How Tattoos Have Helped Me Cope with Mental Illness
I have tattoos.People are genuinely surprised to hear this, because my first is on my hipbone and so not visible. My second is freshly done, and definitely visible (it’s on my bicep) but it’s winter now and hidden beneath layers of soft knits and scarves. Maybe people are surprised because I don’t look “the type” for tattoos; I’m not a barista. I’m not an overly muscular male pumping weights at the gym. In other words, I don’t fit the stereotype. I’m a tiny five foot nothing human, I’m a tutor expected to act as a role model, and I plan to become a doctor – eventually anyway, once I figure out my own health first. So maybe they’re just not expecting someone like me to have had ink permanently etched beneath my skin.
That’s kind of the point. The reason why I have tattoos is because they’re permanent reminders of where I am and where I’ve been and how far I still have to go.
The first is on my hip bone, and it’s a quote in cursive which reads “do not go gentle”, from Dylan Thomas’ poem by the same name. It represents the struggles I’ve been through and come out the other side of. It represents strength and perseverance and bravery in the face of adversity. It represents not giving a fuck. I will not go gentle into that good night. I will not let darkness consume me so easily.On a slight anecdotal tangent, during eating disorder treatment, I was asked what kept me motivated in my recovery. I volunteered this poem as evidence. When I graduated the program, my team presented this poem to me, as a reminder. I told them I had had the quote tattooed on my body six months ago, and carried the reminder with me permanently.
I got my second tattoo a few weeks ago. I designed it myself based off of Rupi Kaur’s illustration “and here you are living despite it all”. Underneath, in my own script, is the word courage, and the O is replaced by the NEDA symbol. It represents being a badass, and reminds me to approach life as one. Recovery is one of the hardest things I have ever faced, and it takes courage, but here I am living, despite it all. Because recovery from anything, even just living with mental illness, makes us all badass.
Maybe people are surprised because my tattoos are not purely for aesthetic reasons. Maybe people are surprised because my tattoos mean something, and only to me.They remind me of my own permanency, and my own fight. They remind me to keep on fighting when the struggle is dark, and now, each time I go to hurt myself, I will be reminded that I am living, despite it all, and with just a little bit of courage, I can move forward. I will not go gentle into that good night, no matter how much I may want to at times. The lure of death may be strong but I will rage and rage and rage against the dying of the light. I will not give in, and I will not give up. I will not go gentle. #Depression will not take me. The battle against my own brain will not take me, not yet. So yeah, I have tattoos.