Why did I get a tattoo?

July of 2017, and I can’t remember what day this was, but I just woke up and decided that I wanted to get a tattoo. There was no grandness to it. I just wanted a tattoo.

Of course, no matter how anticlimactic my realization was, I still had to plan when, where, and what tattoo I would get. I searched the internet and I knew I wanted something related to a wolf, as I have always admired their quiet strength. After a couple of days of searching, I finally found what I wanted: a minimalist, geometric wolf head. I loved the design and I knew it wasn’t going to be that painful because it was just made up of lines that connect to form the outline of a wolf.

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The design I chose

Shortly after, I found my tattoo artist on Twitter. She had done a number of tattoos for the people I follow on the site, and I saw that she focused on minimalist, geometric designs. She was perfect. I was quick to contact her and she responded in kind. In a few minutes we had a date and time for our appointment.

Of course, as with many things done the first time, mistakes are bound to happen. I had neglected to take a skin test, which is not really that essential when you’re getting a tattoo, but is more of a precaution to find out if your skin is too sensitive for such a procedure. I knew I had sensitive skin but did not pay mind to the suggestion (from the Internet). All I knew was that I wanted the tattoo, consequences be damned.

And so the day came when I had my tattoo and God, the pain was incredibly intense. Oddly enough, it felt empowering and definitive; I wanted the tattoo and the pain was part of it, so I embraced it too, no matter how I sweated and cursed my way through the process.

And so my tattoo was born, out and proud in the color blood-red, the color mixed with my own. It felt cathartic, to be quite honest. There was an ease after the procedure, and I remember looking at it with such pride and awe.

Many things happened weeks after I got the tattoo: I had a skin infection, my doctor upped my psychiatric medication as she feared my getting a tattoo was a sign of  mania, I lost this wonderful job opportunity because my body rejected the idea of taking responsibility, and others.

With so many of these hardships, I had wondered why I got the tattoo in the first place. Why did I endure so much pain for such a small thing? And I realized that for me, it was a source of strength and control. I had just found out I was mentally ill, and my body was making it clear to me day by day. I was losing pockets of time and I just wanted a semblance of control, something I could call my own. The tattoo was that: a sign that I made my own decision, a permanent one, and that it is a source of my strength. I would look at it during my troubled times and know that I still call the shots.

What about you guys? Do you have a tattoo? What does it mean for you?

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