Bloodwork, a Tattoo, and a Good Vein

I have a tattoo on my elbow-pit (that’s definitely a thing) that says, “Yet I will praise you.” I got it five years after my Dad died. It’s in his handwriting. I also got it during my first manic episode because the only thing that made sense was the tattoo shop.

My tattoo is right below my good vein. If you get bloodwork done regularly, you know what I’m talking about, because knowing how to avoid getting stuck more than once is an important skill to have. When I’m not feeling well, bloodwork reminds me that I’ll always have to deal with this shit.

Most people get bloodwork done to find what’s wrong. I get it done to make sure the right level of medicine is in my system – to regulate my mental illness, to keep my moods in check.

There are some days when having bipolar disorder is fine. I’m one of the priviledged ones. I grew up with parents who were open about mental health, I’ve always felt accepted, and even though my insurance doesn’t cover everything, I’m able to pay for both my food and my medicine most of the time.

But there are days when everything is very not okay. When I’m not sure that I can handle this. And I’ve been there a lot recently. Wondering if depression might just be something I have to deal with. Feeling like the best option is just to be okay with it for a while. Knowing that it’s a little safer than mania, because at least I don’t have the energy to be impulsive. Trying to fight off depression always makes me feel like a failure. I can’t fight my own brain, or think my way out of a depressive episode.

And then there’s the bloodwork. The reminder that this will always be a part of my life.

When I stick my arm out to a new tech, they always ask about my tattoo. It’s always been a reminder to me that in the midst of death, and in the midst of pain, praise reorients my heart. And in the middle of this ruthless depression, it continues to remind me that God is present with me, even into the darkness. That I don’t have to work my way out of depression to be with God. That the One who was present in the lion’s den and in the fire is also with me here.


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