I'm in recovery from an eating disorder, anxiety and depression. It's safe to say that mental health has become a significant part of my life over the last couple of years.
I have three tattoos which are all mental health related, and I like to think that each one represents a different condition I have and the struggles and triumphs that I've had in recovery. The first is a lotus flower on my arm, which symbolizes something beautiful coming out of darkness, as the lotus grows in dark, muddy water, and turns into something beautiful. This represents my anxiety, and all the dark days I've had with it, as well as all the beauty that has come from me dealing with my mental illness head-on.
My second tattoo is a Maya Angelou quote, "Still I Rise" on my ankle, which I got the first time I discharged from a higher level of care for my eating disorder. This tattoo represents my ongoing struggles with my eating disorder and the fact that even though I've been knocked down several times, I will continue to rise and fight this illness.
My last tattoo is a semicolon on my wrist, which is representative of my battle with depression. It is inspired by Project Semicolon which states that an author has the choice to end a sentence, but when they use a semicolon they choose to carry on and keep going. This is especially powerful in the context of suicide prevention, and my own personal struggles with suicidal ideation.
I believe that these pieces are helping me heal in a number of ways. First, I am extremely proud of how far I've come in my mental health journey, and I love to talk and be open about this experience. I feel I can wear this tattoos proudly, as almost battle scars that show where I've been and where I'm still headed. I feel a sense of pride looking at each of them every day, and believe they keep me going even when I'm struggling.
Second, my tattoos represent parts of my body that I actually truly appreciate, and enjoy. So much of my life has been me hating my body, and my eating disorder really contributes to that. My tattoos give me something on my body that I don't want to pick apart, and this has helped me progress towards body neutrality and acceptance.
Finally, my tattoos show that I am an ally for others struggling with mental health issues, and they also help start and continue the dialogue. Just recently I was out at dinner and explained to a family friend the premise of the semicolon tattoo and why it's so meaningful to me.
My family has known about this tattoo for almost a year and got a renewed understanding about depression and suicide prevention in my talking about it. I am so proud that my tattoos spark conversation about mental health and my own struggles, and show others that I am there for them as well.
I love getting asked about my tattoos, what they mean, and why I got them. They are helping me heal through some of the most challenging parts of this journey, and I'm glad to tell everyone who asks about what I've been through and to remind them that I am a mental health ally as well.