I Got a Tattoo, and It Actually Improved My Mental Health

Three years ago, I was sitting in my dorm room gasping for air. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart was practically beating out of my chest, and I was filled with a sense of impending doom as my freshly decorated walls threatened to close in on me. I was three days into college—I could tell something was wrong. I had never felt this way before. After a brisk walk to the counseling center, I realized what I was experiencing was an anxiety attack. I chalked it up to a one-time thing, but unfortunately, it wasn’t.

I didn’t feel like myself. It was hard for me to feel happy and connect with the things I used to love. Everything seemed pointless. I remember reading a comment on Instagram that said, “Depression makes you think that you’ve been looking at the world through rose-colored glasses all your life, and now you’ve finally taken them off,” and thinking, That’s exactly how I feel. I knew this new pessimistic lens wasn’t reality, but it felt pretty damn real.

When I started to feel better (thanks to therapy, medication, and a devotion to self-care practices), I was relieved but also terrified. It constantly felt like I was on a slippery slope. I had slipped into that dark place once. How could I be certain it wouldn’t happen again? I couldn’t be. And while I had made my way out once, the idea of fighting through all of that again scared me. I wanted to make a statement to myself, something that said no matter what, I would be okay. So I decided to get a tattoo.

If you’re not quite ready to go under the needle, check out these lower-stakes ways to improve your mental health. Then, read about how our editor got inked by a female artist and how it was the feminist bonding moment of her dreams.