money.
And the thirst
For plastic surgery
The skin graft.
I sometimes wonder
where the skin came from?
Who gave permission
to steal it off me?
it was my left armpit
a small sharp nick.
You never know.
I was never in control.
I just put my head down and got through it
With steely Sheffield blade determination.
Bosch - brilliant transparent colours.
Hold on fast.
Stitch it up.
Ignore it until someone asks
Say 'Car Crash'
And don't forget to smile.
My psychedelic vision.
A distant, vivid scene
An out of body experience
Warm Yellow haze
From a White bright light
Ambulance Nee Nars.
What a Trip!
How did I land there?
Was I cut out
To be placed on that tartan rug?
Like our holiday cases?
Then smashed about.
And left to be
Found by neighbours
Awkward holiday faces
In the traffic jam of our wake.
Realising ... It was Us!
The horror of Finding Out
Spun and flipped.
They packed it in the boot
They knew where it belonged.
A palimpsest of our memories
Scattered on that Serengeti road.
My only friend
My yellow faced Mary Bear
In a pool of blood.
Both of us huddling.
Not Needing or Wanting.
Just Still & Waiting.
To get cleaned up
Pull on a pretty dress
Eat marmalade in a hospital!
And I never liked that since...
Sticky, gluey, scabby juice
A never ending aftertaste.
But I do like My Face
They match my bear
Who got me through
Just lying by my side.
Life kicks in.
A Lull of summers
Then the cheque came in.
I explored with the money.
Far flung places.
Because life really kicks
A torrent of knocks and blows and fridges from the sky.
Hurricanes to test you
Can Suck You Too Far In
Make You Cower
Or Run Away.
I can hold fast.
I've been in the spin
Rested in the Eye
And Shot Out.
I can now Go Close
Watch and See
I Offer you My Memory
If You Are Strong
Make It Work
I have Scar Armour.
I use all my arsenal.
I keep my friends about me.
They give me my golden glow.
I know my clan.
The hard Noble bunch.
From Isle of Mull.
Eating the bones of their ancestors
To survive the slaughter.
I was assumed a fighter.
That was interesting.
The Hood said
From My Neighbourhood.
I am tough.
Tough am I.
It's better for me to talk it out with you.
Don't stare at it and say nothing.
Don't mutter away.
Don't assume it's self inflicted.
Sometimes it's not.
And the memory can reopen.
Any day - psychologically.
Only 5 years ago
I was worried that my scars wouldn't be visible in the photos, which is ironic because I spent years hiding them and hoping they wouldn't be seen.
I made some new friends a while back who asked about the scars, then were wonderfully disinterested after I said 'they were from ages ago' and left it at that. That gave me permission somehow to be less interested in noticing the scars too.
For self-harm scars being a result of a very internal process, they shape your external presence a lot; either as you hide them or hide behind them like armour.
Like losing my shadow, I'd feel a bit lonely if my scars were gone; but the proposition also seems absurd to consider. I quite respect my scars now, as a record of my history; but I no longer feel defined by them.
My birth was complicated and when the midwife noticed my heart rate was dipping and not recovering they realised they needed to get me out quickly and had to perform a cesarean. It was a real emergency and they didn't have time to give my mum an epidural so that she could be awake during the birth. They had to put her under general anaesthetic, which I have found out is quite unusual.
The doctor who made the incision in my mum's stomach cut my face at the same time. Maybe it was because it was such an emergency but I have met someone else who has a similar scar on their cheek because of the same reason. It could well happen all the time.
The scar has never bothered me and it is actually something I forget about. When I look in the mirror I never see it, even though it is visible. It's only when I meet someone new that they might ask me about it and it reminds me that it’s there. That happens a lot less these days because people don’t tend to ask such personal questions as you get older. I like having it. My mum has always said how it suits me and how lucky I was that the doctor didn’t get my eye.
