Tattoo Stories #2: Medical Skull + Healing Heartbreak

Nov 16, 2018

4 minutes

For many of us, tattoos don’t have the same stigma that they did for our parents or grandparents. Tattoos are more common than ever!

The story behind a tattoo is often more exciting than the tattoo itself – and that is what this written series is all about.

Let’s keep going, my friends.

Tattoo #2: Medical Skull + Healing Heartbreak

(no photo for this one – I’ll explain below)


  • Age When Tattooed: early 20s
  • Tattooed in: Connecticut; USA
  • Body Location: Below Belly Button
  • Time to Complete: 20-30 minutes

First off: why no photo?

What’s the point of telling a story about a tattoo that you can’t see?

As I mentioned above, this tattoo is located below my belly button, and just above my … I think you get the point. Since I got this tattoo, I’ve said that only the “lucky few” get to see it, along with my doctor. Sorry to disappoint you.

Given the location, your next question may be: did it hurt?

Yes. 100% fucking yes. Out of the 5 tattoos I have, this one hurt the most. 

The tattoo itself is a flat outline of a skull with a medical plus-sign on its forehead. Originally, I was going to have the skull colored in and shaded, but it hurt so much that I left it as an outline.

This is also the only tattoo that I have that someone else has an exact copy of it, located in the same place on their body.

It had been 3-4 years since my first tattoo and I was getting “the itch” to get another one. My best friend, Matt, was itching for another one and we agreed to choose the same tattoo.

Interesting twist: my best friend Matt, who I am still close to, is also my ex-boyfriend. He was the first long-term relationship (3 years) I ever had.

No, we’re not “friends with benefits” – that’s never happened, but we have lived together (in separate rooms) even after breaking up. We’re great at supporting each other, but not as a couple.

So we agreed to get the same tattoo in the same place. Since my first tattoo was on my lower back, I wanted to put my 2nd tattoo someone to “balance it out,” which meant below my belly button.

I decided to get a skull because skulls are one of my favorite things.

When you strip away all of the labels, accessories, and assumptions, we’re all just skeletons. We’re spiritual badass beings having a human experience that’s incredibly short. We’re all the same, and skulls remind me of that.

Skulls also remind me of the fact that, ultimately, we’re all going to die.

That might seem depressing to you, but for me, it’s empowering. This is your life. This is your journey. Live your journey to the fullest and let others live their journey – that’s why we’re all here. We support each other the best that we can, and we will inevitably fail sometimes, but we keep going until we’re nothing but bones.

When Matt and I got the same tattoo, we had ended our relationship 1-2 years before.

I’ll spare you the details, but the initial end to our relationship was very messy and painful, and we were both at fault. Since then, we had settled our differences and were still happy to be friends, since our relationship happened at a very formative part of our young lives.

Before I began dating Matt at the end of high school (he’s four years older than me), I had had boyfriends off and on, and I had been disappointed, but never truly heartbroken.

As I talked about with my first tattoo, high school and my early 20s were when I was just starting to get in touch with my emotions. Imagine teaching / allowing yourself to feel, and then feeling the worst emotional pain you have felt at that point in your life.

Yep, that is shitty, my friends, but I’m still glad it happened.

Getting a tattoo with Matt was unexpectedly cathartic and therapeutic. It was like closing the door on a chapter that you don’t regret, but respect. You made mistakes. Mistakes were made against you. You accept it all and don’t need to look back or question anything.

Whenever I see my skull tattoo (and I see it multiple times a day, obviously), I’m reminded of a few things.

1: Allow yourself to love.

Love unconditionally. Love limitlessly.

You WILL get hurt. You WILL hurt other people, hopefully unintentionally.

Life isn’t worth living if your heart is locked in a cage.

If you do that, you’ll waste a perfectly good heartbeat.

2: Everything ends, and we can be grateful for that.

Jobs, relationships, friendships, hobbies, and ultimately, lives.

We’re all going to do, and you can’t take ANYTHING with you when you die.

Live your life here and now. Follow your curiosities, even when they don’t make sense to anyone else (says the 34-year-old woman getting a Bachelor degree in Japanese Language and Culture – I know what I’m talking about, friends).

Endings make room for new beginnings. You can be scared that you don’t know what’s next OR you can be excited that something interesting is about to happen and go with the flow.

You don’t get a second chance. You don’t get a do-over. THIS is your life. It won’t always be happy. It won’t always be exciting, but it will ALWAYS be worth living. (This was a very important lesson for me to absorb as I struggled with depression and social anxiety during my 20s).

3: Even when you feel broken, you are whole.

Depression and anxiety dominated my world from age 18-29. I made many decisions based on my fears, rather than what would actually make me happy.

Maybe you can relate, but I genuinely hope not.

You do not have to be in a relationship, or have a certain job, or live in a certain place to be whole. Being whole comes from inside of you.

Relationships aren’t about finding someone to “complete” you. That will never happen.

Even if you feel broken and that you have a lot to work on, then welcome – now you can admit that you are human. Even when you feel incomplete, never forget that you are still whole.

You are 100% you. Even when you’re in a relationship, it’s 100% you and 100% your partner.

If you don’t add up to 200% together, leave. Life is too short, my friend.

Let yourself love, embrace endings, and remember: you are whole.

Photo by Romina Farias on Unsplash

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