Tattoos and Depression

I wouldn’t say that I have an addictive personality. I hardly ever drink, I don’t smoke, I take edibles, but not often, I don’t do hardcore drugs, I have sex, but just with my husband, and I guess you could say it is a “typical” amount of copulation for a couple who has been together for ten years, and I usually don’t overeat. I am not used to having that feeling of needing something so badly that it is all that you can think about, that is, until now.

I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen years old, and I regretted it immediately. It was a larger piece on the inner part of my left forearm, and when you are used to seeing a blank canvas to suddenly having something there that is permanent it can be a bit of a shock. I just remember waking up the next day in tears thinking “what have I done?” I promised myself that I would never get another tattoo for the remainder of my life, and I was going to try to save up enough money to get the one tattoo that I had removed. Then, six months later, I found myself in a tattoo shop getting another one.

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I love tattoos. I love piercings. I love the adrenaline rush that I get when I pull up to my favorite shop and see my favorite artists. I love the smell of the ink and the buzz of the tattoo gun. I love sitting in the chair and wondering what my next piece is going to be while I am getting something done. The music, the laughter, the swearing, the connections that you make with the person who is working on you, it all just makes my serotonin levels rise. I feel like I am in my own personal euphoria, and I soak up every moment of it. I don’t crave a lot of attention from others, but getting work done is such an intimate experience. You’re putting your trust into someone to alter the shell that holds you in it. They are changing not only your appearance but in a way, also your life. To me, that is beautiful.

Altogether, I have nine tattoos. I have gotten four tattoos in less than ten months, which is a lot for me. Two of those tattoos were done in the last twenty-four hours. I used to average one tattoo every year and a half to two years, so this is an interesting change of pace for me. I have been doing some thinking, and I think I have figured out why this flux of ink has been taking place. 

Although I am always thinking about tattoos, I tend to want them, even more, when I am either approaching or in a low. Interestingly enough, just a few days ago I had a therapy appointment with my therapist where we were talking about some newer feelings that were arising, and she expressed that she was worried that I was taking a step backward. I do feel like I am starting to revert to what my norm has been for all of these years, but I am desperately trying to nip it in the bud before it takes me down too much. Anyways, I think I have a correlation between my depression and my tattoos. You see, as stated in previous articles, my coping mechanism for a severe low or anxiety is cutting. I am proud to say that it has been a good stretch of time that I have gone without hurting myself, but that is where the tattoos come in.

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The moment the needle touches my skin I get giddy. Even when I am not in a great place mentally, I feel better. Whenever I would cut, it felt like a release. A break from feeling the way that I have felt for so long. I can breathe, and all my worries escape my mind, even if it’s just for a moment. Sometimes a moment break is better than no break at all. I have learned that tattoos give me that same relief, but it is even better. Instead of marking my body with scars, I am marking my body with images that bring me joy. There is only one tattoo that I feel “eh” about, but it will be an easy cover-up. 

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So here is my justification for my tattoos: They help me feel better. Mentally it is an escape, physically it helps me relax and my pieces have helped build my self-esteem. I would rather have my body marked with art rather than scars, so as long as I have the means to continue with my pieces, then you can expect to see me sitting in my favorite shop with my favorite artists.

Regrets

I hate when people say that they live a life without any regrets, but only because I can’t possibly fathom how that could be true. There are times, especially when I am in my “lows,” where all I think about are my regrets, and I wish I could change things in my past. I try to look at everything that I do as a life lesson, but damn, some things that have happened really haven’t taught me anything other than I can be an imbecile sometimes.

Most of the regrets that I think about are from when I was in high school. Back then, I didn’t have a filter, I thought that my opinion was the right opinion, and I acted before I considered the repercussions of my actions. I have hurt people with my words, and I have been punishing myself for those instances ever since the moment the words left my mouth. I graduated high school seven years ago, and I still can’t seem to forgive myself and let go of the mistakes that I made back then. Perhaps this will be an issue that I will have to deal with forever, and to a certain extent, I definitely deserve it. I used to act on my anger and frustration, and when I would do that, I wouldn’t care about what harm my words and actions would cause. When someone hurt or upset me, all I would see was blood, and I wanted to hurt people like they hurt me. It was not wise, I was not being logical, and I was just being mean. Grown-up Brookana definitely wishes that I could go have a major talk with teenager Brookana, because teenager Brookana used to be really superb at turning on the “bitch switch.”

