During the Christmas break I got a tattoo. I wanted to take some time to talk about the experience of being autistic and getting a tattoo. It’s a tattoo that I’ve been planning for many years, but I hadn’t been brave enough to go and get it. I’m glad that I waited because I was able to get my original design plan, three elephants to represent my children, in my new favourite kawaii style.
I was super nervous about getting a tattoo. I have another one but it was done by a friend at home, not using a gun, so it was a very different experience, and boy did it hurt. This experience, combined with my extreme needle phobia made me nervous about going under the needle again.
Being autistic and getting a tattoo was an intense experience for me. I’m already hyper aware of all sensations in my body and generally have a low pain threshold. I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle it. But I did and I’m really pleased with the resulting tattoo.
I made this video to talk to you all about the experience of getting, and healing a tattoo.
This is Flavia’s (my tattoo artist) Instagram account.
I’m waiting for my assessment (whenever lockdown eases), and am now recognising a lot of sensory issues I’d either not noticed, or – more usually – crammed down and ignored because I thought it was normal and that I just had to put up with it.
Having a higher than usual pain threshold is something I always knew about, but it never occurred to me that it was part of a pattern of sensory issues.
Over 20 years ago, I sat for a tattoo, and was surprised at how easy it was. The artist kept asking if I’d like a break, like some water, if I was OK. It seemed like he must have had a lot of people with pain conditions, but he said no, I was just unusually “brave”. I wasn’t brave at all, I said, because it’s just like a kind of scratch that turns into physical white noise. He did think it was odd, but what he’d expected to take 90 minutes to 2 hours took 45 minutes, and I walked away with what I now realise was a completely unrealistic-for-other-people idea of what getting tattooed feels like. I cannot abide very light, ticklish sensations, yet seem not to process pain like a lot of other people do. Now it makes sense!
Thanks so much for providing a good chunk of the information that’s led me to a referral for assessment. You’re doing a wonderful service to the world.