Good lies for my suicide scars.
August 16, 2011 8:57 PM   Subscribe

What are some good excuses for suicide attempt scars on the inner wrist? Particularly keen to hear plausible explanations that fit with the appearance of the scar.

Yeah, it would be nice if I could be honest or say 'none of your business', but I can't do either. So, looking for some plausible explanations. The less out there the better. "I was hangliding and got them snagged on an eagle's claws" is not so good.

I have about 6 inch scar on my left wrist, and one 3 inch and one 1 1/2 inch scar on my right wrist close together on the inner forearm close to the wrist. The scars were made with nail scissors, and neatly stitched in a hospital so have healed well and are irregular, curving pale lines about 1/4 inch thick with obvious stitch marks. There are a couple of thin white lines to the outside of the scars where additional cuts were.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (53 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have some cat scratches on my upper arms which have produced somewhat similar scars. "I had this cat that went crazy...?"
posted by dubitable at 8:59 PM on August 16, 2011

I once sliced a wrist open by falling onto a sharp wire fence at speed (when playing tag as a kid on a farm) and putting my hand out to stop myself, catching the wrist along the fence line. Conceivably if I had put out both hands and got unlucky, I might have scarred both.
posted by lollusc at 9:01 PM on August 16, 2011

I so hope your inside has healed as well as the outside. I would say something about a window mishap, maybe trying to close an old window in a relative's house and the sash crumbled. You really don't need to explain, just say a fight with some glass and the glass won and leave it at that. You owe no one an explanation. Best of luck...
posted by pearlybob at 9:01 PM on August 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

Use this product. Trust me. It;s expensive but worth every penny.

For quite a few years after I changed gender I had to use it to cover a guy beard :( - which it actually did quite well. If it will do that it will sure as heck conceal your scars. It's waterproof. People with scars use it. It works.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:03 PM on August 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

You can also say that they're surgical scars. You may want to do some research as to what would require surgery at those locations. If people start asking questions, just say that you don't like to talk about it.
posted by corey flood at 9:04 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was in college, I rented a really cheap apartment. Turns out the glass in the front door was plate glass. I got locked out while taking out the trash one day and banged on the glass for my boyfriend to let me in & the glass just shattered! Glass went everywhere, but one 3 inch shard was stuck in my wrist. I pulled it out and it left about a 1/4 inch hole in my wrist and bled like crazy. I ended up with a not-so-serious injury and a teensy scar, but it easily could've ended in injuries such as the ones you described.
posted by sugarbiscuit at 9:05 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Trying to reconnect rubber piping in an old washing machine. Or building a PC that had one of those cheap cases where the interior edges don't get smoothed down. I've got scars on my wrists from both.
posted by holgate at 9:11 PM on August 16, 2011

Car accident -- if anyone pushes (past having the gall to ask!), you don't like to talk about it. (And I am so glad you are here to be asking this question.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:13 PM on August 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

I lived in a cheap apartment, and when I closed the bathroom window it broke. My landlord made me literally take the glass out of the window by hand and throw most of it out the window.

I was wearing gloves, so I wasn't cut on my wrist. But I could have been.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:14 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

My sister walked straight through a glass sliding door when she was like 8 or 9 and had a series of scars on her wrists/arms.
posted by buzzkillington at 9:16 PM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here's my excuse for you, although I don't think you need one.

"I fell hands-first through a window when i was a kid. I always was a bit clumsy."
posted by Sphinx at 9:18 PM on August 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

I stood up on the bed to reach the top of the cupboard to reach for something at a friends house, not realising that they had a ceiling fan at top speed. That was thirty some years ago and i still have a thick raised scar on the inside of my right wrist.
posted by infini at 9:19 PM on August 16, 2011

when I was 8, me and the kid next door took our winter tobaggans and slid them down the duplex stairs at his house.

It was good fun for a while, till one time he lost it and went head/hands first through the plate glass door window. His arms were cut to ribbons, and I remember being amazed at the amount of blood.