I briefly spoke about this before, but one my biggest regrets was how I treated my mom and step-dad. I punished them for years, and as I got older, I knew how to push their buttons better. I was incredibly vindictive, and I wanted to hurt my mom by withholding a relationship from her. I knew my mom loved me, and I loved her, but I was mad at her and I wanted her to know that I was angry. I would ignore her, I would blow her off, and I would leave her out of things that was happening in my life. For example, junior year of high school the journalism team threw the talent show, and I was going to be one of the emcees. It was a big event for me because I was never into sports and I wasn’t apart of any clubs, so my parents never got to see me involved with any school functions. Well anyways, I didn’t tell my mom about it, and she only found out about it after someone else had mentioned it to her after it had happened. That was deeply hurtful for her, but at the time, I didn’t care. I was so cruel to my mom and my step-dad, and I regret that because I hate that I caused them so much pain for so many years. As I have gotten older and as I have matured, I have been able to see them for the people that they are, and my parents are incredible. My mom will have hour long conversations with me when she is exhausted or has a migraine. Last year, I had to have two major surgeries on my hand and my mom flew down to Dallas both times to take care of me. If my brothers and I were on a railroad track with a train heading our way my mom wouldn’t hesitate to push us out of the way. My mom has a beautiful soul, and I can’t believe that I hurt her so badly in the past. My mom is literally an angel in my life, and I love her so much.

With my regrets, I know that I am basically mind-fucking myself every time I think about them. When I think about them I become borderline obsessive, and it eats me alive. I think about all of the scenarios that those situations could have turned into and how I could have saved myself from hurting others. I think about why I lashed out, and why in some cases I completely overreacted. I wonder if my words haunt the other person as much as they haunt me. I wonder if I should reach out to the other person, or if I should pretend like nothing ever happened. I have confided in Stephen about my regrets, and I truly envy his mindset. Stephen has never really done anything to be sorry for, so he doesn’t quite understand why I have all of these ghosts. His advice is to “stop thinking about it” or “get over it” or “that was so long ago, it doesn’t even matter anymore.” Is it bad that I find those statements to be maddening? Like yeah, that’s great and all, and I really fucking wish that I could get over it that easily, but obviously I’m struggling here. Thanks Stephen for your awesome advice, but my obsessive mind won’t let me forget what I have done.

Please don’t judge me, but there have been times where I was driving myself so completely crazy with my regrets that I once looked into hypnotherapy to see if it could help me forget. It is so odd, I can cope with my bi-polar disorder and depression and I can cope with my diabetes, but these regrets are something that I just can’t shake. I don’t think hypnotherapy would do anything to help me, but in a way I am glad that I wouldn’t be able to do it because that would be the easy way out. I made my mistakes, now I need to learn how to forgive myself and to cope with the past.

The truth is, I don’t think that I have ever said or done something that was truly horrible and devastating. The worst thing that I have ever done was to my mom by blocking her out of my life, but we are in such an amazing place right now and we will only continue to grow our relationship. At the end of the day, I actually have learned somethings from what I have done. I have learned how to control my emotions so that if I do need to say something to someone, I can have a clear head space to avoid hurting them. I have learned that not everything that upsets me needs to turn into a battle, because usually when that happens it goes from bad to worse. I have learned that I don’t need to be friends with everyone, because sometimes toxicity will leak into your life that could cause a lot of harm. I have also learned how to reflect on a situation that turned out poorly, and learn what I could do differently the next time.

Honestly, I doubt that people who say that they don’t have any regrets actually feel that way. I mean, if that were true, that is amazing and I would be jealous, but if I were to guess I bet those people just know how to cope with their regrets better than me. I am hopeful that one day I can breath in and then exhale out my regrets, and finally be able to forgive myself, but for now, it is a work in progress.

