Set off warning: bodily and sexual abuse.
The primary time I was sexually assaulted, I used to be 16 years previous. My “boyfriend” compelled me right into a compromising place. He gave me an ultimatum: give him a blowjob or get out.
I got my first tattoo after I was 18 years previous. I gave up my driver’s allow, buying and selling the skinny piece of cardstock for a state-issued ID and a few ink. And I was physically abused after I was 19 years previous. My boyfriend struck me within the face throughout a battle over a banana.
He gave me a bloody nostril and blackened my eye.
And whereas this was the primary time, it wouldn’t be the final time. I collected bruises like my associates collected Beanie Infants or playing cards. Day by day was a special wound. A special battle. A special scar.
The excellent news is, ultimately issues bought higher. I’m 36 and haven’t been crushed, pushed, kicked, or struck in a while; nevertheless, the injuries remained (and, in some ways, nonetheless stay) — a minimum of till I turned to physique modification. Till I spotted the therapeutic that I discovered in tattoos and physique artwork.
“Trauma specialists encourage us to work from the physique out in the middle of restoration and therapeutic — to take care of the sensations, senses, and pictures that carry the imprint of trauma,” Suzanne Phillips, a psychologist and adjunct professor of medical psychology at Lengthy Island College, tells PsychCentral. “The tattoo’s use of the physique to register a traumatic occasion is a robust re-doing. It begins on the physique’s barrier of safety, the pores and skin, and makes use of it as a canvas to bear witness, categorical, launch and unlock the viscerally felt affect of trauma.” And this was the case with me.
The primary time I used to be tattooed, I felt empowered. Like I used to be reclaiming a bit of myself. Of my voice. The second time I knew it wasn’t a fluke. The act remodeled me. I felt entire — and healed — and since then I’ve used tattoos to overcome grief, trauma, disappointment, and loss. My tattoos aren’t simply part of my story, they are the story. They’re photos of ache and triumph. Of battles received.
After all, I’m not alone. Many individuals use tattoos as a method of catharsis for varied causes. Kelli, whose final identify is being withheld at her request, advised Scary Mommy she used physique artwork to beat a “tough crossroads” in her life.
“Every thing was crumbling round me, and my faith and tradition have been the one issues there for me throughout that making an attempt time — therefore why I bought a shamrock with a trinity knot.”
Caitlin Papanier, a childcare supplier and educator, admits she used tattoos as a approach to cease injuring herself and engaging in self-harm.
“[Cutting] was a manner for me to carry an immediate calm to a chaotic emotional overload. When my anger and anxiousness would develop into an excessive amount of to deal with — when my adrenaline was skyrocketing at an insane tempo — the ONLY approach to drop these ranges have been to chop after which immediately take a nap. However then I discovered tattooing and the second I felt that needle, I used to be immediately calm. It felt like I might lastly breathe.”
And Samantha Robinson, a mom of three, shared an analogous story.
“I tattooed my left forearm to cowl scars from my previous. I used to chop as a approach to cope from sexual assault in my teenage years. As I bought older and located higher methods to manage I used to be embarrassed by the scars. My tattoo introduced magnificence from ache and jogs my memory of all the pieces I’ve overcome. It made me assured once more.”
That stated, tattoos still get a bad rap. Many affiliate the artwork kind with deviant, legal, or sexualized behaviors — therefore the phrases “jail artwork” and “tramp stamp.” The notion that tattoos and physique modification can be utilized to heal can be extensively debated. Some imagine it’s a form of social masochism. Nevertheless, tattoos might be cathartic for many people, notably for these (like me) overcoming trauma. The truth is, “therapeutic tattoos” signify a robust pathway to therapeutic and physique reclamation.
“In its visibility and within the bearer’s want to let it’s seen, a tattoo can undo the disgrace so typically related to trauma, struggle, victimization, and the intergenerational legacy of hidden trauma,” Phillips writes. “Selecting to publically… [share things which are] typically hidden, they [tattooed individuals] flip horror to honor and disgrace to a shout about survival and a mandate to ‘By no means Overlook.’”
As for me, tattoos have helped me cowl bodily wounds, bringing new mild and life to myself and my physique. They’ve helped me overcome invisible scars. The act of tattooing has truly helped me heal, feeling comfy within the fingers of others. I’ve allowed males (and girls) to the touch my physique in a protected, managed, and intimate manner. What’s extra, tattoos have given me a renewed sense of self. Physique artwork has helped me really feel safer in my pores and skin. For me, physique artwork has been transformative, in additional methods than one.
Does that imply tattoos are proper for everybody? No. After all not. Tattoos are private, as is trauma. However there’s potential pushed with ink. Energy. Tattooing might be motivational, inspirational, and filled with therapeutic and hope.