He lived, and had really cool neon double arm casts for a while. He moved away a few months later when his dad got a job... I forget where. As far as I know he made a full recovery. Anyway, I imagine he's got similar scars.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:22 PM on August 16, 2011

My mother has a couple of scars that look like they could be from a suicide attempt, that were actually from botched IV line insertions that had to be repaired. I've never asked her if people believe her when she explains them, but she has other visible scars from her childhood surgeries so she probably manages to come off as sincere.

I have a pretty nasty scar on my inner wrist from where a friend grabbed my wrist in anger in middle school and gashed me with her fingernail, and I've had to explain it over and over again in the past twenty-some-odd years, and I sometimes get the sense that my perfectly true story is not believed.

So I guess this is to say, there are people who will accept your story at face value and people who won't, and you'll have to be ready to roll with that.

I might just go with "I had an unfortunate accident, it really isn't something I like to talk about". Or even "Oh, you know, I was a daredevil kid with a deathwish" and change the subject, if you really don't want to talk about it with that person. I'm on the side of erring against outright lies, because as much as it's nice to try to create a new truth for yourself, there's always the chance that the real truth will out. So tread carefully, and good luck, and I hope that coming up with an explanation for these scars is the toughest thing you're wrestling with right now.
posted by padraigin at 9:26 PM on August 16, 2011

There was an an AskMe some time ago about cutting, and I always thought the advice was really good. "I had an accident when I was younger, but I'm fine now." The beauty of this response is that if you decide later you want to disclose, you don't have to change your story. It also keeps you from having to flat out tell someone who is clumsily asking out of a sense of kindness that it's none of their damn business. (Even if it really isn't.)

If they persist, you can always say, "Why do you ask?" because if they haven't realized yet that it's a tactless question, they should learn sooner rather than later. Either way, you have nothing to be ashamed of, and you don't owe anyone an explanation.

I hope this helps and I hope you're doing better now.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:28 PM on August 16, 2011 [41 favorites]

posted by Gilbert at 9:30 PM on August 16, 2011

Yeah, windows are a great excuse. But who is asking? I have unmistakeable scars all over both of my arms, for about ten years. I have been asked about them exactly once, by a kid working in a gas station. I gave him an icy stare and an "Isn't that a completely inappropriate question?"
And I understand that when you have these kind of scars that it feels like maybe it isn't, that there is shame and horror behind these kind of scars and that maybe they do have the right to ask, but no they don't. They don't know what is behind them and they have no right to judge.

(In my head my ideal answer is always somewhere between I got run over by a lawnmower and I got mauled by a tiger... My scars are probably a bit worse than yours since this is a viable answer, but I do relish the thought of being able to give it straight-faced. :D)
posted by catatethebird at 9:31 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

*almost viable* I would love for such a ridiculous circumstance to be believed. FWIW I am resigned to wearing long sleeves at work.
posted by catatethebird at 9:36 PM on August 16, 2011

I've a couple of scars on my lower forearm from 20 years ago reaching into a (turned off! power off!) machine that trims magazines with big ass blades because it was jammed incredibly bad and had to be cleared. The blades are large and sharp and even slight pressure cuts skin
posted by edgeways at 9:41 PM on August 16, 2011

AV fistula surgery scar is my excuse, but I don't suppose that would be convincing if they ask questions and you don't want lies about serious illness to mount.
posted by WasabiFlux at 9:43 PM on August 16, 2011

I really like Space Kitty's idea. Keep it simple and relatively honest, and change the topic. Having a little experience with this myself, I find that lying about this sort of thing makes me flustered and feel extra ashamed -- not because I have not told the truth but because the lying makes me feel like I have this whole shameful part of my past that I must hide.

So I think the "I had an accident when I was younger, but I'm fine now" idea is great -- it really emphasizes the healing to them and to yourself. Leave it there. Probably many people won't believe you, though most people won't push (most people who notice won't even ask in the first place). That is something you're just going to have to learn to accept. Know that you're not alone, and that many of the people who do notice will mentally be sending good wishes your way.

