My Permanent Reminder

I think almost everyone has considered getting a tattoo at some point in their lives, whether or not they ever get one. I was no different—even coming from a conservative Christian home. For the longest time, it was just a cool idea or something to think about when I was bored. I had no particular ideas. All I had were a very eclectic, private, Pinterest board, and a small saying I would often pen-and-ink onto my wrist. By this my parents were always unimpressed.

It was a “modification” of my body, something that wasn’t intended, and generally a disappointment to them that I would consider it. “Why would you need to add something to your body? You are perfect, just like God made you.” Somehow though, even at eleven or twelve, I knew something about their logic didn’t resonate. I knew this was something I wanted.

I have struggled heavily with anxiety, negative self-image, and depression. Maybe this is surprising to you, as I was so young, but at eight, nine, and ten, you can still feel inadequate. For me, it was just more intense than for most kids my age. Now, at twenty-two, I still struggle with these issues and the stigma that comes with it.

“Oh, I know how you feel,” my friend told me, patting my hand, “I was sad last week too.”

“Why don’t you just… look on the bright side?”

“Go outside and enjoy the sunshine! It will do you good.”

“Are you… like… ok?”

“You look tired.”

If you are reading this as a survivor of depression, you know what I mean. For those of you lucky enough to have never experienced it, please understand: sadness is not depression. Sadness can be a really intense feeling. Depression is waking up, feeling the weight of so much nothingness, and rolling back over to shut it out. Sadness is getting teary once in a while, depression is faking most of your emotions. While depression and sadness look different for everyone, in my experience they often get confused by friends and family. People are comfortable with sadness, but depression is another thing entirely.

One day, my depression and ink-curiosity clicked into place. It was near the end of my trip to Europe; we had spent the day on and around Capri, a beautiful island off the Sorrento coast. It was one of the few days I can look back at and say, “There, right then, I was truly happy.” As we pulled away from the coastline, I realized that this right here, this feeling, this adventure, was why I was still around. I had fought my depression, my suicidal thoughts, and I had won. Because of my fight, I got to have this beautiful experience.

Right then, I knew what I wanted on my body permanently. There was no hesitation, no uncertainty, I just knew. And in that knowing, I found peace. I snapped a shot of the skyline and tucked my phone away to enjoy the view. Three months after my trip, I had the image permanently inked into my skin. “Permanently” because yes, I do realize that it will be with me forever, and that’s exactly what I want.

Of course, there are the classic arguments I’ve heard a hundred times: “It will be ugly when you’re older,” “They are permanent,” “Why would you ruin your body?” But I think they misunderstand. This tattoo is not an act of rebellion, or a symbol of me trying to “fit in” with the world. It’s a reminder to myself that I am stronger than my depression, there are more adventures waiting for me in coming years, and there is a reason to keep on living.