Tattoo Trauma

I wanted to start this project because I realised that every person that I met who had extensive tattoos had been traumatised, whether they where aware of it or not.

I myself have most of my body covered in tattoos and I spent my whole life never thinking about traumas because to me, a trauma was a huge event, like a car crash or someone close to you dying. 

It is only since discovering Dr. Gabor Mate and how he describes trauma, that I realised that I was traumatised even before I was born. 

It is my personal belief that most people use tattoos as a protection or defence mechanism because of what they have been through.

So I wanted to tell the story of the person behind the tattoo and trauma and how they have used tattoos as a coping mechanism, how the tattoos have helped them deal with life, whether they regret having the tattoos and etc.

I wanted to start with my own story and if you would like to share yours, please get in touch.


Bao Diep

I had my first tattoo at 17, it was a logo of my favourite rock band, Life of Agony on my top left arm. It was a circle with four skulls within that circle.

It is now gone, I had it removed almost twenty years ago.

Instead I replaced it with a whole sleeve of Japanese chrysanthemums and waves.

Next I had my right arm tattooed with Tibetan skulls and clouds. Slowly but steady the bare skin was getting less and less.

I think there were many elements to first wanting to get tattooed. One was the desire to belong to a certain group, this happened to be the rock n’ roll group. I was into rock music as a teenager and wanted to be accepted into this particular group. Another reason for wanting to get tattooed was control. My father was very strict and controlling and I figured that he couldn’t control what I did to my body. To this day, he has never seen any of my tattoos. I always cover myself up when I visit.

But I think the biggest reason I covered myself in tattoos was to protect myself. It was a form of barrier from others. Tattoos have a tendency to portray the person as tough and perhaps dangerous. I was of course the complete opposite being very sensitive and shy. Since early childhood I had been told how I should behave and how to be so it was difficult accepting myself as I was when I became an adult. I used tattoos to portray myself as someone with confidence and credentials.

And it worked. People seemed to see me exactly how I wanted to be portrayed. But I was not that person they thought I was. I was not confident, I was not tough and I certainly didn’t have it all together.

Instead I have been in therapy almost my whole adult life but I never told anyone, because I was ashamed. I spent my whole life thinking there was something wrong with me because my parents never accepted me for who I was. I am not blaming my parents for anything because they’ve had so much more trauma than me and of course they were not in the fortunate position like me to seek help.

But I am determined to break the generational trauma and hopefully my children can start their life with a little less baggage.

When my first daughter was born I went through a stage of really hating my tattoos, I hid them at all times. I was scared that my daughter and I would be judged by them and felt that I did not need them anymore.

Now at 40 and having worked on myself and resolving a lot of trauma, I am at ease with my tattoos. I understand that they have served their purpose and I no longer feel the need to hide or get them lasered off.