This scar represents an exciting but turbulant time in my life. In 1987 I produced a single that was released on I.R.S. records and C.B.S. in Europe, It was a cover version of Mungo Jerrys 'In the Summertime' with the original vocalist Ray Dorset. It hit number 1 in the Indie charts in the U.K. and also did well in Europe reaching number 1 in Denmark and various other chart placings in other territories. Two months prior to its release, sadly, my mother had died. She died on april 1st 1987. She was 64. She was the youngest child of seven. My grandfather had moved from Forest Hill to Bognor Regis to start a business around the mid 1920's. She always supported my efforts musically so I had to deal with a mixed bag of emotions. We, (I have a twin brother) were busy with gigs and TV shows in that summer and had not much time to grieve. In 1989 my father passed away. He was 68 and in 1991 my older sister passed away, she was only 38. She was one of the crowd that had seen Hendrix at the Isle of White festival and was musically gifted, that was a killer punch. I received the phone call from my other older sister whilst rehearsing at my studio in Rotherhithe.
In early 1992 I had an operation and had my gall bladder removed. I thought I was the next in line to die, sounds crazy now but I thought there was a curse on the family. When I was being wheeled back into the ward I awoke with cries of 'I'm alive, I'm alive' and the nurse looked at me and said 'Of course you are dear'. The stone they gave as a momentowas tiny though. On reflection it was a pointless operation as the gut pain I was feeling was more to do with the stress and grief I had been through over this period of time. My whole family structure had fallen apart. This turmoil did turn me slightly 'unstable' as I also had to deal with blood sucking solicitors, a manic twin brother and a relationship breakup as my daughter was born in 85 and I split with her mother around 1988. I remember vividly being in Wardour street to attend a gig at the old Marquee near the now departed Intrepid Fox and being annoyed with the amount of parked cars blocking my way so I car walked on about four cars. I really did not care as my world had become slightly unhinged, good fun though!. This scar represents the net result of that period of time and all the highs and lows that I went through. Most of my marbles did find their way back into the bag which is good. Well, thats the scar story from a Brother Grimm. In my mind when I picture 1987 it is black. It takes times to recover from major emotional moments. You never quite get over them you just learn over time to deal with them better. This period of time is now on the top shelf in my mind vault and occasionally I will get the memories down, wipe the dust away, have a quick look and them and put them back on the shelf. I am still involved with music and continue to write and compose having penned my first musical.
4 years old and with a sense of adventure I slowly made my way up the gargantuan hill that is Trilby Road, Forest Hill. My yellow Raleigh bicycle by my side free from the shackles of those 'street cred' inhibiting stabilisers. I’d not long learnt to ride on just two wheels and was keen to take this new found freedom to some far out places.
It was definitely a school holiday, either Easter or Summer but the weather was dry and mild on a peaceful afternoon in 1990. I’d managed to drag my wonderful late mother to said road in order to impress her with my high speed hill bombing antics. I’m sure she told me to ‘be careful’ on more than one occasion!
I flew down that street a good few times with the wind in my now receding ginger locks and a beaming smile as mum looked on below. Each descent began higher and higher up the hill. Brimming with bravado I set off on what was surely the last ride as my master was probably thinking about dinner by this point.
So I’ve hauled myself to the summit, take in the view, a deep breath and then push off on my right pedal. Mummy certainly looks very small down there, I thought to myself. There’s no time for any more observations however as this ride is like no other. The wind licks my hair a lot sooner than expected, this is real speed that a 4 year old can’t handle. I hurtle down the hill in an uncontrollable manner, everything just becomes a blur. The brakes! of course! but my little hands can’t reach them as the handlebars start to wobble and shake violently. I don’t have the strength to tame this yellow stallion and lose control. I veer off right towards the kerb and a tree but before I reach it my front wheel hits something solid (a concrete slab pushed up by tree roots) and I’m thrown over those handlebars face first into the concrete.
The shock and adrenaline hit me instantly, I sprang back onto my feet and, with blood pouring, loosened teeth and throbbing pain, ran towards my equally panic stricken mother. In later years Mum said she felt her stomach turn upon witnessing this catastrophe! It turned out that I’d suffered a big cut on my chin
The first few months of summer 2012 I had been getting a lot of pain in my right leg which I tried to ignore but by August I have developed a high fever and my leg had become incredibly swollen. I finally sought medical help on August 28.
