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.

Tattoo9

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.

Tattoo6

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. 

Tattoo7

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.

You Don’t Know What Is Possible Until You Try

Growing up, my Mema would always tell me that I should publish a book when I was older. I was very fortunate when my parents divorced because I would spend a lot of time at my grandparent’s house, and every night Mema would read me story after story until my eyelids felt heavy and my busy mind was feeling at peace. Mema would also tell me stories that she would come up with herself, as well as stories about where our ancestors came from. I soaked up every story like a sponge, and I am convinced that Mema’s gift for storytelling was passed down to me. 

I have always been quite imaginative. When I was young I was obsessed with American Girl dolls and Barbies, and the elaborate backgrounds that I would give each doll would often leave the adults in my life in awe. Someone, although I can’t remember who at this exact moment, recently told me that they would listen in on my play sessions because they were fascinated with the stories that I would put my dolls through. I could come up with stories in an instant, and they would be full of depth. My favorite time of year was when we could participate in Young Authors, which was where we were given a blank book that we could write down stories in as well as illustrate them ourselves. That made me feel so alive. Coming up with a pretend world with pretend people and bringing it all to life brought me so much joy and elation, and it also made me feel really proud of myself.

As I became older I learned of different ways to write down stories. One of my fondest memories was in third grade when we started to learn how to write an essay, and I remember writing a nonfiction essay about my aunt’s wedding. Apparently, I did well because my teacher read it aloud for all of my classmates to hear, and you could imagine how elated I was during that moment. My teacher loved what I had to say so much that she wanted everyone else to hear it, and that is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Although I am typically a humble human being, I do love when others enjoy my pieces. I always have loved it, and I always will love it. When someone loves and enjoys one of my pieces, it is one of the biggest compliments that you could ever give me. It brings more value to my life than platinum. 

As I got older, I never strayed away from writing. I would always type out little stories here and there, I would make an attempt at poetry every now and again, or I would just journal. In high school, I participated in journalism for three years, and although it was different than what I was used to it gave me life during a time where I felt like I wasn’t living at all. It gave me purpose, it taught me about deadlines, and it still gave me that feeling of happiness whenever I would see one of my articles in the school paper. It was magic for me. It was an outlet, and it showed me what gave me passion. Journalism was the best part of high school for me, and I will always be grateful for that. 

Once I graduated high school I went on to college, where I changed my major more times than I can count. At first, I wanted to go into journalism, but I was told it was a dying career and that I should avoid doing that at all costs. Then I wanted to go into education, but after speaking with a middle school teacher during my observational hours, she told me to run for the hills. I realized that education wasn’t for me, so I moved on to the next thing. My parents really wanted me to have a career in something that would pay well, but more importantly, would provide excellent health care. Being a type one diabetic is not cheap, and I need the best insurance plan in order to afford my doctor’s visits and medications. So for years I took classes and went into programs for different healthcare fields, and I was unhappy with every single one. It got to the point where I was spending all of this money on school and books and I finally just stopped going to school. I didn’t want to continue with school until I figured out what it was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In the back of my mind, I always think about going into a field that will pay me well and offer good benefits, but at the end of the day, nothing was going to give me that happiness that I desired. That is until I realized that there was something that I could do that I could love and be proud of. 

I love writing. I always have loved it, and I always will. I love having thoughts and writing them down, and reading it back feeling totally captivated. I revel at that moment when my family and friends read my pieces and enjoy them. Every time I press publish on my blog, that spark that keeps me alive gets a little bit bigger. I love creating and sharing, and I love connecting with others when I write something that they might relate to. What I am doing now is what I should have been doing all along, and although I can’t get the time back that I wasted trying to figure out what I should do I can embrace the fact that I have finally figured it out and I am doing it now.

