0149: Fear of Disappointment


Content warning: The following story contains references to sexual assault, coercion by a teacher, and psychological abuse, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Fear of Disappointment," Anonymous

It all started when I was 13. I was young and innocent. Didn’t know how sex worked or why people did it. I was ignorant when it came to that topic. I became a leader and slowly got closer to a teacher of mine.

At first I thought it was cool that I was making an adult friend, but I regret that feeling to this day. I wish I could go back in time and stop myself then but I can’t. Anyways, the days passed by and days turned into weeks. He slowly started to lure me into his office and ask me personal questions that made me feel uncomfortable. I began to answer, hesitatingly, but not thinking much of it.

He started to use those things against me. In addition, he’d get mad if I didn’t stay in his office during lunch and break. He’d get mad if I didn’t talk to him all the time. He’d use that anger against me and make me feel guilty. That thirteen year old didn’t know what was happening. I clearly didn’t understand.

Sadly, I just took it.

I thought that I had to obey and didn’t want to disappoint and lose my leadership position. I didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of my classmates. It began to get more sexual. He started asking for things and making me feel like I had to say yes or there would be consequences. I didn’t want anymore problems. I knew if I’d fight it, it would only get worse so the way I survived was keeping my mouth shut and taking it. I never wanted what happened to me.

For months he manipulated me, hurt me, etc. I just took it. He yelled at me for hanging with friends. He became obsessive. I thought maybe after I’d graduate high school it would stay in the past and I wouldn’t need to live it again. I thought wrong. It followed me for 2 more years. No one knew. I had no idea I was being sexually assaulted until I read about what that was last year. I called the police and now he’s in jail.

I’ve been having nonstop nightmares and panic attacks because of the past and because of the hearings coming up. I’m scared to see him again in court. I’m scared he’s going to hurt me again. I just couldn’t imagine letting it happen to another girl and I couldn’t deal with the pain any longer.

Today, I’m struggling with PTSD and severe clinical depression. After being in therapy for months, my therapists and psychiatrist suggested that medication would be necessary to see more improvement in my mood and mental state. I’ve been on Zoloft for about a month and still have trouble staying motivated. My best friends helped me get through it all and it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

I still have trouble talking about details whether it be with police, my therapists, my friends, and especially my parents. I’m constantly stressed about court and having to give a testimony. I have trouble trusting people and it takes me a while to get close to someone because idk who to trust anymore.

Sometimes I feel better but hopefully my life improves after all of this and I can also hopefully inspire others who are going through something similar to come out of the shadows and speak out against sexual assault. Telling the police was the hardest decision I’ve ever made but the decision that I’m most thankful for.


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About the art:

For a survivor who still struggles to discuss this experience with police and their peers, I am so thankful for the pieces they were willing to share with us here. This survivor was even willing to add an extra piece to the story to bring it altogether, which wound up being my favorite part - because it inspired me to use this quote for their piece. When asking the survivor what they would like me to paint, they requested a quote that would give them strength.

So I actually took a line from one of my upcoming new songs - a line that gives me a lot of strength. A line that we have printed on a number of patches. So I look forward to sending this painting to the survivor AS WELL as some of the patches to match!

This is an important piece for our audience because it clearly names and addresses a massive power imbalance that occurs in the education system - a system with which I work and have observed behaviors like these in other teachers. So I'm glad this was finally addressed on our project. So thank you, survivor!

- Craig.

Tattoosday 21: Not A Cover Up


Content warning: The following story contains references to domestic, emotional, and physical abuse, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Not a Cover Up," Ariel Dickerson

I was 18. Just kidded out of my house for drinking and drugs and my grandfather had just passed away. As I lay on the floor of some strangers home all I could think about is how my family kicked me out in the most depressed state I have ever experienced. I was dating someone who was pulling me deeper and deeper into a very dark place and I needed was to be loved, but all I had was music.

Just like that I created my first tattoo.

It was to represent that all I had was my music to get me through a time when all I was searching for was the love of my family again. Luckily I grew further and further away from that dark place through a long journey of sobriety and forgiveness from my family.

Fast forward 7 years and I'm engaged and closer to my family than ever. One night I couldn't sleep and I laid in bed staring at this beautiful diamond my fiancé picked out for me and I couldn't help but reflect on the past 7 years.

