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22 ‘Impulsive’ Tattoos People With BPD Regretted but Now Love

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

You may already know that borderline personality disorder can cause physical symptoms. But what you might not realize are some of the physical ways your mental health symptoms might manifest. Take, for example, impulsivity –one of the nine classic symptoms of BPD. While it might not be physical, those feelings can lead to you to seek out bodily changes. In some cases, impulsivity has led people living with BPD to get tattoos which may later become a source of regret.

Many people grow to love their impulsive BPD tattoos. They may represent a happy memory or a person who offered support when they needed it most. Or they could remind you of a difficult time you emerged from or offer quiet encouragement on days you’re feeling low.

If you’ve ever gotten a tattoo you regretted due to BPD impulsivity, you’re not the only one. We asked people who live with BPD to send us pictures of the tattoos they got on an impulse and came to love. We hope that these photos remind you that you’re not alone in what you’re going through, and that beauty can come from unexpected places. If you’re ever in need of support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to The Mighty community or someone you trust.

Here are 22 ‘impulsive’ tattoos people with BPD regretted, but now love:

1. “I wasn’t quite sure what possessed me to get it but I hated it because I realized it was a constant reminder that I have mental health problems and I can never get rid of them, now it’s a constant reminder that I may have BPD but I’m working on overcoming it every day!” — Alexandria K. R.

Alexandria shows off a tattoo of a serotonin molecule. The tattoo is adorned with leaves and flowers, which give the molecule the appearance of ivy. It is located on Alexandria's arm.

2. “I got this tattoo to symbolize sobriety, it’s almond blossoms which in pagan tradition symbolizes cure from addiction. It’s my only visible tattoo so I have mixed feelings about it sometimes, but I get a lot of compliments and it’s become a part of me.” — Janine W.

  An arm with an almond blossom tattoo.

3. “Freedom from my parents and the way I grew up. The bird is actually meant to be flying away from the cage in imperfect stages till you get to the top bird and it is even.” — Angelica C.

Angelica shows the viewer a tattoo of three birds that are flying out of the cage. They are supposed to represent the same bird flying more and more steadily as it gets farther away from the cage. The word 'free' is written in cursive.

4. “I got this on my arm impulsively one day. It is a lotus flower which grow in even rough environments. So it has mental health meaning to me!” — Rachel C.

An arm displaying a lotus tattoo is shown stroking a gray cat.

5. “This is Larry. It was an impulsive one, but since getting it I’ve decided it does mean a lot to me. Larry is my protector snail, who keeps me safe from further self-harm. He is also inspired by my favorite tattoo of my best friend Steff who has stuck by my side through the highs and lows of BPD.” — Rosie B.

An arm with a snail tattoo.

6. “I had this tattooed on my non-dominant hand after I wrote it on that finger every day for two months after finishing a DBT course. I wrote it there because I would see it on that hand on my desk as I was writing out paperwork when life was stressful… It is a constant reminder when the world closes in and gets demanding and I get stressed… I look down at my hands on the desk and it’s the first thing I see, so it’s the first thing I do.” — Jennifer L. D.

Jennifer shows the viewer her finger, where the word 'Breathe' is written in cursive.

7. “Hated it at the time because it didn’t have a meaning. Now I say it means ‘Free.’ I did a lot of hard work in therapy and self-management and I no longer fit the criteria for a diagnosis of BPD, it is now a previous diagnosis as I don’t display any symptoms of it so it fits perfectly. A tattoo I got due to BPD impulsivity that I hated for not having meaning, now has a great one.” — Amy L.

A woman who used to have BD shows off a neck tattoo of two feathers held together by a red bead. The feathers are white with black tips and appear just below the woman's ear.

8. “The sun, moon and a star, originally a gift from an ex but now a reminder to always rise, shine through the dark, to shoot for the stars.” — Destiny M.

Destiny shows the viewer three tattoos, one of the sun, one of the moon, one of a seven-pointed star. It is located on her hand.

9. “I got this at around 1 AM in a guys garage. I regretted it for the longest time but now I love it!” — Keara D.

Keara shows off a tattoo on her back. It reads, 'One Sky, One Destiny.' She is flexing her arms.

10. “I didn’t know what to tell people why I got it or it’s meaning at first. But I don’t regret it anymore. It’s my sign of hope to fly when I feel stuck to the ground.” — Chelsea T.

Chelsea shows the viewer a tattoo of a feather. It is located on her arm.

