Self-Harm and Scars: "Living with Ladders"

June 14, 2013 Jennifer Aline Graham

As a self-harmer, you’re going to have scars. You’re going to have cuts or burns or scrapes or bruises that stick around for the rest of your life. Sometimes, these marks can be hidden and forgotten about. However, some marks are not that easy to push aside and can haunt you.

I wasn’t a self-harmer who needed to dig real deep when cutting. I was calm after some small marks and a little pain because, that in itself, redirected me. (read: Self-Injury Cutting: Cutting Yourself to Relieve Emotional Pain) However, I do have self-harm scars that have lingered over the years that I do not think are going to go away.

Some of you may be the self-injurers who have a hard time hiding your marks with some foundation and bracelets. Some of you may feel embarrassed to wear short sleeves or a bathing suit because it is visible that you’re painted in pain.

For recovered self-harmers and those still struggling, we are “living with ladders.”

Self-Harm, Scars and “Living with Ladders”

Some of you may have gotten the connection, but the saying, I again coined, is an example of how it feels to have visible scars. Some of these scars may be horizontal or vertical and at a different viewpoint, may look like a ladder.

Get it now? Good.

The point is, self-harm and scars go hand-in-hand. It is something you will have to deal with for the rest of your lives and, sometimes, it can be a good thing. Sometimes, when I see my marks, it brings me back to the frightening moment when I hurt myself. Then, I compare myself to the girl back then and realize how far I’ve come.

Sometimes, “Living with Ladders” gives you the chance to climb out of that hole you were once so far in and see how far you’ve come.

Learn to Live with the Scars

I’ve tried Mederma and all those other fancy “scar-removing” creams out there and in reality, you have to be the one to erase the scars from your mind. Even after some fade, you still know they were there. You need to be the one to see past the marks and realize, you’ve moved forward. Learn from those scars and remember how dreadful it felt to look at them and wish they weren’t there.

Tell yourself you will not make anymore.

“Living with Ladders” is tough, but when I look at the self-injury scars that remain, I realize how lucky I am to not be suffering in the same manner I was. I see the past, but not the future.

Now, embrace the fact that these marks will be a part of you for the rest of your life, but convince yourself to not add to the mix. Realize that you are not the only one “living with ladders” and that thousands of other people are struggling with the scars from self-harm as well.

It is good to know you are not alone.

APA Reference
Aline, J. (2013, June 14). Self-Harm and Scars: "Living with Ladders", HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Jennifer Aline Graham

June, 15 2013 at 5:52 pm

My scars are also not that terrible- but they are definitely there. It was years before I could wear short sleeves without being self-conscious, but somehow I have just stopped caring- I don't think about it any more. (Except for a job interview). I get a lot of people asking me if I own a cat, and I can honestly say that I used to. And then there are the people who know what it is, and it is okay- sometimes they want to talk about themselves or their daughter or a friend, and that is okay.

June, 18 2013 at 1:03 pm

I saw a quote that went something like: What are those scars from? A battle. Who were you battling? Myself.
Sometimes I forget my scars are there until someone mentions them. It's good not to have those battles anymore.

June, 18 2013 at 7:19 pm

I've got around the swim suit thing by wearing knee length men's cool looking swimming shorts with a bikini top. I'm stuck with the arms but no-one has to see my thighs. Other than that I barely think about it.

June, 22 2013 at 3:58 pm

I wrote an article just today actually about how the shaming I experienced from everyone is most likely the reason I am ashamed and hate that I have scars.
Thank you for writing this post. I really needed it.

Kathleen Brannon
June, 24 2013 at 2:45 am

I like the "living with ladders" phrase. My arms are such a mess from cuts and burns, and more cuts and burns on top of those, that it's impossible to forget they're there. After many years, I stopped covering them and just made myself not care when people looked at them. But I feared their questions. Now I have a new crop from last year that are even uglier, and I still don't know how to answer people's questions. I don't want to lie, but I don't want to give details or freak them out. I wish you had written a bit more on handling --or deflecting -- other people's questions.

October, 7 2013 at 9:51 am

Whenever someone asks what happened to my tights, wrists and belly I wink at them and say "Well, you should have seen what I did to the bear".
This somehow seem to work... as long as I am not talking to someone who is a self injurer or a teacher/doctor... I thought I was out of it but yesterday evening I cut myself again. On the ankle this time... It is cold in northern Italy now and I am wearing over-the-knee stockings... nice, warm, cozy and, which is more, very thick.
How the hell did I get myself into this mess?!?

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