I should have been prepared for the question, but I wasn’t: “Mama, what are those scars?”
Trigger warning: This post deals with issues of eating disorders and self-harm and some readers may find it triggering.
Life is full of difficult conversations. Many you anticipate and ready yourself for. Others you simply can’t prepare, they just strike you in the midst of an ordinary day.
“Mama, what are those scars?”
I looked and saw someone else’s body. I saw a victory so long overcome and so many years in the past that now I rarely even give it a passing thought.
I ducked and weaved and dodged the question. I kissed my dark-eyed son and muttered a non-answer of accidents and pain long, long ago. I sent him off to find his brother and sister and hurry them for dinner. I made him laugh at how our dog was sleeping soundly, snoring like the old-aged pensioner he is.
And then I breathed. I stopped and thought, one day I will have to talk to them about this – and it could be that ‘one day’ is coming sooner than I think.
How do mothers talk to their children of mental illness and eating disorders which took place in a different time? How do mothers answer questions about self-harm, anxiety or depression?
I want to tell them that a lifetime ago I was a different person at war with my body and angry at it. That I struck out in the only way I knew how but that after many years I won, and that now I am me and that is all that matters.
I know I am not the first mother to ever have these conversations, and I know I am not alone in having been through this, but I am alone in this dialogue with my kids.
No-one can have it for me. But I don’t know what they need to hear.There is a temptation to fob them off with a lie about an accident, but it’s an easy way out isn’t it? I know that my children’s feelings are more complicated than that and there will come a time when they need to be validated.