Life is Too Short To Suffer.

Read time: 15-16 minutes minutes. Potential triggers: contains details of self harm, neglect, depression/anxiety, trauma.

Surviving, thriving, self care and self harm: Why should you give a fuck? Because you deserve it.

Self care isn’t just coffee face masks and spa days, it’s correcting shitty behaviour and forming healthier habits.

Please note: you are not obligated to listen to me, or keep reading. NO ONE is making you practice any of these, ever. You’re sitting/standing/lying down on planet Earth, suspended amongst infinite space. It’s totally up to you. YOU’RE THE BOSS! You can edit and adapt these to suit you, however is best for you. 💜

We need regulation of our appetites. We shouldn’t be able to just run amok. There should be limits in place that stop us, because there are human appetites that are very self-centred and non-communal as much as there is love and community spirit. 

—Laurence Scott.

Most of our behaviour is either self-care, or self-harm.

First of all: FUCK YEAH, you made it this far! Life is a balance between order and chaos. Care and harm can be managed and handled in equal measure. The fact that you’re still managing to hold it together, whilst reading a blog about self care is testament to that! You’re doing much better than you think, I promise.

Humans need regulation!

We all crave discipline, and we all deserve happiness. Pain & pleasure, but in equal measure.

You can learn this whenever you’re ready, and remember it whenever you want.

The One That Thrives is the One You Feed.

I have to chose my higher self over my lower self each day. If I don’t, I’m in big trouble!

Just because I carry everything so well, does not mean it’s not heavy.
I’m Autistic, chronically ill, processing big trauma, grief and working to re-wire my brain and nervous system. Depression and anxiety are dear old friends of mine. I’m self employed, run my own business and live with my cat. I work most days, all day – I clean and maintain my own studio, answer all my own emails, do my own admin, run my merch store then have to clean my home and feed the cat afterwards. Maybe see my partner on the weekend, or my friends at some point. Maybe train, or watch anime and play games. Maybe write some more. Maybe not…

Stuck on HARD MODE: My default setting is pretty harsh and dark. The tar pit is always out there, waiting for me. I have to work really hard to re-wire my default programming every day.

SELF HARM isn’t just about cutting/burning your skin when things are really bad. It can be self sabotaging when things are really good. It can be watching sad, depressing movies and horrible documentaries all the time. It’s winding people up who you know will lash out at you. It’s repeatedly engaging with people who are committed to misunderstanding you.

Complaining that someone’s being a clown all the time? Stop hanging out in the circus! This stuff is totally your choice. Allow yourself to believe that you deserve better.

If you run from your demons, they will chase you – if you turn to face them, they will run from you. Train them, by training yourself!

I can’t turn OFF being depressed or anxious. I can’t STOP being Autistic and chronically ill – but I can manage it all better with self care, and I can choose to be happy and grateful in spite of it all.

“My sanity requires daily maintenance.”

— Julia Cameron.

FEEDING//STARVING YOUR DEMONS:

Self harm can look like:

  • Lack of routines
  • Denying yourself sleep, sleeping poorly
  • Staying up late, then sleeping in
  • Self-isolation
  • Self-sabotage
  • Choosing not to eat/drink well
  • Not keeping yourself/your home warm enough
  • Not keeping on-top of laundry
  • Denying yourself showering/grooming 
  • Keeping your home messy/damp/unclean
  • Spending too much time on social media
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Skipping prescribed medication 
  • Skipping doctors appointments/checkups
  • Avoiding therapy/counselling
  • Not brushing/looking after your teeth
  • Overeating/overindulging 
  • Over-exercising & over-working yourself 
  • Skipping physio appointments
  • Taking on too many jobs/projects at once
  • Substance abuse 
  • Smoking/drinking
  • Staying in contact with toxic ex-partners
  • Cheating/lying/affairs
  • Scratching/picking/pinching your skin
  • Getting tattooed irresponsibly
  • Forcing yourself go out and do things when you’re exhausted 
  • Choosing to put yourself in anxiety-inducing situations
  • Triggering yourself: movies, TV, books, social media etc
  • Looking up abusive/toxic ex-partners, friends or family online
  • Entering relationships you don’t want to be in 
  • Trauma-bonds
  • Hanging out with people you don’t want to be around 
  • Having sex when you don’t want to
  • Setting yourself punishments
  • Not giving yourself enough time
  • Wasting time/procrastination 
  • Always running late
  • Leaving everything last minute
  • Spending less time with people who love and care for you
  • Avoiding healthy, nurturing relationships 
  • Yelling/making fun of yourself in your head
  • Sneering/scowling at yourself in the mirror
  • Criticising your body in the mirror
  • Holding in things instead of venting
  • Overthinking 
  • Over-stressing 
  • Over-apologising
  • Seeking out confrontation/conflict
  • Staying in toxic relationships 

Doormats have to be lying down on the ground, before people are able to walk all over them. Get up!