Between the physical and mental abuse of others and my own abuse to myself and then to be where I am now. Happier than ever and I finally found what I was looking for. Love. From my family and my soon to be new family. That's when I decided that I had to get rid of the ink, but in a symbolic way.

So I covered it up, but ironically with the darkest lord of them all. Death Vader covering my tattoos helps remind me of the dark times, but also helps remind me of the love I have found. When I got home and showed my finance, now husband, my tattoo he mentioned how it really wasn't a cover up if you think about it, but more or a merging of two completely different times in my life to create a beautiful piece of art that I can show off for all to see!


About Tattoosday:

Tattoosday is way to demonstrate the storytelling quality of tattoos as well as the healing quality of tattoos.

If you would like to share the stories behind your ink, send us a picture of a tattoo or tattoos that have a significant story tied to your survival in life. Then write at least 400 words (you can write as many as you'd like) about the tattoo, it's meaning, and what it means to you today.

These stories will all run on Tuesdays!
One per week! So you have plenty of time to submit them to us!

The caveat with TATTOOSDAY is that we will not be making you a free piece of art, instead, your ink IS the art we will share with the story—which makes the most sense. BUT we will send you some stickers for sharing your story with us!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

0111: Flashbacks


Content warning: The following story contains references to someone's experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by years of emotional abuse, which may be triggering for some readers.


"Flashbacks," Anonymous

My mother grew up in a physically and emotionally abusive household. She tried to break the cycle. She thinks she did. But that is a delusion.

On one occasion she beat me with a belt, until I had large welts up and down my back and side for weeks. Why? Because I pulled the dining room chairs too far away from the table before vacuuming under it.

The main scars though were emotional ones. Throughout my life she criticized everything I did. I was never good enough. I was blamed for everything that went wrong. Everything I said and did was scrutinized and attributed to ulterior motives.

I was punished for the mistakes of my older siblings, given even stricter rules than the ones that caused them to rebel. She told me I was the hardest of my siblings to raise. She constantly compared me to other people.

Every time I began to develop a healthy relationship with someone else, she would jealously point out every slight fault they had and tell them bad things about me. She mocked me and the fact that my father was a deadbeat and not a part of my life. She would tell me that I was just like him.

My faith in God and relationship with him was the only thing that kept me going, the only thing that kept me from taking my life. But her constant belittling made me feel I was unworthy of serving him, that he was unhappy with me and all of my shortcomings.

I managed to endure 22 years living with her. I lasted longer than anyone else ever did. I finally got out, but not without a ton of emotional and mental scars. I feel sorry for her and know that so many of her issues are because of her own terrible childhood and two bad marriages. That is why I have not cut her out of my life, even though I know it would be easier to do so.

She began to treat me differently, for the most part, after I moved out. She wants us to friends, buddies. She genuinely does not understand why I don’t want that. I am very careful how I speak to her and what I share with her. I constantly have to be on guard, because the second I say the wrong thing she will lose it and the person that raised me to hate myself comes out.

I frequently have flashbacks to moments when she spewed awful, hateful things at me. When she would say things to intentionally hurt me, simply because I wasn't doing or saying exactly what she wanted me to. When these flashbacks come it feels like I am reliving them all over again. That forgotten wound is fresh and bleeding once again.

I had a talk with her once about some of the things I went through and how it made me feel. She apologized. But she then brought up mistakes I had made, as if this made us even. I try to put it all behind me. I want to forgive her and just move forward. But I am plagued with memories that will not leave me alone.

I thought things were better between us, until there was a situation where she didn't like a decision I made and verbally attacked me. I had a panic attack and left. She later told me: “I am sorry, I didn't know you would react that way.”

Just being around her, or knowing that I will be around her, will often send me into a panic attack. I have trouble sharing my thoughts and feelings with those closest to me. I assume they don't care, because my own mother didn't. I assume they will mock me, they will use it against me in some way, because that is what my own mother would do.  

I assume everyone thinks I am ugly unless I wear a ton of makeup, because that is what my mother thinks. I assume everyone is watching me and harshly judging every small mistake I make, because that is what my mother does.

I have trouble getting close to people. I have trouble responding in an appropriate way to most situations. I avoid many large social gatherings because I feel they will all be watching me, waiting for me to do something stupid. I don't know how to handle conflict, the first sign there is an issue with another person I want to hide my head in the sand.