I'm so glad you're ok!
posted by imalaowai at 9:53 PM on August 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Accident when I was a kid - followed by a stern glare and/or a slightly disgusted look (and a walk away if you can) should anyone pry further.
posted by mleigh at 9:59 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bike accident, or car accident.
posted by twblalock at 10:04 PM on August 16, 2011

I have a very small scar on my wrist from self injury a few years ago -- most people would not even notice it-- but I got a tattoo over the area and that's what people ask about now -- it's so empowering. Not saying you need to do this, but find a way to make this empowering even in your own mind, and don't make surgery or other excuses if they're not accurate. I very much like "I had an accident when I was younger, but I'm fine now." I also like confronting people on their tactless questions, but like I said, my scar is small, so I didn't have the experience of people asking about it and don't know what I'd say.

Above all, props to you for overcoming a debilitating illness.
posted by sweetkid at 10:04 PM on August 16, 2011

I'm not sure if there's a tactful way to say this, but I've known enough people with depression that I won't automatically take self-harm as an indication that the person doing it is suicidal (thought that doesn't mean I won't be concerned).
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:12 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know the tops of chain link fences, where the chains are basically cut in half and it more or less means metal spikes are sticking up in the air?

When my brother was a kid, he climbed a fence to get a ball that had been kicked to the other side, and while going over the top, one of those spikes dug into his arm and made a massive, gaping gash. It left a nasty scar on his arm that is still there.

For what it's worth.
posted by lewedswiver at 10:15 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have some small scars on the inside of my wrist from having slid about 10 feet down a rock-face when I was rock climbing as a kid. Maybe something along those lines?
I also know someone who got a tattoo that mimicked his scars by tattooing what look like the roots of trees or a network of veins on his inner forearm, if covering them is something that appeals to you.
posted by greta simone at 10:28 PM on August 16, 2011

I've just got to say I loved your hang-gliding excuse. If you said that to me, I would LOL and instantly count you among the healthiest people I know. Wanting people not to know is perfectly understandable too, but I'm glad you can conceive of wearing it like it does not matter, because someday, hopefully, it won't.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:29 PM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Surgery would not be a good story for a jagged or irregular scar.)
posted by moira at 10:48 PM on August 16, 2011

Honestly this really depends on what you're looking for in an excuse. Are you just looking for a way to deflect the conversation, or do you want something that people will actually believe? If it's the latter, going through a window or plate glass door is probably the best you can do.

I'm going to be honest though, I've seen a lot of scars from cutting and suicide attempts and I would recognise them and probably not believe that they came from broken glass. Of course, I'd also never ask about them, because what business of mine could it possibly be?
posted by atrazine at 10:48 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

There was an an AskMe some time ago about cutting, and I always thought the advice was really good. "I had an accident when I was younger, but I'm fine now." The beauty of this response is that if you decide later you want to disclose, you don't have to change your story. It also keeps you from having to flat out tell someone who is clumsily asking out of a sense of kindness that it's none of their damn business. (Even if it really isn't.)

If they persist, you can always say, "Why do you ask?" because if they haven't realized yet that it's a tactless question, they should learn sooner rather than later. Either way, you have nothing to be ashamed of, and you don't owe anyone an explanation.

What Space Kitty said. The truth is that years ago, you felt bad enough to cut your wrists. You should not let shame box you into a lie if anyone asks you about it now. You do not have to answer every question asked of you in exhaustive detail.

If you think a fairly sensitive person will still figure out that you cut yourself, even if they say nothing, and the knowledge that they know also shames you, then you may decide to choose one of the plausible lies offered in this thread. But remember that you will then be dealing with a reasonably sensitive person who may be worth knowing and who will accept you as you are. So why not take a leap and go lie-free from the beginning?
posted by maudlin at 10:52 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I go with "I used to play pretty rough when I was younger". Its similar to the beautiful,"I had an accident" but lends itself to either the dead stare or slightly upturned corner smirk depending on how you feel about the asker.
posted by stormygrey at 11:55 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wonder if there aren't some contexts where you could be explicit: "it's from a suicide attempt back before I got connected to the miracles of modern medicine." *sheepish smile to semi-apologize if this is TMI* "It's far in my past. I just like to be honest because many people have no idea how common that sort of thing is, which leaves those suffering from depression or from the loss of a loved one feeling more alone than they really are."

