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Cathartic Relief Through Pain: The Addictive Nature of Tattoos 

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Addiction comes in many forms. One of my many addictions started at the age of 19. I had honestly never thought I was the type of person to get a tattoo or piercings beyond my lobes. I got my ears first pierced when I was young because that was what was cool to do in the ‘90s as a girl, but it wasn’t until about 14 years later that any other type of body alterations crossed my mind. My mom was the first one in our family to get a tattoo as a matter of fact. When I was 10 and my family and I were in Dallas for a soccer tournament for my club team, she got a lower back tattoo of a butterfly. Me, my siblings, and teammates thought it was the coolest thing ever. But not even then did I think that I would want one on my body. The permanence of it kind of scared me.

 

Flash forward about 9 years. One of my good high school friends got her first tattoo her freshman year of college. I thought it looked pretty awesome, so I started considering it myself. And I knew whatever I got, it had to be original. I did not want to copy anyone else’s ideas or tattoos. Bear in mind, I was a lot more religious at the time (Roman Catholic). I had also just been introduced to the Cult Classic, Boondock Saints. If you haven’t seen it, two Irish Catholic brothers start killing bad guys in Boston. Before they pull the trigger, they utter a prayer that ends with a Latin pharase “Patris filli, spiritus sancti,” which translates to “father, son, and holy spirit.” Although I don’t condone cold blooded murder, I wanted to represent my love for the movie and my Catholic upbringing. So I got a Celtic cross with that Latin phrase wrapped around it.

 

I was told by the artist after it was done, that tattoos are addicting, so I probably wouldn’t stop at just one. Well, his prophecy came true about one year later. I was back at the tattoo shop with my second idea. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. If there was a way to emphasize it more than just capitalizing the word “huge” I would. While I was struggling with a very deep depression phase, I read and re read the whole series. I felt that I could identify with some of the major themes in them, especially about loss and purpose. In a lot of ways, those books saved my life; so, my second tattoo honored that. I got the Deathly Hallows symbol tattooed on the top of my left foot. In the books, it represents the combining of three objects, that in conjunction, make one the master of death. For me, it was to pay homage to the books that helped saved me from drastic measures.

 

My third tattoo, which came about one year later, was a set of map coordinates. I had an older sister, my parent’s first born child, that passed away shortly after birth. Oftentimes, I would wonder what she was like. If she would have been like me, my brother, my sister, etc. How I wish I could have her here and healthy. In order to remind myself of the sister I never knew, I had her grave coordinates tattooed on my left hip. This way, I feel, that a part of her is always with me.

 

I tend to heal mentally and emotionally much better when I can read something that resonates with me. I have always loved to write and read because words can just hit you in ways a lot of things can’t. As a result, I have three quotes tattooed on me: two rib quotes and an inner right arm quote. The inner arm quote reads: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.” This is actually a biblical quote that was used by JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series as a quote on a grave. For me, that is about pursuing things I love in life and not allowing extraneous stuff to interfere with my happiness. Similarly, my left rib quote, says “find what you love and let it kill you.” That is a Charles Bukowski quote that I have just always loved. It fits within the same theme of the inner arm quote and reminds me of what is important in life. My right rib quote is a song lyric by the band Spoon that reads “I’ll bring you cover when you’re cold, you’ll bring me youth when I grow old.” That was really just a line from my favorite song that always resonated with me and I got during a really traumatic on and off again relationship with a narcissist.

 

A few years later, after I graduated pharmacy school and moved to Mckinney, Texas, the only grandparent that I ever really knew and was close with, my grandma, started getting sick. I was terrified because I knew things were going downhill slowly. She was beginning to have signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. I was afraid that the next time I saw her, she wouldn’t remember me. After I finally got the courage to go see her, the dire nature of my denial was made readily apparent. I felt extremely guilty and cowardly. Shortly before she passed away, I got a tattoo of an elephant on my right outer thigh. That was always her favorite animal, because they never forget. It seemed like the perfect way to remember her, getting her favorite animal with impeccable memory tattooed on me since hers failed her at the end of her life.

 

About a year later, I went to NYC on vacation. I had been brainstorming a half sleeve idea for about 6 months at the time (another Harry Potter related idea). The whole idea was going to be about 7-8 hours of work. So I scheduled one half on my summer trip to NYC in 2016. There are two scenes from the movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One,” that I drew from. The story centers around the tale of the three brothers, in which three wizard brothers come across a river with no bridge. So they conjure a bridge to cross to the other side. Well, Death feels cheated because normally travelers drown trying to cross the river, so he makes a deal with them. He promises them each one gift for outsmarting him.

 

The first scene of my half sleeve depicts the three brothers meeting death at the bridge with the first line of the story “There were once three brothers who were traveling along a lonely winding road at twilight.” The second half shows the third brother, the most humble of the three, parting ways with his gift from Death, (an invisibility cloak that made it impossible for Death to find him) and giving it to his son as Death takes him away. I think for me, the theme of being unafraid of the unknown comes into play here. Not fearing what you cannot control and not allowing the fear of the unknown deter you from life. It is worth mentioning too that the artist that completed the first half passed away tragically in between finishing my first half and my next session. His partner at the shop did the second half for me. It just really makes this tattoo even more special to me because of that tattoo artist and being honored to be one of the last few handfuls of people that he tattooed.

 

My final piece is the only one on my body that does not have any real meaning behind it. It is of a mandala and a rose. Truly, I just loved the aesthetic of it and how clean the lines on it looked. I plan on making it into a half sleeve in the near future. It is the only tattoo that I have that goes deep enough that I can physically feel the lines. It reminds me of the simple beauty there can be in life if you just pay attention.


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