Ink As Therapy

Right on schedule, the Saniderm was ready to come off of my new tattoo and it has now entered the peeling phase, which will last about another week or so. From there I’ll have a finished tattoo that’s ready to show off.

Alas, as any ink enthusiast, ideas have already been swirling in my head for my next one and I think I have a rough concept of what I’ll be getting next. I’ll need to play around with certain design elements but as a matter of “balance” I’ll likely choose placement on the other side in the same spot (since I am all about balance and symmetry – it’s the mathematician/engineer in me). The only one I’ve not yet balanced out is my rib panel but I’m in absolutely no hurry to have my other ribs tattooed – that was a pain unlike anything I’d ever felt before.

Anyway, I digress. Obviously I’ve done the whole gamut for “therapy” – some of it forced upon me by those who also forced existence upon me, some of it voluntarily. I’ve done the whole counseling, behavioral modification and even antidepressant/antipsychotic medications. Nothing ever worked. Nothing was able to quiet my tortured mind. I guess that’s a challenging element of autism – it seems a lot of traditional treatment methods don’t work on us. Maybe this further signifies that autism should not be classified as an illness or disorder? That’s something to chew on for a later time.

Back to the topic at hand. Ink as therapy. Tattoo enthusiasts throw around the term “ink therapy” all the time. Alas, as weird as it sounds, there might be some truth to that statement. As I’ve eluded to it in previous posts, but for me, being in the hot seat is when I’m most at peace. For me, when Jade is working her magic on my human canvas is the only time my mind is ever “quiet” as it were. All the rest of the time it’s racing, typical of those in my tribe. I even have trouble sleeping due to it. Sleep? Hah, what the fuck is that?

With as much negative stigma as there still is around tattoos, the benefits I’ve reaped from my favorite hobby have been incredible. I feel like my overall pain tolerance has improved (day-to-day bumps and scrapes aren’t as bothersome to me as they used to be) and maybe I’ve even gotten an immune boost because I don’t get sick like I used to. There are studies suggesting such too.

In that light, ink has been the one thing that has been able to do what counseling, drugs, etc. were all unable to do. It centers me. It’s meditative. It makes me feel “good.” Shit, as they seem to be the only form of “treatment” that works for me it seems to me my health insurance should fucking pay for my ink. It’s better “medicine” than any of the poison that criminal enterprise known as Big Pharma peddles as such.

I’ve found something that works for me, so at the very least that should be respected and tolerated. Whether or not you even like my tattoos is of no never mind to me (art is subjective after all – a masterpiece to person A could be butt-ugly to person B) as I’ve now transcended past tattoos solely for meaning to the point of just getting them because they look cool and feel good. Call that hedonistic as it were, I admit it is. I’m not hurting myself or anyone else in the process so I fail to see where that’s a problem.

Stay cool and ink it up!

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Tattoo Withdrawals…

Yes, it’s a real thing. It’s been four months since my last tattoo session and I’m going absolutely crazy here. I so long to smell the sterile chemical smell, hear the electrical buzz of tattoo machines and feel the sting of needles as they are guided by the skilled hands of an artist injecting tiny drops of ink into my dermis and creating beautiful art.

Say what you will, but getting a tattoo for me is one of the times I’m most at peace. It’s almost meditative. They don’t call it “ink therapy” for nothing – I’ve never found any mode of therapy (be it antidepressants, counseling, etc.) as effective as a tattoo session. I always leave a session feeling refreshed, relaxed and ready to take on the world again. During stressful times like these, I long to feel that again more than ever. If I could get a new tattoo every day I’d probably function a lot better mentally because it is so therapeutic, but seeing as how we each only have a limited amount of canvas and tattoos are really fucking expensive, well that’s not really an option.

So right now I’m designing two more ideas to be inked onto me in the fairly near future – one addition and one cover-up. The first one will be an addition – as cool as my Pisces tattoo is it is kind of plain and could really benefit from a background. Jada (my local artist) says she has a totally awesome idea and will be sharing it with me this week so I’m totally excited to see what she comes up with.

The next one after that will be a cover-up. As much as I have gone back and forth about covering up my semicolon tattoo almost ever since I got it, I’ve just decided I’ll be happier long-term if I just cover the thing and forget about it. It won’t be an internal battle if I move forward and just do it so it’s probably the best course of action. Given the religious affiliation with Project Semicolon and given that I am an atheist, there’s just something about it that’s never felt right so to speak. As such, I feel like I have a religious symbol on me that I really don’t want. I’ve got a great idea for a cover-up that I think would look great (a Celtic Knot type of design) but I just need to get an idea of sizing and OMFG is it going to hurt like a motherfucker (1. it’s on the wrist and 2. cover-ups/touchups/re-works hurt worse than new tattoos) so whereas I’m looking forward to having that thing gone I’m not looking forward to the totally intense pain and suffering that I will endure to have it covered. I will probably require the use of numbing products to get through that but you do what you have to, right?

Anyway, what do you think? Do any of my readers have cover-up tattoos and can you share your experiences with me? I’ve never had a cover-up done (I’ve not any other tattoo I wish to cover – I love all of mine except the semicolon) so that would be new territory for me. By all means, chime in with your experiences!

To Cure or Not to Cure

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the question. Ok, maybe not really, but this does bring up a rant for today. 

​I saw a picture earlier today that made me feel a little angry. Well strike that, more like a lot angry. I won’t show it here because just thinking about it makes me seethe in rage, but it said something to the effect of “We are autistic, but we don’t want to be cured because we are not sick.” 

Now, that statement seems harmless enough but what enrages me is the fact that it’s speaking in the plural, as though it were speaking for all of us on the autism spectrum. Quite frankly the statement does not speak for me in the slightest. I, for one, long for a cure and if a cure were to come along in my lifetime I would accept it. 