Mema

Grandmas are the gift that we are given at birth for whenever we want to feel true love and happiness. Some of my fondest and most treasured memories are the ones that involve my grandma, Mema, and those memories are the ones that I turn to the most.

Mema is a one of a kind woman. Her heart holds no darkness, her smile is contagious, and if you feel like your soul is riddled sadness, her hug will make that feeling disappear within seconds. I don’t recall much negativity ever leaving her mouth, and she always knew how to turn a negative situation into a positive one. She is the one that you go to for guidance, because she is one of the wisest human beings that I have ever known.

Mema has been a huge part of my life since the very beginning. I remember constantly being with her and my grandpa, Pepa, when I was younger, and every moment that I was with them became my new favorite moment. I have a few cousins and a brother who are around that same age as me, and the nights that we would spend with Mema and Pepa were always so much fun. We ran around the house having the time of our lives, we painted gourds and made birdhouses out of them, we played dress-up, and we played in the kiddy pool. Memas house was a house of joy, but joy doesn’t come from the things that are there or the activities that you are partaking in. It comes from the people who are around you.

As I have stated in the past, I grew up in northern Illinois, about a hour and a half outside of Chicago. My most favorite season has always been fall, and in northern Illinois, our falls are breathtaking. The colors of the leaves, the crisp fresh air, and the smells always sent my senses straight up into cloud nine. Fall was also a season where a lot of work had to be done to maintain the yard. My grandparents old home was on an acre or so of land, and when the leaves would fall from the trees we would have to gather them all. My Pepa would drag an old kiddy pool around, and we would rake all of the fallen leaves into the pool. After we collected the leaves, we would pile them high next to a fire pit. The pile of leaves was always so much fun. Mema and I would jump and play in the leaves for what seemed like hours, all before the leaves met their fate in the fire pit. Some of the leaves would be lucky enough to survive the harsh fires of the pit, and they would be chosen to go into the pumpkin bags. Now the pumpkin bags were only used before Halloween, and they were so cute. The bags were these large, orange bags with pumpkin faces on them, and when you filled them with leaves they looked like giant pumpkins. When Mema would get those bags out, it truly felt like fall had arrived. Playing in the leaves was always so much fun, and I can’t wait to have kids so I can recreate that memory for them.

Mema and I

Mema and I have always had a really close bond. When my parents divorced, my brother and I stayed with my grandparents and dad every Friday and every other weekend. When my parents first separated, I was in second grade, and my Mema was such a comfort to me. Every night that I was with them I would sleep next to Mema, and every night she would comfort me to sleep. She would rub my back, rub my tummy, read me story after story, make up stories for me, and teach me all about my genealogy. The stories that Mema would tell me about who we are and where our ancestors came from always fascinated me, and no matter how many times I asked about it, she would tell me with a smile on her face. That is the thing about Mema. She is willing to do anything and everything for anyone, and you never feel like a burden. I always knew I was going to have a good nights rest when I was with Mema.

Mema always knew how to keep us busy. Whenever we asked to go walk around a store she would take us, she taught us how to garden, she helped us learn how to read, she taught me how to wrap gifts, and she taught me how to cook and bake. Mema and I would often take long walks around our neighbor, and during those walks we would talk non-stop. I remember some days she would let me do her make-up, which I would even take seriously sometimes. In the summertime, she would take us swimming at either the pool or the quarry, or we would go to a nature preserve to try to catch frogs. Sometimes, she would set up a tent in the backyard, and we would all sleep outside. Those nights were always such a treat. Mema and Pepas house was always a house filled with fun, adventure, laughter, and love.

After a while of living with Mema and Pepa, my dad bought a house and we moved out. I was excited about this new adventure, but I also didn’t want to leave my Mema and Pepa. After a while it felt normal to not live in their home anymore, but I still missed living in their house. As I got older I became busier, and I saw them less and less. As a teenager, I wasn’t too focused on spending copious amounts of time with my family. I was focused on hanging out with friends and with Stephen, and it is something that I regret. It is something that I especially regret now that I live one thousand miles away from them. I wish I saw them more when I still lived at home, because there are days now where all I want is a hug from my grandma.