You see, a big life lesson that I have learned is that you can hear and accept what people have to say to you when you are given advice, but you are the only one who knows what is truly best for you. Had I stuck on the path that I had originally taken, I would have not wasted all of that time in between. I always had that gut feeling that I would find my way back to storytelling, and it brings me so much happiness that I have found my way back to my passion. To me, hating my job and my life is too steep of a price to pay for having loads of money in my bank account. I am not oblivious to the fact that money is essential to living, but if you are willing to work at it, then following your dream can be possible. You don’t know what is possible until you try. This whole story leads down to one thing: Follow your instinct. Follow your passion. Follow whatever keeps giving your spark life.

The Real Monster: Anxiety

I have never really been afraid of monsters. I grew up watching Jurrasic Park on repeat, as a child I would play pretend games with imaginary monsters that I would bring to life, and I was always invested in ghost stories. The things that gave me a true fright were things that could become a reality. For example, thunderstorms that triggered a tornado warning would send me into a fit. I would hibernate in the basement clinging onto my dog Daisy in complete hysterics until I knew that the threat was gone and we were going to be safe. When my parents decided to divorce, I was consumed with making sure that my parents were okay. I remember always thinking about them and wondering if they were ever going to find happiness. I was in second grade at the time, but I was so consumed with what my family was feeling that it felt like it was eating away at my young soul. Little did I know that I was already being introduced to one of the scariest monsters to have ever existed: anxiety.

As I have stated many times, clinical depression is something that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My mom even told me that she knew something was off with me before I was five years old, but back then mental illness wasn’t really something that was talked about. I remember seeing a school counselor for a short time when my parents decided to divorce, and then many years later going to see my first psychologist. Although it was many years where I wasn’t speaking to a professional about what I was feeling, I always knew something was off about me. As cliche as this is, I literally felt as if I lived in a literal world of darkness. I was consumed by sadness, resentment, and anger. I was constantly isolating, (although that has still not changed) and I never actively sought out friendships. I was content with being on my own overthinking every thought that I have ever had and accepting that feeling the way that I felt was normal. I remember being overly concerned for years about my dad. My mom was happy and in love with my now stepfather, and I wanted that for my dad. I would spend hours a day worrying about my dad and what his and our future looked like, to the point where I would go into a panic. I wanted the world for my dad. I wanted every bit of happiness that the world had to offer to him to be his. I wanted him to find a partner and to fall in love, and I wanted him to enjoy every moment of his life. I would think about these things constantly, driving myself absolutely crazy. So when my dad met my stepmom, I was over the moon with excitement because I felt like everything that I have ever wanted for my dad was happening to him. But then the worry of him finding happiness turned into worry about him losing it, and then I was consumed with worry that his relationship with my stepmom wouldn’t last forever. That constant worry wasn’t warranted though because they were and continue to be a healthy and happy couple, but I just wanted my dads’ happiness to be infinite. Looking back, I can now see that my worry about my dads’ happiness was probably one of the first anxiety-inducing situations that I was apart of, and I wish that it was figured out years ago that anxiety was one of the things that I was feeling.

As I progressed in age I, of course, came into more anxiety-inducing scenarios. One of the more traumatic things that I experienced that I still have trouble with was my sexual assault. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I have learned more about that incident the older I have become. Looking back at what happened and after speaking to a couple of professionals about it, I have learned that I was essentially brainwashed, manipulated, and “trained” by this person since I was eleven to be a certain way with him. When the big incident occurred, I immediately broke down. I remember talking to my therapist at the time about it and her wanting to report it for statutory rape, but I wouldn’t let her for reasons that I don’t want to get into. After that happened I blamed myself for years for allowing it to happen. The big incident happened when I was fifteen, and it was just within the past year that I have been able to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I now look at the situation with complete disgust, and I can see it for everything that it was. I will say this though. After seeking out help for coping with what happened it almost makes me feel worse. I feel so violated. I feel like something was stolen from me. Every time I think about the whole situation I want to break down. This incident has a way to pop into my mind at the most inconvenient times, and what sucks about it is that when I think about it I literally feel like I am taken back in time and forced to relive everything that I went through. I can feel what I felt, both mentally and physically, and I feel frozen. My anxiety just completely takes over me, and I feel like I can’t breathe. My heart starts racing, and I need to remind myself that it isn’t happening now, it happened in the past. I would say my sexual assault is one of the biggest reasons why my anxiety is so horrendous.

