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.