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The Unexpected Way I Manage My Self-Harm Urges

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One of the most challenging journeys I’ve taken with regard to my mental illness has been managing my self-harm. I chose the word “managing” rather than “overcoming” because I don’t know if I can ever permanently rid my mind and body of the urge to self-harm. But I do know that I can live with this urge, and that I can, in some ways, manage it.

One of the ways I’ve learned to manage my self-harm is by getting a tattoo. I know this is not a permanent solution, nor is it necessarily a realistic or desirable one for other people; but for me, it really helped and I’m grateful for that.

I got my first tattoo on my left wrist because that’s where my self-harm (previously) most often occurred. I spent a lot of time considering the tattoo’s location. I ultimately chose my left wrist because I wanted to reclaim this piece of my body — and to redefine it in a way that I hoped would make me feel proud and beautiful.

The image I chose for my tattoo was one of Snoopy from the Peanuts comic strip. I’ve loved Peanuts since I could read, and Snoopy in particular is a character that both comforts me and brings me joy. Before I understood what coping mechanisms were, Snoopy was one of mine.

In my tattoo, Snoopy is looking up at a heart. I selected this image as a reminder to myself that when I feel the urge to self-harm, or when I forget that I have purpose — that I also have love.

It’s not a perfect system, and it doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, but it works most of the time — and that makes it worth it to me. I love my tattoo, and I’m nicer to my body because of it. My tattoo is a tool to manage my self-harm — as well as a gesture of self-love.

tattoo of Snoopy on woman's wrist


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Unsplash image via Stacey Rozells

Originally published: May 10, 2018
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