Although I have always been pretty content with not involving a lot of people in my life, I do feel like my social anxiety just keeps getting worse and worse. I don’t do well with meeting new people, in fact, I have had to have therapy sessions in preparation for meeting new people and for being in groups. I don’t really know what it is, I just get really bad anxiety around new people and big groups of people. I get anxiety while driving, while going to the doctors’ office, and even shopping. Every time I feel like something might be wrong with my animals my anxiety spikes. I feel like my life is controlled by my anxiety, and it makes me feel so fragile. My anxiety is one of the main focuses of my therapy sessions, and I feel with every session that I have I become one step closer to breaking free of my anxieties grasp. 

My anxiety and my depression have this hold on me. Every day I work hard to better myself, but I have my ups and downs. I don’t think I will ever be free from my anxiety, but I do think that with time and hard work I can handle it better. After everything is said and done, your life shouldn’t be controlled by monsters, but by you.

Me

One of the things that I have always appreciated about myself is that I have always been self aware. I have, for the most part, always been in tune with the person that I am, and knowing who I am as a person has always been really helpful. I love reflecting back on my life, looking to see how I have evolved as a person, and revisiting all of the life lessons that I have had to learn. Being aware of who you are, the good traits and flaws included, can only be beneficial to you, and it can help mold you into the person that you want to be.

One of my flaws that I absolutely loath is my tendency to compare myself to others. For example, when I see people with their new houses I think about how I am less of a person because I am renting an apartment. Or I hear news that someone is pregnant, and I wonder if I am less of an adult because my husband and I are not there yet. I see other people and how they are living their lives and I wonder if I am living my life incorrectly. Stephen hates that I do this, especially because it almost always kills my mood, but on some sick level I feel like I can’t control it. Listen, I am highly aware that everyone has their own path and journey in life, and I know that the universe has something incredible in store for me, but I still can’t help but sometimes wish that I was in a different position in my life right now.

The fact of the matter is, there is no such thing as “normal” for me. I feel like society puts pressure on all of us to reach certain milestones by certain ages, and if we haven’t accomplished those milestones then we have failed as humans. People my age have already graduated from college, but I am still in school. People my age are already homeowners, but I am renting. People my age are starting a family, but Stephen and I aren’t there yet because we are waiting for me to graduate. I am comparing what my life journey has been through the eyes of a society that tells us what our lives should look like, and it is such a shame because I sometimes forget to appreciate my life and what I have done. Comparing myself to others is one of my worst flaws, and it is something I am constantly having to work on.

Something that I love about myself is my heart. I don’t really have a lot of people that I am close to, but the people that I am close with have a part of me. If Caille called me right now and needed me, I would find a way to get to Chicago. If one of my family members needed to stay at my place last minute, I would have blankets and pillows waiting for them before we got off of the phone. When I love, I love hard, to the point where I put myself on the back burner to ensure that my loved ones are healthy and safe. I know that can be an unhealthy mindset, but I don’t care. My loved ones are so important to me, and I would do anything in my power to help them if they ever needed me.

The thing about humanity is that we are not black or white. We all make huge mistakes and do really shitty things, but that does not make us horrible. We all do things that are beautiful gestures, but that does not mean that we are purely great. We all have good traits and bad traits and that is what makes us human. Being aware of who you are involves analyzing your traits, and if there is something that you don’t like about yourself you can always work to adjust that. That is why we are constantly evolving. We are always learning and adjusting and figuring out who we want to be and what we want our lives to look like, and that is why, in my opinion, we should throw away the term “normal.” We all have our own lessons to learn and our own lives to live, and who we are should be based on who we want to be, not who others want us to be.

I think we all know who we are, but sometimes, we just need to be reminded.

