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To feel ambivalent about this "invisible"; tattoo?

(68 Posts)
TheOtherGalen Fri 30-Dec-16 23:29:01

I recently (last month) discovered that a small scar on the back of my neck is actually a very old, degraded UV tattoo. It's only visible under a black-light. In normal light, it's a barely-perceptible scar that you have to really work to see. Under UV light, however, it fluoresces a faint bluish-white and clearly spells out the word "mine" in letters that are about three-quarters of an inch tall.

It was put there when I was eleven (over 30 years ago) by a very disturbed (and possessive!) relative by what I think is called a "poke and stick" method. At the time, I didn't really understand what was happening, and it was only last month, after a routine visit to a dermatologist, that I finally put together that it was a UV tattoo.

On the one hand, I feel fucked up about having been so blatantly marked as a possession, without my knowledge or consent, and in such a permanent way. I feel creeped out, violated, embarrassed -- and like somehow something important was stolen from me and I've only just now figured it out. It also gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies in a more general sense to think of a grown man doing that to a little girl.

On the other hand, I keep thinking it shouldn't matter: It's basically invisible; I've gone this long without even knowing about it; and unless I make a point of dragging people off into dark corners and whipping out a black-light, no one else ever even needs to know it's there. My childhood was a bit of a hot mess, but things evened out and for many years now I've had a happy life, full of love and laughter and contentment. Nothing I do now is going to change what happened back then, so what's the point of even fussing over it?

I go back and forth between "So what?" and "OMG this is horrible!" Sometimes it seems like in comparison to other stuff in my early years, this is just a stupid tame thing, and other times it feels more awful than the other, more dramatic (or more obviously abusive), stuff. I'm not in a giant emotional crisis over it or anything, but I am struggling with finding a way to frame it.

I'm also trying to figure out what, if anything, I should do. I mean, I'm not going to do anything right away. I think I need to let my feelings sort themselves out before I stampede off into some solution or reaction that I might regret later on, ha. But it's been six weeks and my feelings are still all over the place.

Any advice, insights, words of wisdom? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill here? How would you feel?

mylittlephoney Fri 30-Dec-16 23:30:22

Hasn't this already had a posting.'s terrible.

Isadora2007 Fri 30-Dec-16 23:34:44

Oh. I honestly don't even know how I'd feel. How did it feel at the time as it must have hurt a little? Was it described as a game or...?
I guess on one hand nothing has actually changed but it's like that realisation of the word and the permanence etc does change it...

I'd say however you feel is how you feel and is right for you. If that makes sense. It sounds like you've had many tough things happen that you have survived or overcome so that may give you the confidence that this too shall pass.

dollydaydream114 Fri 30-Dec-16 23:38:06

You are absolutely NOT making a mountain out of a molehill. It's a horrible, horrible thing to find out. I think anyone would feel like you did when you found out - creeped out and violated doesn't even begin to cover how I'd feel. A grown man tattooing 'mine' on a little girl is absolutely not 'stupid or tame' even in the context of more obvious abuse. It's a horrendous thing to do.

I am pretty sure this is one of the few tattoos that you would be able to have removed on the NHS, if you wanted to. Whether other people can see it or not, I think I would find it cathartic to get rid of it. Equally, you might feel that having it removed (or covered with a new tattoo of your own choosing?) would attribute more significance to it than it deserves. Only you can know how you really feel about this, and it will probably take some time to process what you've learnt - perhaps it would help to speak to a therapist who can help you figure out your feelings more clearly?

I'm really pleased that your life is now happy and full of love - that's an achievement in itself. Whatever you decide to do about this horrid discovery, all the best to you and good luck.

TheOtherGalen Fri 30-Dec-16 23:40:29

Hasn't this already had a posting.

Yes. It was my first posting here and I stupidly used my Gmail username as my MN username. My Gmail username is a not-very-clever play on my real name, so for privacy reasons I asked that the thread be taken down.

Also the question I originally asked was different: more about ideas on what to do than actually questioning how to regard the whole thing.

Apologies for the re-post, though.

N0tfinished Fri 30-Dec-16 23:40:47

That's horrific. The thought of a child being branded this way is awful. I suppose it was a deluded attempt at keeping you safe?

Have you any recourse about this? That would answer a lot for me.

If the relative has passed on, then you can only try to deal with the emotional repercussions. If not, you could consider confronting them.

TheoriginalLEM Fri 30-Dec-16 23:41:18

didn't you post about this before?

