*trigger warning: discussion of mental health issues and self harm*
This is a picture of my thighs. I spent a long time hating them when I was younger.
I’m 26 now. I was 25 when I got my first tattoo – it’s small, simple and took longer than I expected but hurt less. I travelled about 100 miles via train to be tattooed by someone I had studied with at university who was now a tattoo apprentice. I was anxious and the tattoo was of such emotional significance I was worried I would cry, which is why I chose to have it done by somebody I knew – I felt it would be less embarrassing to cry in front of her and easier to explain why. I didn’t cry. I really enjoyed the experience of investing some time and money in such an act of self-love and it was great to catch up with my former course mate. We studied Embroidery together, so she was used to working with sharp needles.
The tattoo itself is of a Sad Ghost – the logo of the Sad Ghost Club, a creative project producing comics about mental health and running workshops and talks. When I discovered the Sad Ghost Club at a comic convention, it was the first time my mental health problems had ever made me feel like part of something positive – being a member of a ‘club’ instead of hiding away my problems feels empowering. I don’t wear my depression like a badge of honour (I talk to most of my friends openly about it but try to avoid discussing it unnecessarily and am wary of who I can trust to discuss it with) but my tattoo reminds me that I’m far from alone. Depression is something I’ve struggled with for a long time and I think it is probably just an inevitable part of my life and part of who I am. Marking my membership of the Sad Ghost Club in a permanent way is a reminder to try and be accepting of, or even embrace, the things I cannot change about myself.
Its position is important too. My tattoo is on the site of some (very faint) scars I am left with as a result of self-harm. I would always self-harm in the same place and my logic was that I would not want to ruin my lovely tattoo by scratching it up. This has worked in a sense but I have had moments of relapse and simply moved over to the other thigh. My plan has always been to get another tattoo there to compliment my Sad Ghost, something I decided as soon as I saw my tattoo in the mirror, before I even left the studio. Whether this will help me stop self-harming, I don’t know. It’s a long and complicated process and this is only a minor part of that. I could just keep moving on until I am covered in tattoos. But the thigh has always been an obvious place for me as it’s so easy to conceal, (when I was younger I would never have dreamed of showing my thighs, even in tights,) it’s easy to cut and so easy to direct your hate towards when you’re a chubby woman. I hope that once both my thighs are tattooed it will just help me think a little more about what I am doing instead of just having such an easy and automatic place to cut and scratch.
I don’t hate my thighs any more. Since getting my tattoo, I feel that my cute tattoo makes me feel like I have cute thighs. When I don’t have any visible scratch marks on my other thigh, I love the way my Sad Ghost peeks through translucent tights when my skirt is short enough for people to see. I feel guilty that my thighs are basically a punch bag for me when I relapse, as I actually love them for the most part. Then again, they say we always hurt the ones we love.
My thigh tattoo empowers me. It is an acceptance of who I am, it is a celebration of a part of my body I have learned to love, a middle finger to everyone and everything that tells us we are flawed and we should not love ourselves, it is part of my journey, part of my healing and… well, it’s just pretty fucking cool, too.
Anonymous – 26