My colleague Tiffany McLain is the resident advice columnist for the SF Weekly, and in her recent column addressed a mother's concern over her daughter's tattoos. The daughter had a history of cutting, and though in recovery from self-harm, was now beginning to get tattoos.
The mother wondered to Tiffany, "Should I be worried?"
Tiffany asked me for my perspective on tattoos as self-harm, and I wrote,
While I don't know this daughter's full story, or what she herself would make of her tattoos, I can say that tattoos can have so many meanings, and those meanings can shift over time. Tattoos can be a remarkable way of making peace with a body that has long felt to be at war.
I met a woman recently with a tattoo of a semicolon, to represent healing from suicide and self injury. The semicolon reminds her that her pain is not an ending; it is a pause in a longer sentence that she will continue to write.
If you're interested in learning more about tattoos and women, I recommend the beautiful book, "Bodies of Subversion," because of its gorgeous photographs, historical details, and feminist lens.
If you are feeling suicidal or having thoughts of harming yourself, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255. I cannot provide advice or help in a crisis unless you are a current patient of mine, so please reach out to someone you trust or go to your nearest emergency room or crisis center. Also, please read this first.