Devon O’Reilly: musician in Eyes Violet

It started when I was in university and missed three classes in a row. I remember going back to my dorm room and thinking, “You’re worthless.” I felt mentally numb and I didn’t know what else to do. Self-injury was a way to punish myself.

For the past seven years, I’ve been through two hospital programs and now I go to therapy. I had a panic attack disorder, and every time I had a panic attack, cutting was a daily thing. It was a coping mechanism and I couldn’t get a release from anything else. Some scars have healed and are barely noticeable, but there are ones I didn’t take care of so they’re there forever. 

I started to tattoo flowers on some of the more marked parts of my body in order to turn bad memories into something beautiful. I first got a tulip on the inside of my right arm because it’s a sign of forgiveness and I was forgiving myself for things I had done to my body. I had scars I was really ashamed of on the top of my arm, so I got poppies, which remind me of my father. The bouquet on my thigh is the biggest one, and it’s to remind myself “It’s okay, you are beautiful.” The tattoo took eight hours and after, I cried. It felt like closure to me.

When I was doing promo shots for my band, Eyes Violet, the photographer discretely pointed to the scars on my arm and whispered, “Would you like me to Photoshop these out?” I said yes, but I can’t get that moment out of my head. I don’t want it to be a whisper any more. I want to deal with the discomfort head on.

Now that my mind feels better, I look at my body and I’m very proud of what I’ve done. Those scars don’t define me and I’m not ashamed. The struggle will never go away, but I’m teaching myself to deal with it so it doesn’t affect how I see myself. I want people who’ve gone through this or are going through this to know it’s okay. As shameful as it is, you’re not alone.


See last year’s Body Issue here.

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