Self care can look like:

  • Creating routines and sticking to them
  • Waking up early: start with 7am, 6am then 5am
  • Daily writing/journaling
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Seeing a counsellor/therapist
  • Joining a 12-step program in your area
  • Reaching out to someone you trust
  • Self-healing: breath-work, inner child work, re-parenting
  • Sleep hypnotherapy/meditation (apps like Calm & Headspace)
  • Self-compassion
  • Self-trust
  • Sticking to a bedtime: start with 11pm, then 10pm, to 9pm
  • Cooking yourself healthy meals, making raw juice and smoothies
  • Self comfort: warm layers, soft blankets
  • Self soothing: sight, touch, sound, smell, taste
  • Fresh, clean clothes
  • Making time for an indulgent bath
  • Spoiling yourself
  • Spa trips, weekends away
  • Keeping your home tidy/dry/clean
  • Limit time on social media, set screen time limits
  • Sticking to prescribed medication, making sure it’s the right fit
  • Sticking to doctors appointments/checkups: maintaining overall health
  • Physical therapy: sports therapy, massage, acupuncture etc
  • Looking after your teeth: sticking to dentist appointments
  • Mindful eating, self-control
  • Manageable amounts of exercise & work
  • Keeping up with physio, stretching
  • Comfortable schedules of jobs/projects
  • Sobriety
  • Abstinence
  • Replacement behaviours
  • Cutting contact with toxic ex-partners
  • Open, honest communication: speaking your truth
  • Moisturising and protecting your skin
  • Staying in to recharge when you’re exhausted 
  • Choosing not to put yourself in anxiety-inducing situations
  • Comforting yourself: feel-good movies, comedy etc
  • Self-help/self-improvement books
  • Blocking abusive/toxic friends or family online
  • Avoiding relationships you don’t want to be in 
  • Avoiding people you don’t want to be around 
  • Healthy, connected and safe sex whenever you want to
  • To-do lists
  • Rewards, treating yourself
  • Giving yourself enough time
  • Structured task management
  • Running early
  • Spending more time with people who love and care for you
  • Allowing yourself space to create healthy, nurturing relationships 
  • Complimenting yourself in your head
  • Smiling at yourself in the mirror
  • Celebrating your body in the mirror
  • Freely expressing needs
  • Getting tattooed responsibly
  • Quietening the mind
  • De-stressing 
  • Clear boundaries, open communication
  • Working through confrontation/conflict
  • Walking in nature
  • Self-respect: staying out of toxic relationships

Obviously not all these are exactly as black & white as they are here.
They can clash with each other: like going to a dentist appointment when you’re stressed, exhausted and hungry; or dealing with difficult people in your workplace, or keeping up with exercise/training if your work schedule is full. They always require a choice, but sometimes it isn’t easy. I also understand that managing self care can be tricky if you’re a parent, and I totally understand and respect that. I can’t have children, for a number of reasons, but know there are incredible mums and dads out there who are able to navigate parenthood and find their own balance. Following your gut takes practice: breath-work/meditation, therapy and writing can help you tune-in more closely. Feel once, so you don’t have to think twice. Recharging regularly is essential, especially if you have a lot going on.

Here’s some self care basics that have made the biggest impact on me. I hope they can help you too:

Sleep hygiene. 💤

Clean up your sleep routine! Sleep is super important to give you energy to heal each day. Food provides fuel, tea/coffee can stimulate you but only sleep can repair and recover you.