They weren't sure of the actual cause of the infection but I began leaking puss at the groin after a month so they decided to send me to The Royal Sussex hospital in Brighton for more tests. I was considered to have a life threatening condition and had very high fevers all the time (38-40c)which caused severe hallucinations which were quite colourful to be honest but I was extremely ill and fading fast. Scans showed a massive infection starting behind my right knee. They already had me on several intravenous antibiotics every four hours which had not been working and they placed me in infectious diseases wards in Brighton as they still did not know the cause of the blood clot or infection and kept asking if I had been abroad or bitten by an insect.
By the time they came to the first of 14 operations to clean out the wound, I was told there was 800ml of puss when they first drained it and the infection had gone all the way down to the bone. I was very weak and woke up in intensive care after the first op being told I had to fight for my life. That was the most touch and go time and I actually felt myself 'slipping away' until they gave me the first of 14 blood transfusions. They discovered that the infection had reached a heart valve and had to keep an eye on that but luckily the antibiotics cleared that, it would have meant valve replacement if it had got worse. My leg was huge all this time, so larger that if had to use the toilet the nurse would have to lift it out of bed for me.
They went on to operate a total of 14 times over the next few weeks, the first 8 ops behind my knee but then they found the infection had spread further so they had to start operating above my knee to higher and higher on my thigh. They left the wound open and just lightly stitched together so they could go back in every three days and at one time the fitted a vacuum pump to drain the wound. There were problems when they fitted the pump and had to take me back into surgery from recovery where they only put me half out and I can remember hearing them talking and the anaesthesiologist telling me to just enjoy the drugs, a mix of opiates and ketamine. It was a wild ride and the only time I can remember being scared because I felt trapped in the madness from the drugs and was frightened it wouldn't wear off. I remember it was like being in the worm holes on the TV sci-fi show Andromeda. Twice when the anaesthesiologists asked if I was OK , I remember simple replied 'Andromeda Ascendant', the full name of the space ship in the program both times. I was also told I was even singing a one point but I don’t remember that.
Finally the operations finished, well at least I thought they had. They wanted to do skin grafts which I managed talked my way out of. I already know my bikini wearing days were over I didn’t care what it looked like. Scars are good, they remind us of the things we’ve lived through.
The cause of all this has never been officially confirmed but the strongest suspect is a false black widow spider bite.
I will have to be on blood thinners for life now and will always have pain and my leg is still a little swollen but I still have it and I lived to tell the tale, it could have been worse
I was 14 and on a school trip in Spain when I was run over crossing the road. I broke my right arm and pelvis. I woke up feeling really cold but I didn't know what had happened. I must have been in shock as I was most concerned about the hospital having to cut through my top as it had been borrowed from a friend.
My dad flew to Spain to travel home with me and I clearly remember his smell when he came into the hospital room and hugged me – I was so pleased to see him.
The scars on my hips are from an external fixture used to put my pelvis back together. This was a bit like scaffolding coming out of each hip bone with a bar joining both sides and I had this for 6 weeks. I have always felt quite proud of my hip scars. They are unique and I like that they match one another. They are a part of me now and I can’t remember what my body looked like without them.
Memories of my scars are a blur. The night I did it I was really depressed and had been unsuccessfully trying to be cheerful. I was medicated but they were not working. I was self harming up to 4 times a day, but not as deep.
The night I did it I had been drinking before my partner came home from work. In my head I thought that if I was drinking I could became tipsy and thus happier rather then miserable when he came in. By the time he came back I was drunk and loud. He was horrified as I never did that before and we argued over it with him storming off. I then drank some more and cut myself deeply over hours. I also tried to commit suicide with my medication and paracetamol as well as Tramadol I stole from my mother. My partner as it turned out forgot his keys so while I was unconscious he was screaming my name outside and was going round his friends, family and my mother in different parts of London to try to get someone to help him or at least have a charger to charge his phone.
In the end of 4 hours, a neighbour let him in and he found me just waking up from the effects of the drugs and drink. He had a black eye where someone tried to mug him and I was bleeding heavily over the sheets and dozy. He had to go to work the next day and I was so angry at myself over that night, I started to self harm more and more, using salt water, boiling water and dirty knives and glass to gore into my legs and thighs..the result of what you see now.
