Childhood Tattoos and PTSD - Good or bad idea?


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I've always loved the idea of getting a tattoo(s), but part of me worries about the permanence. I would absolutely be very careful in picking out my tattoo artist and think for months before deciding on my tattoo, but I'm curious what other peoples' experiences have been. I'm scared mostly of the meaning for my tattoo changing as I learn more about my PTSD triggers/past/forgotten memories and negative association. For example, I like the idea of getting foliage/floral to honor my love for the outdoors since a child, but I guess I worry that that symbol will trigger negative association of my childhood. But I'd love to hear stories of you taking charge of your own memories and meanings and making your tattoos a positive experience! Please let me know what your experience has been.


I got a few tattoos during what I call 'the trauma years' , when I was drinking and drug taking to block things out. So teenager to early 20's.
Back then I couldn't give a flying fig about permanency and had no care about my body.
So the fact you are thinking about all these things shows you're thinking about it in a healthy way.

The thing about permanency and will something trigger you in the future: we can't predict the future. All you can do is examine the here and now and make a decision based on what you think is best and healthy and right for you now.

I'm in the process , in my 40's,of 'reclaiming' my body. Which means I got a couple of new tattoos and alsoam starting to get cover ups of some of the old ones. I'm not triggered by the old ones. But I have been emotionally detached from my body really. The fact I'm getting cover ups shows I don't want them anymore. I want the new me. New tattoos,showing change and rebirth and me now.
So, if in the future you don't like your tattoo anymore: you can always get a cover up or try and get it lazered off.

A friend recently said to me to have a screen saver of the tattoo design for a year before getting the tattoo. Could work?
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Hi Hot~tea, I have several tats, and they are all related to my healing journey and have specific meaning and stories behind them. I even have a plan for a tattoo when I'm further along in my healing.

I have one that says Warrior, and it's in a 'distressed' font. It's a little beat up, but still bold and strong. I have tats of stuff like that, that means something to me.

They are permanent, and you absolutely need to make sure that you love the tattoo you'll be getting. It shouldn't be something that you think looks good. It should be something that when you look at it, you just know it's exactly right, and you love it.


I have two bigger tattoos, two teeny ones. The teeny ones, of those one is still very meaningful the other, frankly was just because I didn’t like the asymmetry (inside of wrist) from one arm to the other so it was a f*ck it tattoo!

The bigger ones have meaning. One is of a tree whose leaves and branches show all 4 seasons because a therapist once said to me (as we were ending our sessions together actually), that I was like an oak tree. That I’ve been through harsh winters and have been at near death, but no matter what I have made it to spring and will do again. And that at the time I’d not yet experienced summer (in the metaphor) but I would do one day. She was right. So that one means a lot.

My most recent is of Anubis, and all the connoatations that go with that. I’ve found that being mindful and intentional of what tattoos I have has actually helped me to reconnect with my body. It’s my version of me, nobody else’s. It’s covered up and distracted from a few scars which has helped too. So now my skin feels more like it belongs to me rather than being the property of abusers. If that makes sense.

It’s weird, I’d never really thought about it in such depth before.

As for picking accidental triggers. Sadly if you don’t know a trigger until you work on some currently mentally inaccessible trauma and it pops up. Such is life.

I suppose though with the floral stuff, it will depend how you view it. And it will change day by day as most things do. Some days it will remind you of the good moments in your childhood. It will remind you that even with all the bad stuff you were able to wonder and marvel at nature and therefore you still had that childlike joy and light in you no matter what was happening.

Other times it may well remind you of your childhood, that there was so much darkness and the flowers reminding you of that will maybe trigger you. Or it might give you a wry smile that you chose something to remind you of a period that overall was negative. What does that say about your ability to pick out the positives?

Only you know how you will feel. But I can almost guarantee that no matter what you get your relationship will change with them over time. Just as your relationship with the rest of your body does. We all age and change over time. Experience adds to our knowledge but that doesn’t always mean we’ll end up regretting it.


In my opinion, if the flowers you want tattooed don't trigger you now, there's a strong likelihood they won't in the future. However, there's no absolute answer because it's in the future.
I've 5 tattoos and all have a "reason." There's my 1st, then one my daughter talked me into. Both are very small. I want to add to the 1 on my shoulder blade. The 3rd one I just knew I wanted it. The 4th.......I do like it, however I wish I'd had it done differently. It's reason is for a couple people gone way too soon. #5 I knew what I wanted, where, and when. I knew I'd only get it if I trusted the artist.

Tattoos are no longer "no regerts." There are awesome artist that can do a cover or there is tattoo removal.
I feel you're weighing the pros and cons already. I'm pretty sure you'll be happy with whatever choice you make.
"Tattoos are like Lay's potato chips, you can't have just one!"
Do you and be proud.
(I can't recall my user name!)


I have 3 tattoos all related to achievements, important people and things I like. I too am in the process of reclaiming my body, and I think that my tattoos are in fact the way that I have done that in the past without really realising that I was doing it. My first two tattoos I had where I could hide them if I wanted - I was still in the stage of feeling great shame over my body and fear about what other people think. The third is on my shoulder - it's big and I love it. Number 4 is going round my wrist and I am fully aware and comfortable that it won't be hidden away. For me tattoos are the story of a life lived. I hope you enjoy yours and feel proud of it! Good luck


I’ve passed the 30th anniversary of a traumatic event. on the 11th anni I got a tattoo of a Buddhist knot of eternity in the center of my upper back. It was very empowering at the time and I don’t regret it one bit. Of course I can’t exactly see it every day. I think tattoos are a wonderful way of reclaiming our bodies.