PhilODox Fri 30-Dec-16 23:45:28

That is really chilling. Were they abusive to you too?

TheOtherGalen Fri 30-Dec-16 23:50:36

How did it feel at the time as it must have hurt a little? Was it described as a game or...?
Honestly, I don't really remember much about how it felt physically -- I just have a vague recollection of him pricking at my neck, and then some blurry memories of him showing me how I "glowed in the dark" or somesuch. The guy was a real piece of work, and did a lot of very strange stuff, so I think at the time it didn't really register as anything important in the larger scheme of the way he behaved.

I'd say however you feel is how you feel and is right for you. If that makes sense. It sounds like you've had many tough things happen that you have survived or overcome so that may give you the confidence that this too shall pass.
Thank you for your kind words. It's true things were tough when I was a kid but I have to say the rest of my life has more than made up for the tough stuff! I do have faith that I'm going to find a way to feel less weirded out by this, but I'm usually so even-keeled that it's been kind of throwing me for a loop to be feeling so unsettled about it for so long.

StarBurger Fri 30-Dec-16 23:52:19

Get it reworked into something empowering smile flowers

iminshock Fri 30-Dec-16 23:54:50

Is this guy still around?

AdoraBell Fri 30-Dec-16 23:56:24

Very chilling, as already mentioned.

I also agree that some counseling would help you to sort out your emotions. This wouldmake me apoplectic.

TheOtherGalen Fri 30-Dec-16 23:57:00

I am pretty sure this is one of the few tattoos that you would be able to have removed on the NHS, if you wanted to. Whether other people can see it or not, I think I would find it cathartic to get rid of it. Equally, you might feel that having it removed (or covered with a new tattoo of your own choosing?) would attribute more significance to it than it deserves.

From what I understand, removing a UV tattoo is different from removing a regular (visible) tattoo. It can't be done with laser removal, as there is no visible ink for the laser to ... uh ... (something technical here). The upshot is that if I want it removed, it will have to be literally cut out. I'm not sure if having a removal scar would feel better than having a "mine" scar, but it is something I'm considering. Especially since it's possible that whatever he used as ink could have repercussions healthwise. (This was done in the mid '80s, before there was such a thing as "safe" UV tattoo ink.) And, yeah, I've thought of maybe getting some sort of cover-up, but as you point out there are symbolic problems with that, too!

BlueFolly Sat 31-Dec-16 00:03:35

I would be raging - I am sure the fact that it is 'invisible' could even possibly make it more difficult to deal with somehow.

TheOtherGalen Sat 31-Dec-16 00:13:42

The guy (I knew him as my "uncle" although technically he wasn't my uncle) died when I was twelve. I'd throw confetti here but that's a little too gallows humor, even for me.

Okay, so I'm not out of my gourd to be feeling jammed up about this. That's reassuring. I mean insofar as knowing others find it as horrific as I do can be called reassuring, heh.

I forgot to say that underneath all this confusion there is a big lump of just pure rage. I'm trying to go at this in a measured way, and not react out of that rage, because it's telling me stuff like, "Don't let that fucker get the last word! He wants an ownership contest? Go out and get your entire body tattooed with different versions of the word 'mine'! Do it! Do it now!" My rage is very opinionated, hmph.

I do want to honor my feelings here, but at the same time I feel unwilling to let this be something that, I don't know -- that disrupts my life? Or ... I don't know. It's weird because half the time I really do have this reaction like, meh, shrug, whatever. I already knew he was a freak -- all this is, is a physical example of it.

DarthMother Sat 31-Dec-16 00:15:05

This may be way off beam but how about having the word "not" in front of it? You could have it in any font or language, you could have it so it could be clearly read or so that only you know what it says/means. You could even have a very ornate knot tattooed there.
It may be a small way of reclaiming yourself.

NovemberInDailyFailLand Sat 31-Dec-16 00:25:40

I would have it cut out, then. And try to 'forget' about it.

TheOtherGalen Sat 31-Dec-16 00:25:43

That is really chilling. Were they abusive to you too?
No. Or, not in any easy-to-define way. No physical, sexual, or even verbal abuse. In fact, the time I was with him actually felt like a reprieve at first. I have a hard time defining the stuff he did as abusive, to be honest. Mostly I've just thought of it as really bizarre.

Well, if I'm really being honest, I guess I should say I haven't spent a lot of time trying to figure out if what he did was abusive or not. The whole experience has always felt kind of encapsulated to me, like, "oh, yeah, that weird year I was with my pervert uncle." Not a lot of examination. I think I'm much more comfortable thinking about the more black-and-white circumstances! Where it's really easy to know who the bad guys were.