I did it for weeks at a time and no one realized the scale of it until I did it before I was supposed to meet old work colleagues to discuss unpaid overtime and the blood rolled off my legs as I was talking to them. I fled. They never mentioned it but I stopped cutting til I bled, and used other means to hurt at myself, eventually training myself to have a boiling shower instead of cutting.
I still do cut at myself. It has been 12 years since I first started and it is not going to stop completely. Sometimes the urge is strong especially in social situations or talking to people who don't believe mental health issues exist.
I recently got into Japanese culture and found out about "Kintsugi", how they see that the cracks are part of the history of the object and to recognise the beauty in flawed objects.
I guess that is how I see my scars. A part of the flawed history that makes up my beautiful story.
I have no poetry over my scars. Only the image of "Kintsugi" and how there is beauty in the flawed and the broken.
On the 1st of October of a year in the mid of the 90s I was cutting down a tree in Italy. It was really warm and I wore just a t-shirt. I wore a safety harness but no protective clothing while I was cutting the tree down from the top. The harness I had purchased wasn't the right one for this kind of job, so I wasn't able to fix it properly and I was too far from the trunk of the tree to work properly. I made it up holding myself with the left hand to the trunk itself, wielding the (small) chainsaw with one hand only. When I pulled the trigger, the chainsaw " bit the wood", instead of cutting. I wasn't able to hold it and it landed on my left forearm. My first thought was: "Farewell my dear arm...". When I saw my hand still attached to the arm I thought: "Let me see if I'm still able to move my fingers..." All of them responded.
After the first aid, my brother drove me to the "Pronto Soccorso" (A&E). The doctor checked my wound, asked how had happened, made a bit of conversation about my job to relax me, then he got needle and thread and started to stitch my arm up. Eight stitches in all, but it took a long time. Why? Because as soon as he started to suture me, he picked a mobile phone up to call another department and started an argument about someone who wanted to take one of his nurses away. Soon the argument heated up, with shouts and angry words, and often the doctor stopped stitching me. Anytime he stopped, I painfully remember, he did it when the needle was inside my flesh, holding together the two sides of the wound. I have to say, at this point, that since childhood I suffer of a slight phobia of any type of needles. To remember the needle piercing my flesh gives me more distress than remembering the chainsaw plunging on my arm.
The process had been quite painful, particularly because any time the doctor started shouting he couldn't avoid to move the needle, which was well plunged in my arm. At the end of it I dared to ask to him: "Why did I feel more pain while you were stitching me than when I cut myself with the chainsaw?"
Well, this is the story. Nothing really deep or important, if not for what happened something like 15 years later, after I had moved to London and started a relationship with a girl (now an ex) haunted by nightmares. Often she woke up crying in the middle of the night due to the nightmares. I used to hug her in these cases, and she used to stroke my scar. Normally she was just half awake, and as she explained to me, touching my scar was a way to recognize me, to know I was close to her, and so she was able to relax and sleep again. It's when I learned to love the scars, on the flesh and on the soul, marks which make the bearer unique and recognisable.
This is the story of my scar.
Have a good night.
It’s not a big scar, but it has deep roots.
In 1997, at the age of seventeen, I was sent to hospital. I had severe anorexia and my life was at risk. If I hadn’t agreed to go, I would have been sectioned. By that point I didn’t care; I just wanted to be free of a feeling I couldn’t describe that paralyzed me from the inside out.
Two months later, I was released. My weight was out of the danger zone, but I had received no psychological treatment. The physical treatment I received and the situations I endured at the mental hospital had left me traumatised. Somehow, I fell through a gap in treatment and I was never offered in-depth therapy.
Life started again. I restarted my A-levels at a new school. A few weeks into the first term, I did this to my arm with a safety ruler. The rounded edged meant it took around an hour to make the cut. I didn’t know how to exist with feelings I couldn’t bear, so I buried the feelings and damaged myself. Then I covered it up. The pattern continued in various forms until I was 33.
After nearly two decades of struggling to bear myself, I finally found help to unlock the feelings inside me that caused the pain. It was a desperately sad and incredibly disruptive process, for me and for the people I loved.
I made it through and started life for a third time, in a different city, on my own.
This scar makes me sad for the distressed, bewildered girl who couldn’t get the help she needed. But I am incredibly proud of the woman who fought bravely and gave up everything that made her feel safe, in order to find the person inside who had never had a chance to breathe.
