I’ve had a needle phobia for as long as I can remember, so if someone told me a few years ago that I would have tattoos, I would have burst out laughing. I got my first tattoo in May of 2017, six months after being diagnosed with clinical insomnia. Unlike most people, I didn’t make an Instagram or Facebook post announcing my new ink. In fact I really didn’t tell anyone besides my close friends, family, and boyfriend. Despite it being something that is now permanently apart of me, on my wrist for the world to see, I felt that it was almost too meaningful to share.
I had been struggling for months to keep myself together as my world seemingly fell apart around me. Everything I had once taken for granted, falling asleep like a normal person, eating whatever I wanted, and just the simple feeling of being “normal,” had been taken away from me in a matter of months. When I look back on my situation now, I can see that it was all a blessing in disguise; i’ve altered my life path, personality, and perspective on the world drastically for the better because of it, but of course there was no way of seeing this when I was in the heat of the moment.
I never really had a desire to get a tattoo prior to all of this, because I never felt that I had anything meaningful enough to put on me for the rest of my life, however, all of that soon changed. I was laying in bed after a few sleepless nights, exausted from school, work, and life in general, scrolling through pinterest to pass the time I knew i’d waste trying to fall asleep, when I came across the word “resilience.” Defined as “thriving amid adversity,” a hopeless and desperate me felt a deep longing and connection to this word; it began to not only encompass me, but became something I turned to for strength. It helped me understand that though my situation was undoubtedly excruciating, I did not need to be in pain from it. I learned that my struggle did not need to define me, but rather that I could define my struggle.
I finally came to the realization that I was eventually going to either give up at some point, or grow stronger, and giving up had certainly never been an option for me. Even if I had lost the last few battles, that didn’t mean I was going to lose the war. So one day, during six period financial analysis, I had the idea to get a tattoo of the word I held so dear on my wrist as a permanent reminder of the strength I had found. I had been considering it for a while, but as I mentioned earlier, was deathly afraid of needles. I knew that if I didn’t do it in that moment, that I would lose the courage and would never do it; so I checked myself out of class, drove to a tattoo parlor, picked out the font I wanted, and never looked back.
That Summer ended up being a time of great healing for me. I got my shit together, started sleeping almost every night, (though that was short lived) and prepared to set off on my next adventure: college. I never regretted my decision for a second, and I doubt I ever will. Even if one day the ink bleeds, and fades, and it’s no longer “pretty,” the meaning will always be there, and be a reminder of one of the bravest decisions i’ve had to make- to keep fighting.
As many of you know, once I got to college my sleep issues once again flared up, and the same cycle of helplessness once again emerged. I was once again facing what had become my worst fear, and the second time around things were much worse. Again, I hit a breaking point, and felt more alone than ever on an island 2,500 miles away from home. I made a wonderful decision that day to seek out my schools counseling center; a move that was hard to make for me because i’d been let down by so many psychiatrists and therapists alike before. I was skeptical to say the least. I walked in the door to find a chalkboard inside the counseling center displaying a “word of the day”. Out of all the days I could have picked, I sought out help the day “resilience” was written on the board. I got chills, knowing this was where I was supposed to be at this exact moment in time. Knowing I would once again be ok.
Falling asleep will probably always be hard for me, but i’ve come to accept it. I have walked through the fire two times before, and I am sure that I can do it again. The word resilience seemed to seek me out when I needed it, and I am proud to say that I have lived up to the definition I once fell in love with: thriving amid adversity. I am proud to call myself resilient.