Every time I try to share my feelings with someone my brain shuts down and I have no idea how to say what I am feeling, or I break down become an emotional mess.

I will continue to try to fight my way out of my past. I will keep trying to put it behind me. But some days it feels like this weight will always be on me, slowing me down, threatening to crush me once and for all. 


About the art:

When this survivor shared their story with us, I was inspired by the depth to which they were willing to share their experiences with their emotionally abusive mother. None of this is easy to confront, so the fact that this survivor was willing to do so, to find some sort of healing, was empowering.

They told me that butterflies are their favorite, so I tried my own stylized rendering of a butterfly. The quote was also chosen by the survivor as one that reminds them everyday that being strong is the only choice they have to make. So this piece will certainly live on as a reminder for them to keep confronting their trauma and their challenges head-on.

I'm thankful this survivor shared with us and I hope it inspires others to do the same.

- Craig

Tattoosday 014: For the Love of All that is Mighty and Good, Please Be Kind


Content Warning: The following story contains mention of sexual and emotional abuse, which may be triggering for some readers


"For the Love of All that is Mighty and Good, Please Be Kind," Ali Russo 

Kindness has always been the trait I value the most. It’s the first thing I look for when forming relationships with people; I like to watch the way they fold their hands and speak out of the corners of their mouths, holding doors with the tips of their fingers and rocking on their heels. I try to take all opportunities of kindness the universe has to offer, not for any other reason except the satisfaction in that helping someone else has made their day a little lighter. If I want to believe that the world can be kind, I need to be so, too. 

Conversely, this is much harder to apply to yourself—or, at least in my own personal experiences. Growing up with severe, undiagnosed anxiety, I became my own, worst, inner-critic. I believed that nobody would like me, including myself, if I did not bend to all of the requests, favors, and needs of the people I cared for in my life; I wanted them to undoubtedly know, throughout all the lengths of time, that I would love them and be there when they asked.

At the time, I couldn’t understand the damage this ideology would do to me, and certainly didn’t grasp that a healthy relationship should not leave one feeling as fatigued as I was. But this was my kindness. This was how I liked to show it. 

The first semester of my freshman year, I got out of a two-year relationship that was both emotionally and sexually abusive. I broke up with him over a phone call, and subsequently, he had to leave work because of the emotional distress I had caused. Over the course of the weeks, trailing my soles across the carpet of my therapist’s office, I expressed how the failure of our relationship, including the abuse and the break-up, was my fault. I remember clasping my hands between my knees, my shoulders hunched as I spoke to my therapist. “The way I broke up with him, the way I left him feeling—those are the cruelest things I’ve ever done.”
“Those are the kindest things you’ve ever done.” She corrected.

I remember feeling dumbfounded at her opposition, gaping at the confidence in which her ponytail swayed from both shoulders while she shook her head. “Whether you recognized it consciously or not, you knew you had to get out of that situation. You knew you needed a change, and to be kinder to yourself.”

Four years later, if you asked me the name of the college counselor who sat opposite of me in that tiny, warm room on campus, I couldn’t tell you. But I could tell you about the way her fingers wove into their own as she said this, the sporadic, faint spots on the back of her hands like prayer beads I could count with comfort. I could tell you about the eruption that followed, the flood that heaved; the collapse of comprehension at the ludicrous idea that I was just as important as those who held precedence over me—that I should hold precedence over me. 

I got my “be kind.” tattoo the following semester, squeezing my best friend’s hand as the ink settled into a reminder that remained forever. Now, in the year 2016 I am desperately trying to remind myself again, and again, and again, that being kind is always worth it, being kind is a reciprocal pleasure—it is the tangible mark of our humanity. We must never, ever lose it. 


About Tattoosday:

Tattoosday is way to demonstrate the storytelling quality of tattoos as well as the healing quality of tattoos.

If you would like to share the stories behind your ink, send us a picture of a tattoo or tattoos that have a significant story tied to your survival in life. Then write at least 400 words (you can write as many as you'd like) about the tattoo, it's meaning, and what it means to you today.

These stories will all run on Tuesdays!
One per week! So you have plenty of time to submit them to us!

The caveat with TATTOOSDAY is that we will not be making you a free piece of art, instead, your ink IS the art we will share with the story—which makes the most sense. BUT we will send you some stickers for sharing your story with us!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!