The reason for this is simple: autism is a disqualifying medical condition (it might not be a sickness in and of itself but it is a medical condition) for my dream job. The FAA has outright stated that those on the autism spectrum are not eligible for medical clearance to fly, be it general or special issuance. Given as such, barring a dramatic reversal in policy by the powers that be, the only way I can live my dream would be if I were to be cured, thus I would choose to be cured if in fact a cure were to become available. 

I will say, however, that I am sensitive to those who say otherwise and think their autism (or, quite frankly, any other mental or physical medical condition) are part of who they are and they wouldn’t be themselves if they were cured. As a staunch libertarian I will defend your right to accept or reject any treatment or cure you do not wish to receive. I don’t really give a fuck what you do with your life. It affects me not. You can rest assured that if the government tried to hold you down and force a treatment/cure down your throat and against your will I would be right there fighting for your rights. All I ask in return is that you not criticize me and those who feel the way I do. 

The point being here is don’t act like you speak for all of us. Either choice would be valid and should be made in context of a person’s personal and professional goals. For some of us, autism is a hindrance or an automatic bar to that. Some of might also not like the other bullshit that comes with being on the spectrum (also read: any other mental or physical handicap). You might not want to be cured, but I long for a cure and I should not be viewed negatively for such. 

I’m Making A Difference…

…I really am.

Earlier today I was at a local grocery store getting some beer. The young lady who was checking me out noticed my semicolon tattoo and asks “is your semicolon a tattoo?” and I’m like “yeah it is.” I asked her if she knew the symbolism and she said that yes she did. We then had a nice little exchange in which I asked if she had any tattoos to which she said no because her parents didn’t like them (I’m guessing she’s either underage or living at home while in college). I have a feeling she’s going to get one in the near future though. 😛

Nonetheless, it does show what an impact my ink has had on others. This is not the first time I have been asked about it either. Another example came earlier this week while in a meeting and the guy sitting next to me noticed my puzzle piece. Come to find out he has a 9 year old son on the spectrum so we talked about that for awhile. It was a surreal experience.

There are a handful of other experiences I’ve had similar to these.

I had no idea when I began my inked journey six months ago that it would have such a reaching impact. When given the chance to tell my story I’ve had varying reactions from different people, including moving a couple to tears. It’s simply amazing.

Now, I don’t want to (as a person) be limited to just my ink as there are other facets of my life, but if breaks the ice for a conversation to potentially meet someone cool, I’m OK with it. I don’t mind sharing my story or the battles I’ve fought and overcome. My tattoos are ultimately colored scars representative of them, after all.

Rest assured, I will keep getting ink and I will keep telling my story for all those who want to hear it.

Ink Therapy: Legit or Bogus?

Have you ever heard that term? I know what you non-inked folk are thinking, namely “WTF?!?!?!?” How can getting tattooed be in any way therapeutic?

Well, believe it or not in a way getting a tattoo is just that. Of course, the experience varies from person to person, but tattoo enthusiasts almost universally agree that tattooing is one of the best modes of therapy around.

For me, the tattoo process is both an upper and a downer all at the same time. The anticipation before the session gets the adrenaline pumping and then you get underway and the endorphins kick in and it’s quite a hell of a rush. On the other hand, the pain involved really requires intense focus and as such it really centers me. In such a way it’s almost meditative. When I’m having ink slung on me I’m in my own little world, escaped from the horrors of reality and just focused on me. It’s one of the very few times I’m truly at peace.

Over the years I’ve tried a number of different therapies: counseling, drug therapy, among other things. For me, nothing, and I repeat NOTHING works as well as ink therapy. I just wish I had an unlimited amount of canvas and all the money to have all the ink I want. If I did, I’d be in the tattoo parlor every day. It’s one of the only times I have a state of Zen in my life. As the type of autistic whose head is constantly racing, the value of this Zen state cannot be overemphasized.

I also see tattooing as being a mode of harm reduction for self-injurers. The reasons people self-injure using the mode of their choice are the same reasons tattoo junkies get tattoos. Self-injury releases endorphins and adrenaline the same way getting a tattoo does. It’s done to induce physical pain in an attempt to lessen emotional pain. I know as soon as the needles pierce my skin I immediately feel emotionally better. You tell me what’s worse: getting pricked with single-use sterile needles or cutting with a potentially dirty razor blade? That’s what I thought.

As a final point, while writing this post I have been talking to a very good friend of mine who pointed out to me that some of the women in her life have gotten tattoos as a way to reclaim their bodies after abuse, assault or trauma, and that also makes total sense. Those who have endured abuse, assault or trauma have had their bodily autonomy violated and nothing expresses total bodily autonomy quite like a tattoo. When you get a tattoo, you’re saying “this is *MY* body and *I* will decorate how *I* see fit and I don’t give a fuck what you think!” Tattoos (and other body modifications for that matter) are about the most powerful statements of self-ownership.

In that light, perhaps “ink therapy” should eventually find its way into medical literature as a treatment option for those suffering from emotional/physical trauma, self-injury and depression or some other related mental illness. In a way, ink might possibly have saved my life. It returned some semblance of normalcy to my otherwise troubled existence, and for that reason I will be forever indebted to those who introduced me to the wonderful world of ink.

So yes, in my opinion ink therapy is absolutely legitimate and for many of us (myself included) it is an essential ingredient to a balanced life. It is as much an antidepressant for me as drug therapy (which does have its place I should say; don’t get me wrong – I will NEVER trash or question the value of antidepressant medications for those who need them). We all do what we need to cope, and if the sweet sting of a tattoo machine helps that, is it really a bad thing as long as it is done by a professional in a clean environment and with sterile equipment? After all, risk is very minimal when done in such a setting, provided proper aftercare is followed.