Being depressed and anxious is no walk in the park - I should know, I battle with the two inconvenient psychological diagnoses on a pretty regular basis.
For me, a handful of healthy distractions help me calm down, help me stabilize my mental health. Those distractions include a quick gym session, a long Netflix binge, some good ole’ fashioned kitchen cooking time, a few minutes reading a great book, or a new tattoo appointment.
The first few options are probably self explanatory; it’s the tattoo appointment that may leave you wanting somewhat of an explanation. Good thing I’m here to provide one … or many.
I get a tattoo when I’m down on my mental health because it gives me a “feel good” pain…
Some people are terrified of needles, so they won’t dare go near a tattoo shop. I’m not programmed that way. Needles and shots don’t bother me, they make me feel more alive.
In fact, when I get a new tattoo, my artist knows that he can keep the needle on my skin for longer strokes than some other clients. The vibrations and stinging feeling the tattoo comes with not only soothes me, but it intrigues and antagonizes my happy hormones.
I think that “feel good” pain comes from the way the needle therapeutically moves on my skin…
When I sit back and really take a deep dive into my brain chemistry on this subject, I almost always come to the conclusion that the reason I enjoy getting a tattoo so much is because of the way the needle therapeutically moves on my skin.
Hearing the noises and feeling the sensations really do put me at ease. When I’m in that chair, my anxiety and depression just melt away as if they were never there. It’s hard to describe, but I bet at least a few of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
For me, that tattoo and that “feel good” pain are a part of my coping mechanism…
I’ve quite literally booked a tattoo appointment every single time I feel myself going into a mental health slump. At this point, I’d call it my own little personal coping mechanism, proven to work.
It’s like I’m triggering my brain to remember the excitement I get when picking out the new artistic addition I’m going to imprint on my body. Then, my happiness escalates from that point on until I’m overwhelmed with joy when I see the final piece of work tattooed on my skin. Knowing I have some kind of firm coping strategy gives me peace.
Not only that, but it urges me to recognize that I’m living in the present…
So often I get lost in my anxiety and depression. I bury myself in mounds of blankets and nestle up in my bed. I stay there for days - outside of going to work. I know that’s not going to help me improve my mental health.
Which is why booking a tattoo appointment gets me out of bed and gets me doing something for myself that’s beneficial to who I am as a human. It gets me to live in the present and feel that I’m really here and alive. There’s nothing that will snap you out of a daydreaming state more than getting a needle to your skin for hours at a time.
The best part about my shenanigan is that it creates symbolism for me…
Most people know that I get a tattoo whenever I feel myself going under. It’s not all the time that I feel low on the totem pole - If I had to guess, I would say every year or two something dramatic happens and I just need a little bit of help getting back to normal.
People who don’t know me all that well would probably assume I just pick something at random, head to the tattoo shop, and pay for them to put some new ink on my body. Wrong.
I think about it for quite some time. Months, actually. Then, I keep that tattoo - or those tattoos - in my back pocket. Some of them I throw to the dust and discard, either because they never fit the way I felt at that point in my life or I just never fell in love with the idea.
When it comes time to actually get the tattoo, I pull out my pocket of options and I see which one best represents me in that present moment. Which one is going to represent the hard time I’m currently having.
My last one was “hic et nunc.” I had just gone through weekly therapy sessions for a year. I was upset that it took me an entire year to pull myself above the water, but I didn’t want to let myself fall back down because of the length of time it took. To boost my self esteem and confidence, I went out and got that tattoo - the endorphins were crazy. Afterward, I felt like I really achieved something - getting to know myself better and learning how to help myself when things got hard.
“Hic et nunc” means to live in the here and now. To take one step at a time. To realize I am alive and that I can get through this. Yesterday has passed. Tomorrow is not yet here. Stop worrying about all the surrounding thoughts and circumstances and breathe - live for the now.