Today I got my first tattoo! And since that tattoo is a puzzle piece (the internationally recognised symbol for autism) I thought I’d celebrate with a brandy and a spontaneous blog article. (For those of you who follow me for more informative/academic articles on autism spectrum disorder don’t worry, there’s plenty of that coming up later). I had the tattoo done at Drop of Ink, which is located in Shipley behind Duck and Dive. The tattooist was really friendly and approachable, plus I had my sister along for moral support. While it didn’t hurt as much as I’d expected, it did hurt a little, and the noise the needle made (a sensory experience I associate with painful childhood trips to the dentist) was just horrible. What got me through this experience and others like it was reciting the few poems I know by heart. This is something I’ve started doing regularly when experiencing panic attacks, high levels of anxiety or sensory overload. In my book The Poetry of Autism and some blog articles I’ve touched briefly on the healing, cathartic and therapeutic aspects of writing poetry. I think any form of creativity is a great way to de stress. As cheesy as it sounds, by using negative energy to create something beautiful it’s possible to gain control of an otherwise chaotic experience. However, where poetry is concerned I think reading it’s just as important as writing it. There is a real power in words. I tend to memorise classical poems more often than modern poems, particularly sonnets, as the complex rhyme scheme they adhere to has a kind of musical quality that get’s stuck in my head. In no particular order, here are the poems that got me through today:

When I Am Dead, My Dearest by Christina Rossetti:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174269

Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare:

http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/my-mistress-eyes-are-nothing-sun-sonnet-130

This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178055

How Sweet I Roamed From Field to Field by William Blake:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172940

Alone by Edgar Allan Poe:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175776

(extracts from) The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178713

My tattoo is very simple, three interconnected puzzle pieces drawn in a black outline. However, I plan to add more  puzzle pieces when I get paid next month, and eventually work my way up to a more intricate design. I think jigsaw pieces are a perfect symbol for autism. People are often puzzled by me when they look at certain aspects of my behaviour in isolation. But when you add it all together, the pieces fit to create one whole picture.The Poetry of Autism is decorated with jigsaw pieces. This tattoo will serve as a reminder of the hard work that went into writing that pamphlet. It will also help me remember all the wonderful children I’ve met while volunteering and working at Bradford Autism Support. Through them, I learned to stop viewing autism so negatively and come to terms with my own diagnosis.

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