I use the label bipolar, not because it defines me, but in the hope that it might create space for other people to breathe.
The Japanese art of kintsugi sees more beauty in something which has been broken and repaired than one which has never been damaged. This scar is my reminder of the work I have done to rebuild myself. I would be less beautiful without it.
"Statistically, it will happen to a third of us, and where I grew up, that "us" was girls under 16, not just women in general.
So it wasn't a huge surprise that it happened to me. I guess it's lucky that I knew what my odds were, and that Flight and Freeze had both been burned out of me years before. I remember being angry - How dare anyone interrupt my life!
Initially, when a stranger tapped me on the shoulder, I thought he was a beggar. Poverty and begging are common in the poorer areas, after all. Then he stabbed me, and told me he "just wanted sex."
I have yet to figure out what the hell that had to do with me.
Still, how dare anyone attempt to cause the kind of disruption to my present and future that rape would entail!
Especially as the odds were overwhelming that he had AIDS, and was desperate enough to believe the rumour that sex with a white girl would cure it.
I was 15. I wasn't ready to die. I defaulted to Fight.
I remember thinking very clearly that no-one was close enough to hear to me scream, so shouting for help wasn't a viable option. The beach was fine sand, so not fantastic footing. Still, I was carrying my shoes, which could be used to emphasise a slap in the face. He stank of alcohol and weed (and sweat and urine) so I was probably in better physical and mental shape at that moment.
I managed to twist around, so he couldn't reach my breasts or fly as easily. He ripped my shirt open and stabbed me repeatedly in the back. I swore in Latin (a habit at the time) and I don't know if he thought I was cursing him, or was just trying to work out what I'd said, but his grip on my arm slackened enough for me to tear away and run, faster than I think I ever have, and certainly faster on fine sand that I'd thought possible.
It's funny how life likes to balance. I tore down the beach, blood from the neck down, until I couldn't breathe. There was a young couple, and I ruined their romantic walk when he asked me if anything was wrong. I would never have trusted him if he hadn't been with her, but they promptly took me to her parents, who drove me - with all of them - back to where my family was staying. All I could think about was to worry about bleeding on their pristine leather seats. I can't remember thanking them - it's the one thing I regret about it all.
My father took me to the police and the hospital - I wanted him rather than my mother because I thought the authorities would take him more seriously.
The doctor on call stitched up all the wounds he found: clavicle, sternum (bone deep, and luckily so. Slightly to the side and there would have been no bone and that would have been an end to it), back - a bloody colander. I don't know and he didn't count how many stab wounds there.
Somehow we all missed the one on my hip, which probably wouldn't have scarred if stitched. I'm not sure if my back bears any lasting marks.
These days, I don't really think about it, unless the scars or the reason for them crop up. I have to be careful around certain types of male aggression. I have to be careful about the clothes I wear - bone deep wounds tend to leave lasting tissue damage.
I still react with fury over fear, and I still default to Fight - I probably always will. After all, it's why I'm still here."
The Scar that I now bare was the result of an accident that occurred when I was out cycling, I suppose one would never imagine or think with intent that an accident of this nature could change their outlook and perspective on being cautious on a major busy road, as I now realise that we many of us value the look and the shape and the outwardly appearance of our physical bodies.
As it was the fear that when I was to be admitted for surgery, that the real gravity of someone a surgeon at least would quite literally cut through my flesh to access my body in order to fix or at least repair the damage I sustained from my accident
After surgery once the process of healing was underway I suppose I felt damaged and invaded and disfigured from the knife of the surgeon, but as the days and months passed, I suppose this scar was now a tattoo or a reminder for me that possibly the outcome could have been worse, as I now had the story and the scar to prove it, as I didn't really realise that I was body conscious until I had inherited my scar from the accident now holding my shoulder together with a plate and 8 pins, as I really feel that we all possibly want or wish to feel natural and normal and free in our physical activity to act and move expressively the way we want too, as I now see that any scar is a personal account and reminder of something that is quite profoundly internalized,
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2007 I was sent for scans which revealed I had a grapefruit sized growth behind my spine. The growth was shown not to be cancerous, however, I was advised to have it removed as it could become malignant at a later stage. Six months after recovering from my cancer treatment I went into hospital to have the growth removed. The doctors had told me they would deal with the growth via key hole surgery and make a small incision via my stomach which would only leave a small scar.
