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Please Don't Call Me a 'Cutter'

I was in labor at the hospital about to give birth for the first time. I was scared, excited, anxious and overwhelmed with all that was happening. The last thing I wanted was for the nurse to look at my scars and say, “Oh, you’re a cutter.” In that moment, I could not address what she had said. But to all who see my self-harm scars and say, “Oh, you’re a cutter,” I would like to make some things clear.

I am not a “cutter,” a “borderline,” or an “emo.” I am not difficult, “crazy,” suicidal or attention seeking. Please do not see me and assume you know who I am because my mental health history is a bit more visible. Don’t assume to know me because of what you have seen portrayed on television, or because you knew of one person who self-harmed, and therefore know everything about everyone else who self-harms. And just so you know, many of my scars are not even from cutting.

I know self-harm can be difficult to understand and scary to address when you see it. I know that it’s a frightening thought that someone might be hurting so much inside that they turn that pain outward. I understand that it can make you feel awkward to be around. You may wonder if I will hurt you or someone else. You may feel uncomfortable seeing my emotional pain written on my skin. You might assume I have a personality disorder or that I should be institutionalized. I get it, I really do. Not understanding something can lead to fear.

Please know I will not hurt you. In fact, my biggest fear in life is accidentally hurting someone or something. I never want to cause anyone else pain. I do not have a personality disorder (even though some people who self-harm may have one). I have been diagnosed with depression.

You do not need to fear me. I am like you in a lot of ways. I binge watch reality television. I love hiking and gardening. I struggle at times with parenting a spirited toddler, but can’t get enough of the bedtime snuggles. I go on lunch dates with friends, but hate being in large crowds. I have been in counseling for years to address my self-harm and the history of childhood abuse that contributes to some of the urges. I am doing much better with support and using the coping strategies I have learned.

I am not, and never will be just a “cutter.”  I am a mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend. I am an employee, student and volunteer. I am also a person who has struggled with self-harm. There is a lot of emotional pain behind my scars. But there is also a lot of strength, perseverance and survival. Look beyond what you see and what you may assume. I am much more than that.

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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Lead photo via Thinkstock

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