Most of us love the sunshine. My husband is no exception. The merest hint of a sunbeam and he’s outside, charging after tennis balls, singing and muttering about cricket. It’s like a disease. And were it not for my total commitment to darkness and misery, I might be tempted to join in. (But I’m Northern Irish. So I fight it).
I do see his point though. A small part of me thrills to the prospect of stripping off and basking in the sun-buttered heat – throwing dignity and socks to the wind and indulging in the sheer joy of being bodily. (As I write, our cat is doing just this: basking in a pool of orange dust without even a hint of self-consciousness).
I envy the cat. And I envy my husband too. Years of wrestling with an eating disorder have left me with a body for which I’m grateful, but still slightly uncomfortable. I guess (outside of ‘Embarrassing Bodies’), there’s not much opportunity to see what other women, real women look like. It’s all too easy to compare yourself to air-brushed models, actresses or celebrities and conclude you’re somehow substandard..
But there are other factors that make us body-conscious, especially in the heat. I’m talking about scars. Not just the little ones, from when your brother pushed you into the rose-bush. The big ones, crisscrossing your arms and wrists like a map of the underground. Angry red and purple weals, some ancient and others fresh.
Generally you keep them covered. Wristbands, jewellery, scarves and long sleeves. But you feel them, burning below the surface. A flush that spreads to your neck and your face. And in the sunshine, when your skin’s prickling under the fabric, you long to let them breathe. Friends comment: ‘aren’t you too warm?’ Your parents offer to buy you some T-shirts. And for a moment, you’re tempted. But you remember the stares. The questions. The concern. ‘What happened?’ ‘Did you do this to yourself?’ And you don’t have answers. So you keep your arms and your feelings under wraps.
If you are feeling self-conscious about your scars, then remember you do not have to be ashamed of them, and you don’t have to cover them. Many people have experience with self-harm, and even those who don’t can have understanding and empathy for what you have been through. If you feel able to, you can explain that they were a way of coping at a time when things were hard. Or you can simply say they were from a while ago, and you don’t want to discuss them. If you feel very self-conscious, there are ways of making them less obvious. These include over the counter creams, or using ‘camouflage’ make-up, which has been specially designed for this purpose. There are also surgical options and or tattoos to help cover them.
Whatever you decide, remember: not everyone has scars, but everyone has secrets. And everyone has things of which they feel ashamed. It’s hard when they’re written on your body, but you’re not weird and you’re not on your own. These marks are a reminder of a time when things were- or are – hard, but they’re also a reminder that you’re strong and have come through. We follow a scarred Saviour and He covers our shame.
For more info on dealing with scarring check out: https://www.changingfaces.org.uk
Emma Scrivener was born in Belfast, but now lives with her husband in the south east of England. She suffered from life-threatening anorexia, both as a child and as an adult. She now writes and speaks about her experiences and how the grace of Christ speaks in the darkest places. She’s currently working on her second book and the first, ‘A New Name’ is published by IVP. Emma blogs at www.emmascrivener.net