significance

today, I got a whole bunch of ink injected into my left arm. because I am an adult and can spend money on WHATEVER I WANT (spoiler: what I want is rollerblades, tattoos, and platform shoes. I’d also like a mortgage or a car one day, but I’m only a millennial, what the fuck do I know). whilst getting a tattoo might seem like quite a run-of-the-mill activity for the everyday goth, this was such a significant event for me.

I began self-harming around eleven years ago. what started as a foolish copycat activity to fit in to a subculture became a desperate coping mechanism for much of my adolescent and adult life. I dealt with a lot of pain and sadness growing up that left me emotionally scarred and vulnerable. I adopted many destructive coping mechanisms to survive this pain, one of them being self-harm.

physical pain allowed me a release from the intense, swirling powerlessness I continued to feel on a daily basis into my twenties – sometimes it was in response to real, horrible situations (the suicide of a friend; sexual assault; impossibly painful relationships) and sometimes it was in response to my own overwhelmingly powerful negative feelings about myself. it most likely sounds completely warped to those who’ve never had the inclination to deal with intense emotional pain by digging sharp things into their skin*, but self-harm became a safe expression for me. a blunting tool for my suffering that ensured I didn’t hurt anyone I cared about with my blind rage; that I didn’t give in to abusing drugs and alcohol; that I didn’t make any rash decisions based on horrendous panic attacks triggered by childhood trauma. the “only” person it hurt was me, and as I literally did not care for myself in any way, I continued to use it to cope on and off until 2016.

*have you ever punched a wall whilst angry? said awful things to someone when heartbroken? felt like tearing your hair out when frustrated? gone out on a drink and coke binge after a really difficult day at work in order to ignore your pervasive ennui? then yeah… you’ve either self-harmed or at least thought about it. sorry bro.

whist 29th february 2016 is the official “end date”, I had been abstinent for two years prior to this, but I never really lost the urge to express my emotional pain physically; I just got better at ignoring it. up until that day, I still (and bear with me, because I know this sounds fucked up) dreamt of slicing open my arms and legs with razors any time I felt “unacceptable emotions” like anger, guilt, shame, sadness, depression, grief, disgust, self-loathing, et cetera, ad infinitum. it was 2016 that marked the final occasion I actually engaged with that dream, and it was during this final occasion – a single cut to my left arm – that I smashed headfirst and rudely into reality and felt the true horror of what I had done to myself. it was 2016 that I said no moreno more, not ever. 

I became interested in tattoo art at the age of about fourteen, probably. I drew pages of tattoo ideas in my journal and wrote long, excessively complicated lists about the anime characters and cradle of filth lyrics I was going to have indelibly inked onto my skin as soon as I turned eighteen. thankfully I grew up (a bit) and have since acquired several beautiful pieces. I was always desperate to have my forearms done (prime tattoo real-estate) but one reason stuck in my mind every time an artist suggested placing a design on one of them.

I was absolutely terrified of losing the space where I inflicted injuries upon myself. most people can probably relate to the feeling of losing something important – imagine the child when they start realising they’ve lost their mother in the shopping centre. what is your safe place when you feel the worst that human emotion has to offer? perhaps it’s a parent, a grandparent, a peer. perhaps it’s drugs and alcohol. or perhaps an activity – say you play an instrument, or a sport. either way, this safe place is everything to you; it provides you release, focus, a way of feeling good; a distraction from your sadness, or your anger, or your heartbreak. perhaps, in dire times, it is the only way of feeling even moderately sane. a failsafe red-button. imagine the idea of never being able to access this, or similar, activities ever again. add to this a sense that awful, fucked-up things are just hovering round the corner from you at all times.

this was how I viewed my self-harming; the only way I could escape from torment. since the age of around seventeen my self-harm was infrequent, but I was still so attached to it. I felt, desperately, like I needed it. maybe not right this second; but at some point, in the near future, bad things, terrible things were going to happen, and what would I do to cope with those bad things if I didn’t have my trusty left arm?

I avoided any tattoos on my left arm specifically for this reason. but after my revelations last year – my commitment to actually fucking liking myself, to enjoying life, to properly working through my traumatic past so I could heal and be free of the broken child inside my heart and mind – I decided it was time for me to make a symbolic commitment to myself and my healing.

so yeah, I got my arm tattooed today. when placing the designs on my arm, I remarked to the artist that I wanted some more coverage over the scars. she adjusted the stencils, and then remarked that she thought I should leave some of the scars visible. I was a bit puzzled, and asked “how come?”. she paused and looked at me.

