When you’re living with a mental illness, or even dealing with an addiction, a huge part of the healing process is learning to love yourself.
Between having bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and dealing with the situation with my stepfather at the time (I talked about this in a previous post), I was angry at myself because I couldn’t help my mom and couldn’t control my mind/emotions. This lead to me taking all of that out on my body. When I was about 16 I brought the idea of this tattoo to my therapist. When she asked me why I wanted it I told her it was because the only reason I hadn’t ended my life yet was because of the people in my family who love me. She responded with a question I never expected to hear, “you know they love you, but can you feel it?” She then explained that I couldn’t really feel that love because I didn’t really love me. I didn’t view myself as being even remotely deserving of love because, in all honesty, I hated myself. So she and I came to the agreement that I wouldn’t get this tattoo until the meaning changed to “I can love myself and because of that I can feel that I am loved.”
It wasn’t an easy journey. I had to first learn to respect myself (including standing up for myself when being wronged, recognizing that my needs and thoughts are important) then came liking myself and then finally loving myself. These were the steps because in order to love yourself you need be able to respect and like yourself first. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always like myself but I can always love myself. I’d be lying if I said I don’t still struggle with all of it, but I just have to keep reminding myself that I can love myself.
When I was 19 (about a year after becoming clean from self-harm) I finally got the tattoo and when the tattoo artist gave me a confused look when I said I wanted it to face me, I explained to him that the tattoo is a message for me and not for everybody else. I don’t mean this negatively towards anyone else I just meant that the tattoo had a special meaning, or message, for me.
It’s a constant reminder that because I can love me I can be loved by others. As I said, it’s a long and very difficult journey, but it is possible. Hopefully those of you who don’t like, or hate, yourselves can make it through that journey because whether you believe it or not, you deserve to be able to love you.