REM sleep allows you to recharge, process stresses/traumas and balance brain chemistry. Negative thoughts and anxieties you’ve stored up subconsciously from the stresses of the day, are able to be processed consciously in the form of dreams. Humans need 7-8 hours sleep per day. It’s proven that if you have less than this each day, your lifespan is significantly less and your quality of life is reduced. REM sleep takes a lot of energy to do – it’s only 20% of the sleep cycle on average. If you’ve got a lot of stuff to process, you’ll go through more REM sleep. This can cause you wake up in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep. You can wake up more tired, as your brain has spent lots of energy repeating a REM cycle.

I’ve been doing sleep hypnosis for 7 months now. As with all of these suggestions, I encourage you to discover for yourself, and find out what works/doesn’t work for you.

🔆 Screen time:

Blue light from artificial screens can stop us sleeping properly, as it has the same biological triggers as blue skies and sunrises. Red app notifications are designed intentionally to grab our attention, make us alert and keeping us looking at the screen. This affects sleep because if your brain is in alert mode, making it harder to relax.

I put my phone on airplane mode, every night, without fail. I can’t be of good use to myself or anyone else if I’m running on a shit night’s sleep. Notifications don’t come through, random app reminders stay away until after I decide to turn it back on. I try to leave it on until coffee/writing/meditation is done. I sometimes use it for when I’m cleaning at home, or when I’m with my partner in the evenings.

I’ve set my phone to turn off the blue light between sunrise/sunset. This can help a more natural circadian rhythm: proven to reduce eye strain, headaches and restlessness.

SAD lamps keep you HAPPY in the darker months! I have a S.A.D lamp that I use every morning now, from September to March.

🌞 Morning routine:

Writing every morning is an amazing way to change your life.

Last time I was writing daily, was over 2 years ago. I’d just moved into my new flat, but was although I was feeling very positive, I was confused and filled with dread. I was heading towards a breakdown without having any idea. Breakdowns are sort of a death; daily writing helps draw it all out. I took a hiatus from writing every day, as I felt I had other things I needed to address. I had a year of big changes to navigate before I settled into the beautiful routine I have now.

Try to write 2-4 pages of shorthand depending on the size of the pages, as soon as you wake up. Whatever comes to mind. Write about not being able to write about anything. Ask yourself questions. Rant about stuff. Maybe make a cup of tea or coffee first!

Fast forward over 2 years later, to now: the flat is filled with houseplants, my newly adopted cat Sid is here. I run my own business. After 3 years of waiting, I finally went through and fully recovered from a knee reconstruction. I’m 2 years sober. I had a life changing trip to Sweden last month. I have a partner that loves me in a way that I never believed I deserved before. The coffee is really, really good.

When I was writing on that desk back in 2017, I would never have believed I’d get to where I am today. I had almost convinced myself that I didn’t deserve any of it…

Get yourself a few good quality pens and a beautiful notebook or two.

🧡 Meditation.

Mind wandering makes us miserable. 4/5 thoughts are negative, this is a left-over survival tactic of risk assessment. Meditation quietens the mind and the ‘internal critic’, making it easier to pull to a soft and calm focus when things get tough.
Lots of people either love meditation or they hate it. When I re-downloaded Headspace this year, I realised the last time I used it was ‘pre-sobriety’. I use that one word to summarise a very long list of harmful behaviour, situations and general misery spanning years and years.

Headspace & Calm are great, easy to use apps to train your mind by starting with the basics – you can then explore meditation offline if you like. I now can meditate for a few minutes easily, breathe more effectively and access that blissfully empty feeling.

I think the last time I used it I was hungover, miserable from some breakdown of a short toxic relationship and struggling to book work in a studio that was failing. I’d relocated 140 miles away from home hoping to get a “fresh start” – in a doomed, toxic environment. I was trying to clear my mind, but had no idea the real reasons why I couldn’t quiet things down up there. I was also undiagnosed Autistic and was suffering almost continuous ‘sensory overload’ and ‘burnout’ daily without understanding why. I kept spraining my ankles from hyper-mobility, and had long term damage from gluten intolerance. I had surrounded myself with “frenemies” that had similar lifestyles and attitudes, and really just hated themselves as well as me. I was trying to relax whilst sitting in the middle of a fucking tiger enclosure… on fire.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

— Joseph Campbell.

I got fed up of hiding and distracting myself in over-working, people-pleasing, drinking/partying, complaining, despairing and staying stuck.
I knew I had to change, I just had no idea how I would do it.

