The definition of tattoo is “an indelible mark or figure fixed upon the body by insertion of pigment under the skin or by production of scars.” My religious upbringing and my father’s strong dislike of tattoos prevented me from getting a tattoo earlier in life and honestly, I had no interest in getting a tattoo. I was content getting henna or fake tattoos for fun even though my dad wasn’t fond of those either. My viewpoint on tattoos changed a little over one year after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Lets travel back in time to January 2017 where things started to slowly go downhill. I thought the year 2017 was starting off well. We celebrated my father’s birthday at a beautiful, historic hotel known as the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA, which has hosted dignitaries, presidents and celebrities. It is a family tradition to visit every year and see the hotel decorated in 4.5 million Christmas lights during the Festival of Lights complete with Cinderella-esque carriages and a Gingerbread House food stand. I was able to include my boyfriend in this family tradition. A mere few days into the year and my family was utterly blindsided. My uncle, who shared a birthday with me, committed suicide. My uncle had encountered a series of unfortunate events from his landlord telling him he had to move because the property was being sold, his car breaking down, and inevitably losing his job due to no place to live and no mode of transportation. My family did everything they could to get him back on his feet, but when he ran out of money to live, he saw no way out of the situation. My mother was UTTERLY devastated as this was her brother. This is the second uncle of mine that has passed away too young – the first was my mother’s step-brother who unexpectedly contracted a staph infection, and I believe had a genetic heart valve defect as well; with all the information given to us by the doctors, my aunt made the incredibly difficult decision to take him off life support. We dressed in head-to-toe hospital gowns, masks and gloves in order to witness him leaving this earth, and we sang as a family together. He is survived by my aunt and my two cousins (who were young at the time). I so admire their incredible strength during such a traumatic time.
It was incredibly difficult to come to terms with my uncle’s unexpected suicide – we absolutely did not expect this to happen in our family. I respected and admired my uncle. He wasn’t perfect, but who is. He struggled and we struggled at times in our relationship with him, but he was brave enough to march to the beat of his own drum and live a life uniquely his. It was so hard to watch my mother endure this pain, especially since she feels like she could have done more for him. My mother has endured so much loss as have so many others. She has survived the passing of her mother at 16 years old, her father, her stepmother, her step-brother and now her brother as well as her father-in-law and mother-in-law. I know I am missing some other family members and perhaps friends as well – but the family members I listed, excluding 1, were tragic events that I endured with my family. My uncle committed suicide just a few days before my dad’s birthday and now my dad feels his birthday is a painful reminder of a tragic situation. It is hard not to feel guilty when you are out enjoying the holiday festivities while a family member is struggling.
Traveling back just a few weeks prior to my uncle passing away, I found out that one of the performers who I worked with on my first show at Disney was killed in a car crash at the young age of 24. She truly blessed my life during my first summer working at Disney. Once news spread of her passing, her Facebook page was flooded with memories and stories of all the lives she blessed. At just 24 years old, she had built a legacy and blessed so many lives. Her tragic, sudden death hit me harder than I expected. The last photo she took was of her Kate Spade knot bracelet with the caption “Tie a knot and hold on”. After her passing, Kate Spade sold out of that particular bracelet because her family and friends all bought that same bracelet in memory of her, myself included. I wore my knot bracelet on my trip to Universal Studios Hollywood to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time. I recreated a photo she had taken in front of Hogwarts Castle with my Kate Spade bracelet in honor of her.
Now flash forward to around April/May 2017 – I made the heartbreaking decision, that I have mentioned in earlier posts, to walk away from my dream job at the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland, which I had worked towards for over half of my life due to my chronic illness. I was sick, broke, jobless, and bored. I just felt like I had failed, and I was failing in coping with my medical condition.
Now we land in August 2017 when I made the decision to get my first tattoo. I was SO SCARED and thought my dad would disown me. But I wanted a permanent reminder written in my skin to remind me to always fight this permanent medical condition that I will take to the grave. I chose to write the word “Hope” in cursive with half of the “H” forming a purple ribbon (which symbolizes medical conditions such as fibromyalgia) on my left wrist. One very small side tangent here – I am so sad that children are no longer required to learn how to write cursive in school because everything is essentially typed in this technological day in age. I find cursive to be beautiful and so much more personal, expressive and elegant than printing or type. During a time I was low on hope and for all those times to come where I am low on hope, this tattoo will remind me to keep fighting. My parents came to terms with my tattoo, and I am so happy they did. This was not a decision I took lightly.
In October of 2017, I had the privilege to attend the Rise Lantern Festival where guests can personalize two lanterns and release them. It was a bittersweet trip as the event happened one week after the horrific Vegas shooting. I dedicated one of my lanterns to my uncle who committed suicide, the Disney performer who died in the car crash and to all the victims of the horrific Vegas shooting. It was an experience unlike any other seeing complete strangers helping each other light and release the lanterns. Witnessing thousands of lanterns in the dark desert sky was my Rapunzel fantasy come true and incredibly memorable. Here is the lantern I released in dedication to those people:
Then, I had the CRAZY idea to get a second tattoo only a few short months after my first tattoo. This tattoo is an infinity symbol with paw prints and a heart incorporated into it. My two silky terriers, Apollo and Roxy, who I lovingly call my furry children, are my emotional support, and their unconditional love, kisses and cuddles have gotten me through some of the worst times. Apollo and Roxy are probably the closest I will ever get to being a mother. They are April Fools babies and will be turning 3 years old soon, and I am so happy to have many years left to spend with them. I got this tattoo to signify our special, unbreakable bond, and I decided to place it close to my heart because as cheesy as it may sound, they have my heart and are my whole world. I love the way it turned out.
Well … guess what… I got even CRAZIER, but for me this tattoo was just as special as the other two. On the one year anniversary of my uncle’s death, I got a semi-colon tattoo on my right wrist in honor of my uncle who committed suicide. I am going to do a post about the recent semi-colon tattoo movement to raise awareness about depression and suicide soon. The semi-colon signifies that the author of one’s life has chosen to not end the sentence, their life. Fibromyalgia will not kill its victims as say cancer, but I read an article that death is a very real possibility in the form of suicide. Sufferers of fibromyalgia are enduring pain wreaking havoc on their bodies, isolation and depression (a chemical imbalance of the brain). Depression is very common and very dangerous for fibromyalgia sufferers. I battle with depression as well as fibromyalgia, and these conditions are both formidable opponents. This tattoo is a very powerful reminder to me too. In some cases, things invisible to the naked eye are more dangerous than those things that are visible. Some fibromyalgia sufferers don’t have a support system to turn to; people don’t believe that anything is wrong with them and that they must be just plain crazy; people thinking that they are just lazy and full of excuses to not work; trouble getting disability; doctors refusing to diagnose them and give them the treatment they need; having a chronic illness usually means difficulty working, no money, and very expensive medical bills – go figure. There are many horrific layers to this crappy cake known as fibromyalgia. Depression, suicide, and addiction has claimed too many lives. I want to remind you that even if someone looks healthy and happy on the outside, it doesn’t not mean they are healthy and happy on the inside. The smallest act of kindness might just save a person’s life, and you will probably have no idea what you just did for someone. This is why I am writing this blog to bring about awareness. I know its hard for those not suffering with this disease or other illnesses to truly understand, but I implore you to take that extra step and learn about the conditions that your family, friends and/or acquaintances are going through and be an active participant if possible. Provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Go the extra mile and be extra forgiving, extra patient, extra kind and extra understanding. Remember YOU can make a difference even in a SMALL act of KINDNESS and you may just SAVE someone’s life.
-The Dramatic Ginger