Tattoos as Therapy: What Mine Are & Why I Get Them

I’m terrified of needles and I’m very bad at committing to anything or ever making up my mind. I also have 14 tattoos and the only thing stopping me from getting more is money. Okay, and deciding where to put one next.

I got my first one when I was 18, and I’m going to be getting my 15th well before I turn 28 this year.

And my god if you had told me this when I was in high school I think I’d call you a liar. But now I can’t stop and I find that so amusing.

Along with having a lot of mostly visible tattoos, I get a lot of questions.

From strangers, from friends, from family who just don’t get it. I don’t ever feel like I have to answer, and most of the time I don’t mind. But most have two explanations — one that’s easy to say and has no questions that follow and then the real one.

I see tattoos as cathartic, it’s the best way to say it. There’s something very calming about getting something so permanent when everything else is so temporary. That sounds so cheesy, but it’s true.

The Dandelion

I got this when I was a day camp counsellor, still one of my favourite jobs I’ve ever had.

I went with friends to a studio in Barrie and it hurt, but not as much as the neck but the stem almost killed me. I remember that.

I got this one, that can now be seen on every meme about basic girl tattoos because I never want to forget the feeling of being a kid and making wishes on dandelions (which I still do sometimes when no one’s looking).

The Arrow

This was my first last-minute tattoo and okay 100% my most painful. Even though it’s so tiny. I wore a dress and didn’t know how to sit with it, and I went with my mom and sister in Waterloo. Jess got a tattoo, and mom got her nose pierced. Not a bad day for the Cail girls.

The whole analogy is supposed to be about how arrows have to move back before they move forward, or something like that.

The Seashell

I wish I was a mermaid, and the shop in Greektown had a wicked deal.

The Into the Wild Quote

My very first tattoo!

I went with dad and my aunt Cathy in Sault. Ste. Marie. And my god, it was so bad. It hurt so much bt the worst was (okay is) truly the worst part.

I didn’t bring music with me so instead I sang the only song I really knew off the top of my head under my breath — Bohemian Rhapsody. But the issue was that I totally forgot to breathe and we had to stop to give me apple juice and a sucker. Also I was on my period with stupid bad cramps and took ad Advil which thinned blood…oops.

I forget about this one all the time, but I love it so mych. It’s a quote from one of my favourite books (and movie) Into the Wild. It’s one of the last things that Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp writes in his journal. Which is a little morbid I guess.

I still believe in the quote: happiness only real when shared.

But I also think that now I understand that being happ on your own is important too.

The Quill

One of the two tattoos I got in St. Catherines with the girls I lived with!

I just love writing, and I got this when I found out I got into all the colleges I wanted to for journalism. Honestly I want all the writing tattoos I can handle, maybe a sleeve is in the future.

The Kryptonite

This is very much one that has two meanings.

The easy answer is that I love comics. I used to read them all the time at my cottage and my dad loves them too. I don’t know if it’s still true but Superman was his favourite.

The other answer is that everyone has a weakness, even the Man of Steel. I got this when I was in university, but at a shop in Barrie, as a very visible reminder that weaknesses are okay.

The Bumblebee

Bees are cool and we need to love them more. Also a nod to Milk & Honey. 

The Daisies

My favourite flowers, growing out of my grandparents’ birthstones.

This was my first coloured tattoo, done in Toronto, and I was terrified. But the artist was so sweet that it was totally fine.

To be fair, my grandparents aren’t huge fans of tattoos but even they don’t mine this one. Although I promised it would be my last, and that certainly wasn’t true.

The Light Bulb

Probably my hardest to show off, but I find that fitting.

It’s one half of a drawing from Milk & Honey, a book that means an awful lot to me.

“i do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
i want to be full on my own

i want to fill so complete
i could light a whole city
and then
i want to have you
cause the two of
us combined
could set
it on fire”

The Fleetwood Mac Quote

It’s a little tricky to read, but it says ‘dreams unwind, love’s a state of mind.”

Which, even though I would get literally every Fleetwood Mac lyric on me if I could, is one of my favourite lines. It’s the line that fades in the end of Rhinannon.

The Parents’ Writing

I have my dad’s writing that says ‘love,’ and then right below my mom’s writing that says ‘xxoo.’

The Drawing

Yes another drawing taken from Milk & Honey, seeing a trend here?

This one goes along with the quote:

“and here you are living
despite it all”

The Blue & Black Woman

This was another last minute booking, and happened to be my first hand-poked! Which I loved, but it was so strange.

You can hear the needle digging into the skin, very lightly, and it takes a looooong time but not much pain at all and I healed quite quickly!

If I wanted to get deep about this one, it reminds me of the whole ‘you grew through what you go through’ thing, but I just liked the blue and black together.

The Sun & The Moon

My cousin and I wanted matching tattoos for the longest time and this is what happened one Thanksgiving weekend at a shop in downtown Toronto.

I can’t even remember how it started, but she is the sun and I am the moon.

As I finish this post, I’ve already messaged an artist to chat about my next one.

And, besides the soothing kinda mental health aspect, man is it good for my body positivity. I love my body a lot more when I can have pretty things drawn on it, and it means a lot more when those drawings are going to last forever.

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