I moved back home to South Wales in 2017, a few months before I became sober: I (just about) managed to overcome one of the lowest points in my life, eventually finding and creating a gorgeous little home. I stopped drinking and other drugs, embarked on 18 months of training/physio, then suddenly but gratefully got laid off from a job in another ‘alcocentric’/‘narcocentric’ studio. I travelled guest spots for 6 weeks before opening my own business, started to clear my life up of toxicity: I cut ties with harmful people/connections, let go of family members, re-connected with loving, happy and nutritious people, getting closer to my new sense of home. After 8 months of CBT/Autism therapy, 3 months of sleep hypnotherapy and 1.6 years into Recovery, I re-downloaded the app. No more tigers on fire.

I still find meditation tricky, and don’t always use apps – lots of people on the spectrum struggle to focus on nothing. When you feel like your neuro-divergent mind is racing non-stop, it can be really hard to tune-out the noise. Trying is still important, and still counts. It’s all progress. The mind is like a radio, just be aware of it, listen to it, don’t tune into it too much. Breathe in for 4, out for 4. Repeat…

🥥 Coconut oil.

Seriously. I’ve been drinking it in my coffee almost every morning for nearly 3 years. I also use it heal tattoos, and on my hair and skin.

I use it to intermittently fast most mornings (I just have to remember to eat when I’m focused on tattooing!). Intermittent fasting is a process of alternating cycles of fasting and eating – for stamina, metabolism and increasing lifespan and resistance to disease. Coconut oil is quick healthy energy that increases metabolism. It can help your liver, boost brain function, boost bone health, reduce inflammation and aid in fat burning. The healthy fatty acids in coconut oil can kill harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. This can potentially help to prevent infections. You can take your makeup off with it, cook with it – I can’t recommend this stuff enough! Vita Coco, Clearspring and Biona are really good.

🌲 Tree bathing.

Get out into nature, as often as you can. Breathe in the cleaner air, take in the smells and sounds. Sense the trees breathing, listen to your footsteps/wheels/crutches. Clear your mind, and remind yourself what the real world looks like.

CBD oil and supplements are great too – I’ve been taking multi-vitamins for years, and in the last few years have been taking probiotics and amino acids as well as joint care and turmeric stuff. CBD oil is non-psychoactive: stabilising mood and stress levels naturally, whilst managing pain and inflammation. CBD oil doesn’t necessarily make you feel more good, it makes you feel less bad. As with a lot of these suggestions, it can give you a little bit more space to do the work yourself.

This month’s changes are next months results.

“A year from now, you may wish you had started today.”

— Karen Lamb.

6 months of focus and hard work can put you 5 years ahead in life.
Don’t underestimate the power of consistency and desire. It’s never too late – trust the timing of your life, and believe that you already have everything it takes. What a wonderful thought, that some of the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet!

There are people less qualified than you, doing the things you want to do, simply because they decide to believe in themselves.

Writing this blog and making posts like this are not just a hobby of mine, it’s the highest form of self care for me. I’m finally able to share my stories and experiences from a healed perspective, and it’s incredibly cathartic and freeing. If I can help others along the way, this will in turn help me as part of my recovery. Life isn’t about competition: I want you to do well and heal. I want us all to thrive!

Signs you are healing/growing:

  • More observing, less judging
  • More responding, less reacting
  • More self-love, less self-sabotage
  • More boundaries, less resentments
  • More inner peace, less outer chaos
  • More clarity, less confusion
  • More being, less doing.
  • More faith, less fear.

I’m outgrowing harm, and taking root into care.

For various reasons, beyond my control: I spent my early, formative years frozen in survival mode. I was neglected, abused, lacking emotional/spiritual nutrition and constantly analysing risks and anticipating/avoiding more harm. I’ve had to learn how to become my own nutritional, caring source. I’m now in control. I’ve stopped avoiding pain, and am moving through it. I’m now able to make myself safe and well, more often. As I navigate the decades of trauma and pain, I’m breaking cycles. I want the same for you, too.

Trust me – if I can do this stuff, you’ve got this.

Take care.

Strong Women Don’t Need Strong Drinks.

Alcohol CULTure: the life and death of the party. How I went from Party Girl™ to High-Maintenance Sober Chick™ and proud.

I am 2 years sober from alcohol and 2.5 years sober from other drugs.

