According to Facebook, six years ago today was the day I got my first tattoo, on the inside of my right forearm:
I’d wanted a tattoo for as long as I could remember, and this symbol in particular since high school, and in a mid-semester fit of mania, decided to go for it my second-to-last semester of college. I went to someone a former roommate had recommended. It took about 45 minutes, and by the time I left I was shaking, slightly queasy, and not sure I’d ever be able to do it again. Twenty-four hours later, I couldn’t stop thinking about getting more.
I didn’t tell my parents ahead of time that I was getting a tattoo. I didn’t really have a plan for how that would go down. As it turned out, my mother called me as I was driving home from the appointment. She asked what I’d been up to that afternoon. I figured then was as good a time as any, so I told her. There was a long pause. “I don’t know how you expected me to respond to that,” she finally answered. “Neither do I,” was all I could come up with in response.
There are a lot of opinions on the internet regarding what the triquetra, or trinity knot, symbolizes. The idea that it could symbolize the Christian Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit softened the blow a bit to disapproving family members. The meaning that stuck with me, though, was the idea of the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit. I had finally been diagnosed as bipolar about a year before, and had spent a lot of time since then learning how to ride the waves of mania and depression, which often left me feeling pretty fractured. The knot on my arm served as a reminder that I was a complete person, even when my brain felt like it wanted to jump ship.
It was about a year after getting this tattoo that I started exploring the idea that I might not be a cisgender woman after all, and the idea of wholeness started becoming even more important as I started to consciously wrestle with dysphoria on top of the dysmorphia I’d struggled with most of my life.
I am not defined by any one part of my being, but by my interpretation of the interconnected whole. And regardless of what the darker parts of my brain or the crueller parts of the world might try to tell me, I am whole. Yes, there are times when parts of me need healing, but at my core, I am not a broken thing in need of rescue and resuscitation.
So today, amidst feeling a little frazzled and anxious about the weeks ahead, I’m going to take a minute or two to pause and appreciate the reminder that past-me had permanently written into my skin.