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22 Tattoos That Bring People Hope While Living With Chronic Illness

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When you have a chronic illness, that feeling of hopelessness can creep in at times. Through all the flares, setbacks and difficult days, it can be tough some days to hold onto hope.

As Mighty contributor Ashley Creveling wrote, “On days with pain, fatigue or other illnesses, life can feel so daunting, so dark… It’s easy to forget the reasons for your fight. Yet in those moments, it’s imperative that you remember your reasons to keep pushing on.”

One way many of those with chronic illness remind themselves of their reasons for pushing on is through tattoo. Whether these are sayings, intricate designs or awareness ribbons, tattoos are a constant reminder that you can get through this. Whenever you’re having a bad day, and that hopelessness creeps in, you can look at your tattoo and remember that there is, in fact, hope.

We asked our Mighty community to share their tattoos that remind them to remain hopeful on tough days with chronic illness. If you find yourself having one those dark days, remember that there is a community here who understands you. You are not alone, and there is always hope.

Here is what our community shared with us:

1. “I was diagnosed with my long list of autoimmune disorders in September of 2013 just after my 17th birthday and high school graduation. My whole life was turned upside down in an instant. As I once told my aunt, my tattoos are like body armor that help shield me on a daily basis from all the pain. I put them on my wrists purposely so when I am at my sickest literally (puking) I can see them, they are my strength, they help me. I have nine tattoos and all of them hold meaning. However these two specifically are my top two aimed at my lifelong battles of chronic illness. [Left:] Stay Strong. [Right:] From pain comes strength. The symbols above the second mean a warrior of life staying afloat.” – Mary M.

Mary M.'s stay strong tattoos

2. “I got a tattoo to represent my multiple chronic illnesses. The marionette doll represents how my illness makes me feel trapped, and the spoons represent the spoon theory. The colors in the skirt are the awareness colors for my conditions with the exception of EDS. Looking at it makes me feel powerful. I know that I have my limitations, but I am strong.” – Sarah B.

Sarah B's marionette doll tattoo

3. “I got this because I needed reminding that I am stronger than I feel and even on my worst day I am strong. Elephants are so strong and will carry on no matter the weight put on them.” – Hannah H.

Hannah W.'s dream catcher tattoo

4. “My zebra reminds me there is beauty and strength within me, and oftentimes just simply makes me smile. It’s also a wonderful conversation starter and a way to spread awareness of EDS!” – Kathryn K.

Kathryn K. Zebra tattoo

5. “Got this piece to represent what I have learnt through my 13 years of chronic migraines. The sides of the triangle represent hope, strength and determination in equal measure, and the galaxy is for perspective. I believe you need these things to get through when you’re in a dark spot. The triangle points forward when my arm is at my side to remind me to keep moving forward. When I am in hospital the drip goes in my left elbow or side of my wrist, so when I look at it I am reminded to stay calm and strong.” – Alex J.

Alex J.'s triangle tattoo

6. “I was diagnosed with Crohn’s almost three years ago. She’s my daily reminder to keep persevering, and to never let this disease stop me.” – Heather O.

7. “Lately doctor appointments have consumed my life. I got this tattoo after realizing that time is beautiful and life is beautiful. On rough days I look at this tattoo. Take a deep breath and remember to live in the moment. I also have my ribbon which I got to represent multiple different chronic illnesses.” – Gloria T.

woman's tattoo with a clock shaped like a flower. it says 'time is beautiful'

8. “The purple butterfly is for lupus and the eyes represent me, powering through my disease.” – Renee B.

Renee B.'s lupus tattoo

9. “Orange MS ribbon for the ‘e’ and my diagnosis date.” – Corrine R.

Corrine R.'s hope tattoo

10. “‘Maktub’ – Arabic for ‘it’s written’ as in everything is destined! A reminder that everything happens for a reason!” – Viviam R.

Viviam R.'s "Maktub" tattoo

11. “This is the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. When Alice reaches the fork in the road, she asks the Cheshire Cat which way to go. He responds by asking where she is trying to get to and when she says she doesn’t know, the cat wisely responds that the path doesn’t matter. This tattoo is my reminder to let go of what path I thought I should be on and to find ways to enjoy the journey. This acceptance of the journey has allowed me to recognize that my illness has actually given me much more than it has taken. So whenever I feel lost, this tattoo helps keep me in the moment remembering to focus on the journey and not obsess about what I think the destination should be. It makes me stop and appreciate the world around me.” – Liz B.

