Sarah S

By September 12, 2016Story

As a girl with scars, stigma is an experience from which I have no respite. Every day I wake up to a world that knows that at some point I sliced into my arm—over and over. I notice people noticing and it is hard to look them in the eye. I have my reasons for assuming that they will judge me. When I was a teenager I lost a job, was asked to leave multiple schools, and was told by my friend’s mother, “do not call here anymore” — all for no other reason than I kept hurting myself.

So now even though I have 11 years of sobriety from eating disorders and self-harm I am still afraid. Afraid that I won’t get a job. Afraid that people still don’t want to be associated with a girl with scars. Afraid that people will judge the outside as broken. And afraid of admitting to the anxiety I still feel.

But the truth is that the depression and anxiety I live with are neuro-chemical disorders. I didn’t choose this anymore than a person living with any other medical condition chose that condition. Even though I live with depression and anxiety I am not dangerous, unstable, or needy. I am able to give love and support to others, to be a wife and mother, and to live free from the self-destructive behaviors that once consumed my life.

The truth is that 1 in 4 adults will have a diagnosable mental illness in the course of this year, BUT 2/3 of those people will not seek help because they are afraid of stigma destroying their lives.

I am standing up to stigma. I refuse to allow it to shape the way I relate to the world anymore.

I am going to shamelessly ask for all the help I need.

I am going to relentlessly keep telling the truth about mental illness.

And I am going to fearlessly share hope every time I get the chance.


  • Tammy A says:

    Thank you for sharing this, from the bottom of my heart! As a mother of 2 adult children, both with mental health issues. One of them was a cutter as a teenager and is now 29. She still doesn’t know how to explain her scars. I will be forwarding your article to them. God Bless you!

  • Gina M. F says:

    Thank You for bravely telling your story in an attempt to end mental illness stigma. I lost a lot by telling my story but that hasn’t stopped me from keeping on going forward and prosper in life.

  • David Watson says:

    Thank you for sharing Sarah. I am so grateful that you are standing up to stigma.
    I lost my daughter 3 years ago to mental illness and she too was a cutter.
    I always looked at them as her courage in battling her mental disability.
    I applaud you and though i dont know you am very proud of you.

  • Laura B. says:

    Thank you so much for this brave and much-needed piece. I struggle with the same scars, and worry daily about who sees them. They are over twenty years old. I have come a long way since then, even though I still struggle with anxiety and depression as well. I am not ashamed of my scars, but like you, know that I will not always be perceived positively because of them. When I have to give blood, I brace myself when I turn my wrist over, revealing my life at age 18 to a busy stranger.

    Kudos to you for refusing to give in to the stigma. Your family is lucky to have you.

  • Christine says:

    Sarah-you are amazing! Thank you for sharing this and bringing light to something that so many struggle with! You are beautiful and wonderful!

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