Stories painted on skin, “I am enough”

Melissa Dodsonmel_tattoo

~For My Mother, Irene

I’ve always wanted a tattoo. For as long as I can remember. I love the creative and emotional expression of them. I love the permanency of them. Especially when so many things in life are constantly changing, spinning out of control.

All those years of wanting a tattoo, but never getting one. I’m Jewish. And according to Jewish law, you don’t get tattooed. You know, the whole ashes ashes, dust to dust thing. My mom liked to remind me of this. Often. Her biggest argument being that I wouldn’t be able to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Well, I kind of gave up on that whole idea when I went and married a Catholic. But still, Mom let me know she was not in favor.

Mom was against a lot of the things I did. Or didn’t do. The high school (not so) sweetheart that she hated. The dropping out of school, and not finishing, and not getting a degree. My track record shows more things that I rebelled against, then it does those that I conformed to. And in most of those cases, turns out she was right.

Once, I got really daring and got my belly button pierced (hey, it’s all relative). It wasn’t a hit, but it wasn’t a cardinal sin either. It wasn’t permanent. It wasn’t ink under flesh, stained for eternity. It was a little whole in my belly. And it didn’t last too long, anyway. When I got pregnant and started showing I took it out for fear of the holes stretching too much. Much to the appreciation of Mom, as well as my conservative husband.

Fast forward 20 years. I’m 40. Mom’s 70. She’s just died. I’m shell-shocked. It doesn’t sink in, that she’s dead. Instead, all that keeps running through my mind is that now I can get a tattoo. It’s easier to think about getting tattooed then it is to think about my mom being dead. I’m hovering in this weightless plane. Numb. Unable to process her death. I want to feel something. I think about tiny needles pricking my skin. I can feel those. I’m free to get inked without the fear of letting her down. Of disappointing her. Free to do what ever the fuck I want for myself. Without her judgement. Without her guilt trip. Free to rebel and live with the consequences. Because, fuck her. She’s fucking dead. I can’t touch her anymore. But a tattoo, I can see it and touch it. It won’t disappear into thin air. It will stay with me. On me. In me. Part of me.

She’s dead, and I’m 42 and I still want a tattoo. I’ve never not wanted one. It wasn’t a passing phase in my carefree rebellious youth. I’m past that. The truth is that I really do like them. A well placed, well executed tattoo can be pretty damn badass, and sometimes even hot as hell. They have meaning. Symbolism. History. Reminders. Stories painted on skin.

She died. I live. I don’t need her permission anymore. I don’t need to be afraid, or rebel or give a shit what she’ll think or say. She’s dead. And so I got inked. A story painted on my skin. A story for her. A story for me. A symbol. A history. A reminder. A reminder of my Jewishness. A reminder of her. A reminder of who I was and who I am now. Permanency in a constantly changing world. A world where mothers die of cancer, way too early. A world where little girls are afraid to be themselves, living under a shadow. A world where now the shadow is lifted and I’m finding the me I’ve always wanted to be. This me who has only always wanted to wear ink. A painted story on my skin. Permanently.

A stack of books. Three books. Two closed. One open. Her story ended. My story ended, the part of me that died with her. A new story begun, the motherless daughter who remains. The word ‘Dayenu’, in Hebrew. The song Dayenu, her favorite song during the Passover seder. Translated, it means ‘I am enough’. I am enough. I. Am. Enough.

It’s been almost 6 months since I got the tattoo. Everyday, I miss my mom more and more. Everyday, I love my tattoo more and more. It’s not going anywhere. And every time I look at it, I have to lay my hand on it. On my forearm. Where I feel her and I hear her. Our story painted on my skin.


“If heaven wasn’t so far away”

Trina PalmerTrina Palmer
~for my dad

I got my tattoo in memory of my dad. My favorite song is “If heaven wasn’t so far away”  and since all the words in the song describe my feelings to a tee, I chose the title for my tattoo. The fishing hook represents something my dad loved to do; fish. So I wanted to combine the two and my tattoo artist came up with this design which is on my inner arm above my wrist.

I can say that today I am proud to be alive.

Jenna Friedman

~I am a warriorimage

I got my tattoo May 8, 2015 for my 18th birthday. I never thought I would ever make it to be 18 years old. This tattoo is so incredibly meaningful to me. I have struggled with chronic depression, anorexia, and social anxiety since I was 11 years old.

