Sunday, 22 July 2018

How my tattoos helped me embrace my body

Well hi there! Are you sitting comfortably? I promise I am not going to start an intense hypnosis, but rather a tale. A tale about embracing what one may deem my 'problem areas,' specifically, how my tattoos have aided me to do so. 

As a larger girl, I have areas of my body that I am uncomfortable with and do not feel the happy showing. One such area is my arms. I remember always googling "how to reduce fat on arms," "how to tone arms" because no matter how much weight I lost, I always had blobby arms. Add to this I am a skin picker/ex-self-harmer. That means that I pick, scratch, and itch my arms to the point where they bleed or end up bright red and blotchy. Throughout my teenage years, I would never show my arms, especially the tops of my arms because I have stretch marks as well as many scars. This meant I was always quite warm but if I did have to show my arms, I truly hated it. I would often have cardigans or jumpers handy- yes even in the summertime. 

Around November last year, I finally got help for mental health and that meant tackling my BDD and my self-harming. It also meant that I let my arms heal, so while they were no bleeding, they were still very red, scarred and a part of my body I was embarrassed by. Around the beginning of this year, I booked in to get my first tattoo on my left arm, a pair of Luna Lovegood glasses done by the incredible Keely Rutherford. Now as a lover of tattoos, this was my first visible piece after the couple I got when I graduated.

Getting my Luna glasses not only helped me have a piece of beautiful art on my body, but it started to build my confidence in showing my arms to people. (You have a tattoo people will want to see it.) My Luna glasses sit just above my elbow, so it was a start, but I knew I wanted to go further. Around April I booked in to get tattooed by another amazing artist Chris Perchard, to continue my half sleeve up the back of my arm, on my shoulder and shoulder blade. This was terrifying to me, not because of the pain, but because I knew I had stretch marks, discoloration, and just general fat. 

Often photos of tattoo models are slender women with toned limbs whose tattoos sit perfectly on. I have heard horror stories of artists refusing to tattoo larger women and being the anxious fucker, I am, of course, I imagined meeting a similar fate. The weeks leading up to the appointment, I read article after article about large women with tattoos, and women who used tattoos to embrace their bodies. I realised I could be fat, I could be inked and most importantly, I could be beautiful and worthy. 

The day of my appointment, I obviously went in with a false bravado but inside I was slightly terrified. The terror was partly because of the pain (which was as bad as imagined) but also having someone deal with my blotchy skin and stretch marks. 

I could not have been more wrong.

My artist, Chris, was amazing, he laid out the stencil of my tattoo piece by piece, so it flows over my arm, shoulder and back very smoothly. He is an amazing artist, so the piece is stunning, and I could not have asked for a better person to start my sleeve. Added to that, the entire studio is full of just wonderful people who make you feel so comfortable and so at ease. If you are in the Kingston/Surry area, I really recommend visiting True Tattoo. I had two sessions for my tattoo and both times (bar the pain) the experience was glorious. I have stunning peonies, as they are my favourite flowers, a gorgeous sunflower, as I am a positive bee who turns to the sun, and tiny belladonna flowers, a little nod to my burlesque days. 

So back to how this tattoo has helped me. First and foremost, it covers up my scarring and stretch marks but it has also made a part of my body I hated become my favourite part. I love wearing short sleeve outfits now and showing off my arm, I love when my friends compliment it (strangers not so much but that is down to my own anxiety.) I finally feel like I have reclaimed my arms and made them stunning. They are covered in gorgeous artwork and eventually, I will start on the other arm and add to this sleeve. 

I know tattoos are not for everyone, and my opinions are mine alone. I know that some people think that you may regret them as you get older, and yes, they will change as my body changes but for me, I have always loved and wanted tattoos. Knowing they have also helped me feel comfortable in my skin again just adds to that. I want to be surrounded by colour and light and being tattooed has helped me do that. 

Articles mentioned:

Belle is the editor behind The Hairy Potato; she describes herself as a Pinup Potato and proud Intersectional Feminist. Although by day she works in social media, her passions include writing, reading and finding fashion that will make her stand out. Rarely seen without her red lipstick, this mid-century maven is always ready for a debate with a glass of whiskey and a slice of pizza!

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