Liz B.'s Cheshire cat tattoo

12. “One of my favorite quotes: ‘if you’re going through hell keep on going.’ It’s a great reminder on those particularly hard days.” – Courtney C.

Courtney C.'s "if you're going through hell keep going" tattoo

13. “It’s lyrics from OTEP from the song ‘Perfectly Flawed.’ I now have six diagnosed chronic illnesses, among them being endometriosis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and possibly a rare autoimmune disease called dermatomyositis. This was my reminder early on (and even more still now several years later) that my flaws are a part of me, and it’s something that defines me; that I am still strong and beautiful, even in my most broken moments. It keeps me going and never lets me forget, just as that song does on the bad days.” – Shandi C.

Shandi C.'s "perfectly flawed' tattoo

14. “My mom and grandmother instilled bravery in my soul. It’s hard to remember on so many days. Endometriosis is a daily battle that requires a brave heart, and an arrow can only move forward by first being pulled backward. Yellow is the color for both endo and cancer, and our family has had to persevere through both.” – Teaghan M.

Teaghan M.'s "be brave" tattoo.

15. “This way I know I will always have an extra spoon in case I run out! It also just reminds me that I’m worth living.” – Blair H.

Blair H.'s spoon tattoo

16. “Not just any zebra… I’m a zebra unicorn! Since we can’t seem to figure out the most serious stuff and almost all doctors tell me I’m rare, complex and out of their scope of practice. This is me defining my illness instead of it defining me. Molding it into something beautiful.” – Chelsea J.

Chelsea J. Unicorn Zebra tattoo

17. “This runs down the inside of my left arm. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2007. These are the words I live by. This may bend me, twist my mind, and wrack me with pain but I will never let it break ‘me’ who I really am. It may steal a lot of things but I will never allow it the power to steal that. I will never be broken.” – Molly C.

Molly C.'s never broken tattoo

18. “Fortune favors the brave. Every day I wake and hope that today will be easier and if not give me the strength to get through.” – Michelle N.

Michelle N.'s fortune favors the brave tattoo

19. “This is a combo symbolism as I’m a Combo Rare Condition Zebra Warrior. It’s supposed to look like a butterfly, to symbolize transformation. To remind me that just because my body changes, I can evolve for the better and recognize the beauty in that. It’s an infinity symbol with hearts because I love infinitely and I know I am loved infinitely. And then there’s the semi-colon because at one point after my full diagnoses started coming, I started to lose myself and my faith. But, I didn’t give in or give up, I continued on. I knew my story wasn’t over yet. I wasn’t going to give up, but I wanted to fight for myself and to help others.” – Rain S.

Rain S. tattoo

20. “‘Persevere’ has long been my favorite word. I have Marfan’s syndrome/endometriosis/trigeminal neuralgia/Meniere’s. It’s a reminder to myself to push on, even on days where I feel completely lost and helpless. And the globe is a reminder of amazing places I’ve seen and explored.” – Kristy C.

Kristy c.'s persevere tattoo

21. “The snail represents me. I may move slow, and things are hard for me to do, but I get where I need to go, no matter how long it takes me. The big ‘pretty’ purple butterfly that looms over me is my fibromyalgia (and all of its other little gems that come with it and I have along side of it). The words ‘Just Breathe’ (besides being the song that I walked down the aisle to in my wedding) are the words I tell myself when I am having those really hard moments. I stop, and as I take in deep slow breaths to calm myself, I just say ‘just breathe.’ Eventually things will start to slow down to where I can control my emotions of how I am feeling and not become too overwhelmed.” – Donna S.

donna s.'s tattoo

22. “I got this as a reminder of how far I’ve come in my fight against chronic Lyme disease. I will never be fully healed of it, but I’ve made it this far and this reminds me to keep fighting.” – Kiera C.

Kiera C. Lime

If you’re struggling with feelings of hopelessness, know you’re not alone. Check out the following articles from our chronic illness community:

Originally published: April 16, 2019
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