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35 Tattoos That Give Us Hope for Mental Health Recovery

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Because our mental health is always with us — and because tattoos can be a permanent reminder of where we’ve been and where we want to go — we asked our Mighty community to send pictures of their ink inspired by mental health challenges.

If you think the tattoos are amazing, the stories behind them are even better.

Take a look:

1. “This is to remind me that it’s not my fault. Seratonin is lacking in my brain. We are all warriors in this fight against mental illness.” — Paige Johnson

Woman with serotonin chemical formula tattoo on back
photo via Paige Johnson

2. “It’s the eating disorder recovery symbol [the official logo of the National Eating Disorders Association].” — Brooke Ainsley

Eating disorder recovery symbol on wrist
photo via Brooke Ainsley

3.Tattoos are so important to my mental health. They’re how I give myself reminders I wouldn’t believe otherwise. I chose to leave that mark there, to leave a moment of hope on myself. I don’t trust hope when it comes from other people, so the self-direction and permanence of tattoos goes a long way.” — Olivia James

Tattoo on forearm
photo via Olivia James

4.I’m not an expert on pain and I’m not an expert on healing, but I do know this: Both are part of life.” — Alyse Ruriani

The words "past" and "future" written on two wrists
photo via Alyse Ruriani

5. “‘Stars can’t shine without the darkness.’ Even when things in my head aren’t OK, it won’t be dark for long because I’m a shining star in my own right.”  — Erica Marie

Tattoo that says "stars can't shine without the darkness"
photo via Erica Marie

6. “I’ll never give up, I’m a fighter.” — Jenna Pleasants

Tattoo that says "I'll never give up, I'm a fighter."
photo via Jenna Pleasants

7. “This is the tattoo I’m proudest of.” — Kris Lindsey

Tattoo that says "; not ended" on wrist
photo via Kris Lindsey

8. “Pi, a mathematical constant, reminds me that even when my world feels like it’s falling apart, there’s still a constant in the world. The semicolon reminds me I need to keep going even when I don’t feel like I can or don’t want to. A Bible verse reminds me of the big picture I sometimes fail to see when I’m depressed.” — Julianne Leow

Tattoos of the Pi symbol, a semi-colon and Rom 8:31 on forearm
temporary tattoo — photo via Julianne Leow

9. “Ataraxia — it means ‘tranquility of the mind.’” — Jacklyn Ashley

Tattoo of the word "ataraxia" written on wrist
photo via jacklyn.lune

10. “Covering a scar. My reminder that no matter how deep the depression gets, I have reasons for my heart to keep beating” — Courtney Bowles

Tattoo of a red heart next to a heartbeat line
photo via Courtney Bowles

11. “The bottom tattoo is for eating disorder recovery. I survived anorexia when I was 14. The top tattoo is for my struggle and recovery from postpartum mental illness. It tried to take my life, but I’m still here and now I’m full of joy and thriving!” — Alicia Nelsen

Tattoo of a bird next to a banner that says "I loved you at your darkest"
photo via Alicia Nelsen

12. “Reminds me that my post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks and all the pain are in the past. And my story is just beginning.” — Kimberly Elizabeth King

Tattoo on forearm that says, "What's Past is...Prologue" and an arrow underneath
photo via Kimberly Elizabeth King

13. “I have post-traumatic stress disorder, severe general and social anxiety disorders and chronic severe depression. I also have a brain injury. The trauma started at 7 and went until I was 33. I have this to remind me that my heart is still beating and my stars light my way. I’m never without love, even alone.” — Kimberlea Halliwell

Tattoo of a purple heart surrounded by light purple and blue stars
photo via Kimberlea Halliwell

14. “My husband got this tattoo for me to show his support for my mental illness. I have bipolar 2, generalized and social anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.” — Jennifer Rushton

Tattoo that says "Stay Strong ; My Love"
photo via Jennifer Rushton

15. “A reminder to love yourself as much as you love others.” — Tiffany Davidson

A tattoo of the word "Love"
photo via Tiffany Davidson

16. “I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression. This tattoo represents the song ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley. It helps put life into perspective.” — Sarah Gilbert

A tattoo of three birds on a wrist
photo via Sarah Gilbert

17. “This hummingbird was tattooed shortly after three months of hospitalization for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. It reminds me that it’s OK to fly. (And this is my PTSD service dog I received shortly after!)” — Kerri Symes

A tattoo of a hummingbird on a woman's arm
photo via Kerri Symes

18. “My husband’s bipolar tattoo.” — Alicia Branley

A tattoo of two characters, one red and one blue
photo via Alicia Branley

19. “A line from the ‘Firefly’ theme song, reminding me that ‘they’ (bipolar, anxiety, etc.) cannot keep me forever and one day I will be free to fly.” — Kal Gibbs Winters

