Love, Ink, Self-Harm & Healing
As I sit here on an uncomfortably warm and balmy September evening, I find myself at something of a crossroads. I feel as though I’m stuck between where I’ve been, and where I’m supposed to be going. For the first time since I was attacked (nearly 2.5 years ago), I feel as though I may be ready to start moving on. The issue is, in order to do this, I need to drop a lot of the baggage I’ve been carrying around and I haven’t quite figured out how to let it go just yet.
Since that day, everything has changed. The eyes through which I view the world are wiser, perhaps, but they’re also wearier. Those eyes might look the same to you, but they’re something of a two-way mirror – you can’t always see what sits behind them. I’ve done things in the last few years that I’d never really have considered doing before the assault. For example, I’m typing this with arms that carry tributes to the love of my parents. The tattoos themselves aren’t necessarily a huge deal, but the genesis of the idea to get them was nothing short of an epiphany.
I had begun to self-harm in a variety of ways, including cutting, and I recognised fairly immediately that this was a problem I needed to fix. Self-harm is a deceitful creature; it presents itself as a means of wrenching control of your life back from your illness. By hurting yourself, you feel as though you’re taking ownership of the pain you’re in and when you experience it.
In order to combat this mindset, I chose to spend 12 hours being tattooed in tribute to the two most influential figures in my life. In my head, this allowed me to control the pain, when and how I experienced it, and what it meant to me. It also ensured that the scars would be something beautiful once the pain was over. Each tattoo provided me with a degree of recovery that I was unable to find elsewhere. I found a way to turn self-harm in to self-healing. A tattoo machine is far more painful to me than dragging razor blades down my arm, but it also does more good than I could possibly have anticipated. I feel more complete with my tattoos. It’s as though I’d managed to find parts of myself that were once lost to me and put them back.
With that said, I do still self-harm. I don’t cut myself, or anything like that. I don’t drink, or smoke. The only drugs I do are GP-prescribed. But I do still cause myself harm. I self-harm when I look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m ugly. I self-harm by comparing my own worth to that of others and telling myself that I don’t measure up. I self-harm by allowing these feelings to result in self-imposed isolation. I’ve opted to avoid relationships for over 2 years because I simply don’t love myself enough to be in one. How can you pour love into somebody else when you have none for yourself?
It’ll soon be Fall which, as I’ve discussed before, is my favourite time to be in love. I listen to certain albums and songs and find myself longing for one last conversation with the people I’ve lost. I often wonder what they would think of me if we met today. The answer to that question scares the hell out of me. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t miss wrapping up together on a quiet Friday night and just existing with somebody. Sat in front of a TV; passively and passionately in love. I also wonder how past loves are doing. I wonder what has become of their lives and if they ever look back at our time together. I hope they do. I hope it meant as much to them as it did to me.
I was thinking about travelling lately, as I often do, and I realised that one of the biggest losses you suffer due to a breakup is the ability to reminisce about the past. About in-jokes, cute names, travel experiences, and funny stories that are born solely because you both chose each other for a time. I wonder if the people we were back that even exist anymore. I think the reason I ponder this so much is because it’s the last time I was able to experience that kind of love; I had some love for myself and so I was able to channel that into loving somebody else. That’s no longer an ability I possess, but I hope to regain it one day. If all goes well, I’ll find something about myself that I feel is worthy of that love.
What puzzles me about this mindset though, is that as I said earlier, I’m probably in the best place I’ve been in for a long time. I may even be ready to work again soon, but it has to be something worth my time. It has to light up my soul and fill my heart. I’ve lost too much of my life to compromise on what’s next.
I’m taking that attitude with me into as many avenues of life as I can. I want things with meaning, and purpose. I want to be blindingly in love. I want to work on things that excite me. I want my life back. I want the person I used to be back.
Whether I ever see him again remains to be seen, but the ghosts of my past have been known to present themselves unexpectedly before, so I’m not going to pretend it’s not something I’m at least slightly worried about.
So, what was the point of this rant? Why write an essay like this when I could be watching TV or sleeping? It boils down to catharsis. I’ve put my thoughts out there, and hopefully, I’m more complete for it. Like the tattoos, this is a confessional of sorts.
Perhaps if I ponder life enough, I’ll actually get to live it.