This, ladies, gentlemen, and gender rebels, is my first tattoo. It took two hours, and was done for a variety of reasons: Most notably, it reconnected me to feeling in-control and in-charge of my body, something which being raped can often take away from someone, especially after a frustrating and slow-moving police case.
The design is meant to remind me to transcend my problems and my circumstances, rise above them, and soar in the sky, reaching my full potential.
Now, onto the nitty-gritty stuff: I imagine a lot of people are wondering how I dealt with getting a tattoo, as someone on the spectrum. Tattoos are a sensory experience unique unto themselves, there’s nothing really comparable to the actual tattooing and the aftermath that I’ve experienced in my short 23 years. But I will offer some of the things that I have done in order to make the experience easier for my sensitive body and nerves.
First off, I made sure to go to a studio which was clean, well-reputed, and used disposable single-use needles. I found an artist whose art style I enjoyed, and discussed my sensory needs with her beforehand. It needn’t be a difficult conversation. Mine went something like this: “Before we get started, I should tell you I have pretty sensitive nerves. I am fine with deep pressure, but light, tickling pressure is totally different, and so is scraping. What sensations can I expect during the tattooing?” I also picked a spot on my body that was relatively non-sensitive, my upper back. She told me it was a deep pain, and that many people actually found it enjoyable. I also brought along my iPod, so that I wouldn’t have to listen to the tattoo needle, which can get pretty noisy. As it turned out though, I actually enjoy the repetitive buzzing of a tattoo gun, and found the deep pressure of getting inked relaxing. For two hours, I listened to the sounds, lay my head in a comfortable spot, and let the tattoo artist do her work. It was more comfortable than a trip to the doctor or the dentist, and was actually quite soothing. The tattoo artist was required to show her tools to me and explain them, and have me watch her put in the new needles and ink, and that helped ease my mind. I also brought a friend with me to help me feel at home and relax.
The after-care has been more of a challenge. Tattoos are, essentially, inked scars, and that means that the skin is going to flake off, peel, and, above all else, itch like hell. I’ve been moisturizing it, slapping it (The sting of the slap stops the itching) and doing everything in my power to keep it from being itchy or dry. The fact that I can’t see my own tattoo without a mirror means that I have to be very careful when relieving an itch on my back, in case I scratch the tattoo. I’ve been told that a spray bottle full of alcohol will curb the itching, but since alcohol is drying and I don’t want my tattoo to dry out and scab, I am not taking up that bit of advice. I’m just following the little leaflet that my tattoo artist gave me.
All in all, the best advice that I can give is to find a good artist, pick/create a design that is meaningful and significant to you, have open, honest communication with your artist, take steps you need to feel comfortable, understand what your pain/sensory overload threshold is, and follow the manual when it comes to aftercare. That’s universally applicable, but if there are any other autistic folk out there looking to get inked who weren’t sure, I hope this helps!