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I am covered in Art

I am covered in art. Not traditional art, not ink or pretty colors. Not elaborate designs,

not words or drawings. My art is considered ugly. Scars, dark and scraggly; bruises, purple and yellowing; burns, angry reds and scabbing. To the world, my skin is battered and run down, filled with “that poor girl”s and “what happened to her?”s. I am a model of art, but not the kind the world wants to see. I am the kind of art people are scared of, the kind that most avoid in a museum full of otherwise beautiful depictions of life. I am the poor man standing in the street from whom people turn their eyes as their cars zoom past, too uncomfortable to treat me like a human being. I am the topic of conversation for people who I've never met or even heard of before, their whispers ringing in my ears and screenshots shining bright on my phone screen. I am covered in art, but not the traditional kind. My skin has not always been torn up, not always a spectacle or an exhibition. While my skin was clear, my mind was the opposite. I fought wars in my head, battling against myself, and when I was losing, my skin took the brunt of it. I did the art myself, did it better than any work I've ever done on paper or a canvas. Sometimes I think about contacting my fourth grade art teacher to tell her I've finally become an artist, just as a sad attempt at dark humor. I did not make all of the art, however. The bruises and burns came from the sport I broke my soul into pieces for. Volleyball consumed me, as it was my life. Everything I did was for the sport, and the

uniforms were not kind to my battle scars. Furious red lines and sour bruises stood out in the cold lighting, almost like a doctor’s office. It sure felt like it with all those eyes on me, poking

and prodding with their stares. I felt like a monkey in a zoo, some fascinated stares while others were disgusted. I remember the first week I returned to school after summer when I was shown the messages from a groupchat with several girls from school. “Did you see those cuts on her legs?”, and “Has she been carving too many pumpkins?”. I'll admit that the second one made me giggle, but the fact that I was their new target scared the life out of me, all the way down to my core. I had always flown below the radar, stuck to my few close friends, and was non confrontational. I was not the type to be bullied or harassed. Until that day, I fit the societal standard of normality. The girls in that group chat were well known, therefore I knew the word would get out fast. That's what happens when your school is small and word travels faster than the speed of light itself. Little did I know that the word would not only spread around the four hallways of Rosary, but to several other schools in different towns. In all honesty, I contributed to the dispersing of my “news”. I figured that the best way

to cope with the gossip was to face it head on. I posted Tik Toks acknowledging my scars and made jokes about depression. I would bring it up nonstop out of fear that if I didn't bring it up first, other people would. In hindsight, that was a horrible idea because it came back to bite me in the butt. People began to be more weirded out by my personality than the way I looked. I've been told that talking about my mental health has helped several people, but still not everybody knows and sees mental health the way I do. While I find it healing to be able to talk about it, others are made uncomfortable by the fact that the ugly truths of mental health are being revealed. Since that year, I've learned to dial down the dark humor and the discussion of mental health, but everybody knows that I am still its biggest advocate. I will always continue to stand up for the people who struggle silently because I have been in their shoes, and it is the most lonely, hopeless, depressing feeling in the world. Although the way I chose to fight my battles might not be the same as others, I can still empathize with their pain. I know that the topic of mental health has been becoming more repetitive in recent years, and I could not be more excited that people are taking it seriously and are willing to open up about their struggles to show other people that they are not alone. As cliche as it sounds, that is a key message and one of my life mottos. My scars have not faded entirely, and I hope they never will because they're an important part of my story, who I am, and what I stand for. They symbolize weakness but also strength, ugliness but also beauty, and how being a human means you are perfectly imperfect. My scars are art, and they are my favorite piece I've ever made.

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