Last Tuesday, I got my second tattoo. This one was done by [the very talented] Shane Trevett at The Shaman’s Den in Binghamton, NY (they have a tumblr too! Their url is, appropriately, theshamansden.)
[TW: Mentions of SI and suicideation]
I want to just say right now that this might be a little hard for some people to read. Please, if you are easily triggered, don’t read this.
This tattoo has been a long time in the making, a lot of people and ideas and words and pain and leaving and therapy and cigarettes and hospitalization and hugs and change and a whole hell of a lot of love. I actually don’t even really know where to start. My story is so incredibly huge and, really, it would take the next 20 years to tell you about the first 20. I apologize that what ensues may be a bit long, but its my story to tell, and it’s my blog to tell it on.
There were a few times in my life, between the ages of 9 and 18, that my depression almost got the best of me. I hurt myself for a very long time. Cutting was how I got through the day, every day. Most of the time, I couldn’t even make myself get out of bed - I would just sleep, wake up, cut, and go back to sleep. It didn’t matter to me that people worried about me, or wanted me to stop, and really, knowing that I was hurting the people I loved by hurting myself only made me hate myself more. It became more than an addiction - it was my life; the only times I felt at rest were the times I was slicing myself open. But it started getting to the point that I was scaring myself, going too deep, doing it too much - the scars that you see in this picture were made while I was at college over the course of a night, and to just make a bit of a point, I don’t scar very easily. They were deep and they wouldn’t stop bleeding and when I thought about it, I didn’t even know what had upset me so much in the first place. But that still didn’t stop me. The last time I tried committing suicide, I finally had myself checked into the hospital, where I was diagnosed with the following: depression, bipolar II, pica [but only paper], borderline personality disorder, and schizoaffective disorder.That seems like a lot (even to me), but since those two weeks of intense (and very intensive) therapy, I’ve been learning how to deal with it. One day at a time, you know?
It seems like, still, there is something every day that sends a twinge of that urge to hurt myself coursing through me. I’m weak enough - and strong enough - to admit that I still have a ‘just-in-case’ razorblade hidden away. It’s hard - really, really hard - to let go of something that used to be my life. To stop myself from doing it. To try and stop myself from even thinking it. And that’s why I got this tattoo.
This design is original, and it holds a lot of meaning. It’s both a heart and the word “Love” made of dashed lines and stars. The organization To Write Love On Her Arms has always been a large part of my personal journey toward healing. Renee Yohe’s story effected me a lot, especially after I read her book Purpose For The Pain. It was the truth behind the philosophies of “Hope is real, Help is real”, “rescue is possible”, and “Love is the movement” that made me want to get help to start changing the ways my mind worked. When asked what she wanted to say to people, Renee said for TWLOHA (and amazingly, again to me personally when my friend Jeremiah had her talk to me on the phone last summer) to “remember the stars.” The entire quote is this:
"Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars. The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope."
So then, when I was in the hospital, dealing with my demons and meeting so many people that were fighting their own, I wrote a poem for homework in art therapy that I titled “Shards of Stars” that I’m going to share with you below:
Shards Of Stars
When thoughts corrupt and words deceive,
When lies are told and husbands leave,
When boyfriends’ fists meet girlfriends’ faces,
When murderers leave naught but traces,
When silence means he gets away,
When sounds of gunshots start your day,
When children commit suicide,
When mom is drunk and you can’t hide,
When your best friends are razor blades,
When you’re raped and music fades,
When life is filled with all these pains,
When all else fails,
Then love remains.
The truth in my words hit me as I read it out loud to the people I was writing it about. Love is the biggest thing we’ve got. Forget gravity or inertia or science - love is the most powerful force in the universe. Love is hope, love is what made me check myself into the hospital, made me want to get better, makes me fight every day for what sometimes feels futile. I’m not over depression, or bipolar II, or BPD, or hearing small voices sometimes in the back of my head tell me that it would be so easy to have that release again. It is not easy, and it probably never will be, to deny those voices. There are days that I don’t think I’ll make it. But love is bigger than that. The love that is surrounding me and filling me, the love that I have in my heart to give to myself and to others, is so much bigger than the hurt and the confusion and the urges to hurt myself that live inside my head. And I know that if I ever fall, if I ever cave in or lose myself or just can’t take it any more, if I do hurt myself again, that love will still be there. I am more than the things that have made me hurt. I am more than my mental illnesses. I am more than my pain, more than my scars, more than the sum of my mistakes. To quote a beautiful song by Fireflight, "I’m not what I have done, I’m what I’ve overcome."
I used the dashes and stars to signify TWLOHA because of what their messages mean to me, personally. In their logo, they use dotted lines connected by a white star and a blue star. I changed the star in my tattoo to purple for a very important person in my life - one guess who. :3 From the very first time we really talked, Michael has always seen me as me - not as broken, like I’d always believed of myself, or as someone with too much baggage. He’s never made me feel like my scars are disgusting. To him, they’re just a part of who I’ve been, they’re marks on my body, and he loves me for exactly who I am…and that is still something I’m getting used to, but it is so completely beyond everything I’ve ever dreamed of love being like. Unconditional, for real. ♥
As for the lettering and the design - it’s my own, and that was important to me. The scars were put there by me, so I wanted the ‘love written on my arms’ put there by me. Right over a scar, in my own handwriting, so I remember every time I look at it that no matter what, when all else fails, love remains.
So it’s drawn on a paper towel, but here is the basic design of my tattoo. :] the stars will be a bright blue and purple. I liked designing this because it is, all at once, the word ‘love,’ a heart, a TWLOHA homage, and it contains stars. And it will hopefully only cost about 60 bucks. Now I just have to hope that whoever does it wants to help me tweak it so that it fits on my arm and doesn’t really interfere with my scars because I guess scar tissue is really hard to tattoo over.
What do you guys think? :)
Fears Vs. Dreams at Warped Tour in Milwaukee, WI today.