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The Real Mental Health Reason Behind My Tattoo

It’s been a year since I decided to get my tattoo, which I call my “mental health tattoo.” Even though I had an honest and vulnerable Instagram post about my tattoo describing its significance, I still felt I was censoring my true reasoning. I felt some people in my life would not understand why I had to go out and get a tattoo on my arm. And I was right. Even though I am an adult, my mother had a huge issue with it and we stopped speaking to each other because of it. Additionally, a family friend took issue with it as well, and I had to painfully let go of the friendship because of it.

I feel those who judge me have not gone through the battle of struggling with a mental illness or have not been close to someone who has. I think only if you have gone through a personal struggle, like dealing with a mental or physical illness, you can understand that person’s struggle on a deeper level. Sure, you can battle a mental illness and not have a need for a tattoo, but I felt the need to express mine — with art on my body to help me during those hard times.

I was really upset about the fact that people I cared about were dissing and giving me a hard time over my tattoo. However, my therapist at the time told me, “This tattoo is perfect for you. Be proud of it.” Even though tattoos were not his “thing,” he understood why it was important to me. He told me it did not matter if others did not like it … that was their problem and something they needed to work on.

Through dealing with depression, anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I have struggled with suicidal ideation since the age of 15. Out of shame, not having a diagnosis, lack of mental health awareness and help; my feelings of suicide in the past have been kept to myself. It is only just recently I have been able to discuss these feelings with my therapists. After one of my depression bouts, I decided to go get my tattoo that said, “life is beautiful” with a lotus flower. For me, the lotus signified the obstacles I have gone through because a lotus rises from murky water to bloom. The phrase “life is beautiful” is to remind me how beautiful my life is, even during my darkest times. I have never been as glad that I got my tattoo as I am today. Today, I am more open with my struggles as I hope more people start to understand how important it is to talk more about mental illness and discuss it in a more positive, less stigmatizing light.

Original photo by author