Social Media

Back before social media became a big thing, I primarily only used the internet for my school work. I didn’t care what other people were doing, and other people didn’t care about me. Those were the days that were a lot simpler, and those are the days that I sometimes wish still existed.

Back when I was young, the platform that was primarily used was Myspace. Myspace was so much fun, but it basically sucked your soul in. I used to spend hours changing my background, finding the perfect picture to put on my wall, and deciding what song would play on the background of my page. I used to look at other peoples pages, look at their pictures, and look at what people had to say. I would choose my top friends list meticulously, and if you were on the list that meant that you were in my good graces. Myspace was kind of my social media gateway drug, and if I could turn back time, I would have stayed far away.

In high school, I kind of graduated from Myspace and went on to Facebook. Facebook was a lot more sophisticated than Myspace. You couldn’t personalize your home page, and it was just a lot less work to maintain. With that being said, Facebook ultimately became my mind. I know that sounds weird, but allow me to explain. As many of you know, Facebook allows you to post statuses, and in the status box it says “What’s on your mind, Brookana?” And boy, I let everyone know what was one my mind. I would share anything and everything, from going to out dinner, hanging out with my friends, and going to see the gynecologist. (Telling the world that I was going to the gynecologist was one of my more regrettable statuses.) Looking back, I hate the person that social media turned me into. I constantly wanted to show off my pictures so people thought that I was living a thrilling life, I posted statuses about my life so that people would know about it, and I was just completely consumed in the world of the internet.

I kind of figured out why I became obsessed with sharing my life, and I think it was because I wanted attention. Every like, every comment, and every view was just another notch on my self-esteem belt, but little did I know, it was starting to have the reverse effect. Every time I posted a status or a picture and I didn’t get attention from it I would start to question myself. Was I not funny? Was I not wise? Was the selfie that I posted not as pretty as I thought it was? I would refresh my page to see if someone finally paid attention to what I had to say, but every time I would not have a notification it would sting my heart just a little bit more. My self worth became wrapped up in social media, and it wasn’t until recently where I finally realized how unhealthy my relationship with the internet had become.

Listen, I am going to be honest about something. I have 390 “friends” on Facebook, and I maybe have an active relationship with about twenty of them. Most of the people that are on my list are people who I haven’t seen or spoken with in well over five years, and I don’t even know who they are anymore. There are some people who are complete strangers to me and who I have never met, some people that I don’t give two shits about, and some people who I lack the desire to have any kind of relationship with. I know for a fact that I am in those categories with other people as well, so why did I always find it necessary to allow these people into my life? I think it is because I just wanted that attention, and I just wanted people to see me. I never really made an effort to have a plethora of friends, especially since Stephen and Caille had always been more than enough for me, but I still wanted people to like me. I still wanted people to think that I was funny, that I was pretty, and that I was a good person. I just wanted people to care. Looking back at it now, I think it was extremely silly how much I wanted others to care about me, because you can’t force people to like you.

I think the beginning of the end of my obsession with social media was after the last presidential election. I’m not going to get super heavy on the topic, but I’m not a Trump person. I disagree with a lot of his viewpoints, and I was unhappy that he was elected. But the thing is, he was elected, he is our president, and now it is just something that we have to deal with. For about a year after he was sworn into office, everything online was about Trump and Clinton and the election. People were fighting about politics non stop, and people would cut deep with their insults. I sat there and saw people tear each other apart without any mercy because of their opinion, and honestly, I couldn’t take it anymore. I am happy that there are people who are passionate enough to fight for what they believe in, but there is a difference between being passionate and being violent, and people no longer saw that line. Political debates happened within my own family, hell Stephen and I just had one yesterday, but when you are constantly seeing it and watching people go at each others throats every second of every day, you kind of start saying enough is enough. So I slowly backed off of social media because of that, and I am grateful for that because it isn’t that important to me anymore.

