Why I got the Dark Mark tattoo
"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light." - Albus Dumbledore, JK Rowling
Yes, I actually got the dark mark tattooed. Permanently. Which seems really dark... and you're right. It totally is! However, give me a second to share my story on why it is so important to me.
Some of my greatest lessons in life were learned within the pages of Harry Potter. Tucked in between fantasy and excitement, J.K. Rowling did an incredible job of creating lessons within the stories. Her words guided me through some of the darkest moments in my life, which I will explain in a bit...
She taught me how to love reading:
"Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic."
Hermione taught me about friendship:
"Books and cleverness, there are more important things - friendship and bravery."
Dumbledore taught me about making hard choices:
"We must all make the choice between what is right and what is easy." - Albus Dumbledore
Sirius taught me how to treat people:
"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look on how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."
Harry taught me about believing in myself:
"Working hard is important, but there is something that matters more - believing in yourself."
But there is one lesson that had the most impact for me as an adolescent. It helped me understand myself better and feel like I could accept what was going on with me at the time. Rowling (via Sirius) got right to my core when she said:
This helped me SO MUCH!
Around my pre-teen years, I hit major depression. It felt so unnatural to me. Before, I was one of the most obnoxiously happy kids you'd have met. Suddenly, I was feeling very hopeless. I was feeling so many new emotions. The sadness turned into immense anger, mostly because I did not understand what was happening. I held onto my Potter books, but started to enjoy the darker moments in the books. I began relating to more closely to Bellatrix's character than Hermione's.
The concept of people being neutrally between good and bad was a newer concept to me. I was raised in the church, and my young, naive self thought the world was truly categorized into good people or evil people. So, the fact that I was having darker thoughts was clearly a sign that I was no longer a good person. This devastated me.
The devastation of feeling like a terrible person led to self harm. I felt bad for cussing, for experiencing weird feelings "down there" when watching romantic movies, for thinking bad thoughts about other people. I had to punish myself for those thoughts... through scratching myself, starving myself, or cutting myself.
It was a dark time, even with counseling and medications and the love of those around me. Rowling spoke words that connected with me, and gave me relief for my dark thoughts. (Remember, it is was we choose to act on, not think about)
Depression and anxiety plagued my life for a long time. I am so grateful for my friends, family, and counselors that patiently helped me through all those dark years. I made a lot of mistakes and stumbled a lot. Yoga is truly was saved me from my own destruction. When I stumbled into a yoga class, I had no idea that it would give me an escape from my anxiety and teach me how to control my depression.
I have also learned the importance of acknowledging the darker pieces within each of us. I have accepted this piece of me and the story of my past, because it makes me who I am today. I do not want to forget about this side of me.
One of my all-time favorite quotes (nope, this is not Harry Potter related):
My dark mark tattoo is a reminder that darkness is within me, and that's okay. However, it is also a reminder that I need to be aware of the darkness and pay attention to it. When it starts to creep into my life, I need to be ready to sit with it, then plan a way of moving forward.
When depression comes back into my life (which still happens from time to time), I usually feel a lack of enthusiasm, for anything. Getting off the couch for a bag of chips is too hard. Work feels pointless. My life feels directionless. When this happens, I now have learned to make time for myself. I journal. I practice yoga. I sit with the emotions in meditation.
Then, I do something that brings light into my life. I phone or visit a friend. I go out into nature. I force myself to dance around in my underwear until I am laughing. I watch Harry Potter.
I have learned that life is more about balancing the darkness and the lightness, not eliminating the dark completely.
This is why I got the dark mark tattoo, directly on top of scars. It is a reminder that I have control. I can make the right choice. I can choose to be vigilant of darkness creeping into my life and reach out to those who will fight Voldemort with me!
I honestly hope this tattoo gives me more opportunities to talk to people about depression. I want to make the conversation more mainstream. I want it to be okay.
Did Harry Potter (or any other book series) have an impact in your life? Have you battled mental illness and found ways to triumph? I would love to hear about it in the comments below! If you aren't comfortable with chatting publicly, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A big thank you to Jsofie at Dark Arts Tattoo in Budapest. I wanted this tattoo for a long time, but my decision was solidified when I moved into my apartment in Budapest and there was a studio called "Dark Arts Tattoo". I mean, perfection, right? Plus, my artist was a rad Potter fan with a few HP themed tattoos herself. It was too perfect.
Love you all! Thank you for giving me the outlet to share my story!
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