As I lay in the prep room waiting to go in for my operation there was a 40 minute delay due to a complication with the patient in theatre before me. The wait was unnerving enough but was made worse when a nurse came in to discuss the possible colostomy bag that I might need after surgery. I hadn't been told that this may be a consequence of the surgery until that point.
When I awoke from the operation some 7 hours later I was shocked to find a huge incision had been made from just above my belly button which went all the way down to my groin. The operation had taken longer than expected as there had been complications with the surgery. I also had a temporary drainage tube out the side of my stomach which at first I thought was a colostomy bag.
The doctors were not sure what the growth was and told me it had burst whilst they were removing it. A silver toothpaste like liquid had come out of the grapefruit sized growth so I joked about it being an alien egg.
I was in hospital for a week recovering, I hadn't been stitched together, instead I had been glued together; a technique first used on soldiers in the Vietnam war. The incision & glue had started coming apart and a hole appeared which looked like a second belly button. I was quite concerned about the hole which had appeared as I could see into my stomach but I was assured it would heal itself.
After analysis on the growth the doctors relieved my 'alien egg' was a 'Tailgut cyst'.
1961 I played hooky off school for 6 weeks for no real reason. My dad caught me and I had to explain on the spot. I said I had a pain in my side. He said OK "doctors!" He marched me up to my doctor whoexamined me and said, "hospital". The next day I had a kidney out. That saved my life
40 years later I was working with my son and looked at him and said I am having heart attack. His expression was unforgettable. They operated and had triply by pass. It was only partly successful and I have to live with a damaged heart.
You live with what you have not what you don’t have. The way you deal with it determines who and what you are.
Scars constantly remind me every day that that day is special
Scars show us where we have been, they do not dictate where we are going
My scars are a mark of a difficult time that feels now, almost unimaginable.
I went through a pretty serious bout of depression for a few years, starting quite suddenly when I was around fourteen or fifteen.
I had no severe childhood trauma, no messed up home life, but I felt (and I understand now how much of this was down to those pesky teenage hormones) like I was completely and utterly useless...
I started to self harm because it 'made me feel alive' (and I cringe as I write that because it sounds so clichéd, but I can't think of any more accurate words to describe it) - it wasn't enjoyable, just a reminder, I guess, that I could still experience some sort of sensation from something.
All of this was made worse by the constant internal reminders that I really didn't have anything to be depressed about.
Thankfully, I had some amazing friends who dragged me through my teenage years and helped me sort my life out. They helped me through coming out, dealing with an eating disorder, going through counselling...not careering off down the road of self-destruction basically, was down to the support (and kicks up the arse) from my friends and family.
I don't even know how to explain that feeling to someone who has never had it. Almost like being in a trance mixed with a hangover, just complete zombie mode.
I remember lying in bed staring at the wall for hours, and cutting was a way to make that numbness go away.
Now I have these scars that sometimes, for weeks on end I don't even look at or remember, and then sometimes I am intensely aware of them.
I think I might get some tattoos around some of them one day.
I actually don't mind them so much anymore.
I used to wear trousers and long sleeves all the time.
Now I guess I'm not as bothered and they're not as visible.
People (young people especially) sometimes go "WHAT ARE THOSE ON YOUR ARM?!" - that used to make me flinch and mumble something nonspecific, now I can talk about them.
It was something I was incredibly secretive about, and asking for any sort of help felt like it was made harder by the fact that a bit of a culture had built up around self harm.
There was a sort of status attached to it by some people (people putting pictures of their cut wrists on myspace) which made me desperate not to be included in that camp of 'attention seekers'.
I don't think my story is particularly unique, but I think the voices (especially male voices) stepping up to talk about these things are pretty quiet.
I am trying to be brave. I hope other people will too.
