Tattoo master protective gloves make a tattoo in black ink on the hand of the girl. Close-up.

How My Tattoos Help 'Heal' My Scars


Today is a loophole of sorts. It’s like I’m breaking, but I’m really not. It feels the same. But instead of ugly scars, I’m creating something beautiful I’ll proudly wear. Well, he is. We are.

I’m in this chair, my right arm stretched to the side of me and I am happy. Content. Anxious (always). And I find myself kind of pouring my heart out to the man beside me. More or less a stranger, tattooed exterior, black gloves and a tattoo gun in hand. It’s a different kind of therapy. And he keeps it light, doesn’t take everything too seriously and it’s nice. It’s nice in the comfort of this chair, needle and ink etching my arm, to just have a quiet laugh in our corner as he comments on my recent life story, my mental health journey. He jokes and challenges me, but it’s all in good fun. Makes me kind of question everything, which would be frustrating with just about anyone else but him.

This makes sense.

Working on my right, we talk about a future coverup on my left arm. New ink over old that will actually mean something. And it’s right there, out in the open — exposed. I know he’s had to have noticed, but he says nothing about it, about them. Because it wasn’t that long ago I relapsed and broke. The scars are still a dark reddish purple, just an inch or so away from where the coverup will be. A noticeable, tragic shade against my skin.

“Sounds like you’ve had a rough go of things,” he does say at one point. Not a question, just a fact.

These two and a half hours are the most relaxed and content I’ve been in a long while. And he says it was nice getting to know me a little. I say likewise. I tell him we’ll bond again over more ink and cherry blossoms.

In a way, it feels like I broke today, fresh ink needled into my right arm. But I didn’t. Instead of fresh scars I get to proudly wear something beautiful. It’s a tattoo I’ve wanted since I was just 11 years old, not long before my descent into self-harm began.

I have a feeling “tattoo therapy” will play a big part in my recovery.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via dimid_86.

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