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It was an amazing spring day. It was also the first time I had taken my gorgeous, chubby, healthy and happy 6-month-old baby boy to the park. He had just learned to sit up unaided and I was excited about putting him on a baby swing to see his reaction. Everything was perfect and I was over the moon to have this wonderful little boy to show the world to.

We queued up for our turn on one of the two baby swings. There was a group of mothers with older children standing around the swings who started cooing at my baby and asking all the usual questions that people ask when you have a cute bundle of joy.

It was our turn for a swing. It was a hot day, so I took off my cardigan and began to unstrap my baby from his pushchair. As I picked him up, I saw them staring at me.

At my arms.

My arms that were criss crossed with self-harm scars from several years before. Scars that thanks to my skin tone and the way I heal, were still raised and red.

They gave me the look.

The look I had seen so many times before. The look that says, “Shit, you are mental!”

They gave me the look.

The look I had seen so many times before. The look that says, “Shit, you are mental!”
— Cookie Kibbles

They backed away and they didn’t speak to me again.

I had also had another incident, when my son was a newborn in a supermarket when a stranger saw my arms and loudly said to her friend that she thought my son should be taken away from a mother like me.

A nutcase.

I had hidden my arms after that, but that day in the park, happily chatting away to other mothers about feeding, poo explosion and lack of sleep, I had forgotten myself. I had forgotten that I couldn’t be a ‘normal’ person and take my cardigan off when I felt hot.

It was after that day in the park that I decided that now I was a mother, I should keep my arms hidden from view at all times, even if I was boiling to death.

I didn’t want anyone to think I was mad or that I would harm my child.

And that’s how it stayed for years. 15 years, in fact. Until last year when I decided that I didn’t care anymore. At the age of 37, I decided that enough was enough. Fuck being hot, fuck scouring the internet for long sleeved tops and cardigans.

I had raised a wonderful teenager and now had an equally wonderful three-year-old daughter. They are both just fine. I haven’t damaged them with my ‘madness’.

The scars that I had inflicted on myself between the ages of 14 and 15 haven’t impacted on my children in anyway. They have never even noticed them. Those scars are just part of their mother, the same as my wonky nose or fat arse.

I wish I could go back in time to that day at the park and ask those mothers what their problem was.

Why did they back away when they saw my arms? Did they think I was a danger to their children?

I see people look at my arms now. I smile at them. Sometimes they scowl back. Sometimes they will ask what’s happened. “Difficult teenage years” I tell them with a shrug and a smile.

I write about the stigma of living with self harm scars.

I talk about it openly.

Because someone has to.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Whether your scars are old, new or in between, you don’t have to hide them away. You are not mental. You are not a danger to your children and you don’t deserve to be the woman hiding away in a thick cardigan, sweating and feeling like you are going to pass out just incase some one sees your scars and judges you.

You are perfect.

Written by @CookieKibbles

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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.