I always knew that my first tattoo would be both book-related and nerdy. Books have held a special place in my heart since childhood, and, well, I’m a huge nerd. It just made sense. So I don’t think it came as a surprise to my Dad when I finally told him, “Hey, just so you know, I have the phrase ‘DON’T PANIC’ forever scarred into my skin.”
I kept my tattoo a secret for a long time, for a lot of reasons. Mostly because I thought my Mom would murder me. (She didn’t, but she did tell me she was disappointed in me for thinking she would be mad, which we all know is worse.) Sorry, Mom!
I also didn’t tell many people about it because I didn’t want to explain why I got it. To my friends who I did tell, it’s because I trust you so much. To my friends who I didn’t tell, please don’t take it personally. First of all, it’s just a small tattoo. Second of all, it’s incredibly personal and hard to talk about it. At the time I wasn’t ready to explain it all, but now I am.
If you’ve been following my blog, you may know that my Dad and I celebrate Towel Day every year. You may also know that I’ve talked about two books that have helped me with my mental health: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill. Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has also helped me, albeit in different ways.
The first (and, if we’re going to be honest, only) time I’ve read Hitchhiker’s was during my first year of university. That year was particularly difficult for me for a number of different reasons: being away from home for the first time, relationships, having to make new friends, almost failing out of school, you know, typical first-year-university things.
My first year was when I started going to counselling, and it helped. But reading Hitchhiker’s helped more. Its humour, characters, and unique outlook on life totally changed me. I realized that there’s so much out there, in our universe and others (because let’s be real), and that nothing could ever be as bad as Marvin said it would be.
Throughout university, and my post-grad, whenever anything happened that set off my anxiety, I called home. The first thing my Dad would tell me was “DON’T PANIC!” The all-caps are necessary; he yelled it into the phone.
We would then go on to talk about whatever nerdy thing we had read or watched recently, and my mind would be put at ease. This trend continued after I finished school as well. It used to be a common occurrence for me to have panic attacks at work, hide in the bathroom, cry, and call my Dad. Again, he would tell me not to panic.
It eventually got to a point though when my Dad realized I needed more than his geeky references and terrible jokes. I needed to see a doctor, and I needed medication. I didn’t want to admit to this. I felt ashamed, but again, he told me not to panic, and that everything would work out.
I went to our family doctor (a few times, actually) and tried out a couple different prescriptions until I found one that worked. It was hard, but I had my Dad’s voice in the back of my head, always reminding me not to panic.
Fast-forward to 2017, when I first decided to go off my meds. It was unbelievably hard. I quickly spiraled back into weekly panic attacks, and spending more time crying on the floor than I would care to admit. With the help of my partner, friends, and of course, my Dad, I picked myself back up, went back on my meds, and decided to get my first tattoo.
I wanted my Dad’s constant reminder to stay calm. I wanted it inked on to my body, so I can look at it whenever I need it, and be reminded of the better things in life. I made an appointment, brought two friends along, and held back tears while these words were pierced into my skin. I know it’s only nine letters and an apostrophe, but it still hurt, okay!?
And now, here I am a year later, once again off my meds and taking things one day at a time. It’s still hard, but I have an incredible support system. My friends and family have made it clear that they are there if and when I need help, and I couldn’t possibly thank them enough.
Plus, I have my Dad’s geeky reference with me wherever I go.