Tattoos…. Something that brings up all types of feelz between people of this country- good, bad, and everything in between. But a type of art that has been practiced and passed down for generations all over the world.
I am not going to go into the history, and I am not going to bring in anyone else’s opinions or ideas or experiences of tattoos other than my own! This is my story, and my story only!
Here we go…
Growing up, I was a people pleasure, a “goodie 2 shoes,” a perfectionist, a “good” child. Because of my brother (read more about that here), I grew up fast and just wanted to make my parents and families life as easy and picture perfect as possible. I’ll be 100% honest with you here…. I never drank, did drugs, partied, snuck out of the house, lied to my parents, or even had a boyfriend throughout all of grammar, middle, and high school. I volunteered, was in clubs, played competitive soccer, high school soccer, high school dance, and helped take care of my brother (and was a straight A student- think high anxiety if I did not get an A). I wasn’t popular (but then again I wasn’t not known- hints high school dance and soccer), and I did not have a huge amount of friends.
I am not really complaining here… I mean I had no desire to drink, party, or do drugs… and I loved hanging out with my family… but honestly I don’t really know what I wanted. I was a lost girl I guess. I was never really good at communicating…. Communicating my feelings, my needs, my anxieties, etc (honestly, I’m still not). I was shy, timid, NOT confident (in my looks, my abilities, .. anything). All this most likely contributed to my Eating disorder (and one day I’ll go deeper into that story)… but also in my desire to get a tattoo.
Growing up tattoos were not really talked about in my family, but it was assumed to be a big NO NO! I never really saw the appeal either, why would I want to permanently mark my body? Why go through the pain, the cost, and the regret? What could possibly be that meaningful or worth having on your body for the rest of your life? Well that all changed after my first stint in residential treatment.
After having my ED almost take my life a few years earlier, and then having it take away my senior year of high school… I realized that this thing was a part of my life, and even with full recovery it would always be a HUGE part of my story… and I had a feeling it was going to take some form in my future [and I was right… finally a registered dietitian working with eating disorders and mental health- it all came full circle and was part of a bigger plan for me]. So, I decided I wanted a tattoo. And it wasn’t just a decision.. It was a strong desire, and need, a must!
I think for me I wanted it for a few reasons… 1- I wanted a constant reminder of what I went through. 2- I wanted to be a little rebellious for once, do something no one would ever think I would do (show people I wasn’t such a goodie goodie). 3- I wanted to feel the pain… like recovery, you have to endure the short pain in order to have a permanent life again! 4- I wanted something on my body that would never change… even when my body did!
So, I did it! And I’ll tell you the short funny story of how my first tattoo experience went…
I came up with the design (the ED recovery symbol in purple = color of recovery, and the words “believe” on top= what my mom always told me throughout treatment). I asked my parents, and after much debate, they decided they would give me their blessing only because of the design and meaning. They “gave” it to me as a x mas present… meaning they wrapped a box saying they would take me sometime soon.
Well, a few weeks later when my mom was out of town at one of my sisters soccer tournaments, my dad comes up to me and says.. “So you wanna go get your tattoo today!!” …. We both kinda knew my mom was trying to delay this at all cost and she technically did approve so we figured this was our chance- plus I think my dad wanted to have this experience with me. (PS my mom was PISSED… haha)
At this point I was only 17, and in CA at the time you had to be 18, even with parental consent, but we were going to try anyways. The first parlor shot us down instantly… so we tried another with a good friend’s recommendation. When we got up to the door my dad turns to me and says.. “If this doesnt work Im driving you to nevada tonight!”- Freaking love you dad (my dad and I got extremely close this year- one thing I’m really grateful for my ED!- what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger). Once we got in and I showed the dude my design, he got all excited and mocked it up in 5 minutes and took me over to his chair
… I was so close, this was gonna work….
Then his boss comes in and tells him to make sure he cards me, but then leaves to go run an errand. The guy asks me to go get my ID… but I think he knew I was under age and started chatting up my dad and “forgets” to look at my card. As he starts my tattoo.. He asks what it meant, I told him and he was amazed. He started talking about his interest in EDs and how strong I must be. It was an amazing experience, and an amazing day I’ll never forget!
…(I learned that day that tattoos aren’t just about the symbols on the body… It’s about the entire experience… what happened in your life to provide the meaning, creating the design and placement, choosing the artist, the people that go with you and you choose to share the experience with, enduring the pain of it being sketched into your skin, the care you have to provide it after, the conversations it starts with people there after, the lifelong reminder it will give to you!… tattoos are powerful, at least I think so.)
Tattoo #2 came a few months after I graduated college. It was a new stage of life, and the tattoo bug lit up in my brain again (PS- I usually think of a design and sit on it for a few months before I get a tatToo to make sure it’s something I really want)!
Here is the IG post and explanation of this tattoo:
NEW TATTOO! So, I only get a tattoo if it has A LOT of deep meaning to me… And this is a big one!
STRENGTH= what I need to finally get completely recovered from my ED…. What I need to believe in myself and keep reaching towards my dreams… And to never give up!
LOVE= what I need to give myself… What I need to let others give me!
FAITH= what I will never lose… How I trust God has a reason for everything… That I know all the battles and struggles I have been through has made me a better person, made me a fighter, and have shown me my true passion in life!
FINALLY… In the middle = sign language for “I LOVE YOU!” – this is the most special to me… This represents my brother Joshua who is deaf and has Down syndrome! He is the person that will ALWAYS hold most of my heart no matter what! This represent all the other kids and adults out there with mental or physical disabilities… This represents awareness and understanding… ~ this is me… In a tattoo! <3
tattoo #3: My sister had been wanting a tattoo for a while- we wanted to highlight mental health and have a shared mark- so we did it- xmas break after my first semester of grad school when I was home for a bit.
IG post for this one:
The middle, a semicolon, represents mental health awareness as part of “Project Semicolon; A semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence but chose not to. You are the author and the sentence is your life.”
The arrow reminds me that life keeps moving forward!
The compass is labeled with the initials of my family (Kathy, Chris, Josh, Nicole) because family means EVERYTHING to me and without them I would not be here today! They have never given up on me and will always be there to help me navigate through life!
…. hard to put it all into words, but I love it and its constant reminder! <3
tattoo #4 Got this last week- Im in a huge transition point in my life and my career- finally working in the field I want and fighting for my dreams- So mark number 4 was needed:
IG post for this one:
A few thoughts and designs have been twirling around in my head for a while now and this past week I knew exactly what I wanted and had to go do it! All my tattoos have deep meaning to me… so I’ll explain this one
1. ampersand (&) = there is always something more, a reminder to look for something more, to see the other side of people and things, and yourself. To always stay curious, push further and to never stop discovering!
2. Heartbeat = I have survived a lot, I’m still here, and I’m gonna push heart and soul to make a difference and pursue my dreams!!
3. 3 >>> = represents 3 21st chromosomes! A mom of a child with Down syndrome came up with this! The arrows represent how the parents of these special children “rise up and move forward, we rise the highest after we have been pulled back and stretched- sometimes even more than we think we can bear!” (Got this for my parents! Strongest people I know!
4. Northern star = the anchor of the sky! Representing inspiration, Hope, freedom- to be me and reach for my dreams!
So, that’s my story… and these are my beautiful battle marks… Judge, comment, admire… It won’t change my love for them! 🙂