Mental Health

How My First Tattoo Saved My Life

I got the mantra that helped me overcome suicidal ideation tattooed

A tattoo doesn’t have to have a special significance or unseen meaning, but when I say that my tattoo has enough meaning for a lifetime, I’m being sincere. I suppose that’s what happens though, when you’ve been wanting something for four years and suddenly you have it forever. For me, getting my first tattoo was like closing a dark chapter in my life and fully acknowledging the beautifully bright chapter I’m currently living in. Let me tell you my story.

I am a disabled woman, and this week marks seven years of being chronically ill.

When I was twelve years old my illness took an incredible toll on my mental health. I fell into a very deep depression, and had suicidal thoughts. The fact that I was undiagnosed, and thus had the possibility of a cure, was the only thing that kept me going. However, I made a deal with the devil in me, and promised myself that if I ever found out my illnesses were incurable I would take my own life.

As with any devil deal, this was a terrible resolve and caused a very poor outlook on my life. Despite this, though, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I discovered my mantra. I do not remember how, who said it, if I read it. But one day “this too shall pass” was a part of my life and it never went away. From the time I was twelve until fourteen, I wrote it on my wrist. At first, it was a morbid reminder of the dark promise I made myself. Eventually it became a new promise, a reminder that things will get better.

I am sitting here writing this, four years later, my days of suicidal ideation far behind me.

In January of this year I was diagnosed with two incurable illnesses and my promise of years’ past flashed through my mind. Contrarily, I am a person that is newer, stronger, and happier even if I am not healthy.

On 8/17/17 I had my mantra permanently put on my wrist, a reminder of my prior tribulations but more so of my strength to overcome them. Ironically, I am in a hospital while I write this. As the nurse took my blood I showed her my shiny new tattoo. I receive a familiar nod of understanding and strength in return.

I may not be fully healthy, and I probably never will be, but I have found my recovery.

There truly is greener grass on the other side and now I am here to remind you, whoever you are, that there is hope. I ask anyone who is reading this to seek help if they are struggling. No matter who you are or what you are having difficulty coping with, you deserve happiness.

Today I think of myself at twelve years old, feeble, underweight, barely able to walk. I think of medical test after medical test, I think of the days in the hospital. When you are a child no one tells you that illness isn’t always temporary, no one warns you that one day you could wake up sick and never get better. I remember all of the reasons I could have given up, and the one simple reason now inked in my skin why I did not.

Ultimately, I am here now and I am thriving.

I’m so incredibly thankful that twelve year old me had the strength to hang in there, and could meet eighteen year old me. I am thankful for the seven years of chronic illness, and for the many to come, because my disability helps shape me into the strong young woman I am. My fresh first tattoo rubs against the keyboard and stings slightly and I am thankful for it, because it reminds me that I’m still here and I’m only human. This too shall pass.

If you feel you are struggling with your mental health or have suicidal thoughts please reach out to an adult you trust, seek medical help or contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Remember, you matter, and you deserve happiness.


Also published on Medium.

Presley Nassise is an 18 year old gay and disabled woman. She is currently...