29th October: I treated myself and put a ring on it.

I used to have a cocktail named after me in my favourite bar.

Now, I’m the one that complains if there’s only prosecco & cocktails at an event, and eats apples backstage. I’ve even switched to alcohol-free mouthwash, and use empty champagne bottles for flowers. I intently listen to and remember everyone at parties. Choosing sobriety means choosing yourself, and it feels deliciously intoxicating. 

“The biggest misunderstanding I had about myself was that I was an easy person.”

— Lena Dunham,
High-Maintenance Sober Chick™

I’ve celebrated birthdays, Christmases and weddings sober. Apart from some of the guests becoming unbearably drunk, it’s an amazing character-building experience. I’ve pushed away tequila shots shoved in my face, and given back drugs that were handed to me as gifts. I’ve danced for hours with a drink of water or cranberry juice in my hand. I simply leave if it’s crap or uncomfortable, or if I become tired – instead of altering myself chemically to endure it, talk to people I don’t want to and stay up longer. Just like the hundreds of hours I spent playing video games as a kid – all those hours spent in shit bars, house parties and events drunk were fun at the time, but I’ve got absolutely nothing to show for it!

For me, the whole ‘work hard, play hard’ Rock’n’Roll cliché was great fun for a bit – but it got pretty boring, pretty quickly. Tattoo studios can be a breeding ground for bad behaviour and shitty attitudes. I asked myself: “Who was I trying to impress?” “why was I trying to keep up?”

When I first got sober in 2017/18, I was still attracted to people who were irresponsible and drank/partied a lot. Their behaviour still seemed sexy, spontaneous and appealing. I feel it was still a part of me that was holding onto that state of mind, even just a little. I stayed sober on dates, whilst watching them drink. Sometimes they wouldn’t drink either, maybe to impress me or try and prove a point. Most of the conversations revolved around drinking/drug taking, or ex-partners. I realised that this was just another trauma-bond, and that I still had a lot of healing to do. I don’t want to spend my life with someone that I would have to ask to stop drinking, or could smell and taste alcohol on them. I can’t stand the stuff now – it feels like a poisonous, unnatural chemical to me. Because really, it is.

These days, I have high heels AND high standards…

For me, being sober still feels like an act of rebellion. When you first start to ditch something so poisonous, alluring and controlling as alcohol and other drugs – more toxic things start to become louder, more noticeable (and eventually unbearable).

I started to ask myself more questions.

“If I can get sober, I can get over him. If I can do that, I can definitely do this. What’s next? If I can give up alcohol for the sake of my life, I can easily give up gluten for the sake of my health. I worked through that and learnt from this, How can I level up again? I feel awesome. How can I feel even better than this? I’m ready for whatever comes next…” I got completely addicted to growth, self improvement and doing right. I still fuck up, obviously, but I do it better.

Sobriety breeds consistency. 

I’ll never forget those first few times of turning down drinks, going home sober and feeling smug. Looking after myself before bed, tucking myself in and waking up well-rested and fresh. Counting weeks and then months sober in my first year was the first time I’d properly celebrated smaller victories. When I started doing this, I realised truly how rich and capable I had really been, this whole time. I realised how much I had to be grateful for.

I had to put up with comments like “we miss the old La”, “think you’re better than us now?” “you used to be fun” – but trust me, none of the people that said things like that had a life that I wanted for myself.

Getting sober for me was just the start. I had to detox from unhealthy coping mechanisms and toxic relationships. I had to detox from the anger, frustration and years of suppressed emotions and crossed boundaries. I’ve had to ‘take a walk’ through my past and forgive myself over and over. I’ve had to retrain my nervous system to respond instead of react.

I have saved around £6-7k and 700-800 hours on alcohol. I’ve saved £8-9k and 800-900 hours on other drugs. In total, I’ve saved about £14-16k and 625-708 days. That’s 89-101 weeks.

(Those stats are from typing in what I thought my average was around the time I stopped, there were “better” and “worse” weeks/months/years.)

How have I spent that extra money? Therapy. Weekends away. I buy myself flowers, I buy my terminally alcoholic mother flowers every time I see her. I buy flowers and gifts for my friends more. I buy good food. I treat myself and others more. I donate.

