Tattoo You


I first discovered Michelle on Twitter, which she rules with a steely wit and a heart of gold. Back in May, she was suffering from depression and wrote a powerful post about it, “What If I Have Honest Depression?”

After I finished reading, I scrolled down to leave a comment. Blogging behometh Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, had actually just read and commented on Michelle’s post.

The following exchange is just a tiny example of why I LOVE Michelle:



Okay, that’s about as real as it gets. And that’s Michelle.





Have you seen those three dimensional tattoos? The one I’m thinking of very realistically depicts flesh that has been ripped open. The one I saw was tattooed down the side of a woman and it was beautiful and horrible.

I have had some drama over the past couple of weeks. Nothing earth shattering, just manufactured family drama. I would love to be a person who could process nonsense and dismiss it but I’m not. I’m a ‘let all the emotions stick to me like burning, dripping rubber’ kind of girl.

This post is not about my silly little drama, this post is about the anxiety that was born of the petty drama.

Anxiety is a dick.

I stood out on my deck and examined the wild flower garden in my backyard. Although, this year, it’s not so much a garden as it is a huge plot of weeds with a few flowers in it. I stared at the flowers and tried to not think how many snakes were writhing around in there and thought about that tattoo and how it represented my emotions.

There is the surface. On the surface, things are okay! I have food in my fridge and cars in my driveway and they both almost work! My bills are very nearly paid and my credit score is better than Homer Simpson’s. My family is mostly healthy and my toilets only have the faintest of rings in the bowls.

Then there is the initial tearing of the skin. The opening of the wound. This is the place where my mind hangs out. This is where I obsess about those cars in my driveway and how devastating another big repair would be. This place where the flesh is pink and raw is where I contemplate how little I’ve done with my life. This is where I worry about my health and the health of my children and husband. This is where I make up scenarios that end with despair.

I worry that people will find out who I really am and learn that I’m not clever or funny or perceptive or even nice. Of course, I have no answer as to who they will find when the mask falls away. I’m kind of curious about that myself.

The place where the flesh is torn isn’t a comfortable place, it’s not a fluffy bed with turn-down service, but it’s familiar to me. I know this space well.

Then there is the deepest part of the wound. The place that is angry and red and fades into black. Into nothingness. This is the place that I let my mind travel over the weekend. Mostly, if I find my thoughts drifting to the places that scare me most, I can shut it down. When I feel anxious though, those doors aren’t reliable. They’re warped and they won’t shut no matter how hard I slam them. The voice that drifts through those fucking doors is hollow and cold and devoid of emotion:

“No one really cares about you.”

“You are truly alone in the world.”

“Your time on earth is short and brutal and meaningless.”

“Your contribution is laughable.”

“Your thoughts are superficial and vapid.”

“Everything you love will die.”

“The bad things you think about yourself? They are all true. This is where your honesty lives, right here, in these words.”

In the deepest part of those wounds is depression and my anxiety is holding my hand and coaxing me to visit.

I don’t want to go.

I want to stop thinking that peeling my skin off would feel like relief. I want the never-ending scream that is playing behind my normal circular thoughts and random bits of music to just shut the fuck up. I want to stop feeling annoyed by every sound and movement that comes from the other humans. I want to be able to make small talk at work without wanting to scream how much I don’t care how their weekend was or what movie they are planning to see. I want to stop fighting tears every time my phone rings.

I want to be able to handle stupid drama without breaking out in three dimensional tattoos.

On the surface, I look the same. My responses to other people aren’t much different than any other day. I might hear ‘You look tired today’ a time or two, but other than that, I am still the same me. My husband knows the difference, but I don’t even tell him about the darkest thoughts. I’m too afraid that speaking them out loud will give them life.

One thing I know about that tattoo is that it’s only ink. That picture I saw wasn’t of a girl who was literally torn apart. It was a picture. Not real. Just like the silly family drama. Not real.

The anxiety and underlying depression will fade. They won’t go away, I’ve learned to accept that, but they will fade. And they will wait. They will wait until the next time I say or do something that unintentionally angers or hurts another person and then they will skip out, hand and hand, and insist that we play.

I’m reasonably sure that the family drama is over for everyone but me. I’m still playing it over and over, alternating between anger at the unfairness of it all and shame at my part in it.

I know me pretty well, within a few days I will be operating at my normal level of anxiety. My depression will simmer in the back at it’s normal dysthymic temperature and all will be well.

I know this is true.

But right now, I am still feeling the sting of that needle.


Michelle is the voice behind the blog Rubber Shoes In Hell where she muses about aging and narcissism and the ridiculous arguments she has with her husband. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

She also really needs to work on a real Author Bio.


Image credit: photo credit: mandolin davis via photopin cc