On the day before my 29th birthday I got my first tattoo. I was a psychiatric inpatient at the time and everyone thought it was a bad idea. That made me want to do it even more.
As a certified self-harmer, the experience of being tattooed was wonderful. I loved the stinging sensation. I loved watching my skin bleed ever so slightly and seeing the blood and ink smeared together. Most of all, I loved watching Oli, my tattoist do his work. He’s an amazing artist and it was so exciting to see him build the shape and colours of a watercolour-style lotus on my wrist.
It was only a couple of months before I went back for more. I got a beautiful humpback whale on my forearm. She is my protector. Looking at her bold blues and greens and thinking of the ancient wisdom of these gentle giants calms me. Her presence and permanence is reassuring.
People ask whether I got my tattoos to cover my scars. I always say no. Because my scars are tattoos. They are part of my narrative and I don’t want to hide or remove them.
That said, I was always hesitant about tattoos before I had self-harm scars. But knowing that I’d already created those permanent marks on my skin gave me permission to go ahead with it. And I am so glad I did.
Apparently I do seem to have an addictive personality. So my Christmas present to myself is likely to be another tattoo…