So  just over a week ago I got my first tattoo, and I have to say I am super happy with it. It’s a little plaster over a scar on my hip, which I’ve wanted for a little while, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better for my first one. But there is a story behind it and I wanted to talk about that today.
I’ll be honest there was going to be no big and soppy post about all of this, but people keep asking me about my tattoo and why I have it and I keep just saying “I have a scar, I got a plaster over it” I’m sure a few people assume the real reason for my scar but even my mum said to me “but why do you have a scar on my hip?” and all I could respond with was “uhhh I can’t remember”, but that’s far from true. I want to take this opportunity to talk about the real reason behind this tattoo and my scar, and about my struggles with mental health, no longer just awkward little “uh I was a stupid teenager?” when people realise I have scars.

I have this scar, and a few others, because since my early teen years I have struggled with self harm.

I was really really unsure about making this post. One reason, a reason that  meant I almost didn’t want to go and get this tattoo, is that I felt hypocritical. I had a relapse very recently, a few weeks before getting this tattoo, but I wanted it to be about me healing and moving forward and how could I say I was doing that when I felt like I hadn’t?

But I can say that, I am healing, I am moving forward, one bad day doesn’t mean me stepping back over 5 years of progress.  Up until a few weeks ago I’d been clean for over two years and hopefully I can be clean for way more than that in the future.  I also want this post to debunk some myths about self harm, because for years I was terrified of anyone finding out that I did this because of all of the judgment that would come along with it, and because of the shame I felt about it. I’m still sometimes scared now, I skim round the real reason for my tattoo because I don’t want people to give me those pity looks or think that this is all about attention. Even now as I write this I’m cringing to myself because I don’t feel like I should talk about this, it feels like a taboo subject, which is exactly why I am writing this.
Firstly, self harm is not all about attention. My scars have never been visible to anyone who hasn’t seen the very tops of my legs/hips and for years only a few people even knew I was struggling, up until this post I’ve never really told  people unless they asked.  Many people are in the same boat as me, not everyone has lines of scars all over their arms, or anything visible generally at all. But that’s not to say that the people who have visible scars are struggling less or are just doing this for attention, theirs may be more of a cry for help but if so it’s a pretty big one, and they shouldn’t be ridiculed for struggling, they should be helped. Visible scars may be them saying “look world I really need some help” and that shouldn’t bring reactions of disgust, it should make people want to help someone in need.

Because ultimately self harm is a “coping mechanism” and and addiction. To people who have never done it, it seems insane, why would you purposefully cause yourself pain? Why would you even think about doing that? And I can’t say I know why I started, it was more than seven years ago, I was 12 or 13 and I guess I acted on impulse. And once I’d done it once, that was it, it seemed to have an effect on me like nothing else did. It seemed to help me. And from there on in whenever I felt down, whenever I felt bad about myself  I used it as a way to “cope”, or sometimes as a way to punish myself. And even now when I get down, and when I’m struggling mentally I get those intrusive thoughts trying to tell me that hurting myself will make things better, or that that’s what I deserve.
But it won't, and it’s never what anyone deserves. I put coping mechanism above in quotes because it is not a healthy one.  Ultimately  I had a reminder with me everyday of how I felt about myself, of how much I didn’t even want to exist. I could always feel my scars as they were healing and I was so so scared of anyone seeing them or finding out about them. I was a bit of an emo in my style as a teenager and in school I would sometimes get classmates asking me if I had a knife in my bag and was I going to slit my wrists open in class in front of everyone. Teenagers can be so so cruel. But I would  show them my scar free arms as a way to say “haha, you’re wrong, please leave me alone” and I couldn’t imagine the ridicule if they actually found out. It was horrible and I don’t wish it on anyone.
So if you’re reading this and you’ve even thought about harming yourself, just don’t, it’s not worth it. It doesn’t help you and in the long run it will just make you feel so much worse. It sometimes feel stupid to call it an addiction, like alcohol or drugs, but that’s what it is and it stays with you. If you’re struggling with self harm I have a list of self help guides/coping mechanisms  below, they are mostly on tumblr as that’s where I found them when I was struggling:

And for me personally I found things that helped were putting ice into contact with skin (for short periods of time!) especially on areas like the inside of my wrists, submerging my face in cold water (again for short periods of time), exercise, and painting.

If you’re struggling mentally, whether you’re self harming or not, please seek help. It took me four years to properly tell anyone how much I was struggling and that’s one of my biggest regrets, life’s too short to live it hating yourself. And though I still struggle sometimes, and probably will for the rest of my life, I am far beyond what I ever dreamed I could be in terms of my life and happiness right now.
That’s the more serious bit over now. I want to talk about how much I love my tattoo! And how happy I am with it. Honestly it really does represent healing for me, this tattoo is just as permanent as the scar is and it will be there forever as a reminder, not of the reason I have the scar, but that I worked hard and got so much better. A bit like people get their semi-colon scar to say their story isn’t over, this is me saying a similar thing. And it is very cute, at least I think so. You may notice in the pictures it doesn’t look quite perfect at the moment, that’s because it is still healing and is at that lovely itchy slightly scabby feeling stage but it’s healing nice and quickly. My tattoo artist was the lovely Hollie Limer who is currently an apprentice practicing at Tattoo Emporium in Nottingham. She was super lovely. If you have any other questions about the tattoo feel free to leave them in the comments.
So that’s it for a rather heavy and serious post. If you’ve stuck with it thank you. Here’s to healing, here’s to continuing to work bloody hard at my mental health and to never ever giving up.