Anxiety, Depression, and Tattoos. Can They Be Therapeutic for Mental Health and Wellness?
I say Yes!
Tattoos are becoming less and less taboo these days which is great, but to tell the truth, I really don’t care what people think. I have tattoos because I love them, me!
So, you may have guessed that I am a huge fan of tattoos, in fact, I have 10 and counting the days until my next tattoo (in literally 3 weeks). Tattoos have helped me to turn some of my most negative thoughts and situations in life into positively beautiful artwork. My tattoos remind me to be thankful for what I have accomplished and the journey it took to get where I am right now.
Let me get a little personal and maybe a bit gush.
When I was younger I never thought of getting a tattoo, I was too afraid of the pain and the permanence.
Well, that all changed for me when for our 5th wedding anniversary, my husband got a tattoo of my name in giant letters across his back while he was away on a business trip.
I had no clue that he wanted a tattoo and we never really discussed getting a tattoo before. I remember feeling surprised and very overwhelmed when he revealed it to me. That pit in your stomach feeling.
I was amazed that he had the courage to do it and that he was completely committed to me. I am a lucky girl to have someone so dedicated to me and my giant handbag full of mental health issues.
I had never felt more loved by anyone. He had always tried to prove his love to me, which I always argued against. I always had my doubts and reasons for not believing him (you know how mental illness thrives on the negative). Well, let’s just say he finally convinced me.
Even more personal.
I had a pretty happy childhood until I turned 10 years old and then my childhood turned dark and scary, my father (who I loved so much) abandoned me for a “new family”.
My father left me with a mother who was disappointed in me for not being like my perfect half-sister, who was her favorite daughter, which she made no secret of. I was alone in my world, I could go on and on and on, but you get the picture.
Trust issues, big-time!
Well, long story short, wait, it’s too late isn’t it, sorry 🙂 Anyway, I got a cute little tattoo of his name on my lower back and have been a tattoo junkie ever since, plus, we have been married for almost 30 years! I don’t think he is going anywhere 😉
Ok, I am done with the gushy stuff but remember the following quote…
When “I” is replaced by “We”, illness becomes wellness.
People always ask, what does it feel like to get tattooed.
Getting a tattoo is a big commitment whether it is someone’s name or not and for the record, yes it hurts! I’ll be honest here, I like the pain, it makes me feel awake and self-aware and the end result is worth it.
Here is my interpretation. You know when you were a kid and you would play the game where someone would take a pencil eraser and they would rub it on your arm until you cried uncle because it burned?
It’s kind of like that, except the needle keeps moving unlike the eraser did. (Ah kids, silly things we did). So kind of a burning feeling. Some spots are worse than others.
My awesome tattoo artist Jeremy warns me by saying “this is going to get your attention!”
Getting tattooed fulfills a need that I have.
It helps me deal with my anxiety and depression, by forcing me to confront both of these issues.
First up, my anxiety. Overcoming the fear and anxiety of getting it done, and sitting down in the chair, that moment is crazy scary for me. I must push past my anxiety knowing it will be a great feeling of accomplishment and pride when I am done.
That moment when I am looking at my new tattoo in the mirror and saying, Fuck Yeah!
Second, my depression. Overcoming my sadness when depression has taken over and I’m feeling hopeless. I replace those negative thoughts and feelings with more positive thoughts like getting a tattoo of something meaningful to me commemorate this somber period of my life.
If you are a cutter, try drawing a tattoo on yourself instead of cutting, then imagine that becoming a real tattoo one day. Even if you are too young to get a tattoo, make a tattoo notebook for the future you.
Thinking of the perfect tattoo is so exciting.
The choices are endless and that choice is yours to make. A tattoo belongs to you, it all about you, you are in control, you make the decision, you-you-you!
Making a decision on what to get really helps you concentrate and to stay focused on something positive, something great, that you are doing for you. It’s awesome! So many choices, how do you choose? That’s the fun part!
