How a Tattoo Keeps Me Stable

Some of you will immediately recognize that this photo I posted here is the same as my Gravatar image I use on all my posts. Actually the Gravatar is the image I colored in and gave to the tattoo artist who put it on my arm in the picture above. It’s a two-headed Phoenix. It’s got two heads because I consider myself a Two Spirit person, a designation some Native peoples use to describe those of us who are gay and follow a Walks Between path, walking between man and woman, spirit and flesh, society and the individual. We’re mediators. But that’s not what this post is about.  (And I’m not a Native American but I use the term because it fits me.)

I got this tattoo sometime around 10 years ago when I was going thru a seriously unstable period in my life. I was doing something to myself that will seem abhorrent to many of you and incomprehensible at best I’m sure. I was cutting myself. That’s right. I was taking my Swiss army knife and I was cutting long strips into my arms and wrists. I had to let the poison out you see. I was in terrible psychic pain and I felt toxic and it felt like it was the only way I could get it out of me. It sounds crazy but it’s not as unusual as you might think. In fact it was an accepted medical practice well into the 1700’s and probably later but I just read about it so I know it was practiced then using a special instrument called a Flean, to use on people who had too much pressure in their systems, to relieve that pressure. That’s what I was doing. I had too much pressure.

I took some pictures of myself during those episodes and I eventually erased them because they were too painful for me to look at anymore. But I didn’t want to forget what I’d done to myself when I got better and so I decided to commemorate it with a tattoo. So I thought  about what I wanted and the Phoenix, which was a name I used for myself in certain communities came to mind. It’s the higher octave of the Scorpio, which is my birth sign and has been a symbol of regeneration and renewal for hundreds of years, rising from the ashes of its own destruction. It seemed fitting to me to use it for myself. And it’s worked. I look at that tattoo on my left wrist where I cut myself and remember what I went thru then.

Now when I feel the urge to do something to harm myself, which I still feel on many occasions, I just look at the tattoo and I remember what I did in one of my most extreme crises. I was clearly in a psychotic state at the time and it’s not an uncommon thing for people to do in that state, often when you’re Bipolar, tho not all people with BP do this of course. But it’s horrible and I only did it a few times. I can’t  imagine the people who do it all the time. It’s most common among young girls I understand and I’ve talked to some of them. They call it Self Harm these days. I’m not ashamed of myself, tho I do I regret that I have these scars on my arms now. I sometimes tell people I was pruning a particularly vicious shrub because I don’t really want to share the truth with just anyone.

So why am I telling you? Because I believe I’m probably not the only one on this site who has done this or something else to harm themselves in a way that has caused them such sorrow and they’ve given into the feeling that we somehow deserved what we did. Whether it was a suicide attempt or cutting or taking an overdose of pills just to see what it felt like to almost die, some of us have reached the limits of human endurance thru our own minds tricks and ploys. So I post this in support of all of us who have been to this place of utter emotional despair. It’s not a nice place to go but it’s possible to get over it and get thru it. And if we remember then we’re less likely to ever do it again. I never have and I never will, because I have help. And that help is a simple tattoo.

In Solidarity with those who suffer,

Steve