Rising Phoenix

The phoenix is mythological symbol that is found in numerous cultures around the world throughout history. According to TheHellenicTimes.com, the phoenix is: 

The beautiful, legendary bird that lived in Arabia and, according to myth, consumed itself by fire every 500 years. A new, young phoenix — just as breathtaking — sprang from its ashes. In ancient Egypt, the phoenix represented the sun, which dies at night and is reborn in the morning. Greek mythology presents the stunning creature in the early morning — at dawn it bathes in water and sings an enchanting song. So beautiful is this song that the sun god Helios would stop his chariot to listen. There only exists one phoenix at a time. Upon its impending death, it builds a nest, sets itself on fire, and is consumed by the flames. A new phoenix springs forth from the pyre. Early Christian tradition adopted the phoenix as a symbol of both immortality and resurrection. Modern folklore utilizes the magnificant creature as a symbol of renewal, rebirth, and starting anew.

Last April (2015), I decided to get a tattoo of a rising phoenix. More accurately: I had decided ages ago that I wanted a tattoo of a rising phoenix, and in April I finally decided to pull the trigger and get it done. My original concept started over five years before, and continued to evolve over time until I felt ready.

While my motivation for the tattoo was more aesthetic than symbolic, there is still meaning in it. To me, the rebirth of the phoenix represents new beginnings and rising up from where you’ve been. At various times in my life I have had rough patches and hit lows – whether physically, mentally, or emotionally – yet I always move forward, move on, survive. Sometimes it requires starting over, and not letting the past weigh me down. Usually it’s something minor – maybe a poor diabetic blood test result. But once or twice it has been something big and it’s all I can do to be strong and hold myself and my family together.

So here’s the tattoo. It’s actually my third, but it’s my only large piece and I love it! It took about three and a half hours to complete. This picture (from the tattoo artist’s Instagram) was taken shortly after the piece was completed, before healing.

Now, a little about the process and healing. Since I have Type 2 Diabetes, I had done some research in advance about how this may affect getting a tattoo. The information I came across was very basic. Of course, everybody (and every body) is different, and I don’t know if any of my experiences are directly related to being diabetic. I just thought this would be worth sharing.

For the actual tattooing session, I brought snacks. I’d heard or read that there can be increased risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), partly due to the pain. Since my tattoo is large, I knew it would be a long session. The snacks definitely helped!

Another consideration was the fact that diabetics get infections more easily than others. I would never consider getting a tattoo from an artist that doesn’t use appropriately safe techniques – new needles, sterilized tools, clean environment, etc. This is good sense for anyone getting a tattoo, but especially important in light of increased infection risk for diabetics. Also, I made sure to be especially diligent in regards to aftercare – carefully following instructions regarding cleaning and moisturizing the tattoo while it healed.

The healing itself was interesting. It’s generally said that tattoos can take about 2 – 4 weeks to heal. Diabetics are slow healers, so I expected it to take a little longer. But, ultimately, it seemed to take about two whole months for the tattoo to heal fully. I say “seemed to” because even after that, the texture of the skin there differed from the rest of my skin. It was extremely dry and would frequently peel off in flakes, similar to when it was still healing. But the color was locked in and all pain was gone.

This extremely dry and textured skin persisted for at least six months. I have naturally dry skin to start with.  (It just soaks up any lotions or oils I use almost instantly.) It’s only in the last two months or so that the skin on the tattoo has started feeling “normal” – and only after I started a treatment involving daily application of an ultra-moisturizing lotion. Even so, I still feel the tattoo drying out more quickly than the rest of my skin. I’ve recently started dry-brushing daily, and that has helped too.

I haven’t seen or heard about this persistent dry skin on tattoos before, so I wanted to put my story out there.  It’s not a big deal – just a bit of a nuisance.  I would still do it all over again.  Now I have a beautiful piece of body art that will last forever!

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