I care about what people think about me, but it is the people who matter to me the most whose positive opinion is what I strive for. My family and my friends, those are the people that I want to be proud of me. I sincerely hope that everyone who is on my friends list is living an amazing life and that they are flooded with bliss, but at the end of the day, how much do we all actually mean to each other? I don’t really post much on Facebook anymore, but when I do, I do it for me. Whether people like what I have to say or show them no longer will define my self worth, because my self worth will come from how I perceive myself.

Social media can be a wonderful thing, but before you allow yourself to get completely sucked into it, just be warned.

Self-Esteem

I often wonder if the way that I physically view myself is the way that others view me. When I look at myself in the mirror, I try to avoid looking at myself because I am sick of always going through the list of things that I would like to alter on myself. I’m constantly comparing myself to others, and I am always wondering what I must have done in a previous life to look the way that I look.

My husband always tells me that I am beautiful, but let’s be honest, you’re not going to believe anyone who tells you something that you don’t believe. There is always a part of me that thinks that he feels obligated to tell me things like that because he is my husband, but usually I just respond with a casual thank you and call it a day. I know that Stephen probably really thinks that I am beautiful and it is my own issue, so I try not to allow my insecurities to get in the way of our relationship. I am extremely fortunate because I married someone who is very pleasing to the eye, so I always feel guilty that Stephen had to settle for a creature like me.

The list of the things I would want to change about me is long.

  1. I wish I wasn’t as pale as I am.
  2. I wish I was taller.
  3. I wish my hands weren’t ugly.
  4. I wish I had pretty nails.
  5. I wish my hair wasn’t so frizzy.
  6. I wish I had better control of my weight.
  7. I wish my feet were cuter.
  8. I wish I didn’t have a gap in my front teeth.
  9. I wish that my hair was lighter.
  10. In fact, I wish I had less hair.
  11. I wish my boobs were perkier.
  12. I wish I had those really cute back dimples.
  13. I wish that my lips were fuller.

There are several things that I wish I could change about myself, but alas, I am pretty much stuck with this body. I guess I should say that I highly doubt that I, Brookana Tempera, is the ugliest creature to have ever existed in the entirety of the universe, but I definitely am not what society says is beautiful. So is it societies fault that I feel this way about myself? Is it societies fault that I have a habit of comparing how I look to others? Is it societies fault that I can’t bear to look at myself sometimes? Maybe. I grew up around people who have always cared about what they looked like, and I think being around that made me conscious of my physical appearance. But even though I grew up in an environment where how someone visually looks was a significant factor, I still think that I would have had self-esteem issues. Unfortunately, I am pretty much convinced that mostly everyone has a list of things that they would like to change about themselves, and that is pretty sad.

At the end of the day, I remain grateful that I love who I am as a person. I once had a family friend refer to their body as a shell for their soul, and that still resonates with me to this very day. I truly feel like my soul, the energy that is me, does not have a correlation to my body. My body is the armor for my soul, it is the physical matter that allows me to walk alongside others on this planet, but it is not who I am.

I have another list that I think about whenever I start feeling self-conscious about how I look.

  1. I am kind
  2. I am loving
  3. I am selfless
  4. I am funny
  5. I am intelligent
  6. I am analytical
  7. I am organzied
  8. I am determined
  9. I am quick thinking
  10. I am sympathetic
  11. I am someone who fights for what they want
  12. I am fun
  13. I am adventurous

There is more to me than just my body. I am a good person with good intentions, and it is such a shame that I allow myself to get upset about what I see in a mirror. I wish that there was a way that the way we look wasn’t even a factor in how we view ourselves, because for the most part, we all have positive attributes that we often forget about. Think about who you are, not what you look like, but who you truly are, and write it down. That way, when you are feeling down because of what you look like, you can be reminded of what actually matters.

Keep in mind that they way that we view ourselves probably isn’t how the rest of the world views us. We have a tendency as human beings to exaggerate things, and I would like to think that we exaggerate our insecurities. When you constantly focus on something, it becomes easier to blow that thing way out of proportion.

Just remember this, who you are is not what you look like. If you have a beautiful soul, than that is beauty in its purest form.