“so that you never forget how far you’ve come.”

sky

it hurts to look up to the sky
into that deep
perfect infinite blue of the universe
why do my eyes ache in the light?
I wait for an answer,
and turn towards it anyway.
the power of victim is strong
and sticky,
but I know
as the sun wrings tears from my eyes
that it is not more than the
power of truth.
the power of perfect is strong
and incorrect.
a vision of material attainment
burns holes in my soul –
and that is just,
despite the child’s protestations of
need and want and why.
new beliefs are delicate like
virgin shoots from the ground
and the galaxy eyes of newborns.
and samely, bring the deep
joy of reality.
I am still healing,
still connecting to the gratitude strand
that ties the experiences of cruelty together.
without loss
I could not be me
and the time that I screamed against
all that I was
is over.
into the stars, or the sky, or the eyes of
newborns, the fresh shoots of spring
or the dying leaves of winter;
I allow the ache in my eyes,
and I live.

float

I know. I know
it feels so unavoidable after
all the things that have cruelly
unjustly happened to you
I know. I know
that it is so unfair how
you have suffered and trialled
and how it seems impossible
not to stand in front of the mirror
and cry at the girl there,
imperfect and scarred and
lost
I know. I know
how it feels to want nothing
how it feels for dreams to exist as
nothing but a dull black hum
how sleep is the only thing
that takes the edge off of your
jagged existence
but I know. I know
that misanthropy is not forever
it does not have to be your way
the purity of living is here
for you and you
do not have to drown yourself out
of being
you are bigger than the
sum of your tragedies
come to the healing pool
expect pain in every
new place you go
float on its salt waters
and throw your heart into life
again
because you know. you know
that whatever you have to fear
is not worse than
isolation and hatred.
survive, darling
I promise
you will love
your life again.

blonde

little child, blonde
eyes blue as welsh waterfalls
it is not your fault
that you were hurt
it is not your fault
that you found things hard
little boy, blonde
with clouds in one eye
they told you that you
were not innocent
you were bad
and well
you need to know
that a few broken toys
stitches in the lip and
scribbles on the wall
were not
deserving of beatings
on school mornings
you need to know
that when you cry
you do not need to be ashamed
that when you cried
because you were hurt
that it was valid
you did not deserve
to be punished
for things you
could not control
little child, blonde
showing off your missing teeth
I wish I could hold you
now and whisper strength
into your young ears

star part II

read part I here

I wrote once
a little while ago about
a burning hot star that
scalded my palms and
blinded my eyes
I wondered why I was
so paralysed by its beauty
and so afraid of its power
I plunged my hands into it then,
not knowing how to harness its purity
I gilded my fingers silver
and skinned them to the bone

stars are all white gold
and full of dreams
but they don’t travel through galaxies
and now that I understand how to
work my telescope,
instead of staring into the light
with bare-eyed fascination
I can see that the star, so far from
my breathing earth
is burning itself into static death
going out in a blaze of beauty
that will suck the life out of every
little thing around it

I look away from the endless sky
and down at my feet, tempered in their
little leather boots
and see the leaves swilling around them
I see the pearls of dew drops glisten
and grass growing through cracks in the pavement
a sparked single match lights a
wood fire somewhere to my left
and I realise that a burnt-out sun
a thousand light years away
could never warm my healing hands
could never captivate and delight my eye
the way my left-hand fire could

permission

for a long time I
chose to be
your victim
all torn up with
sorrow and disgust
making you all evil
all wrong
and myself
so weak
it was so much easier
to absolve myself of
thorny responsibility
this way

now
that victimhood belongs
to you
not me
not anymore
I survived your
long con
and your violence
and I will
not allow your
actions to scar me
any more
because you
are lower than shit
not evil
no, because that
would relinquish you
from the permanence of
who you are
in your humanity
and
the choices you made
in your selfishness

the reasons why I
allowed you to
exist within me
mean nothing at all
not now
not anymore
my pain
does not matter
not anymore
because I
have given it
permission to leave
forever