Tattoo on an arm of the number 108 repeated four times in alternate red and green ink

During the early months of 2016 I had been making pictures in red and green ink, often made up of numbers. I decided I wanted to make a picture using the number 108.

It is the number of suitors who are coveting Penelope's hand on the island of Ithaca in Homer's Odyssey; an important number in all Dharmic religions; the internal angle of a regular Pentagon; the collective number of labourers in the employment of Boggis, Bunce and Bean in Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox, and many other things besides.

So I drew a grid pattern on a piece of card and wrote the number 108 in alternating red and green ink 108 times. I made myself laugh out loud at the thought of producing 108 cards and placing them in a box.

Soon I had ordered 108 boxes and 11,664 pieces of card and I embarked upon this enormous task.

The first box was completed in a week. Each card took approximately 30 minutes so I must have worked at nothing else for 54 hours that week. After that I would mark out and complete either 3, 6 or 9 cards a day. Unlike the first box it didn't get in the way of my life because I had begun to wake up very early.

I decided to call the project 'Ithaca', the home and destination of Odysseus.

I was unaware at this time that I had entered into a very extreme hypomanic state. Whilst about 2/3 of the way through the 4th box I woke up, set out my cards and then laughed so much I spat a mouthful of tea all over them. I abandoned the project for the remainder of my high.

The inevitable low that followed was almost completely debilitating, but I forced myself to complete the 4th box which I had abandoned in my manic state.

Since then I have been giving out the remaining boxes of cards to other people to complete in any way they choose.

My project had started out as something very solitary, even with the intention that the boxes would forever remain closed and only I would know what I had done. But my high had taken me out into the world again, and the world is full of other people. I hope by giving out the remaining boxes that the project acknowledges this in the way it has evolved.

There was a long period of coming to terms with this evolution though. The idea that I had somehow failed still lingered sometimes.

So eventually I had the number 108, in alternating red and green, tattooed onto my shoulder 4 times in a column to represent the 4 boxes I completed. To say to myself that 4 boxes was enough. That I'd done enough and that 'Ithaca' has a life of its own now.

I have continued to experience highs and lows since that time and continue to go through the arduous system of mental health services. I remain undiagnosed.

written by hywel


I had failed back surgery 11 years ago and since then have suffered with chronic back pain and then was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Both give me chronic nerve pain, mobility issues, increased migraines and exhaustion that you can't even imagine and has affected my whole life.

I was made redundant because I was so unreliable, lost friends that I have had since moving to Bournemouth 21 years ago, lost my busy social life, including performing burlesque.

These changes and the unpredictability of my symptoms have led to depression and anxiety and additional symptoms caused by the amount of medication I am on.

When I was experiencing a particularly dark period my Mum wrote to me and put in the card, "You come from a long line of strong women", which really struck a chord with me.

It made me not only think of my Mum and my Grandma, who was a strong woman, but also the other strong women who have stayed in my life. They have been there, through the good and the bad, they check in on me, are happy to visit and if I'm having a bad day are happy to lie in bed with me and chat or watch a film, or just happy to let me sleep. True friendship and extended family!

The strong women start with my Mum and Grandma; I never got to meet my Grandma as she died when my Mum was 12 years old from breast cancer. My Grandad remarried and it resulted in my Mum basically being told to leave when she was 16.

She ended up in London where she eventually met my biological father. Upon finding out she was pregnant and telling him, he left his job and flat and disappeared.

My Mum fought to have me, and struggled financially and emotionally until she met my step dad (who is ultimately the only dad I have ever known or wanted). To know someone loves you that much is really overwhelming.

So this tattoo celebrates all my strong women: My mum (the words), grandmother (breast cancer ribbon), Ally from Burlesque (the flowers), Michelle (who I call Bill and has been my best friend since secondary school), Kat (known since college) and Leah (the Manchester bee - I met her when living in the same block of flats). The butterfly represents new beginnings and purple is the colour that is associated with Fibromyalgia.

written by becky


Tattoos covering an arm and shoulder. They are all different coloured skulls

All my tattoos are skulls.

Skulls represent death. Death is certainty. My upbringing wasn't. The things you don't want to happen happened.

And we don't like to name it coz it can bring the mood down.

Abuse - check.

Shame - check.

Mental health problems - check.

Poor education - check.

Failure - check.

Prison - check.

Addiction - check.

Homelessness - check.

Hopeless- check.

I love knowing that one day I'll be dead and won't suffer no more.

Don't misunderstand though - I love life, I adore people.

In my coffin I'll wear a golden thong. Nothing else.

As a kid my body didn't belong to me. When I grew up I found out that it does.

My tattoos are all skulls.

written by ryan