Trigger Warning: Suicide
My first tattoo saved my life on 2.1.21
I’ve always had a thing with the number 21. I spent a week after being discharged from a 57-day psychiatric hospitalization preparing to die on 2.1.21. I cleaned. I decluttered. I wrote notes to my people. I gathered supplies. I rehearsed my plan. BUT. I wanted this tattoo.
And I couldn’t get an appointment until 2.2.21.
Did you know that adoptees are 4X times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted people? Did you know that we are overrepresented in mental health facilities and prisons?
November is National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM) and traditionally, has been dominated by the voices of adoptive parents who glorify adoption without acknowledging it’s other, darker dimensions: relinquishment, loss, grief, industrial corruption, child trafficking, adoptee mental health struggles, and many more. Adoptee Remembrance Day (ARD) provides the opportunity on October 30th to pause before NAAM and remember these “uglies” of adoption, as well as honor the memory of those adoptees who have died by suicide, neglect, and abuse. ARD is the first step in shining our truth on the month of November.
I chose the Adoptee Remembrance Day logo for this tattoo in support of all that Adoptee Remembrance Day represents; I hope that it sparks meaningful conversations for the rest of my life. To me, the logo beautifully symbolizes the merging of two adoption realities. The first is the overly positive feel-good savior narrative that the world largely accepts as truth. This is represented in the overall “heart shape” of the logo that’s associated with a real heart, despite its lack of resemblance to the physical organ. The second reality is the lesser acknowledged pain and loss that adoption is deeply rooted in. This is represented in the cracks running through the logo like the arteries of a physical heart.
I chose to place the date of my adoption in this tattoo, because it was the day that these two realities merged in my life, just like they merge in the ARD logo. On 1.12.98, I gained a second set of parents and another life. On 1.12.98, I also lost all that I had ever known: my first country, my people, my culture. I was passed from stranger to stranger like a toy. I was paid for like property. I suffered great loss and confusion that day.
I chose the inside of my left wrist because of the countless hours I spent in the hospital staring at that wrist, contemplating ending my life in between the 15-minute safety checks. I figured I could bleed out fast enough in that time if the cut was done right. I came very close to acting one night, but I didn’t get the chance to. After, I decided to put in the work to get safely discharged and to get a tattoo in place of the scar that didn’t occur that night.
Tattoos “grow” with the individual over time. They spread out. And I wonder if in the coming years, the cracks in this heart may slowly disappear; a sign of healing as the heart grows.
I am a transracial, transnational adoptee. And this hurts. I hurt. And that pain is real, no matter how many family members, friends, and medical professionals misunderstand, disregard, and minimize it. Adoption is NOT a fairy tale. It begins in loss and trauma and it continues in grief, PTSD, depression, anxiety, ADHD, abandonment issues, and a host of other painful realities.
It continues in love for many; I don’t mean to forget that.
But sometimes, no matter how great the intention is, love is simply not enough. Adoption is complicated. And it’s simply represented forever on my left wrist.
In truth and love ~ Sara
Instagram – @sgraves123
Thank you, Sara for so bravely sharing your story with us!
Please show Sara some love in the comments below.