Two swallows on the inside of my thighs. Facing each other. Two little birds. Swallow tattoos have an incredible history. Sailors used to get them when they’d go on ships hundreds of years ago. They believed that if you were out at sea and drowned, swallows would carry your soul up to heaven. A lot of prisoners have swallow tattoos as well. Mine hardly get seen by anyone. They’re like my own secret.

When I think about it deeply, which I do on a daily basis, I think sometimes that depression is the best thing that ever happened to me. I went through really bad depression and really bad anxiety. It was all murky. But there was a moment where I realised I needed to appreciate the here and now. If I’m so dependent on my happiness “starting” at some point, I’ll constantly be in this horrible place. In that moment I thought no, I’m going to choose how to live the rest of my life and I choose freedom. Even if my financial or material circumstances don’t change, I choose mentally to be free.

Your own happiness and your own destiny can come from within. It feels particularly relevant to right now thinking about it.

No matter how bad the storm gets, as a collective, as a nation, as a planet, or how bad that storm gets for me, or how trapped I feel mentally, we’ll always be free again at some point. It’s just a matter of time until we get there.

I only got taught that lesson through the worst of my depression and anxiety. told by reece uk

Tattoo on an arm of the French word rien

It was an impulsive tattoo.

I had a job I really really loved and I got a new boss who came in with the reputation for hating women. He tried to make me quit through psychological abuse though I really didn’t understand that at the time.

He’d do things like leave rubbish on my desk or send me away when the office were going to do something nice together.

He really broke me in ways that I’m probably still dealing with. It all ended in him finding a loophole in my contract to essentially demote me and replace me with a man. So instead, I handed in my notice. For my whole notice period, I spent my whole time regretting it. Thinking I should’ve just sucked it up. Thinking I was weak. After, I got ‘Rien’ written on the back of my elbow to remind me to stop regretting the choice to leave. It was a full stop for me. That experience kind of made me wish that I hadn’t been born a woman. Which is an odd feeling.

It made me examine what feminism really means to me. It felt like a tide of change was going on in the world where now we’re saying: no this stuff is just not going to go on anymore.

Sometimes the impulsive tattoos have a lot more meaning.

told by edith uk

A black and white photo of a hand with a tattoo

When I was growing up my dad had freckled hands, pale, with black hair. And on the back of each hand he had an oval of skin, a round scar.

When I was about five I asked what it was. Something vague was said, and I was to understand it was a nothing.

Then I found a photograph of my dad as a young man, a soldier in Egypt, with luscious hair he had since lost, curled back in a duck’s arse.

He was cocky and young and on his hands were two swallows.

He was fifteen when he got them.

He thought he was clever. They were shocking. And a man in authority had said, you won’t get anywhere with those on your hands. This was the Fifties. So a surgeon gave him two skin grafts, one for each hand.

He told me this story once. I never repeated it.

My fifteen-year-old son doesn’t know.

I would hate it if my son got a tattoo - I really don't like them. I think they look like bruises and I like naked skin.

Skin is so conscious and expressive, beautiful and unique.

But I can see often tattoos are the heraldry of people's unconscious.

And they attract my attention and eye.

written by wendy