Tattoo Tuesday

Senior’s tattoo marks past struggles with self-harm and how far she’s come

Kali Bowden | Staff Photographer

Linnea Nordgren struggled with self-harm for years, but now finds a reminder of her growth in the tattoo on her wrist.

One might liken Linnea Nordgren’s right wrist to a forest fire. Where destruction and damage once reigned, a symbol of change, growth and perseverance has taken abode. This symbol comes in the form of a rubber tree leaf.

The senior television, radio and film and English and textual studies dual major’s tattoo is rooted in a poem she wrote for class during her freshman year as a testament to overcoming her habit of self-harm.

Self-harm can take on many forms. For Nordgren, it was an on-and-off cycle of cutting the skin on her wrists, starting when she was 14. Her worst phase occurred during her senior year of high school.

“There was a specific moment at that time when I decided I didn’t want this to continue for the rest of my life,” Nordgren said. “I told my mother that I had been struggling with it, and she immediately found me a professional therapist. I was lucky that I recognized the problem myself and had the support of my parents.”

By the time summer came around, Nordgren had completely quit. She had gone four months without cutting by the time she wrote the 30-line, 143-word poem. The piece was an inspirational description of what she will do upon completely overcoming her struggle with self-harm, as well as a tribute to the strength it had taken her to get so far. She wrote of falling behind the hills, tangling her hair with sparkling jewels and being beautiful again. To convey the idea of “bouncing back,” she decided to title it “The Rubber Tree.” After she turned it in for class, she found herself reading it over and over again.

“I didn’t expect the poem to stick with me so much, but it did,” she said. “The act of writing is really healing for me. I was really proud of it, and I saw a lot of truth in it. I wanted to believe it, and I wanted to prove it right.”

This was when Nordgren decided to set a goal for herself. She decided that if she could go a full year without harming herself, she would get a part of her poem tattooed on her wrist where she used to cut. Her original plan was to get the final stanza tattooed.

After Nordgren accomplished her goal and consulted with a tattoo artist, they explained that the words would not fit on her wrist, so she decided to get the rubber tree leaf instead. She’s happy with that choice.

Nordgren stressed that anyone who struggles with self-harm should feel safe finding help. She said it’s a subject that needs to be normalized, adding that resources like the Syracuse University Counseling Center and hotlines such as National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are available.

Today, the tattoo serves as a token of what she has accomplished.

Said Nordgren: “It’s a reminder of what can be, and that what is now isn’t always what is going to be forever. It’s a reminder of growth, and that everything can be made different if you set your mind to it.”


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