I realize that you are looking for what to say when you CAN'T be honest though. Do you have any other injuries you could connect it to, which would have the bonus of being a true part of your life? "Same way I got this other scar and my bad back: six years of field hockey / a face first slide into home plate / fell out of a tree onto a fence."
posted by salvia at 12:18 AM on August 17, 2011

Tripped on a wet floor and fell into a glass shower screen?

I'm not sure people will believe you no matter what you come up with. I have a scar on my left wrist that I got - wait for it - cutting a pumpkin with a wet, bullnosed butcher's knife (like this, but older and rounder, and sharp all the way round the tip). Heel of my palm on top of the knife; pushed hard; slipped, sliding the part of my wrist under my thumb over the end of the knife; said 'fuck, that hurt', then cut it even deeper by lifting my wrist up again to look at it and giving it another go at the knife. That was 20 years ago and the scar is still clear as day.

The doctor at the emergency room wanted to tee me up with a psychologist or a social worker.

'Dude, seriously - it was a pumpkin! I'm not making it up!'
'We all hurt sometimes, son. It's OK to cry.'
'Yes, that's it. Let it all out.'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:34 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Excellent advice all round! Fundamentally it seems to fall into 3 categories: (1) Conceal; (2) deflect; (3) get over it. How about playing around with all three to see whether either one of them suits you best, or you get reasonably comfortable with all of them so that, depending on the situation/asker you can choose the most appropriate?
posted by kairab at 4:29 AM on August 17, 2011

Space Kitty has it right here. You'll probably feel most comfortable with something that's not exactly a lie but still glosses it over. My original suggestion, before I read the answers, was going to be "I was attacked once" (which, if you think about it, is true) "...but I pulled through, and I prefer not to talk about it" (definitely true). The accident line works just as well, probably better. Another option is to add "I don't remember much about it" in case someone's really not getting the picture.

FWIW, many people associate scars with badassery, myself included. If I saw someone with scars on their wrists, my first assumption would be more along the lines of the eagle altercation than a suicide attempt - and I've been suicidal, myself. It's very likely that the people who are asking think you've had some sort of crazy adventure and want to hear tales of your awesomeness, and don't realize it's an inappropriate and personal question.

All the best to you, OP. Hope you're continuing to heal.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:49 AM on August 17, 2011

I have some scars on my wrists from when I pushed through a window that I was trying to jimmy open.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:05 AM on August 17, 2011

It's incredibly tacky of anyone to ask, so I wouldn't feel beholden to give any sort of serious answer. A friend of mine had a scar just outside of one eye from a minor surgical procedure, and when asked about it by someone who had no business asking about it, she'd give an answer I think you can reuse here: "Oh, that? Cut myself shaving."
posted by Mayor West at 5:09 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with Major West. I have a giant keloid scar on my wrist from falling off a ladder and someone even asked me about it on my wedding day.

I normally just say "I got into a knife fight ... IN PRISON."
posted by hmo at 6:37 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

A friend was carrying a recliner/rocker & lost his grip. The rail underneath the chair gave him a 6 inch clice vertically along his inner arm. He got a LOT of concerned questions because it looked so much like a purposeful cut.
I also have a scar (I am clumsy) - I just say - "household accident" (which was true) & if pressed wrinkle my nose & say I don't want to gross anyone out describing it.
posted by pointystick at 7:11 AM on August 17, 2011

You could just laugh and say "That's nothing! You should see the other guy!"
posted by The Deej at 7:21 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I fell on a wastebasket full of glass when I was a kid (honest to God, that's what actually happened). See, we were playing & we broke one of those big upper panes on a door & tried to clean it up quietly [read: Without telling anyone]. We got it all up into one of those itty-bitty bedroom garbage cans, & then got to jumping on the bed. I bounced off the bed & straight into the 1 ft garbage can filled with 2 foot pieces of glass. If I hadn't thrown up my arms to protect my face I'd probably be dead. As it was, it was a close call getting to the emergency room in time. But yeah, you could definitely mistake my wrist/arm scars for someone taking a heartfelt crack at suicide. Feel free to swipe my story.
posted by Ys at 7:41 AM on August 17, 2011

It's the both-wrists aspect that makes this hard to convincingly lie about – people who notice won't ask, so you'll have to catch them looking and force your story on them...