Your ad is very interesting. I have scars on my legs due to acne which appeared from a virus a few years ago. I don't know if that type of scaring will be of any interest to you at all. I've done modelling previously as a hair model and I modeled as a child but since I have had the scars, I have not been able to model much at all. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I am interested in taking part in your 'Scars and Memory' project, having seen a sign about it on a coffee shop noticeboard in Honor Oak Park. Initially wary in case this was really just an invitation to feed someone's kinky obsession - sorry! - I checked out your website and quickly realised that your work has depth and soul and this was a genuine artistic project.
The scars I could contribute to your project run down the outside of my left forearm; there are about thirty of them in all, mostly around two or three centimetres long. They are the legacy of a troubled adolescence, when I had an eating disorder for several years and used to cut myself with a pen-knife as a way of dealing with unbearable feelings. Although this all happened decades ago, the scars remain and affect my life to this day (causing me to wear long sleeves even in hot weather or risk having to explain things I might not wish to explain; causing me to awkwardly proffer my right arm for blood tests because if medics see my left arm they write me off as a neurotic self-harmer and treat me differently; and so on). But recently I have been thinking about 'reclaiming' my arm in some way, which is probably why I was drawn to your advert.
I am a 20-year-old medical student in London and I am troubled by a genetic condition now officially known as hereditary multiple osteochondromas (HMO). This condition is present in only about 1 of 50,000 births and the progression of this disease is such that as a child grows, osteochondromas (non-cancerous bone tumours that appear as bony lumps) will develop and form deformities along various bones. I happen to have these bony outgrowths on my legs, my arms, my chest and my back. I always thought I led a relatively normal life but reflecting on it, I realise that I did go through quite a bit. The medical and psychosocial effects of undergoing about 10 major surgeries to remove these outgrowths as well as a bone cancer scare at the age of 12 (these osteochondromas sometimes turn cancerous), not to mention the pain I suffered from compressed nerves, all left their mark on me.
As puberty hit about 8 years ago, many questions came to my mind: How will my peers accept me? Will I ever find a girl that accepts me? Will I have further surgeries? If I ever have children, will they be affected? Even though I love sport, will my proneness to injury stop me from doing sports? What do people at the beach think when they see my deformed leg? Having a father who suffers from the same condition, works as a doctor and leads a successful family life is an incredible source of support and motivation. Looking at the atrocities in this world and the millions of people unable to live a normal life due to debilitating diseases, I have gradually overcome my fears, completely accepted myself and gained an incredible amount of confidence.
The scars on my body have accumulated over the years and, together with the loss of sensation in my right lower leg due to one of many surgical complications, these represent how I have matured as a person. Coupled with my personal early exposure to doctors and hospitals, I have come to form my dream of becoming a doctor myself. The new-found confidence, resilience and ambition I gained from this disease and the scars it left on me have brought me from a small village in Germany to study at some of the finest institutions across the UK and indeed the world and made me build an extensive social network, where I am perfectly accepted just the way I am.
I was really glad to see your ad!
I have had 4 heavy surgeries 3 years ago which left heavy mark on my pelvic and abdomen area. They were pretty badly done..
I love my scars though , and I would be glad to contribute to this project!
All the time that I look at my scar I remember my grandfather. He was a farmer and a carpenter. He began to work when he was still a child and he never studied.
He did not learn how to read or write but he was a great man whose caring and respect for animals and nature were an eternal source of inspiration.
I was 9 years old and I wanted to build a boat. My grandfather instead was building me a bed for my dolls that I rarely played with. His carpenter tools were in everywhere on the floor and he told me several times to not use his tools. However, I wanted a boat and I wanted to build it at any cost. Without he realized I took a very sharp chisel from the mix of tools that were lying on the floor.
I was just about to do the hull of the boat, but suddenly the tool slid from my right hand and my left hand was caught at the front. The blood spread everywhere but I did not feel pain.
I ran to my mother and asked her for a plaster when my finger was literally falling off. She was cleaning fish for the lunch that we did not have. She screamed at my father to take the car from the garage and we left to the hospital. I was not allow to cry or speak. My mother was punish me for my wish of building a boat. The next day we flew to the United States of America on family holidays where it was 40 degrees and I could not have water on my stitches. Therefore I could not swim either. The summer was coming to an end and my scar was still there and continue to be there, making me smile and keeping my grandfather alive.
