Friday, 21 February 2014

Battling Dragons

We all battle dragons. Every single one of us has fought a battle, risked life and limb, and slayed a dragon. Some of our dragons may be scarier than others, or perhaps more avoidable. For some of us, our dragons were a little more removed from our lives, or we weren't battling alone. No matter the circumstances, we have all slayed a dragon or two.

When I was younger, I was friends with several girls who cut themselves. Amongst my circle, it was super trendy to wear big chunky bracelets. I wore them lots. And then those fingerless gloves were in, and both trends easily masked what these girls didn't want anyone to know. One of my friends lost or broke her bracelet one day, and tied a bandanna around her wrist instead. That's when I clued in. I didn't know how to help her, or how to make her stop hurting herself, but suddenly her dragon was very real to me. She didn't think she was beautiful, loved or important. Perhaps she felt hated and turned that into self-hatred. Perhaps she felt empty and couldn't feel anything. There were reasons she didn't want to kill herself, but she wanted to feel pain. She wanted to feel real, physical pain. As messed up as it is, she took a blade to the soft, sensitive skin on her inner wrist to make her heart feel better.
I felt so torn. I wanted to bandage up her wounds, hold her close and tell her she was loved. I wanted to make her stop, I couldn't watch her in pain any longer. But I didn't know how to. At the time, I came across a non-profit organization called To Write Love on Her Arms. They "aim to present hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self injury, and thoughts of suicide while also investing directly into treatment and recovery." [from Wikipedia

It sounded like the most beautiful idea I'd ever heard. To write love on her arms. If I could just take my friend's arms and write LOVE across them. If I could take away her wounds and convince her she was loved instead. If I could replace each scar with the word beloved. If only I could write love on her arms.

Eventually, this strong, beautiful girl slayed her dragon. She battled the beast and she won. She stopped hurting herself, and plunged her sword deep into the dragon's heart.

Your dragon may not be anything like my friend's dragon, but I'm sure you've slayed a dragon too. Maybe you stopped drinking, lost a lot of weight, stood up to an abusive person in your life, got the job you always wanted, went back to school, left an addiction of any kind, or handled a disease or illness. I'm sure you know what it is. Most of our battles have been very private, and while people around us knew what was going on, they often didn't know how hard the battle was.

Personally, I want to take my slayed dragons and hold them up for the world to see. I want to lift my bloody sword above my head and let out a battle cry so everyone far and wide will hear my roar. I think one of the most beautiful ways to do this is to get a tattoo for that dragon. I know girls who have the word Love tattooed on their wrist. I think this is so meaningful. If the thought of cutting ever crosses her mind again, she'll look at her wrist and see Love.

I commemorated the biggest, baddest beast I've ever slayed with a little tattoo on my leg. Most people don't know what it means to me, and even the people who do don't realize how much it means to me. I went through a lot, I dealt with it poorly, and then I had to deal with the way I had coped. There was a lot of emotional turmoil, and the entire battle was internal, although I had a few people who knew about it at the time.

You would never think it by looking at the tattoo, but to me, it is an embodiment of my struggles and my success.

The next biggest thing I ever went through was being diagnosed with celiac disease. I'm told I cope very well now, and I'm really truly okay with the way I have to eat and live, but there was a time I wasn't. There was a time I spiralled out of control, and I had to get back that control. I had to take charge of my life and direct it where I wanted it to go. I had choices, and I think I made the right ones. Coming to this place of acceptance with my disease was a very big dragon for me, but I like to think I slayed it. With this one, I know the battle is never over. I know I will spend the rest of my life with this one, but the worst is over.

To commemorate that, I will be getting another tattoo. I want to take my battle with Celiac disease and hold it up for all to see, so I'm getting a very small tattoo to honour it. I decided to get the tattoo exactly one year after I received the diagnosis, to commemorate that as well.

The placement was not something I had to think about. It came to me one day, out of nowhere, and that was when I knew I wanted it done. I want a stalk of wheat on my Achilles heel. According to Wikipedia:
An Achilles heel is a deadly weakness in spite of overall strength, which can actually or potentially lead to downfall. While the mythological origin refers to a physical vulnerability, idiomatic references to other attributes or qualities that can lead to downfall are common.
Wheat (well, technically gluten) is my deadly weakness. I can be as strong as I want to, but wheat will take me down in an instant. It's the one thing that will never change. I will never grow out of this, move past this, or gain enough strength to leave it behind. I will always be weak in this one aspect. If I were to keep eating wheat, it would eventually be the death of me. I don't think there is a more fitting place for a tattoo like this.

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