I love tattoos, and for a long time I’ve been wanting to get a tattoo to symbolise my mental health journey.
Trigger warning: This post includes discussion around self-harm. If you are at risk of being triggered or upset by this topic, please do not read any further.
A while back, I wrote a piece about whether or not tattoos and piercings are a form of self-harm, which sparked some interesting conversations about the different motivations behind getting tattoos.
Many people told of how they had chosen to get a tattoo as a constant reminder to themselves about how far they had come and the battles they had fought. Many talked about getting tattoos to cover old scars; a symbolic moment of breaking free from self-harm.
I love both of these tattoo motivations, and I really resonate with them. Although I strongly believe there is no shame in having (or not hiding) scars, I do like the idea of gifting my body with a piece of art to mark a fresh start where self-harm is no longer a part of my life.
I already have two tattoos, but I definitely want to get one that relates to my mental health/mental illness journey. The only problem is… I can’t decide what to get.
I’ve been scrolling through Pinterest for inspiration and rather than not finding any ideas that I like, I’ve found too many ideas and I’m struggling to choose one! In an ideal world, I’d get one of everything I’ve found, but tattoos can be super expensive, so that’s not really on the cards at the moment.
As frustrating as my indecision is, I thought I would share some of these ideas with you lovely readers today. Maybe you’re looking for your own tattoo inspiration, or (like me), you kind of like experiencing cool tattoos vicariously?
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Mental Health Tattoo Ideas…
#1. The Semicolon
Most of us are aware of the semicolon tattoo that came from Project Semicolon. However, people have since added their own spin to the standard design.
In this example (below), the ‘i’ in the word ‘continue’ is replaced with a semicolon.
There are various versions of this idea, such as:
- keep go;ng
I love this idea because it’s so simple yet so meaningful. It’s also a flexible idea because you can adapt it for any word of your choice, whilst still maintaining the original meaning. In addition, there is a feeling of community and camaraderie that comes with the link to Project Semicolon and other mental health survivors.
#2. A Quote
As a writer and bookworm, I love a good quote – especially when I can relate it to something that is important to me.
There are lots of quotes I’d love to paint across my body, and not all of them are specifically about mental health.
However, they usually relate to the concepts of hope, authenticity, moving forwards, and enjoying life. For me, this relates to my journey through mental illness and on to a future of more good days than bad.
One quote that really clinches a combination of these concepts is “Still I rise”, taken from the famous poem by Maya Angelou.
#3. A Symbol
Another idea that I like is to choose a symbol to represent my journey. This option is a bit more private and personal, so the meaning isn’t necessarily obvious, but it means something to me.
Symbols could include something as simple as a heart, a star, or even a circle. But it could also be a unique symbol that you create, kind of like a sigil, that is completely personal to you.
In all of its pretentious glory, I love the condensed wisdom of Latin phrases. I particularly love the phrase “Per aspera ad astra” (sometimes written as “Ad astra per aspera”). This means “Through hardships to the stars” (or “To the stars through hardships”).
Maybe it’s cheesy, maybe it’s fake-deep, but honestly, I just love it. For me, it is the perfect, concise way to symbolise the struggles I’ve been through and the bright future that I am working towards.
There are lots of Latin phrases to choose from, but some of my favourites are:
- Dum spiro spero (While I breathe, I hope)
- Ad meliora (Towards better things)
- Aut viam inveniam aut faciam (I will either find a way or make one)
#5. Something Pretty
Although I like the idea of getting a tattoo with “meaning”, I also like the idea of getting a tattoo just because it’s pretty. There doesn’t necessarily have to be any deep meaning behind it.
I guess there is at least some level of meaning even so. I’ve treated my body poorly for many years; with self-harm, neglect, exhaustion, and generally not taking care of myself. It feels great that I’m finally in a place where I want to put art on my body rather than destroy it.
But the tattoo itself doesn’t have to have a specific meaning. I love flowers, and I can enjoy this kind of tattoo purely for its beauty. I can just feel good about wearing it on my skin.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these different types of tattoos.
Do you have any tattoos, related to your mental health or otherwise?
Tell me about them in the comments below!