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21 Tattoos That Remind People With Chronic Illness They're Badass Warriors

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For many people who get tattoos, the design they choose is more than just a fun, silly doodle (though it’s totally cool if that describes your tattoo!). Tattoos can also represent your personal journey, the things you love the most, or, as in the case of many people with chronic illness, a saying or image that reminds you how strong you really are. Chronic illness can make you feel like you’re a warrior facing battle after battle, but a tattoo of an image that makes you feel powerful can give you a little boost and help you remember: “Hey, I’m pretty badass!”

We asked our amazing Mighty community to share their tattoos that help them feel empowered through their chronic illness. Check out the beautiful, badass designs below.

Here’s what our community shared with us:


“I got this two years ago when my health started to decline due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This tattoo gives me the accountability to live, not just survive. It’s a poem by D.H Lawrence titled ‘Self Pity.’

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

RA can and will break your heart. I refuse to let it break my resolve or to wallow in my own self-pity. After all, I’m still a wild thing.” — Tawnee T.

tattoo on woman's arm that is text and different shapes


“I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Our mascot is the zebra. There’s a saying ‘when you hear hoofbeats think horses not zebras,’ guiding doctors to look for the common causes in diagnoses. EDS is a rare disease and we are considered zebras. I got this tattoo to represent my journey and battle with EDS. Though I’m often frustrated and depressed with my medical issues, this tattoo reminds me that zebras are amazing and I should own my stripes.” — Jenny K.

zebra tattoo on leg


“This piece is so very special to me. The ribbon has a dual symbol for two of the many diseases I’ve been diagnosed with: Crohn’s disease awareness/support — dark purple; and thyroid cancer awareness/support — dark purple, teal and pink. The message of ‘hope’ is one that I have held to in the face of all life has thrown my way. The phoenix represents how many times I’ve been blessed to be able to rise from the ashes and the hope and assurance that God will continue to bless me as I face the new fires in life that will inevitably come along.” — Lessa B.

heart shaped tattoo made out of flowers, awareness ribbons and phoenix


“I initially got this in support of my anxiety and depression disorders, but I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia so this tattoo has played a huge role in that as well. It was inspired by actor Jared Padalecki’s Always Keep Fighting campaign.” — Jordan H.

always keep fighting tattoo


“The marionette symbolizes how I feel trapped by my medical issues, the spoons are for the spoon theory, and the colors in her skirt are all of my awareness colors (minus the zebra pattern for EDS). It makes me feel empowered because it represents who I am, but to others it’s just a beautiful tattoo until they ask what it means.” — Sarah B.

marionette tattoo


“It is my heartbeat from before and after my first brain surgery, with my childhood dog in the middle. It says ‘many hands one heart.’ I never knew what battles I could face when I had this done, but every time I look at it, I know just how far I have come.” — Susan D.

tattoo of dog with heart beat sign and words


I have endometriosis. I got this about a year after my diagnosis. It says ‘through pain I find strength.’ The wolves represent the words in a way. The red being the pain and the suffering and the struggle and all the bad. And the blue being the strength and the courage and the sacrifice and good that can come out of pain once you get through it. It reminds me every day to fight through my pain and that I can make it through.” — Brittany B.

tattoo of wolves and words from pain i find strength


“I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (a form of dysautonomia). The heart (it was supposed to be turquoise – but they couldn’t get the ink to mix into the turquoise color) symbolizes that my condition will always be in my heart (kind of like it’ll always be a part of me). The EKG heart beat lines symbolizes that – even though times are tough – my heart beat is still going strong (I tried to make the EKG lines be closer together (showing tachycardia) but this is how it turned out). And, the tattoo is on the left side of my chest because it affects my heart.” — Hannah W.

heart monitor line with heart symbol


“My fibromyalgia butterfly tattoo, it’s beautiful so people remark on it which gives me an opportunity to talk about fibro. You never know, I might be spreading the word about fibromyalgia and other ‘invisible’ illnesses!” — Jill C.