I am grateful for many things, but one of the things that I am mostly grateful for is my relationship with my Mema. Even now when we talk on the phone it brings me back to when I was a child and when we would talk for hours. If I could be a woman like her I would consider myself to be lucky. I admire her, I love her, and she is one hell of a woman.

Thank you for my childhood, Mema. I hope you understand the impact that you made on me. I love you.

Marriage

Marriage, to me, has never been about a piece of paper. It has never been about legally connecting two souls together, it has never been about taxes, it has never been about anything other than love. Stephen and I didn’t have a formal proposal, it was more of a mutual decision. One night, as we laid in bed, we discussed our plans for the future, and we both knew that marriage was something that we both wanted. We never really wanted a wedding, we just wanted something small where the day would truly be about us and our love for each other, so on March 11th, 2016, we went to the courthouse and got married.

The day was perfect. Our appointment to get married was in the afternoon, so we had the whole morning to do whatever we wanted. We spent most of the morning doing laundry and other chores, and the rest of it relaxing. It only took me about a hour to get ready, and off we went. I wasn’t nervous heading to the courthouse, in fact, I was excited. Stephen and I had already been together for six and a half years, and we had lived together for about three, so it already felt like we were married. Along with being excited, I was also in disbelief that we were actually doing this. We had been talking about marriage for quite some time, and the fact that we were going to be married within the hour was a feeling that is indescribable. When we arrived at the courthouse, there was a staircase that lead to the area where we would say our vows. While we were walking up, another couple was walking down with their friends and family, and the bride asked if we were getting married. After I said yes, she grabbed my hand, and said congratulations. I, of course, said congratulations back, and as odd as this may sound, it was probably one of my favorite moments of that day. Even though she was a complete stranger, I found it to be an incredibly powerful moment between two people who didn’t know each other. Plus, you could see the genuine joy that was radiating off of her, and I felt so happy for her. Seeing her in that moment also was a reassurance for what Stephen and I were about to do. Once we made it to the top, we had to pay for ceremony and then we just waited for the Justice of the Peace to come and get us. We sat in a waiting room, talking and giggling and looking at Facebook, waiting patiently for the man who was about to change our lives.

When he finally came and got us, I was surprised  by his demeanor. I thought that he wouldn’t really care that much about Stephen and I because I am sure he does dozens of marriages a month, however, he was incredibly happy for us and was asking us a bunch of questions about our relationship. He always had an authentic smile on his face, and he really gave off a peaceful vibe. After a couple of minutes of pleasantries, it was time to get married. So there we stood, and while Stephen and I held hands, we said our vows. I thought that once we were pronounced husband and wife it wouldn’t feel different, but it was a lot more powerful than I had anticipated. I felt a rush of emotion rush through my body, and although I didn’t cry, I was just overwhelmed with happiness. This man, who I love with every ounce of my being, was my husband and I was his wife. We were partners in life, and it was a beautiful feeling. Our first kiss was magical, and it felt like the official seal of our marriage.

After the ceremony was over, we spoke to our parents to let them know that we were officially married. Our parents were happy for us that we were finally married, however, they were all disappointed that they weren’t there to see it. I think that Stephens parents were especially disappointed because they were actually coming down to Dallas the following day, but as much as we love our family, we wanted this day to be just for us. It was so special, and we really wanted to enjoy our first day as husband and wife with just each other.

The rest of the day was pretty laid back. We went back home after the ceremony and hung out for a little over a hour, then we went out to dinner. After dinner we went back home and spent time together. To others, how Stephen and I got married probably sounds boring, but to us, it was perfect. We were given the opportunity to really just appreciate each other, and there is not any part of me that wishes that we did things differently.

