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How I Explain My Self-Harm Scars to My Daughter

I Battled Depression as a Teen, but I Don't Know How I'll Tell My Daughter About It

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A few weeks ago, my daughter pointed to my leg and looked up at me with concern. Her little eyebrows furrowed as she asked me how I got an owie. I was wearing denim shorts and looked down to see what my curious 4-year-old was pointing at. She was referring to a collection of horizontal lines etched in my upper thigh from nearly two decades ago: my old, self-inflicted cutting scars from a very low time during my early teen years. The scars are barely visible now. Most days, I forget they are there.

The lines are a leftover reminder of the cuts I made as a young teenager battling a sudden influx of hormones and negative emotions I didn't understand at the time. I silently suffered for years with anxiety and depression. I didn't have the knowledge or the tools yet to manage the heavy and sometimes scary roller coaster of emotions, so cutting became my outlet.

I did finally get help through therapy, and I learned healthy ways to deal with my anxiety. I'm thankful I've learned how to cope, but the scars have remained long after the depression subsided.

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It's not something I talk about often, but as my daughter looked up innocently at me, it got me thinking. There will come a time when the two of us will need to talk about the tough issues. How should I address some of the physical and emotional changes she'll face as a teenager? What will I share with her about my own past when the time comes? I don't have all the answers today, and that's OK. She still has several years before the teens come knocking, but I know I want to address it with her.

What I do know for sure is that I will work to create a safe place for her to ask me questions as she grows and her body begins to change. When things like puberty and her period make their debut, I'll be there for her. I want to be her sounding board. The one to comfort her and give her advice and thoughtfully share parts of my own experiences to help her as she paves her own path.

I will explain to her that our bodies are like roadmaps, telling a detailed story of where we've been. They aren't something to be ashamed of. My scars don't define me, but they do remind me of where I've been. My scars tell a story about the experiences I've gone through and the lessons I've learned along the way. I hope to create an open dialogue with my daughter about the tough topics. I want to teach my daughter that it's OK to feel big feelings and to always have an open stream of communication between her and me.

It has taken a few years and a lot of personal growth, but I can finally own my story. I hope to show my daughter she can bravely own hers, too.

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