How have I filled the extra time? Meditation. Training. Running my own business. Spending lots of time by myself, sitting with myself. Doing lots of self care, and self inquiry. Writing. Sleeping. NOT wasting my time being hungover.  I launched an online Lala Inky brand store, with over 600 items.

Alcohol CULTure in the UK is shocking. Regularly poisoning and destroying yourself is normal, posting memes online and taking the piss is totally normal. But it’s killing us, and we feel like we can’t stop. Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results/improvement is, by definition, insanity. Also, repeating the exact same highs and lows in a vicious circle is, by my definition, a fucking carousel. Sure they’re a fun ride, but they don’t go anywhere.

I used to be a very performative person, I wanted to be taller, louder, funnier, show off and appear sparkling – despite having no inner shine or glow left. I was so tired and miserable. I had no idea I was Autistic and chronically ill, soaked in trauma and childhood/adult PTSD, stuck in the tar pit. I kept masking, kept playing along and kept playing the part. Until I just couldn’t any more.

Although I classed myself as bad, my alcohol/other drug taking really wasn’t “rock bottom” stuff by definition. I don’t have any particularly gory stories. I was still exercising some sort of professional routine and restraint, showing up to my appointments and doing my best at the time. But to me, it was bad and that was enough. In the few months before I stopped, I could feel myself slipping downward. My physical and mental health was deteriorating and I had a near-death scare after coming back really sick from a festival. I was constantly in pain and was very unstable emotionally. I was suffering from severe autistic burnout and sensory overload without understanding. I had so many physical symptoms of very complicated issues. Growing up in an alcoholic home with two anti-role models has been a blessing that I can learn from as an adult. I’m glad I was able to listen to my gut and take responsibility for my own life.

I don’t have to play ‘party alchemist’ anymore. I can turn up to the place dancing my ass off without waiting until I’ve had enough substances to qualify myself as ‘in the zone’ and give myself permission to let go. I dance on tables a lot better now!

Now, I have healthier relationships and better boundaries. I dance whenever I want to. Memory is sharper, but I am no longer victimised by memory. I’m less reactive to bullshit. I gratefully let go of and naturally lost contact with toxic relationships and “frenemies”. Good friends respect your sobriety. I was able to start a process of self-inquiry that led to an Autism diagnosis early this year. I was able to have the courage to follow-up with diagnosed multiple associated conditions and chronic illnesses. I am now able to recognise and manage these, now that I have replaced my psychological inventory with tools instead of weapons.

I have heightened senses and intuition. I’m more confident. Problems are now in their correct proportion, and I now have to deal with them head on.
My tattooing has improved, now that I can pace myself, recharge and look after myself better. I show up better for my clients.

Most importantly, I’m happier.

After 15 years drinking and 2 years sobriety, I can honestly say:

For me, NOTHING tastes as good as sober feels.

I still have to wade through the tar pit sometimes, but I’ve trained my demons to swim beside me.

La x

Boundaries and Business.

Read time: 7-8minutes. Potential triggers: contains details of depression, anxiety, trauma, drug/alcohol abuse.

“What you say NO to, often defines YOU and your business far more than what you say YES to.”

— The Costa Sisters.

I have my own business, but I am NOT a business.

I’m an ARTIST and a human being, not Starbucks. I’m 1 human doing the work of 3. I feel everything more than most, and work harder than anyone will ever really know.

I am posting this, currently off work for a few days and suffering an immune system crash due to stress… I think? (I’m having more bloods done and a CT scan, very morbidly exciting). Spending my 2 year sobriety birthday hardcore napping and visiting my GP twice yesterday was an interesting surprise!

Although it didn’t go to plan, I still made time to meditate, enjoy the outdoors and do a bit of work admin/home cleaning.

Maybe it was working a 55 hour week of awesome tattoos whilst hiding/managing a shingles flare-up – just after getting back from an amazing, 5-day business trip to Sweden. Maybe it was the excitement/stress of travelling and exploring Stockholm for the first time. Maybe it’s been from enduring online harassment for weeks and weeks. Maybe it’s the general misery of the UK. Maybe it’s because I had another flare-up after getting home from a 12 hour round-trip to Manchester, just after the first one healed. Maybe it’s a hEDS thing. Maybe it’s something else.

I’m still learning a lot of things: most importantly, how to say no. 

