Hello friends! This is a post I've been putting off writing for a while now. And I've only mentioned it maybe once or twice in the three years I've had this blog. And that's crazy, considering this is a pretty significant (and visual) effect of my struggle with anxiety.
When I made Grins & Needles public, one of my firsts posts everyone saw was My Anxiety Story. Now, I know my anxiety doesn't define me. But it significant in my life. It's carved in my brain and I literally carry it around with me everywhere. It's been years since it's gotten severe, and I'm still learning how to cope with it.
One of the first spurts of anxiety that I can remember occurred when I was in fourth grade. I'd have moments where I'd run downstairs, exclaiming that I was having trouble breathing. My mom would always assure me that it was most likely anxiety (she had it too). And she was always right.
I remember having a sore on my arm a few years before then. My brother Landon told me not to pick at them or else I might end up with scars. I remember feeling intense fear wash over me in that moment. To be honest, when that happened, at that age, I thought my brother meant surgery. Either way, I was utterly terrified. And little did I know, Landon's concern would foreshadow my future.
The following years consisted of my unconscious and conscious arm-scratching. I'd nervously create scabs, then scars. My mom warned me that I could potentially get an infection if I kept picking, but stubborn ole me just couldn't snap out of it.
Luckily I haven't had an infection.
It just became an issue that only I could solve.
In middle school my mom would use medical tape and gauze to try to keep me from picking and to hopefully help my scabs heal and my scars fade. My arms would be covered in antibiotic band aids. And, as a lot of people would agree, middle school is hard enough as it is.
I never mentioned it to many people, but I was emotionally bullied by a couple girls in seventh grade. They would take the ball away from me in gym class and put it behind their legs, calling me a lesbian if I tried to get it back. They'd giggle at my hair and gawk at my arms and laugh to each other. And I always, always heard the same thing from everyone:
"What happened to your arms?"
Through high school, I wore foundation on my arms any time they'd be exposed. I also have, and still have, scars on my legs. I would usually wear long pants and be questioned, when it was warm outside, what I was thinking for wearing long pants. For the homecoming dances, I would spend about thirty minutes applying layers and layers of foundation, spray tan, and concealer on my arms and legs. Whatever I could do to hide it, I did.
When I was a sophomore, transitioning into a junior, I began writing on this blog. I tried to use it as therapy for when I'd feel anxious. I wanted to help people the same way that influences like Bunny Meyer and Zoe Sugg helped me. But even then, I'd occasionally retouch my photos so my scars weren't visible. I felt like I needed to hide that part of me.
When I started dating Tyler in early 2015, towards the end of my junior year, he encouraged me to make my blog public. So in the summer of 2015, I wrote My Anxiety Story. But for some reason, I felt like my arms weren't significant enough to bring up. I felt like I didn't need to share that part of my story.
Even through the rest of my junior year, I continued picking. It's been a hard habit to break. I'd still retouch my photos to hide my blemishes, whether they were on my arms, legs--even my face. People would still ask me:
"What happened to your arms?"
At this point, I started answering, "Nothing."
I started getting a little fed up with the question.
My senior year started off with some insecurities. I was finally picked as field commander for my school's marching band. It was crucial to have confidence. However, I felt a little too exposed when my arms and legs would show when I wore my tank top and shorts. But as the year went on, I began forgetting to wear foundation on my skin. I started forgetting to hide them.
The last time I wore foundation on my arms was May 1, 2016. My senior prom.
Since starting college, I stopped seeing my scars. It's not that they're actually completely gone, it's just that they don't hold me back anymore. I'm done letting anxiety determine my physical appearance. Because the truth is, anxiety has been tearing me up from the inside, out. And it's something I need to fight.
When I started writing for G&N, I told myself that I wanted it to be raw, to be real. So for about a year now, I've left my arms and legs unedited. I refuse to touch them in photos, because it isn't something I should hide. It's something I should be proud of--I haven't scratched at them in so long that they're actually beginning to fade on their own.
I refuse to let anxiety win.
So when people ask me what happened to my arms, I just tell them my story.
Thank you for reading, friends. What's your story?
Photos are from the lovely Angie (https://www.instagram.com/sparklebear_insta/)