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.”

titanic

a girl
just as lost as I was,
reached out with
a perfectly manicured hand.
queen captain of the new Titanic,
weathering a storm you
could never know
(not even in your worst nightmares).
the lies of boys brought us together
brought us to a three-hour phone
conversation before we even knew
who we were.
that’s not how us damaged girls are
supposed to act, but
even then we knew where
our blood was best directed.
a girl,
with more beauty and soul than
you could ever understand
(or would deserve).
they should be the ones eating our pain
digesting it whole and
letting it fester in their rotten guts
but that
is not how life works, so on
and on we will go.
she does not need to prove anything
to you, but look how she
glimmers in the light as
a pearl
even when you try to cast your shadow.
fuck you,
we live.

sick

sick
sick
sick
for years, I couldn’t even type that word
let alone say vomit out loud
I trawled endless forums
full of people like me
so terrified of the power of it
that they replaced the latter half of the word
with an asterisk.
v*
like Voldemort
the bodily function that must not be named
vomit is not my fucking problem
fear is my fucking problem
and still now,
fifteen years after I hid in the living room
behind the itchy green sofa
listening to you moan as
mother and sister heaved you up
out of a stinking pool of chemo-puke
the smell permeating through the wall,
I am still sitting and fucking shivering
at the mention of a stomach ache
fear is my fucking problem
I don’t want to let it steal
any more hours from my life
I don’t want to spend hours cycling
through every single thing I’ve touched in
the last forty-eight hours
I don’t want to lie awake with
poisonous adrenaline pumping through my blood
I don’t want to.
I don’t want to.
vomit is not my fucking problem
fear is my fucking problem
I don’t want to lie awake
convincing myself that my
obsessive handwashing will save me
I don’t want to
explain to him why I stay up for hours
paralysed with fear
I don’t want to
explain to him that there have been times
I thought I’d rather die
than spend a minute with my head in a toilet
I don’t want to anymore
I don’t
fucking want to.
vomit is not my fucking problem
fear is my fucking problem
and I don’t want it
anymore.

prince

I used to think he was a prince,
and I wrote about him with diamonds
flowing from my pen.

I stared at him in wide eyed
wonder whilst he slept
in my bed, and I so wanted to
plant myself in his soil
and grow my smothering bindweed
around him.

I let the waves of
obsession and lust
wash over my heart,

and oh,
those waves were so
lovely for a time

(until they came crashing down
and I screamed for three
whole hours when I realised
he did not plan on falling in
love with me).

then he was gone and
I was powerless and
angry and consumed by
my need for his
royal validation.

“I hate you!
come back,”
I whispered into our letters,

and my pen flowed
not with diamonds but
poisoned well-water.

then time passed
and I grew and
flowered and blossomed and
shed my buds and became
an oak.

and
when he came back
(because that is what
always seems to happen),

he wasn’t a prince and
his hair wasn’t spun gold anymore.
he was just a man.

I wasn’t his arrow
and my burns had healed

no longer so susceptible to
drops of water and kisses.

I revelled in our connection
and nothing more.
I looked at him and he at me.

uncomplicated and free
and true in our humanity and our
normalcy and our faultery
and our fuck ups.

maybe now that I am a tree
and not a twining unwanted stem
I can be like this
and feel joy for its simplicity
instead of dissecting its
fragile meaning.

or maybe I will muse and see
that my desire for his turrets and towers
ebbs away with the moonlight
trickling down my thighs as
the lap of the warmest tide
goes out. 

we shall see, little prince.

trip

six months of an acid trip
life is full of revelations now
little epiphanies woven in
to my days
threads so glittering wind
through the halls and
stairwells, turning
cobwebs and dust into
pretty paper chains

“girl,” he says
looking up from the ground floor
“why are you always so
guilty?
let go of that conscience, girl”

I say fuck
I always had the words to
describe myself but
I placed them on the page like
newspaper cutouts
a ransom letter to myself
I never glued them
down, so they blew away
into the wind
and I shut my windows hoping for
sense

I sink into my trip
but I’m not in a daze anymore
not a passive witness
not a powerless princess by
the closed window willing
my hair to grow a little longer
this trip is mine now
I embrace the others
that join me
and kiss the ones that
leave me to soar

and I don’t feel
a stitch of remorse
or pain
or shame
not anymore, girl