I was emptying a large floor-standing glass vase at a wedding when it shattered, driving the jagged base into my left wrist. I severed the flexor tendons and my radial artery, and the scar is pretty epic. It has faded now after three years, but is still obvious – and no one has ever asked what happened.
posted by nicwolff at 8:10 AM on August 17, 2011

"You know how they have those little signs on glass display cases that say 'DO NOT LEAN'? They mean it!"
posted by Jinkeez at 9:11 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also have scars, though most are in far less visible places. If someone dares to ask, which they generally don't, I usually say something like what Space Kitty mentioned "It was a long time ago." which is true, and remind myself that I do not have to engage in every conversation I'm invited to.

Glad you're here too.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:34 AM on August 17, 2011

I have similar scars and on the (extremely rare!) occasion that someone asks, "What are your scars from?" I usually say, "From getting really, really mad." This manages to tactfully confirm correct suspicions (which I'm fine with), and at the same time dissuade the clueless from further inquiry.
posted by milk white peacock at 10:16 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm an emergency dept doc and can attest that hands through a glass plate/window can produce scars similar to suicide attempt/self-cutting scars (at least if my patients are telling the truth, and god knows they might not be). The problem of course is that a large proportion of the people putting their hands through a window have a pretty colorful story to go along with that too, possibly involving alcohol or violence. But if you use one of the good suggestions you've been given here related to doing this, I think that's your best bet for plausibility.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:23 AM on August 17, 2011

I hope you're aware of scar treatments such as silicone gels and sheets. While they work very slowly (weeks or months), they can accelerate the healing of scars and reduce their appearance over time. This could assist you by eliminating the need to explain them.

I use them because my shins -- more than other parts of my body -- heal very slowly due to being diabetic, and every summer they get pretty banged up.

I, too, have a plate glass story: when I was a kid, we foolishly designated the back door (with a glass storm door) as "home" during a game of tag. Well, there was a mad dash for home, I put my hand out palm first, and....
At least I didn't have diabetes then.
posted by dhartung at 1:05 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whatever lie you pick I'd say keep it simple. Over explaining is a huge giveaway. "I had an accident cutting a pumpkin/opening a window and slipped." or some such and leave it there.

Or you could go the other way as I really like hmo's Knife fight in prison idea. If you pick a giant obvious lie and grin while you say it and change the subject afterwards it could be wonderfully effective. Cultivate an air of mystery and get very creative about it. "I got it running with the bulls." "I got them slipping on the north face of Everest in a snow storm." or some such. Change the answer every time and keep them on their toes.
posted by wwax at 2:11 PM on August 17, 2011

When I was a kid I accidentally shoved my younger brother through a window while we were playing Lava. He has a scar on his wrist that looks like he tried to commit suicide. He also has a scar on his side that looks like he was in a knife fight. Many years later while talking to his wife I found out that he had lied to her about the source of those scars. Busted!
posted by deborah at 3:16 PM on August 17, 2011

If your scar is lengthwise rather than across your wrist, then carpal tunnel surgery could be a good excuse, although I would read up a little on it. It sometimes produces scars like that. Otherwise, my best tactic with concocting little white lies is to say as little as possible.

You: When I was a little kid I got cut by some window glass.
Them: Holy moly, what happened?
You: I don't remember, I was pretty young.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:30 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a scar that looks like it could be from a suicide attempt. I got it from falling down in the shower and scraping my wrist on the faucet (this doesn't sound that bad, but trust me it was pretty nasty). Everyone looks at me suspiciously when I tell this story, so maybe it's not that convincing, but it's 100% true.
posted by naoko at 2:23 AM on August 18, 2011

"There was a monkey, and an octopus, see, and...oh, you wouldn't believe me.'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:14 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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