I came into this world scar free, over the years and who knew that I would end up collecting one scar after another. For some just going through one road traffic accident would have been more than enough to bear. Collecting scars one operation after the other that seemed like infinity.
I had another traumatic road traffic accident, thankfully just pain, no scars this time. Oh, but, I became greedy and had to have children. For mothers an episiotomy would have been enough but after suffering the trauma of a disastrous c-section my battle did not end there! Oh no! Another battle loomed and years of surgery to correct the infection resulted in two tummy tucks, scar revisions and liposuction. This battle remains ongoing.
When I think about it, and look at where they stabbed me in my chest to open up my lungs when I suffered pneumonia and measles as a child, that scar looks like nothing, not even after having to have my nose fixed, again being greedy, having a septo-rhinoplasty instead my just a regular rhinoplasty, the scars at the sides of my nose are practically invisible.
So what hurts the most, not having a scar to display my trauma or people being mean about my scars? This hurt a lot, I was told by someone well you can't wear bikini's now because of those scars. Did that hurt as much as my scars do when they are healing or have been knocked? Those painful knocks pass quickly, hurtful words leave the most hideous of scars, they tear you up inside more than any surgeon can.
Scarred for life....
One single blow to the face fueled by months of pent up frustration and resentment and it felt like my face had just exploded. We both stood there shocked and stunned by what had just happened. There was blood everywhere. The hospital called the police who did little to hide their disinterest. To them this was probably just another domestic. That was until they learnt the ethnic origin of the perpetrator and their attitudes changed. Pressure was put on me to prosecute. I couldn’t see the point. The damage was done and I knew I would not allow it to happen again. My dream of domestic bliss and regular family life was over.
I embraced single parent hood which was not without its struggles. To provide for my family I forged an unexpected career and put all my energies into creating the best life possible for me and my children.
27 years later and I am occasionally reminded of my facial imperfection by a glimpse of a reflection, photograph or an occasional comment. I can afford to smile to myself now when I recall what a defining and empowering moment it turned out to be and how it totally changed my life journey.
You were two and you were in the kitchen with me. You were always very good when you were little , and you never got into trouble but this day for some reason you reached up and pulled the handle of the saucepan I was using to poach eggs. You'd never done such a thing before.
It took MONTHS to heal....you were in hospital for almost a year and the wound would not heal. But you too were a miracle as with Matthew (brother Leukemia) and Dad (heart attack quad bypass): after 6 months, in despair I made a novena (that's 9 hail Marys for 9 days) and on the last day a district nurse appeared who said that the problem was over & we'll soon see healing. From that day steady healing started, the wound began to heal and within days we saw the improvement and it healed quickly after that.
I hate to talk about it cos it was my fault.
I thought about writing a small bit about their history or what exactly they are, but they are just a part of me, like many other parts of me.
It been a challenge to try and look at my scars objectively to write about them, because I don't really feel anything about them, apart from I like them being stroked.
Two left knee grafts aka ACLs (anterior crucial ligaments). And they say sport is a healthy past time...
First op came from a skiing fall. I was in a private class and my usual fearlessness and over confidence got me onto the top of a red route on my 4th day skiing. Bad weather: including terrible visibility and high winds, my private tutor recklessness, soft snow and my ability to do a matrix style back bend got me down the slopes and into the operating table pretty fast. From a snow bike onto an ambulance, and then into an MRI scanner within minutes ... the world of private medical insurance at its best. An Austrian surgeon resembling the mad doc in Back to the Future movie convinced me to de a patellar tendon knee graft which according to him it would be much stronger and it would allow me to get back to Kung Fu and dancing in no time. A year later I was still in braces. ...
Second op came 5 years later, after a couple of 30mins running sessions to and from work. Something snapped and again private medical insurance got me into my 2nd ACL, this time a hamstring graft. 9 months post op I was able to dance and ski again. British surgeons and the amazing NHS 9-month group physio program all the way! A new knee was born, and I feel happier and fitter than ever. Not crutches nor braces involved.
When I look at my knee now I no longer think OMG what an ugly knee. I think: wow so many adventures and here we are. In one piece. How Amazing is modern medicine!
For me, scars are memories of the adventures I've lived. A souvenir I get to take home and can tell stories to my child