A tattoo of the words, "I don't care, I'm still free. You can't take the sky away from me."
photo via Kal Gibbs Winters

20. “My sister and I got matching tattoos last year – a combination of a semicolon and a butterfly with our fingerprints as the wings, representing both of our struggles with depression as well as many people we both know who have various mental health problems.” — Rachel Dillon

A tattoo of a combination of a semicolon and a butterfly with fingerprints as the wings
photo via Rachel Dillon

21. “It says strength from one direction; when you look at it upside down it says serenity.” — Becky Brainard

A tattoo that reads "strength" one way and "serenity" the other way
photo via Becky Brainard

22. “This one is a quote by Barbara J Winter: ‘When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.’ ” — Jesus Arroyo

A tattoo of a quote by Barbara J. Winter that says "When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly."
photo via Jesus Arroyo

23. “I’ve always been drawn to butterflies. And when I was going through difficult times, my mom reminder me of ‘the butterfly effect’ — one flap make a huge difference. My mantra became ‘flap flap.’” –Shelley Field

A tattoo of an illustration of a butter fly with Chloe written underneath
photo via Shelley Field

24. “Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with major depression. In honor of that anniversary, I got my first tattoo. H.O.P.E. stands for: Hold On Pain Ends. The semicolon means my story is not over.”  — Kristin Lynn

A tattoo of the word "H.o.p.e;"
photo via Kristin Lynn

25. “I had postpartum anxiety and OCD after my son, and after overcoming it I got this tattoo in honor of the semicolon project! That I chose to continue my sentence instead of end it.” — Ethan Lexie Clouse

A tattoo of a semi-colon on a wrist
photo via Ethan Lexie Clouse

26. “Recurrent major depression and anxiety. I got this after my first hospitalization. It’s my way of owning it rather than feeling shame.” — Tasha Moreno

A tattoo of Mr. Peanut and the words "Nucking Futs" above it
photo via Tasha Moreno

27. “This tattoo represents my emotions during my worst time here on Earth. I was dealing with manic depressive disorder without treatment. I had no idea how to handle it. During rehab I had to participate in group art therapy. I was told to draw the emotions I felt in my heart. Red for anger, grey for sadness, blue for sorrow, green for hope and lastly yellow for happiness. I kept my drawing and one year later, I had it tattooed on me to remind how I never want my heart broken in that many pieces again. Every glimpse sends chills down my spine and a big smile on my face knowing I’m better off and loving who I am now.” — BrookeTaylor St. Louis

A tattoo made of the colors gray, red, blue, green and yellow
photo via BrookeTaylor St. Louis

28. “Tattoo for my son who has OCD, anxiety, ASD and Tourette’s. His favorite animal is an elephant because they may be huge, but they’re gentle.” — Christy Vogel

A tattoo of a gray elephant holding a blue heart-shaped balloon with its trunk
photo via Christy Vogel

29. “My phoenix feather rising from the ashes.” — Siân Couch

A tattoo of a phoenix feather
photo via Siân Couch

30. “Celtic sun, inspired by depression and seasonal affective disorder.” — Cherice Marie

A tattoo of a Celtic sun
photo via Cherice Marie

31. “My brother had schizophrenia. He passed away 13 years ago at age 22. He taught me so much about acceptance, tolerance, patience and unconditional love.” — Krista Dietsch Furgala

A tattoo of the name "Adam"
photo via Krista Dietsch Furgala

32. “‘Stay strong beautiful, things will get better. It may be stormy now but it can’t rain forever.’” — Beth Ann Baker

A tattoo of illustrations of a happy sun and sad rain cloud with the word, "Stay strong beautiful. Things will get better, It may be stormy now, but it can't rain forever"
photo via Beth Ann Baker

33. “I got this to remember myself that even though today may be a bad day, I still have hope.” — Hannah Helmers

Woman with the word "Hope" written on her upper arm
photo via Hannah Helmers

34. “I suffer from reoccurring and resistant depression and anxiety. I got this tattoo, an angel symbol that means ‘choose life,’ to remind me not to listen to or act on suicidal thoughts. I can’t control the negative voices in my head, but I can choose not to listen to them.” — Cheryl Joyce

A tattoo of an angel symbol that means "choose life"
photo via Cheryl Joyce

35. “I had this done just after I had the lightbulb moment that inspired me to recover.” — Natice Aimee Duncan

A tattoo of the words "I looked in the mirror, & Decided to stay" on a forearm
photo via Natice Aimee Duncan

*Some responses have been edited and shortened for brevity

Editor’s note: In a previous version of this article, 36 tattoos were listed.

35 Tattoos That Give Us Hope For Mental Health Recovery
Originally published: November 18, 2015
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