Anxiety Disorder, Self-Help

The Story of My Tattoo

I did a thing on Tuesday, I got my first ever tattoo. I’ve wanted a tattoo for years but because of my past panic disorder, I was never able to go through with it. The thought of being stuck in a room while being tattooed always brought me to the edge of panic. However, I now managing my disorder, drug-free, so I decided to bite the bullet and finally get one.

Slightly Worried

The appointment was booked about a month earlier and for the entire build-up I just felt excited. I spent hours looking through different types of tattoos and imagining what it will look like or even be like having a tattoo. There wasn’t an ounce of fear in me. The day of the tattoo is when I began to feel just slightly worried, not anxious, not scared, a little bit of ‘what if’ syndrome popped in, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t deal with and it was by no means anywhere near the daily anxiety or panic that I lived with for so long.

Why This Tattoo?

Minimalist tattoo lavender

My daughter and I both had a minimalist tattoo on our wrists. The design we asked for was a single lavender sprig. Upon arrival, our tattooist Joe showed us two designs. One was a single sprig, the other was a sprig of lavender accompanied a stem with four tiny flowers. We both agreed on the latter and settled on the position, I picked my right hand and my daughter chose her left.

The reason for the lavender is because it played such a huge role in my learning to manage the anxiety disorder that plagued my life for over 2 decades. I used lavender oil on a tissue to help me when undertaking tasks that would cause me panic (like leaving the house, going on a bus or even really tough things like going to funerals). The scent definitely soothed me (even though I can’t stand the smell) and I’m sure that’s to do with the nature of the plant, but it was so much more. I guess lavender reminded me that I was okay, that what I was feeling was natural but not necessary. It reminded me to take a breath, to stop feeling fearful in that moment and stop panic by showing no fear.

My daughter was happy to have lavender too, in fact, the idea was initially hers. For her, it’s a reminder throughout life that you can take control of the brain when it wobbles. That your brain power is so strong that it can sometimes go off down a hole, but that you can use that power to centre yourself too. I love that she has this little reminder of strength and serenity that will be with her even when I’m not.

Does it Hurt Getting a Tattoo on Your Wrist?

Tattoo tips for anxiety

My tattoo is about 3.5cm long and it was created using a single needle. It’s minimalist and the lines are so fine. Therefore, my tattoo experience was relatively painless. It’s not pain free, it was noticeable and it felt like a sting, similar to stinging nettles but not as long-lasting. At some points, it felt like an injection. Not once did I wince in pain or screw up my face in discomfort. I looked at my daughter and we spoke with Joe, which meant often I didn’t really feel a thing. Afterward, I felt zero pain, just the occasional warm sensation on and off for a couple of hours and then nothing at all, it didn’t even itch.

How Long Does a Tattoo Take?


My small and simple tattoo was finished in about 20 minutes. However, the entire tattooing process lasted longer. Upon arrival, you decide on the design, which is then turned into a stencil and applied to the area. You then look at it and you can decide to change the position if you want to (I didn’t). The tattooist then lets it dry and gets everything ready before inviting you to lie back and get started. After the tattoo is finished it needs to be cleaned, left to dry, photographed in our case and then covered. You’re provided with care instructions and then all you have to do is pay. It took about an hour in total for me and the same again for my daughter.

If you have a larger tattoo, are tattooed in a more painful area or choose a tattoo with more detail it’s going to take longer and not all tattooist work at the same speed.

Getting a Tattoo When You Have Anxiety

Lavender and flower minimalist tattoo

There were a couple of times during the process that would have definitely caused me to panic in the past. We shared the room with another tattooist who was tattooing a man on his ankle. This guy was in pain and I could hear the entire conversation. The tattooist was reminding the guy he was welcome to have a break if he needed and that it was a painful area. Also, my tattooist talked about his first tattoo and how he stood up too quickly resulting in him not being able to see and feeling dizzy. Both of those conversations would have made me dizzy and panicky before. So, I have some advice if you’re having a tattoo while still dealing with a similar anxiety disorder to me.

  • Suck on a lolly – I did this and it was a tasty distraction – but have water close by as my lolly dried my mouth out
  • Take water – don’t go in without it – for everyone, panicky or not
  • Have a consultation – if you’re really nervous it may help to have a non-pressurised discussion before booking an actual appointment
  • Eat beforehand – again, this is for everyone
  • If you are easily triggered by conversations I recommend asking your tattooist if you can listen to your own music or audiobook. Having headphones in will help to block out any awkward conversations and help you to concentrate on what you’re listening to
  • Tell your tattooist that you have anxiety – trying to hide anxiety is one way to make it 100% worse – be open and honest
  • Focus on the end result – you’re going to have a tattoo that you’ll love!
  • Go for something small and simple to start with – test your boundaries and reduce the amount of time you’ll be there – keep it manageable and you can work up to that sleeve!

Joe Turner Tattooist

minimalist tattooist Worcester


Joe creates beautiful, fine line and minimalist tattoos (I’m sure he can do anything else but these are his specialties). You can find him at Lock and Key Tattoo in Worcester, which is above Four Leaf. Joe’s a friendly and fun guy who both my daughter and I felt totally comfortable with. Check out his work on Instagram, where you can find his contact details too.



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