The next day, Stephens parents, my new in-laws, came down to visit. That was also the day that our marriage really hit me. We went to a mall to do some shopping, and I wanted to get an iced tea from Teavana. There was a coupon on my phone, which Stephen had, and that was the first time that I actually acknowledged Stephen as my husband. All is said was: “oh whoops, my boyfriend, I mean my husband, has my phone with the coupon.” Let me tell you something about that. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it felt fucking crazy saying that. I don’t really know how to describe it, but at first it didn’t feel natural to call him my husband. I don’t know if that’s bad or not, but it was just something that I had to get used to.

After a couple of months, being married was our new norm. Saying that Stephen was my husband did become natural, and life kind of fell back to what it always was. Then, one day, my mom expressed to me that she really wanted to have a reception for Stephen and I. At first, Stephen and I were slightly reluctant. We loved our wedding day and we felt like we didn’t need anything more, but after thinking about it we thought that it would be special to celebrate our marriage with the people that we love. Also, I am my parents only daughter and Stephen is his parents only son, so we thought that we owed it to our parents to do something. After Stephen and I agreed to have a reception, my mom took off full blast on planning it. The reception was in northern Illinois, and I was in Dallas, so I didn’t see anything until the day of our reception. My mom would consult with me about the decisions that she was making, but even if she didn’t I knew what my mom was capable of and I knew that it was going to be gorgeous. And boy, I was not wrong.

We held the reception at a local winery in December, so it was breathtaking. The winery had decorated for Christmas, so along with the decorations that the winery provided as well as the decorations that my mom had purchased it was mind-blowing gorgeous. The night was perfect, with the exception of the major snow storm that prevented some relatives from being able to attend. That night we ate food, we conversed with everyone that we don’t get to see that often, and we had the time of our lives. By then end of the night, we were exhausted. Stephen and I decided that we were going to stay with our friends that night because that was the only night that we were going to be able to see them, so we had a long drive back to their place. Once we arrived, I realized that I was starving. I, unlike Stephen, hadn’t eaten much of anything that night. So as I ate left overs from the reception, Stephen and I went through the cards that we had received. After making our list of thank you cards that we were going to need to send out, we passed out. I slept so hard that night, but boy, it was the end of a perfect day.

I still do not regret getting married the way that we did. And even though our parents weren’t exactly thrilled with our choice to get married with just the two of us there, we were still able to celebrate with our friends and family. A wedding is not a marriage, so it won’t make a difference what kind of wedding you have as long as the love that you and your partner share is strong.

Caille

There is a saying that if you have been friends with someone for seven years then you most likely will remain friends forever. I would have to agree with that statement. I have known by best friend, Caille, since we were in fifth grade. We were friendly, but we weren’t super close. I remember her always being goofy and easy going, and I never had any bad things to say about her. Little did I know the girl that I was acquaintances with would become my best friend soul mate.

Throughout middle school, we never really had any conversations. I think once we were in eighth grade is when we started talking more, but still it was just basic conversation. It wasn’t until either the summer before freshman year or right in the beginning of freshman year until we became friends. I had a really close friend that Caille was also close with, and the three of us hung out a couple of times. I remember our mutual friend had a birthday party at her house, so we hung out there. The three of us also went homecoming dress shopping together, where we were involuntarily given the nickname “Three Little Dollies” by a stranger. The more and more time I spent with Caille, the more and more I really liked being around her. So one day I randomly decided to invite Caille for a sleepover, and that was the day that I think we truly became friends.

We became extremely close super fast. There is a simple test that you can participate in that will be a definite sign if you are best friends with someone or not. This test not only tests the strength of your bond, but also how comfortable you are with one another along with seeing if your sense of humor aligns. This test is called: The Flatulence Test. It really is simple. If you can fart in front of someone and not feel like a garbage person afterwards and the other person doesn’t care you know that you might just have yourself a best friend. If my memory serves me correctly, we passed that test super early into our friendship. We have been best friends for well over a decade now, and to this this day if one of us releases a gas cloud we both break out in laughter. It is a solid test.