It’s coming up to a whole year since I’ve been running my own little business, and it’s definitely been one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. I’d say most of all the hardest things I’ve ever done have been in the past 2-3 years. Trial by fire, over and over.

Biggest and best thing I’ve been learning this year?

 BOUNDARIES.

This year, I’ve been speaking up and taking up more space. Communicating with clients that I don’t think are the best fit, or I feel do not trust me and how I work. I’ve been more vocal about clients that have scared me. Clients that are clearly more interested in what I look like, than how my tattoos look! I’ve been more vocal about clients that have made me uncomfortable, and have had to suggest they go elsewhere. I communicate to every client about how I work in detail, and explain my process more.
I work WITH clients, not FOR them.

Many people with Autism (me included) have a very keen, overwhelming sense of the emotional states of others. Being hyper-aware like this is usually a choice between: ignore it and shut off, or tune into it and become overwhelmed. Being sensory overloaded can affect this choice too.

When I first started saying no, I did it politely but very bluntly.
This shook a few clients up, made them uncomfortable and they lashed out. Setting and holding boundaries is a terrible, clumsy process at first, and there’s never a guarantee you can place them safely and avoid conflict. Maybe their cognitive discomfort is from their interpretation of me, not playing out in real life in the way they had predicted in their mind. They say that expectations are just planned disappointments – I had to keep telling myself that the version of me they’ve created in their mind is not my responsibility. If someone responds in a hurtful way and continues to harass me, I am simply getting feedback on their emotional wellness. I remain calm. I breathe, learn and wish them well.

“Those with trauma and unhealthy attachment will view boundaries as a rejection. Or abandonment. They have not healed, and believe a person with limits is harming them.”

— Dr. Nicole LePera.

Here’s a little bit about what I’m talking about: 

I have 2 years sobriety and a substantial amount of therapy under my belt. I meditate, I work out, I fight personal chronic illness and promote mental wellness.

I raise awareness about Autism, and offer support for women going through a diagnosis later in life.
I also offer support to anyone going through any topics that are discussed, as best I can.

If that makes you unhappy in any way, please don’t request to book in to get tattooed by me. We both deserve to be happy in life, so let’s agree to leave each other alone! I want to recover out loud to help those struggling in silence; and serve as a testament to the theory that if I can do this stuff, anyone can.

(A lot of what I’ve been through I have managed totally on my own. I live alone and I don’t have any family to rely on or a large support network. Usually, it’s just me. I do however, have an incredibly loving cat, 2 magical best friends, a fantastic PT and a wonderful therapist!)

If my lifestyle makes you uncomfortable, I understand. There’s plenty of other amazing artists out there that make great tattoos and share your values and attitudes – tattooing is a close proximity, 2 player game. Tattoos are a luxury, and I want to keep and treat them that way. I’m more than happy to talk to you about drinking/drugs and share anecdotes from my past, but won’t be able to connect with you about it as a current lifestyle. I’d much rather talk about movies, games, sci-fi, conspiracy theories, science, ghosts, aliens, travelling, where you see yourself in 5 years, favourite animals, funny stories and weird facts. I love hearing all your beautiful, wonderful and interesting answers! We don’t even have to talk: we can just listen to music and enjoy the process. Sometimes tattooing needs to be a quiet, focused experience.

Unfortunately, confessing embarrassing/dark/criminal/secret things to me whilst you’re getting tattooed does not absolve you from them. I’d recommend talking to a licensed therapist, joining a 12-step programme in your area and practicing self love and compassion. I can only listen and offer reassurance during our appointment, whilst you’re in my care. 

I’m proud to be able to provide a private and intimate tattooing experience, free from most of the usual distractions and social bullshit. I want to focus on the two most important things: the client and the tattoo! My studio is also inside an amazing gym – my whole life and work ethos is now focused on positive change, self care and self improvement. I truly want everyone to achieve their “best self”, in whatever way that feels best for them, and however that looks for them. 

I don’t have to tattoo everyone, or take on every ‘job’. I can’t. 

I only have a finite amount of time and energy remaining on this planet. I cannot physically, mentally and emotionally afford to take on clients and work which isn’t the right fit for the both of us. I have big trauma behind me and chronic illness/autism beside me. Recharging in solitude and pacing myself is essential to my survival, and I’ve got really good at it.

Something useful I found on the internet, which I hope is of use to you too.