I am now 18 and have been in recovery for my eating disorder for two years. Struggling with an eating disorder and chronic depression, and social anxiety; the past eight years have been a huge struggle. I have had many unsuccessful suicide attempts. My junior year of high school is when my eating disorder hit me really hard. I got to my lowest weight of 102 pounds. I could barely get out bed because I had no energy and had lost all motivation. I just didn’t want to be here anymore. My eating disorder had taken the best of me. I was taunted by my distorted body image, and my suicidal thoughts. I just didn’t see it getting any better.

I can say that today I am proud to be alive. Although I’m still in recovery for my eating disorder and still constantly struggle with my depression, I have learned better coping skills to help me get through the hardest of times. November 26, 2015 will be one year since I last self harmed. The tattoo is placed on my left arm where I would always take the blade to punish myself for never being good enough. As of today, I know that I am good enough. I know that a number does not define who I am nor my self worth. I am me and on the road to learning to love myself. I am now a warrior.

“Sometimes life throws you challenges that are difficult to over come but you have to keep going because trust me, it feels great to win.” ~Christie Hanovinikian


For The “LOVE” of the Game and Family

Victoria Martinez

For the “love” of my parents20150430_180749-11

This tattoo is on my forearm. My mom and dad were avid tennis players and they introduced my brother and I to the game when we were very young. We all competed in tournaments and my most treasured memory was playing against my mom and dad in a mixed doubles championship tournament at the park we always played at. We were at center court and all of our friends were among the many cheering us all on. My mom would apologize before slamming the ball at me. It was a day I will never forget. As my parents got older and my mom had gotten MS, she would always drag my dad out in the morning to play. She couldn’t really run anymore so she would yell at him about never giving her any breaks but he would continue to just hit the ball in her reach. Dad always had to have a shovel or broom in the trunk cause mom would make him get out there and shovel the snow, or sweep the rain off the court. My dad always jokingly said if he knew he would have to get up early every morning to play tennis, he wouldn’t have retired. For this reason I felt it only appropriate that I put a tennis racket with DAD and a rose wrapped around the racket, since he was the stronger player, and Mom with a heart for the “o” since she had my heart.

Tattered from my many surgeries, this tattoo is the story of my metamorphosis.

FullSizeRenderDena Mendes

~Fighting back …beautifully

My tattoo, which is tattered from my many surgeries, is on my mastectomy breast. I felt like anyone could have a nipple and areola but not everyone gets a butterfly. And not everyone gets the chance to have a beautiful, health awakening metamorphosis like I have had through breast, bone, lung and brain cancer. After my 15 year journey of kicking cancer’s ass, my book, A Survivors Guide to Kicking Cancers Ass! was published by Hay House is where I can now be of service as I help others to realize their health awaking opportunities and offer kick ass tools for optimal health!

Health and Light

A permanent, visible marker of the connection between ALL of my children and myself…

Michelle Hill
~for ALL of my children

Like so many others, I never thought I would get a tattoo. When my seventeen year old son, Marcus, died by suicide on June 12, 2014, I felt very strongly that I needed a permanent, visible marker of the connection between my children and myself. I told the tattoo artist I wanted the word “always” with three hearts; one for each of my children. In addition to my son, Marcus, I have a nineteen-year-old son, Alec and a fifteen-year old daughter, Abby. I wanted Marcus’ heart to have Angel’s wings around it and had it done on the top of my foot so I could see it …and because I didn’t want it sagging when I get old. Now I will always have a beautiful reason to talk to people about my kids and to keep Marcus’ memory alive.

A Reminder Always…

Jaqueline Branch Submission
Jacqueline Branch
~for my son, Kyle

My 30 year old son, My second born son, Kyle, at the age of 30, completed suicide in his apartment in New York City on June 19, 2014.  He was a Senior Network Engineer at a well know Univercity. Having overcome a learning disability, he earned his degree and finally landed the job in NYC.  He had accumulated a lot of college debt so this job put an end to the constant worry about paying back the loans.

After ending a relationship, he started having panic attacks and completed suicide.

The butterflies are flying through the ribbon and breaking it, signifying the act of suicide in the middle of Kyle’s date of birth.  I wanted to get it on my foot so I can always see it; a reminder of how many young people choose suicide. Today, one every 44 seconds.

Copyright © behind-the-ink, Nancy Perlson