Let me take a brief moment to describe Caille. Obviously she is one of the funniest people that I know. She is incredibly witty, clever, intelligent, organised, caring, selfless, laid back, and loving. If something comes up and you need her, she will drop everything and figure out how to be there for you. If you need advice, she is the one to go to because her advice is gold. If you need someone to boost your self-esteem, she will tell you how great you are until she is blue in the face. She will never lie to you, and you can trust her without ever doubting anything that she says or does. She’s beautiful inside and out, and she is truly one of those rare people that truly are extraordinary. That is just a couple of reasons why Caille is my best friend, but you get the idea.

In high school, we were pretty much inseparable. If I wasn’t at her house, then she was at mine. My favorite memory is that during the warmer seasons we would just walk around the block for hours, just talking and laughing and having a good time. We would even walk to the elementary school that was across the street from her neighborhood and swing on the swings and play on that spider web dome thing. Then we would also do questionable things. We would make random videos on her computer, talk to strangers on Omegle, or drive to Meijer really late at night for snacks. One of the best things about Caille and I is that we don’t need to be doing something in order to have a good time. I can’t tell you how many times we would just sit and talk or just watch movies. We have always had a very easy and natural friendship, and those kind of friendships are the best.

That’s not to say that we haven’t fought. There have been a couple of bigger fights, some arguments, some misunderstandings, etc. But the thing is, if you are mature enough you can get over that stuff pretty quickly. If Caille says or does something that bothers me, I will let her know in a respectful way, and then we can have a quick and painless talk about it and then it’s over. And it’s vice versa as well. If you care about someone, drawing out unnecessary drama can and should be avoided.

There is another perk of having a long term best friend, and that is being super close to each others families. I love Cailles family so much, and I have always felt super close to them. I can’t tell you how many times I have had deep conversations with them, and they always have just given the best advice. Cailles parents are hilarious, thoughtful, incredibly smart, welcoming, and just awesome. The times where Caille and I would hang out with them were always so much fun, and they will always remain some of my favorite memories. My family also loves Caille. My parents ask about her all of the time, and my dad and her actually have their own little inside joke where my dad calls her “Fred.” It is nice when you feel welcomed into your best friends family, because it’s more people that you get to be close with.

As we got a little older, we started to get into relationships and that was a little worrisome in the beginning. I think that we both had to learn how to balance our boyfriends with our own relationship. With Stephen it was simple because Stephen already knew how close Caille and I were before we started dating, so he was always understanding if I wanted to spend time with Caille. Cailles first relationship was a rocky one, but when she met her current boyfriend, Joel, I was so ecstatic. Joel and Stephen are a lot alike where they are both laid back, understanding, kind, etc. So whenever Caille and I want to spend time together, Joel has zero issue with that. Caille and I always talk about how lucky we are for being in relationships with our men.

So anyways, a lot of my favorite memories are the ones that include Caille. For example, there was that one time where we were driving home from Woodfield Mall and Caille almost killed both of us when she stopped on the train tracks with a train heading our way. That was super fun. Or the time that we randomly got tattoos. One of the best times was when we flew to Boston for five days and got to hang out with her sister. All of the times that we ever got drunk and made crafts were a blast. I’m telling you, every single time we are together is always amusing.

What is crazy to think about is that Caille and I have lived farther apart from each other longer than living near each other. After high school, Caille went to school five hours away from our home town, and I stayed home. After Caille graduated, she moved back home, but then Stephen and I decided that we wanted to move to Dallas. Being in a long distance friendship can be difficult and it does take more work, but with Caille and I, sometimes I forget that there are a thousand miles that separates us. We text basically every day, all day long. We Facetime, and we also will call each other and then spend hours having a conversation. I try to fly back to Chicago every three to four months where I will stay with her for a couple of days. Although we have this distance between us, nothing ever feels different. Whenever we are back together, it feels like we just saw each other the other day. We are so close that nothing will ever crush that bond.

Caille is more than a best friend to me. She is family. We have grown up together, experienced things together, gone through shitty things together, and after all of these years, I feel closer to her than ever. She truly is my best friend soul mate, and I don’t think a better best friend exists in the universe.