This isn’t about NOT being able to tolerate stressful, difficult situations with clients – this is about how much BETTER I am when I’m not dealing with it on a regular basis.

I create better work, I’m able to show up better for my clients and the people in my life, I can manage my autism, health conditions and sobriety more effectively. I can be a better human, more regularly.

“Boundaries are an act of self care. They are for us. If someone responds in a hurtful way we are simply getting feedback on their emotional wellness. Emotionally well people respect boundaries. They honour the needs of others, because they honour the needs of themselves.”

— Dr. Nicole LePera.

I’ve been through a lot. I really have. I’m becoming more aware of how this has changed and shaped me.

I’m capable of a lot of good things, and when I’m happy and comfortable I can achieve great work and great things. I don’t have to constantly grind and make money; I’m very fortunate and lucky to have a modest life, occasionally treating myself and others. I’ve spent 7 years learning and working in studios where heavy alcohol/drug use and lack of boundaries/toxic relationships were not just standard, they were funny and cool as fuck. 

I’m now unlearning lots of old, outdated and toxic things about tattooing and the industry, so that I can take in and learn more new, better and healthy things.

My Name is…

Welcome to Confessions of an Auteetotal Tattooer! (read time 3 minutes)

One of my professional online personas is a Slowpoke: a Psychic/Water type Pokémon in the Dopey category. Abilities include Oblivious and Own Tempo, and their hidden ability is Regenerate. A pretty honest depiction, I obviously don’t take myself too seriously – neither should you!

I’m a lifelong illustrator, graphic designer and Tattooer of 8 years.

I am based in Cardiff (South Wales), and work by appointment only at my private, professional little tattoo studio inside a big, professional gym that provides all my training and physio.

Why should you read my blog? Well, for a start I am:

  • A professional, successful artist: newly diagnosed as Autistic,
  • A High-Maintenance Sober Chick™ and proud,
  • Telling you my stories and experiences, in my own way.

I’m now using my memories and experiences to tell stories, that can be used to help and educate others.

I use memories, but I will not allow memories to use me.

— Deepak Chopra.

It’s important to say, I’m just starting out.
All over again, in many ways.

As part of my Recovery, I’ve finally been afforded enough time and resources to process most of what I’ve been through – and I can continue to process, neutralise and recycle. If I can turn all of that trauma, pain, suffering and shame – into something whole, beautiful, useful and helpful for others, then the process can be completed.

I’m knowing, learning and speaking up about what I’ve been through, and most importantly: why I went through it. 

In writing this blog, I hope to:

  • Recover out loud to help those struggling in silence,
  • Raise awareness for Autism & chronic illness,
  • Connect with & support people going through similar stuff,
  • Promote mental wellness, and help others to survive & thrive,
  • Prove that if I can do this, anyone can (in their own way).
My other online persona is a Lala Inky MLP. Proving that it is pretty obvious I am Autistic, despite creating this nearly 2 years before I was diagnosed(!)

I’ll be mostly writing stuff about:

  • Art & tattooing
  • Recovery & sobriety
  • Surviving & thriving
  • Boundaries & business
  • Autism & trauma
  • Therapy & psychology
  • Breakdowns & growth
  • Re-writing & re-branding
  • Self-care & self-love
  • Also, a bit about crabs in buckets…

One of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we all learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why I started, and articulating my goals will inspire me to keep going and may just give me a few other post ideas.

Sometimes I take myself a bit more seriously. From a recent photoshoot with Clare Wilson, I was going for “Professional Vampire/Executive Overlord”.

Where shall I begin?

Well let’s start with the origin story of my name, Lala Inky.

I got a nickname of Lala when I was in high-school and it just stuck. I was bullied mercilessly as school, and this was the only name I was actually okay with. One of the reasons for the name was Jar Jar Binks, arguably THE worst and most annoying Star Wars character in history. Naturally, I was called La La Binks for the duration of the Phantom Menace hype 20 years ago. I was going through so much horrific abuse at home and in school, that being named after a super annoying, fictional character was totally fine by me. It worked out great – they started to focus on that instead, and I got to practice self-deprecating humour as a distraction. Somehow after a few years it morphed into Binky, and I still use my “lalabinky” email address to this day.

When I started tattooing 8 years ago, I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to use over a decade of stupid names to my advantage.