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Welcome to a blog written by an autistic adult woman in her late 30's using words and images to advocate acceptance as well as awareness of those with life-limiting sensory processing disorder and resulting social and behavioral challenges.Thank you for visiting.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Autistic and inked

After a 2 decade hiatus, I finally did something I'd been wanting to do since my maiden voyage at age 18. I got inked again!
This is a repeat victory for someone who used to agonize over blood tests.
I had to get a lot of them when I was 17, as I was on medication that required periodic blood tests, particularly for Lithobid, which I am no longer on.
I was also hospitalized over 20 times (I stopped counting after 20), and blood draws are a part of the experience.
I had wanted a tattoo since I was 12. I used to get the stick on ones from Claire's. I saw a little butterfly on the sheet of stick ons, and I knew once I was of age (18 was legal for tattoos back in 1997) I would be getting a tattoo.
Being stuck like a pig definitely helped me prepare!
My dad would've been against it, but he had passed in 1994 (23 years ago today). My mom was cool with it-I got the second child privilege. By contrast my older sister couldn't date or get her ears pierced until she was 15. By the time I was 15, I had two pair of holes in each lobe.
My first tattoo took place in the only parlor around at the time. It was in a 1970's era tiny mall of only 3 shops. Olive green paint was peeling off the siding.
It was definitely a stereotypical environment at first blush. Biker dudes and dames browsed the designs hanging on the walls and metal blasted from the speakers. 
After a detailed conversation about needles and infection as well as what level of pain to experience, price and size/position of the tattoo, I felt assured enough to go through with my six year dream.
I chose a small pink butterfly for my upper left arm. Two more would follow over the next year, including a large Monarch. Bigger needle, so more painful.
After twenty years, I can honestly say I have "no regerts".
The little tattoo shop is gone, but you can still see the tiny white tiles of the old floor in what is now a resturant. It used to say "TATTOO" in contrasting black tiles until remodeling.
While doing my tattoo research, I was surprised to see how the parlors have changed. They are bigger, the atmosphere more like a spa or high end hair salon.
I began doing a Google search for tattoo salons near me. Today there are plenty of options.
I then contacted the ones that had an email or Facebook contact option.
It came down to two places. One told me they couldn't guarantee properly accommodating my sensory needs. The other promised me a day that had the least amount of traffic and the option to do the procedure in the piercing room, which is in the back and has a door.
I didn't want any unexpected noise to make me jump. Especially with a needle full of ink.
The price was not much higher than it was back in 1997.
More research told me that tattoo artists get tips. I'm so glad I did so much Googling.
It pays to prepare. I used sites like Pinterest to look for the pattern I wanted.
My sister facilitated the phone call to make the appointment.
8 weeks later (they book up fast), on Memorial Day Weekend, I memorialized my parents on my lower leg and ankle .
As far as pain goes, everyone is different. The smallest needle was used. I was given a fidget toy to spin (they actually had a fidget toy on hand!) while the procedure was taking place. I also brought my iPod and noise cancelling headphones, though I didn't need to use them.
It is a deep pressure procedure and scratchy at the same time.
The artist gave me plenty of breaks. His patience and easy going demeanor was much appreciated.
Yes, autistic people can get tattoos. Every individual is different. What can be tolerated on the skin and for how long as well as the area of the skin (forearms, tops of feet and thighs are highly sensitive spots to get inked) will determine what can be tolerated if at all.
You are not a "baby" or "wimp" if you can't tolerate the needle. I tell NT people this when they degrade themselves in front of me after getting into a brief conversation about one of my tattoos.
Be prepared if you are getting inked that you will draw attention from others. People are usually inquisitive "I like your tattoo! Where did you get it?"
They will also ask to touch it.
I usually let them touch them for a few seconds before drawing back.
One time, a sales clerk touched my large Monarch without asking. I felt slightly violated. She also treated me briskly while warmly chatting with other customers.
The artist wrapped my freshly inked tattoo in cellophane after rubbing some topical goo on it to keep it lubed and sanitary.
A good tattoo artist will discuss price and work within your budget. This was an early birthday present from family, so all I did was pay the tip, which I saved up several months for using money earned from my bracelet sales and monthly allowance.
The area felt much like a 1st degree skin burn, but only lasted 20 minutes upon completion.
I have begun putting Aquaphor on it, as the area is drying out and slightly itchy, which is normal.
My sister and I got something to eat and then it was off to the state park to snap nature photos.
This will definitely NOT be my last tattoo experience, but I will wait a few years, God willing I live longer, to do it again. I want to savor and plan.

Caucasian female's lower leg and ankle sporting 2 swallow birds. One is blue and orange and the other rose and pink.

The last thing I would add is to use a little common sense. Choose you location carefully. You may need to cover it up if you are employed in a conservative setting. Protect it from the sun with sunscreen as you would the rest of your skin. You may wish to cover it with a Band Aid if you are going to be doing any rugged sports or hiking through areas where rough brush and poison ivy is present. Remember, this is an investment.
I'm a Christian, so I prayed about this before getting started. There is that part in the Old Testament about not cutting the flesh, but some people take this out of context. What is means is not to cut your skin in worship to an idol. I assure you, I'm not worshipping the swallow god.