Nearly two weeks ago, I got the beginnings of a new tattoo. The image itself is a modified version of this drawing but it still tells a story very close to my heart.
Four years ago, I was a mess. Anxiety attacks and depression crippled me. Having both anxiety and depression is a very special brand of Hell. You don’t want to do anything but not doing anything makes you anxious. You don’t want to leave the house because the idea of crowds of people makes you want to dive into the closet, but that feeling only heightens an overall sense of worthlessness.
For all intents and purposes, I was made of stone. But I kept saying it wasn’t a big deal.
One day, at the library where I worked, representatives from one of the local hospitals came to give free blood pressure checks. I don’t know why. I think it was to raise awareness about workplace stress. Anyway, this kindly old nurse took my blood pressure and looked very concerned.
“Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure?” she asked.
“No,” I replied. “I did just come down the stairs.” (In my defence, they are steep stairs.)
“That wouldn’t account for this high number.”
So, yeah, I was in trouble. That moment, combined with the gentle urgings of my husband and therapist, led me to begin taking antidepressants that also worked as anti-anxiety meds.
They didn’t work right away. And the first prescription gave me vertigo. But when they did begin to work…it was as if I woke up from a horrifying nightmare about closed doors and monsters slavering in the dark.
It was either spring or summer. In South Carolina, we don’t really have the four seasons. We have NOT HOT and HOLY SHIT. It was somewhere between the two. Anyway.
The previous owners of our home had planted roses but I had not taken care of them. I had allowed blackberry brambles to grow over them. I both didn’t care enough to do anything about it and too afraid I would kill them via ineptitude. One Saturday after beginning the medication, I wanted to clear the brambles away and take care of them.
So, I went to work. I took care of the roses. They bloomed and I was happy. I reveled in them. I accomplished something without fear and with feeling.
My writing also improved and, eventually, I published Clara. I threw myself into self-publishing when, otherwise, I would have been too depressed and anxious to do so.
Last year, I began ruminating what I wanted my next tattoo to be. I knew I wanted something to represent my love of writing but I also wanted something to symbolize my victory over depression and anxiety. Eventually, I settled upon the above image because, to me, it melds those two ideas. It tells the story.
In the background of the tattoo, when it’s colored in, is a stone alcove. In front of it is a dragon and rose. The dragon, once a statue but now freed from the alcove, curls around the living rose. My writing came alive and the roses bloomed because I was freed from the shackles of depression and anxiety.
Do I still get depressed? Yes. Do I still feel anxiety? Not on the level or frequency I used to, but yes. But they don’t control me. I am alive. I am no longer stone. I am a living creature, feeling the sun and enjoying the roses.