Tattoos: turning something I find ugly into something beautiful

Trigger warning: references to self-harm

Do you have any tattoos? If so, what meaning does the art have for you? People with BPD are often highly sensitive and empathetic, a raw nerve with no emotional skin. Tattoos are a visceral experience of having your physical skin transformed and strengthened with body art.

One of the positives of my mental health issues is that I am going to do what I wasn’t brave enough to do before: get several tattoos inked on my body. I’ve always been intrigued by the thought of getting a tattoo, but had been frightened by the permanency, and of finding artwork that would truly reflect me.

But now as part of my emotional healing process, I’m planning to transform physical scars from my mental health issues, something I find ugly, into something I find beautiful through body art. I have been inspired by breast cancer survivors who have transformed their mastectomies into gorgeous visual art.

Most people in my groups skills program for Dialectical Behavioural Therapy have tattoos. Many are artistic, beautiful souls, some like me have “historical architecture” from self-harming that forms the foundation of our body art.

My tattoos will be separate images, joined by vines. My thoughts are often vining over one another, and I feel this is a key image to capture who I am.

The images I have chosen capture light and dark shades of femininity, with one tattoo having direct references to my experiences (the artwork on this post will be inked on my lower back). This tattoo captures a girl whose thoughts are slowly coming over her and starting to consume her, but her light bulb moments, or her spark, still dangle precariously overhead. The picture represents a combination of both solitude and isolation, which has been part of my lived experience, along with the hope I feel to recover.

This image, along with all the images I will have inked on my body, are by Adelaide artist Joelie Moncrieff of Joelie Croser Art. When Joelie and I started planning my journey, she said that she likes art to be both whimsical and healing, and that she isn’t afraid of the scary and sad, in balance with the hopeful and beautiful.

For more of the artist’s work visit: Joelie Croser Art on facebook. She often draws art with deep emotive and mental feelings, such as the mental and physical challenges of endometriosis.


Published by Cherie

My name is Cherie, and I’m an Australian Occupational Therapy Student who hopes to help people with any condition that inhibits their ability to participate in valued occupations, tasks, activities, as I believe they’re an essential part of identity, happiness and health. My favourite occupation is hiking, which enables me to move past through the forest literally and metaphorically!

One thought on “Tattoos: turning something I find ugly into something beautiful

  1. I have tattoos. I have an angle hugging a cross on my right hip, a huge chrysanthemum on the left side of my body, and Bad Badtz Maru on my left butt cheek. The angel and the chrysanthemum have a deep meaning. I got them in memory of two of my best friends that passed away.I did each tattoo in one sitting. The shading hurts the worse. Each time, I want to grab the gun and throw it across the room and tell the tattoo artists, “Do you know how much this fucking hurts? You’re causing me so much pain.” It’s worth it though. I don’t have to worry about coming back and experiencing more pain. I’m planning on getting way more tattoos. My next one is going to be of a dragon and tiger in the yin and yang style. I already picked a place on my body where I want it. I’m just in search of an artist to draw it for me.

    I, too, thought about getting rid of my scars that I got from self-harming, but I realized they tell a story and reminds me of the pain and emotions I went through.


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