I'm an RN with a well controlled metal illness. Have worked in ICU/ED before taking 6months off to look after my mental heath when my Dad died. I've returned to an outpatient unit with nicer shifts, less stress etc to keep my mental health stable. In my new unit the staff don't know me or my history, I haven't had time to prove myself yet.
I have some fairly visible OLD self harm scars, and short of covering them with tattoos there's not much I can do about them but regret younger me's choices. I've never had an issue with staff or patients commenting but suddenly I am.
What's your opinion on an RN with selfharm scars? I'm not ashamed of my past if anything I appreciate the insight it gives me on the struggles my patients deal with. Do I cover them? Do I open up to the staff who ask questions? Do I just refuse to answer my colleague's questions?
Last edit by redheadrn86 on Jul 13
It's always interesting to me how people can be so impossibly rude as to ask another about self harm scars. I'm just quirky enough as to say something like "When I was younger I dove for pearl's in shark infested waters" and let people think what they will. I don't have self harm scars but I have significant scars which I never really try to hide or comment on. One of my favorite TV personalities has been quoted as saying "You wouldn't worry so much about what other people thought about you if you realized how rarely they did."
It's really none of their business. I wouldn't dignify anyone rude enough to ask that question with a response. You can always say "that was in the past" and leave it at that.
Personally, I would cover the scars with a tattoo. It's amazing what artists can do to disguise scars of all kinds. Of course, you may not want to call any kind of attention to those areas, in which case you might just want to wear long sleeves. Whatever works for you and makes you less uncomfortable is the right thing to do.
Bare below the elbow. And 30degrees here. X
Tell 'em "Yeah you should see the other guy".
I second the idea of long sleeves. I have tattoos that I cover and I like sleeves also so that I don't get poo or some other foul body fluid on my skin. There are ones that are a lighter fabric that doesn't make me too hot during the shift. People are going to stare and ask questions and if you don't want to deal with that, the only way is to cover them up.
It all depends on what you're comfortable with. If it were me, I'd probably cover it. I don't even like my tattoos to show. I'm a private person and like to keep my private life to myself when I'm at work.
I'm an RN with self harm scars. Fortunately they are fairly old and not as noticeable.
I wear short sleeves at work. I occasionally get people who ask me what happens and I'm honest about it and tell the asker something along the lines of "a long time ago before I became a nurse I had a period of being very unhappy and depressed. The scars are because I used to deliberately hurt myself"
I take the approach while I'm not proud of this time of my life, I refuse to be ashamed of it, and if talking about it openly and honestly helps someone else who may be going through something similar then I'm cool with that
Also despite it being over 10 years, I remember when I was stuck in the middle of a continual cycle of self harm I was convinced that I was the only one who did this sick crap. Felt so alone and like no one would possibly understand. It wasnt until I came out the other side and started talking to other people that I realised how common it actually was
If you're comfortable talking about it with stranger, then I don't see anything wrong with telling the truth.
If it makes you uncomfortable, then I second the wearing long sleeves or coming up with a snarky or funny reply that will redirect their attention.
While most of my coworkers have visible tattoos, I choose to cover mine up with long sleeves at work. They're deeply personal to me and I don't want to have to answer questions every time a pt or coworker sees them. If you do decide to get tattoos to cover them up, that's something else to consider.
I wear 3/4 length sleeves at work, and I work in the NICU. I wear them under my scrub top. I haven't had a problem with it.
As for other people asking/saying something, a snarky remark is usually easiest. I told my nieces I got in a knife fight with a monkey. Something clearly ridiculous that conveys the fact you don't want to talk about it.
I gave myself a really bad black eye once and told people I had been a spy, I was protesting at the world economic summit, I was learning to juggle monkeys, and other things. It made people laugh and changes the subject at the same time.
I have never been asked before, but I have a feeling they have been noticed. Fluorescent light is the WORST for making them visible. I think they are probably worse looking to me than to most others. 99% of people probably don't care. But I notice I do think about it at least once every shift.
It really sucks that I had to go through it 15 years ago now...but it's my past and I've overcome many obstacles to be the nurse I am today. I am proud of my progress
I hope you can be too!
I don't have self-harm scars but I do have an insulin pump and the continuous monitoring thing on my arm. It's not too personal to me, but if I don't feel like going into it, I just say it's my pocket pancreas or I'm turning into a robot/cyborg and leave it at that. People are so confused by the response I can usually get away
I have several old self-harm scars and prefer to wear long sleeves when possible. If people notice, they generally don't pry. My absolute favorite reaction was a kid who warned me about a caterpillar crawling up my arm. Turns out it was my biggest scar--with the old stitch marks it looks at first glance like a many-legged insect.
It's all up to you what you want to discuss with your colleagues. I personally take the view that nurses are human, and none of us will be perfect specimens of physical/mental health (or if we are, we won't be staying that way forever). It helps us empathize with our patients.
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