Tattoos are fun to design and beautiful to look at, but they can also serve as daily reminders of the words and images that inspire you to fight through your chronic pain. Inking a powerful quote, one of favorite fictional character, or a symbol of the disease itself onto your body is, for many people, a permanent homage to your strength in getting through your pain.
We asked our Mighty community with chronic pain to share their own tattoos they got to commemorate their resiliency and strategies for dealing with the pain. For these chronic pain warriors, the pain of getting the tattoo is worth the strength they derive from their ink.
Here’s what our community showed us:
1. “This is mine! It represents all rare diseases, in my case Ehlers-Danlos syndrome which can be very painful… The flowers represent ‘life.’ Even though it hurts, life has so many beautiful things for us.”
2. “Genesis 50:20 – ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.’ These two words help me get through each day. I believe God will use my situation for good. Somehow, someway.”
3. “Mandalas can be used for meditating and feeling tranquil. For me, this is a promise of self-acceptance and peace with my body despite the pain. I’m no longer allowing guilt and shame for things that aren’t my fault. It’s been a long journey and thats why my tattoo means so much to me.”
4. “I have this. It’s schoolboy Latin for, ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down.’ It’s taken from one of my favorite books (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’) but also a reminder to not let pain beat me!”
5. “‘Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.’ It desperately needs filling in, but of my 16 tattoos this one is my favorite inspirational ink.”
6. “This tattoo has several components that reference my struggles with mental illness and chronic pain. It has the semicolon (my life isn’t over yet) and the butterfly which to me means re-birth.”
7. “’Invictus’ means unconquered in Latin; it’s also the name of my favorite poem that I relate to very much with my battle with chronic pain.”
8. “’Per aspera ad astra’ – Latin for “through adversity to the stars.” I got this for my 16th birthday. It has inspired me as I deal with chronic pain (EDS), Tourette’s syndrome, migraines, depression and POTS.”
9. “I was burned with third-degree burns on 60 percent of my body 12 years ago and still deal with a frequent surgeries and nerve pain. I also have lupus which causes a ton of pain and other serious issues. For both, music is my main escape and helps me get through the pain and all the struggles that come with it… Since music has been so important in my journey I got tattoo of a heart with headphones and music notes. The heartbeat represents the music keeping me alive and the blood drop represents all the pain I’ve gone through and overcome.”
10. “I have a tattoo of a phoenix on my back to express the strength it takes to rise from your own ashes and to stay true to yourself. No matter how hard it is, you will always renew yourself, better, stronger and more beautiful than before. And even if other people only see what they choose to see (the good days etc), you know the pain and struggle it took (takes) to be so bright and strong.”
11. “I have chronic pain in both my shoulders/arms so I’ve gotten this back piece and half sleeves to show the slow painful process.”
12. “This is for my kidney disease. It’s based after a Tom Petty line, ‘You belong among the wildflowers.’ It’s my reminder that I am strong and beautiful and can grow wherever I am planted. My disease does not define me, I do.”
13. “This was my first tattoo. After suffering a life-threatening infection that took my mediport, I got this to symbolize my strength and ability to survive.”
14. “Helps me to remember to be positive, even when things are dark. The moth is purple to symbolize fibromyalgia. Tattoo by Christina ‘Charlie’ Petty.”
15. “Just keep swimming… until you learn to fly.”
16. “Two months after I’ve got diagnosed with Crohn’s, I went to get my first one. It represents infinite strength, and the birds mean you always have to go forward and fight. The anchor means ‘safe at home.’”
17. “Tigers show strength and I got this tiger tattoo so I can look at it every day to remind me how strong I am and how I will continue fighting all the issues I have with my spine (four spine surgeries in 16 months) and also all the long term effects I now have due to all the damage.”
18. “This mindfulness symbol is to remind me to calmly accept and acknowledge how I feel at the moment, without letting it overtake me, and to focus on my ‘dealing’ techniques.
The ‘breathe’ is in my husband’s handwriting, as he is always by my side to help with the kids and home when I am in pain, to keep my depression and anxiety at bay, and to just hold me and offer his shoulder. The semicolon is to say that that it’s not the end, that there’s more, and to keep pushing through.”
19. “My warrior arrow.”
20. “I have this because I want people to know they aren’t alone, and I think that can be the most important thing when you’re in pain.”
21. “The Red Tara, embodiment of fierce compassion. She’s a badass! Reminds me to be good to myself and that I’m tougher than I give myself credit for. She’s also holding a purple flower which you can’t really see in this pic which represents lupus and a handful of other autoimmune illnesses.”
Editor’s note: For questions or concerns regarding the effect getting a tattoo may have on your health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.
This study was published by The Mighty.