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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Tattoos and Addiction

All I want for my birthday is a new tattoo, new tattoo, new tattoo… Oh wait, that’s not how that song goes. Never mind.

So I’ve officially completed the 11th month of my 29th year on this planet (which is probably 29 years and 11 months too long on this planet truth be told) so the countdown starts to the big 3-0 (Will I really be 30 years old 28 days from now? Ugh, gag me with a spoon!). Of course, how does an ink junkie celebrate (well, if birthdays are even worth celebrating to begin with) his birthday but with some new body art? I’ve already got my artist drawing something kickass up for me around a general idea I shared with her and I just have a feeling what she comes up with will be out of this world (she’s always done great by me).

Which brings me to my topic for today: tattoo addiction. The question non-inked or minimally-inked folks always seem to ask is “why do people go back for more and more tattoos?” Well, I can only answer for myself obviously but the looming question seems to be if tattoos are really in fact addictive or if it’s just an excuse people use to decorate (or, in the view of a few conservative religious assholes, mutilate) their bodies?

Well obviously with tattoos you’re not dealing with anything physically addictive. That much is plainly obvious. There’s nothing in tattoo ink that could cause a physical addiction to a substance (at least not that anybody is aware of). However, there are other types of addictions rather than just to a physical substance. Take for example gambling. Gambling addiction is recognized as a legitimate addiction and there are prescribed treatments for it. Obviously there is nothing physically addictive about shitting your money off (or is there? who knows?) but there’s something about it that brings gambling addicts a certain level of satisfaction or a euphoria and thus they seek it out.

Tattoos are the same way. Now, again, I can’t answer for anyone else but myself but yes, I do personally crave the feeling of sitting in the hot seat. Ironically when I’m getting tattooed is when I’m most at peace. I usually refer to it as “ink therapy” actually. With my everyday hectic life, a shitty job with asshole coworkers and bosses and not really having much to look forward to in my life it’s that kind of inner peace is that I actively seek out. It’s a hard feeling to describe but the best way I know of to describe getting tattooed is a strange sort of meditation. You have the buzzing (coil) or rattling (rotary) noise of the machine sort of in the background that is soothing in a way (it really helps you zone out) and the impact of the needles on the skin obviously causes a certain level of discomfort (varies depending on location and your own pain tolerance) but it keeps coming so your body releases endorphins which are not only a rush but also soothing at the same time (strange I know). It really helps to center me for a few hours. Then when it’s all over you see the artwork at the end and hopefully it’s pure bliss (if, of course, you’ve reviewed the art and made sure it was to your liking).

I will say there’s nothing on this planet quite like it and every time I walk out of the studio I long to feel that again and I’m already thinking about my next tattoo. Sometimes I don’t figure out what I want for a considerable amount of time but the wheels are always turning. Of course, we only have a limited amount of canvas so you’ve got to pace yourself also but yes, I do experience withdrawals in a way. It’s been nearly six months since my last tattoo and I’m like going nuts.

So in conclusion, no, tattoos are not physically addictive but for some there’s a psychologically addictive part to them. When my mom asked what I want for my approaching birthday I responded, “The sweet sting of a tattoo machine reminding me that I’m still alive and suffering.” Well, it’s true. It’s the only thing that I can take the sting (pun intended) out of a day I otherwise wish I didn’t have (as if I didn’t have a birthday I wouldn’t have ever existed, which more often than not I do wish would have been the case).

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.