Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly. — Barbara Haines Howett
I have been a cutter off and on since I was 14 or 15; I had stopped for a while in my late 20s/early 30s, but a little over a year ago I started again. This culminated in April of 2017, when I accidentally cut myself so badly that I had to go to the ER and get stitches. I was terrified I would be hospitalized or my children would be taken away. Unlike all my other tiny, barely noticeable scars, this thing was huge, and ugly, and very noticeable, and freaked people out, and for a long time severely itched and occasionally caused me stabbing pain. I couldn’t stand to look at it for several days, maybe weeks, afterward; members of the pod cleaned and dressed it for me. It ended up needing repeated and painful injections of steroids and a prescription cream to heal. For a while I referred to this as “my little accident”, a la Beetlejuice, but now I refer to it as The Big Cut. I haven’t cut myself since… but sometimes I still desperately want to. This is a hallmark of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Have I mentioned that I have a morbid sense of humor?
So I did a thing this month. A thing I’ve wanted to do for a while. A good thing; a reclaiming thing. A healing thing. It was 13 years to the day since I was date-raped by the guy I liked and his roommate after a party I threw for Cinco de Mayo; it was a little over 13 months since The Big Cut that left this horrible, ugly, embarrassing, shameful scar that has haunted me every day since, an endless reminder of what I am capable of doing to myself, glaring at me from even the happiest pictures.
You probably barely notice it, but it ruins every picture for me.
I have hated and loathed and been upset by and ashamed of this scar in ways I can’t even begin to express. For months afterward I would look at it and start crying, “How could I do this to myself?” But the answer lies in the dark depths I don’t like to explore: that it was easy, and that the ache to do so is always there, if I get upset enough. I could easily do it again.
So this was what I had wanted: to get something that symbolized to me that something beautiful could come out of something ugly and dark. That I can still be beautiful and live a beautiful life even though sometimes my mind is ugly and dark, and sometimes my world seems ugly and dark. That all the struggling against darkness and the tangled emotions that tie me up so I can’t move is worth it, and will metamorphosize me into a world of color and grace and hope.
My best friend came with me to support me in my recovery and show me that she’ll be here for me for always. The artist finished, and I admired it. And then I glanced in the large mirror on the wall of his booth, saw my arm hanging at my side casually, like it does in pictures, and instead of the angry scar that always catches my attention… it was a butterfly, and it was so, so beautiful. And I started crying. And I hugged my best friend. And I thanked my artist. He will never know how much this meant to me.
He offered to cover the scar, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to still be able to see it, clearly. I didn’t want to cover it and try to forget it; I wanted to use it as a constant reminder to myself. I wanted to see that it was one thing, and now it is a part of something else, something beautiful and artistic and rich in personal meaning, as well as something I share with someone important to me. And he was very respectful of it, taking care to incorporate the stitch lines and set it off well. I can’t stop looking at it. I absolutely love my tattoo. I love that I did this thing for myself.
Our tattoo artist: Dave Potter at Mystic Marks in San Marcos, TX
For the evolution of the stitched cut to angry scar to calm scar to tattoo, see the slideshow behind the Continue Reading cut below. *Trigger Warning*