11.My flame tattoo was rushed, I didn’t plan for it, didn’t research an artist, and it didn’t turn out how I wanted. The flame represents my passion and often fiery personality, and the imperfect colors now remind me that decisions made impulsively still have lasting marks. I later got a mindfulness water drop on my other arm during DBT as a balance.” — Cassie K.

Cassie shows the viewer a tattoo of a ball of fire. It is located on her arm and is orange and red.

12. “I was in a dissociative state for months. Even though I have healed and I am in recovery for BPD it reminds me of that time and truly how sick I was but also how far I have come since then.” — Valerie C.

Valierie shows off a tattoo of two letters, which is located on her neck.

13. “I am pretty inked up. It started when fibro kicked in and way beyond I was officially diagnosed. To me getting a tattoo was a way of shifting my depression and fibromyalgia symptoms to a physical ache of a different kind. I know to most people that doesn’t make sense… but in my head it does.” — Belinda B. D.

Belinda shows off the tattoo on her arm, which is of the skull of a fanged animal. The skull has pink flowers growing inside.

14. “I have two. I got an infinity symbol on my left hand and a heart on my right. I was impulsive and allowed a random girl to do them at a party. I regretted it for a while. Now they’re a reminder to always love myself, despite my flaws.” — Mae W.

Mae shows the viewer a tattoo of a heart, which is located on her hand.

15. “Since my ex didn’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I bought myself something pretty on an impulse and felt bad immediately afterward for spending the money on a whim. But now it’s one of my favorites, and reminds me that I deserve love.” — Aubrey M.

Aubrey shows off a tattoo of a pink rose and a red heart with gold rim. It is on her arm.

16. “I got this tattoo years before I was diagnosed with BPD. But I got it impulsively and I had no idea why. If I had thought it through, I probably would have done a better design rather than just plain text. But I got it because I was going through a very difficult time in my life and was very self-conscious… I felt like I was a failure. Alice In Wonderland was my favorite childhood book and this quote means to me that, everyone is strange just like me and I’m not alone. I regret the design but not the idea.” — Melissa R.

Melissa shows the viewer a tattoo that reads, "We're all mad here." It is located on her arm.

17. “Felt the urge to cut my hair and get a new tattoo. Then felt the urge to apply to an interesting job in New Caledonia (17,000 km from where I live) and got the job. Tattoo, BPD and new location are linked in a way.” — Tatiana T.

Tatiana shows off a tattoo of red coral, which is on her foot.

18. “I got this mythical kitty done on day release during an inpatient stay. Weird idea to have but in hindsight I love it because it covers some shitty scars and it’s pretty.” — Foihnula K.

Foihnula shows the viewer a tattoo of a black cat with a cresent moon on their forehead.

19. “I had been feeling the urge to self-harm badly and instead found myself in a tattoo shop. I love the moon, so I came to love this tattoo a lot.” — Madeline N.

Madeline shows the viewer the crescen moon tattooed on her arm.

2o. “I got this tattoo impulsively after dealing with a really bad relapse and urges to self-harm. I got it to remind myself to keep fighting and stay alive. They’re lyrics from Truce by 21 Pilots. ‘Stay alive, stay alive, for me.’”– Hollie W.

Hollie shows the viewer a tattoo reading "Stay alive." A semicolon takes the place of the 'i.' It is located on her wrist.

21. “I covered my scars on my arm after someone made a comment and it was the last straw. Went to the tattooist the next day and started a new tattoo. Just wanted something done. I started to have second thoughts at the time as it was so huge. But once done all my regrets were gone.” — Michael Iskra

Michael shows off his tattoo, which spans the length of his arm and features a lion with a crown, a crow with a jester's hat, a scepter and some flowers and gems.

22. “I got this done back in 2017. I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I got this to remind me when I self-harm I shouldn’t hold back, that it is over. Throughout the last few years, I’ve fought for many feats I never thought I could achieve. I am no longer homeless, or being abused. I’m not hurting myself, I’m working on accepting all that has happened, where I am at the moment, and all that is to come. I now look at this tattoo as a reminder for when I’m reaching forward, that it is over. The past is gone, it all has ended, but I don’t have to.” — Lexi B.

Lexi shows the viewer a tattoo on her hand, which reads 'it's over.' Lexi is wearing a black long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans.

If you’re struggling with BPD impulsivity, we want you to know you’re not alone. You are beautiful and deserving of love, even when BPD impulsivity causes you to do things you may regret. If you ever want to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through, join our bpd support group.

Image via Michael I.’s Facebook

Originally published: February 3, 2020
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