Straight Talk Advice

Aug 31, 2011

Former “cutter” worries about scars

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’m 18, heading to college, happy to leave high school behind and become my own person. The trouble is I have scars on my arms from cutting when I was younger and depressed. I have moved on, but the scars have not and I’m afraid to wear short sleeves. What should I tell people? I don’t want to wear long sleeves forever. What would the panelists honestly think of someone with “cutting” scars? Thank you for helping me see how I look to others. — Doug, Toledo, Ohio

Katie 18, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

I face the same issue. I see my scars and think they’re extremely noticeable. Yet some good friends have never noticed them! People with self-injury scars look for the marks on others, while others hardly see them. Yes, a few strangers have glanced at my arms. But it’s my story and I share it with who I want. I have used vitamin E oil and Mederma to fade them. There is also plastic surgery.

Sarah 19, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

A good friend attempted suicide and has scars on her forearm. She got a tattoo of a sparrow over them, more as a symbol to herself than anything. When she told me the reason behind the marks, I found her journey inspiring, as I, too, have suffered depression.

Matt 17, Villa Park, Calif. Ask me a question

You can’t stop people from passing judgments. That said, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Say you were mauled by a bear and laugh it off. In a way, you were.

Molly 19, Berkeley, Calif. Ask me a question

I have a friend with more scars than anyone I’ve ever seen. They go way up and down both arms. They’re hard to notice at first, but then they look like sleeve tattoos. I don’t know his story, but he wears them without shame and they don’t seem to get in the way. Scars are personal and most people won’t ask about them. I’ve got a few scars, mostly on my legs, that I try to keep covered. I spent a lot of time with unhealed cuts, so my scars are a nice reminder of pain healed and of being in a different mindset now.

Brie 20, Santa Barbara, Calif. Ask me a question

A friend who use to cut just tells people about it. Most people are understanding. Plus, if you’re up front, people won’t wonder if you’re still cutting.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

A friend with past self-injury scars wears short sleeves all the time. I myself have eczema scars on my legs and wear shorts. Showing your scars isn’t about others’ opinions; it’s about your mindset. Your scars don’t have to be a source of shame; they could be an inspiration for others.

Christina 19, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

Honestly, I would first feel alarm and then sympathy. I have no outside scars to show my pain, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any inside.

Gregg 20, Los Angeles, Calif. Ask me a question

If you have moved on, that’s what will be noticeable; the scars will be of little concern.

DEAR DOUG: I hope the panel’s comments are helpful. If you were my own child, I would tell you to push yourself some (we all need a little push), but to keep returning to whatever you feel comfortable with on any particular day or situation. I would also encourage you to be smart. Everyone on this planet is flawed and scarred, but your scars aren’t hidden so for certain things, like job interviews or court dates, do not feel guilty about hiding them like the rest of us can. Finally, I would congratulate you on your hard-won emotional intelligence and encourage you to continue improving it. The book, “The Other Kind of Smart” gives exercises to boost emotional intelligence.

Editor’s Note: I remember when cutting first came on the scene and I didn’t understand how anyone could do that to themselves. If you are in that boat right now as a parent or other adult, I refer you to our many past articles on self-injury where the kids themselves explain what goes on in their mind and how cutting is a type of addictive pain reliever from stress. You can find our columns on “cutting” by going to our website at and looking in the topics list under “Health.”

I encourage young people to write about your cutting experience (past or present) for a book of essays from Straight Talk TNT. Please don’t worry about being a “good” writer, or having to use your real name if you don’t want to. It is your experience that is important. We are all teachers for each other. Our submission guidelines are on our website at —Lauren

  1. By Cheryl, age , from Santa Rosa, CA on 09/04/2011

    I was also very worried about what others would think about my cutting scars.  I was able to hide my cutting from everyone but my sister who I shared a room with and saw me naked, and told our mom who got me into counseling.  I was very angry at the time, but now I am very grateful to my sister as has been written about in other columns regarding cutting.  Anyway, after therapy I stopped the cutting but the scars did not go away and I was very ashamed and worried about what others would think and did everything I could to avoid other girls seeing me undressed except my sister since she already knew about it and was supportive and I couldn’t avoid it anyway since we shared a room.  However, I missed out on lots of things my last 2 years of high school because I was afraid to go to sleepovers and slumber parties or swimming at friends houses because I wouldn’t be able to avoid undressing in front of the other girls.  I was really worried when I went away to college to live in a dorm last year since I would have to undress in front of a roommate I would not know well at first and have to use showers where there is little privacy.  However, I found out that my worries were all for naught.  Neither my roommate nor girls I used the showers with gave any indication that they noticed my scars or said anything or acted like they noticed anything wrong or different about me.  They probably did see the scars, but it made no difference to them and I realized that all my worries and anxieties were much ado about nothing and I am sorry about what I missed out on because of my worries.  Hopefully, it will be the same for you.


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  2. By -IDEK, age , from USA on 01/07/2014

    Dear Doug, I completely understand what you’re going through, scars are difficult to show, and explain. I would personally recommend scar-fading ointments, for the deep and severely noticeable scars, this is helpful for fading and also healing. If you enjoy bracelets you could possibly cover them with a bracelet ‘sleeve’ (a large selection of bracelets on one or both arms) but this will work only if they’re below your fore-arm(s). If you’re ashamed of the scars, you shouldn’t be. Instead of a burden or ‘stupid decision’, think of each scar as a story, an intricate piece of your life you would not remember otherwise. If, still, after coming to terms with each and every scar, you still are uneasy about other’s opinions or questions, you could say, as politely as possible (believe me I know its not easy) “I’m not comfortable with sharing that” or even “I really don’t think it should concern you- could you please drop it?” I hope you’re completely done with all forms of self-harming, and your love for yourself (and even in your scars) continues to grow.
    Best wishes in your future endeavors,

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