The semicolon is a tattoo that is significant with those of us who suffer from mental illness. Those of us who have thought about hurting ourselves (or do hurt ourselves) and those of us that have contemplated suicide (or actually attempted). What does a semicolon tattoo mean?
A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended but chose not to.
The thought is so powerful and so profound, isn’t it?
Are there any Supernatural fans out there? Confession here, I am a huge Supernatural fan. I love Sam, Dean, Castiel, and Bobby! If you are a fan then you may already know about Jared Padalecki (Sam) and his own battle with depression.
If not, Google it and check it out, it’s an amazing story. So, that’s why you’ll notice #alwayskeepfighting in some of my blog posts.
Here are some great reasons to get a tattoo. A meaningful tattoo can make all the difference, I have just a few ideas listed below.
ONE THAT BRINGS YOU STRENGTH AND HAPPINESS WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT.
Like the semicolon, choose not to end it!
The Japanese symbol for strength, because you are strong.
An infinity sign, Love is forever. (I have a double infinity on my wrist)
ONE THAT REMINDS YOU OF YOUR OWN PERSONAL FIGHT AND STRUGGLES YOU HAVE OVERCOME.
A green ribbon for mental health awareness.
Or a meaningful phrase like #alwayskeepfighting.
A special date, like the day you started your AA journey to sobriety.
ONE THAT ENCOURAGES YOU TO PRACTICE SELF-CARE, TO LOVE YOURSELF.
Like the word Breathe, so you keep doing it
The Zibu symbol for self-care, it is really quite beautiful.
A beautiful Phoenix, the symbol of rebirth from the ashes of the past
ONE THAT DISPLAYS YOUR LOVE AND AFFECTION FOR SOMEONE OR SOMETHING YOU ADORE.
A loved one’s name or initials.
A paw print, for your special pet.
Your child’s birth date or birth place coordinates.
A symbol that you and your best friend appreciate.
CREATIVE, ONE THAT’S ARTISTIC, ORIGINAL, FUN, SEXY, SCARY, WICKED, TWISTED OR CRAZY. IT’S ALL YOU!
Artwork that your child made just for you.
Something you find amazing, something you love.
How about a cupcake or ice cream, because it’s awesome.
A snake, an angel, a sexy pinup girl or a day of the dead skull.
There are no wrong tattoo designs.
It doesn’t matter what people think because it’s your story, not theirs. It’s your body, make it something you love.
I know a lot of us have negative thoughts about our bodies. I certainly have my issues but, that being said, I love my tattoos and enjoy the memories they bring me.
Cover-ups are also a possibility.
I did have 2 tattoos that were not really important to me so I had them turned into something meaningful and beautiful. Cover-ups are done a lot more often nowadays.
You get a second chance at making a tattoo something special.
I had a tiny daisy flower on my ankle and a tiny sunflower on my back shoulder. I had one turned into a beautiful dandelion with its seeds turning into birds flying from one leg to the other leg (first pic).
The other is now a tree with more birds (before & after). I love them now.
The last picture is my latest work in progress a butterfly with some lace and charms hanging down. I still have a couple more hours on this one.
I also have a skull and a rose with a glass heart, I really need to get more pictures of them.
There are some many great reasons to get a tattoo.
I believe that getting a tattoo can be a great way to help improve your self-confidence and boost your self-esteem. It gives you a chance to be creative and you can let your mind light up with ideas and possibilities.
You get to conquer your fear and anxiety, and just enjoy the excitement of getting to treat yourself. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to, not to mention the exhilarating feeling you have after you have that new tattoo, it’s amazing.
Full disclosure, getting a tattoo is not something to be taken lightly and I am not suggesting that anyone should do this as a form of medical treatment. This is just my opinion from my own personal experience with getting tattooed.
Please discuss this with your trusted family and friends. If you are currently in therapy, talk it over with your therapist.
If you do decide to get that tattoo, I hope you will experience the same feelings of excitement and anticipation that I have felt and the pure satisfaction of this permanent piece of art that is now a part of you!
Remember no one has to like them but you. Some people may not like mine but it’s my story to tell.
Now get out there and design your story!