But, no. This was not one of those horrible abuse situations at all.

Side note: Some years ago I adopted the persona of a teenaged girl and tried to blog about some of the stuff that happened when I was with him. I changed enough of the details, though, that at some point it stopped feeling like my own history, and the whole blogging thing took on a life of its own and it all got very confusing for me, so I stopped. My point is that maybe this has been on my mind for a while, sort of bubbling under the surface, bothering me more than I realize. I don't know.

finova Sat 31-Dec-16 00:25:58

Minerva....has apt connotations.
Maybe a beautiful delicate font.

I'd have to remove or alter it. I'm not sure which. I'd want more advice re the ink. If it's possibly unhealthy just remove it as you would anything else unhealthy in your body.

Damia Sat 31-Dec-16 00:30:04

I think I would have a normal tattoo done over it. Maybe even the word mine in your own colours etc as in you belong to yourself and no one can take that away.

TheOtherGalen Sat 31-Dec-16 00:42:13

DarthMother I'm kind of loving the idea of a knot! But then it would be "not mine," which feels sort of wrong, because I want my skin to be mine, not just not his? Or something. Ugh! I really hate that this guy managed to put something on me that feels so fucking confusing no matter how I try to imagine dealing with it.

finova I just googled "Minerva." That IS very apt, in more ways than I can even explain. Thank you for giving me a whole new way of approaching this. I've been stuck on it as the word "mine" and hadn't even thought about adding additional letters to change it into a completely different word.

Ellisandra Sat 31-Dec-16 00:42:28

Does the arsehole have a gravestone?
Cos I'm thinking a sharpie and "no I fucking wasn't, arsehole" across it would be one interim option.

No, you're not odd for struggling with how to feel with and deal with this. It's a horrible thing.

I admire that there is clearly a part of you that feels you don't have to act because it (and he) have no power. None at all. It is just a scar, from something that happened in your life.

But personally, I would have it cut out. Not for me the reclamation with cover tattoos, personally - though I think for the right person it's a great suggestion.

Good luck however you proceed flowers

Ellisandra Sat 31-Dec-16 00:45:33

As you do like the idea of a new word (Minerva is great!) there are lots of websites that suggest words with certain words in - because of Scrabble! grin

I like: determined

Italiangreyhound Sat 31-Dec-16 00:49:43

TheOtherGalen I am so sorry this sounds truly horrific.

I have no idea what I would do in your shoes but I think I would try and access some counselling to process the feelings. You need someone who understands abusive pasts and can really advise you the best ways to work through this aspect of it.

I think I would want to know what a medical prognosis was, is there any danger in keeping this, (as I understand there may be issues around UV tattoos).

So is there a larger danger of keeping it, or a larger danger of having 'treatment' to remove it?

Would having a tattoo to cover it be helpful? If you decide it may be can you have a temporary tattoo done first to make sure this really will bring you peace.

Or might you feel that by tattooing you first he forced you to have a tattoo later in life that you did not really want?

One area you could look into after counselling is creating a ritual to move through this sadness, I cannot think how else to say it. This is the kind of thing linked to what people do when they lose a loved one, or lose a baby to miscarriage. The child in this case would be your own childhood/innocence/agency in the choice of not getting a tattoo etc.

I would not recommend doing this alone but a skilled counseller may be able to help.

For example you may choose to plant a tree or do something significant as a way of riding yourself of the sad emotions attached to this horrible tattoo which was forced onto you.

If you felt this worked you may not feel the need to undergo medical treatment (unless it was advised) and may find this is the preferable route.

If this did not work, you could still go on and pursue a new tattoo or removal.

This is just an idea, not something I have tried personally, and I must stress again it would come at the end of counselling and as part of that with someone who was trained in helping people move on from a difficult past.

Please remember you do have the 'last laugh' if it is appropriate to say this, on this evil man. He died shortly after doing this wicked thing and you are alive and well.

By all means seek medical and counselling help but please do not allow this evil man to affect you still. What he did was wrong, and he is now dead; you are alive and well and have many good things in your life.

Do not allow him to steal your joy! Find a way forward. He is not worth it. You are worth so much more.

Bless you. thanks

Italiangreyhound Sat 31-Dec-16 00:57:58

Exposing things to the light can be painful but I do feel it can be useful too. I mean the emotions you experienced.

If you choose a word, I like the word free or freedom. Google how it look sin Hebrew, quite pretty and 4 letters.


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