‘I remember picking it up. I remember hitting my arm with the sharp edge repeatedly until I saw scratches, and then blood. I remember feeling better.’

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“For weeks I have debated on posting this. Ever since I pulled the trigger and made the appointment for this tattoo I have had an internal struggle on what to do. Questions like: ‘You have have held this secret for so long, are you sure you want the world to know?’ ‘What will people think?’ ‘Why would anyone care?’ Have plagued my mind. But I have decided it’s time. If this story – MY STORY – can reach one person. Can help them to keep moving on, then it’s worth it.

My name is Jamie, I’m 31 and from NW Iowa. And this is my story.

Woman who cut herself as a little girl
Jamie Hettwer

I remember being in grade school – it couldn’t have been more than 3rd or 4th grade. I remember the tiny plastic chair, the sink in the corner of the room, and the boy sitting next to me at his desk. I remember being upset. Frustrated. Mad. But I can’t remember why. I remember my metal ruler sitting on my desk. I remember picking it up. I remember hitting my arm with the sharp edge repeatedly until I saw scratches, and then blood. I remember feeling better.

From my first memory in grade school, all the way through my adult life – I have been a cutter. Through the years that ruler escalated into knives, and eventually razor blades. It escalated into a ritual.

Every cutter will tell you there is a process. A procedure. A ritual (if you will). This process needed to be followed. It’s part of what makes the cutting relieve whatever internal turmoil you are trying to mask. Now, I’m not going to get into my process. I don’t want to glorify the act itself, but I just wanted to shed some light on it. I’m sure most of you are probably asking yourselves ‘why?’ ‘How does this help?’ Those who have never done it, don’t seem to understand the reasons. I’ll try my best to address them.

For me, when I’m upset, I can’t get out of my head. The negative thoughts overwhelm me. They consume my mind, my emotions, and every breath I take. I just want to make them stop. I must do whatever I can to get a reprieve from them – from myself. Cutting became that. The ritual of following the steps correctly down to each minute detail kept my brain busy. The adrenaline gave me a feeling of euphoria. The cutting. . . well that was the best part.

There is always a sense of  ‘Can I’ when cutting. Can I go deeper? Can I do more? Can I stop? The sense of power while cutting is overwhelming. But so is the sense of shame. ‘I deserve this.’ ‘It’s better I hurt myself now then someone else later.’ ‘Just one more and I’ll feel better.’ These are the things I would tell myself. And they were true, or at the time I thought they were. Is it about suicide? Sometimes. Is it about blood? Sometimes. Is it about control? Always. Is it about wanting to live? Unrecovacbly. Unequivocally. YES.

Close up of scars on woman who cut herself
Jamie Hettwer

These scars are my war marks of fighting to LIVE. They are the stories of each time I wanted to give up but kept pushing forward. They are the map of my sadness and my strength. They are beautiful.

I am not covering them up today. I’ll admit, at first, I was. They make other people uncomfortable. They have caused some awkward conversations. I wanted to be rid of them for myself and others. But today, I want to enhance them. I want to use them – and this tattoo – to help share my story.

Tattoo on woman to cover scars from her cutting herself
Jamie Hettwer

I am molding them into the next chapter in my story. Into this tattoo that represents my struggle, my strength, my pain. It’s been over a year since I have cut. This year has been a challenge, a recovery, and a blessing. Will I cut again? Probably. Is each day that I don’t cut a win? Absolutely.

Be kind to yourself.

Be kind to others.

Keep fighting.

And never. EVER. Be embarrassed of your scars – they are your story, your war cries, they are what makes you beautifully YOU.”

Woman who got a tattoo to cover her scars from cutting herself sits smiling with cat in her lap
Jamie Hettwer

[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there and you are not alone.]

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jamie Hettwer, 21. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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