butterfly and vine tattoo design on chest


“I wanted to make sure I always have one spoon in reserve! I chose a Welsh love spoon for the ornate design and I lived in South Wales for three years. The purple butterflies are for fibromyalgia and I wanted the background and overall feel of the piece to be hopeful, hence the rainbow.” — Nairmi R.

spoon shaped like a treble clef surrounded by sun and clouds design


“I got this one during the long battle of getting a diagnosis. It’s inspired by my favorite Bible verse which is Hebrews 6:19: ‘For we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’” — Jordan H.

tattoo of an anchor with the word hope


“I got my warrior tattoo with an orange awareness ribbon to show my true warrior spirit that I use to fight my complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). It was my first ever tattoo. My mum also got a tattoo to show her support for me and my fight with CRPS.” — AJ M.

warrior in large script with orange awareness ribbon


“Anxiety and migraines my entire life. Felt like it was time to channel it and accept that it’s made me who I am today!” — Alee G.

tattoo design on base of head with hair shaved


“I have two. This is my newest one. I am a warrior; we all are. The things most of us go through daily, many will never have a clue.” — Honesty L.

tattoo of warrior and flower design


“‘When the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me, shine until tomorrow…’ lyrics from ‘Let It Be.’ Got it when my psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia pain got really serious and my stepdaughter had some serious mental health issues and was hospitalized over Christmas.” — Mags D.

lyrics to let it be song on arm


“While not representative of my illness per say, this does represent the necessary change in my mind set following my diagnosis with CFS/ME, to put my own needs first. I have gained so much weight through medications and treatment that body art gives me an alternative focus for my body rather than it’s size and shape. I have wanted this tattoo for years, inspired by my love of henna and mehndi (which I also do myself) but was always put off getting it done by other people’s opinions…. I’m learning to listen to myself for the first time in a very long time, and do what makes me healthy and happy first and foremost…” — Emma H.

tattoo inspired by henna design


“This spoon and ribbon represent my battle with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The ‘spoon’ represents the limited energy that I have with chronic illness, now I’ll always have an extra spoon with me to remind me to keep pushing through every journey this disease takes me on.” — Montana F.

spoon wrapped with blue and purple ribbon


“It’s Latin, from a letter from Ovid. The full quote says ‘Be patient and tough… Someday this pain will be useful to you.’ My best friend and I both got them, having bonded through our own battles with our health. It reminds me every day that I’ve handled everything that has come at me so far, and I am a more patient and empathetic person because of it. Someday this pain will be useful to you, too.” — Olivia Leigh

latin words on thigh


“I have multiple undiagnosed conditions — probably EDS — as well as IBS, anxiety, CPTSD, and general chronic pain. This is Anima from ‘Final Fantasy X,’ who uses her pain as an incredibly powerful weapon. Even when I was a kid and relatively symptom-free, this spoke to me, so she’s been a hero of mine for a long time. When I started going through physio, I decided that I’d eventually get the entire offending arm tattooed (that’s where my pain first started). The script reads ‘suffer,’ and is the only bit of script I have tattooed on my entire body. Coincidentally, I had this tattoo finished in the same week that my father died, so even though I didn’t intend it, she very much so represents mental suffering to me, too.” — Chrysoula C.

anima from final fantasy x tattoo


This helps me particularly on my low days, because it says never give up. I would be disappointed in myself if I did after having this on my back. But that is the reason I got it, to remind myself that I can’t stop fighting.” — Sophie S.

butterfly with never give up above


“Chronic debilitating pain, years of physical and emotional abuse…. Ain’t nothing keeping this warrior down.” — Elizabeth C.

still i rise

Want to see even more tattoos? Check out these tattoos inspired by chronic pain, tattoos inspired by invisible illness, tattoos inspired by fibromyalgia, and tattoos inspired by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Originally published: October 18, 2018
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