Podcast: Tattoos and Disability

In this episode, Josh and Jax, who both have several tattoos, discuss their experiences, from tattoos related to their disabilities, to first tattoo regret, and more!


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Jax: There's not been a day where I felt “ohh I'm sorry for having this condition”. It's never made me felt sorry about it again. I look at it and I'm not just thinking of the band, I'm just going. “Yep, that's what I've got. I mean take it or leave it. What you see is what you get.”

Isaac: Hello and welcome to the disability download brought to you by the disability charity, Leonard Cheshire. I'm Isaac Corrick, and on this podcast, we respond to current topics, share stories and open up discussion about disability.

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Hi everyone and thanks for tuning in to the disability download this month we'll hear from my colleague Joshua Reeves as he talks with his friend and fellow tattoo enthusiasts to talk all things tattoos and disability. Let's hear from them.

Joshua: Hello everyone, welcome to the disability download. I'm Joshua Reeves, campaign support officer for Leonard Cheshire and today with me we've got a really good podcast. We've got Jax who is a massive tattoo fan. And yeah, if you could explain a bit about you Jax, that'd be great.

Jax: Explain about the tattoos I have or why do I like them in general?

Joshua: Just why do you like tattoos? Why are you on the disability download? Obviously, I know that you've got tattoos around your disability. If you just want to mention them.

Jax: Oh, I have a ADHD tattoo in ACDC style font on my chest. That's pretty personal. I mean, a lot of my tattoos, some of them are personal. Some of them are just for fun, but that one is very personal, especially to my condition of as I said, ADHD, I got it done because it's always been on the cards, but it's pretty much taken me a while to get it done because... Oh, it's just, I don't know a lot of artists I asked thought it was stupid. 

Uh, some artists were definitely down for it, but, you know the one I saw, who I don't think is tattooing anymore, but you know it is what it is. Uh, they did it and they did a really good job with it. They didn't just, you know, they really made sure the font was the font, they put some nice red. You know, I thought it was just going to be, uh black and everything, but they made it into a really nice, you know, reddish black sort of font piece. And they took the time with it and it healed really well.

Joshua: That's good, but what inspired you for the design?

Jax: Well, I was just... I have ADHD, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, but I'm sure everyone knows what that stands for and basically when I was younger I was kind of made to feel ashamed or not acknowledge my ADHD, you know? Certain members of family and also being in my 30s, we didn't get the exact learning support we needed because special needs classes were only coming into, you know, fruition from the mid to late 90s into the 2000s. I mean, there's still progress to go, but pretty much. I don't know. 

It's just, back then, they thought ADHD was just “Oh they’re just a rowdy kid, that likes screaming” and no, it's not. It's just, it's a thought process as well. I mean, I have other conditions as well as ADHD because of that. But you know, I got it when I was older. Because I was, I was. I was sick of seeing it as a negative. You know, I was sick of thinking it as “ohh once you've got it, it's ruined your life.” And no, it hasn't. It won't ruin your life. You know, you gotta stop seeing it as an ultimate negative.

Joshua: And then I guess that over the years and stuff that you've come to understand your ADHD way more as you get older and and I guess having that tattoo I guess it just really does mean a lot to you.

Jax: It does, I mean I obviously, I got it done because I was just sick. You know, I wasn't gonna... It's part of me, so I might as well make it a permanent part of me, you know? Uh, put it on show because at the end of the day when I introduce myself to people or make new friends or things, I'm done saying, “Oh, OK, just a heads up, I've got ADHD”! you know, I'm not a person that's gonna, you know, keep it boxed in and everything because you know, in situations when I'm sitting down, I tap my leg or, you know, I don't keep my head still. I'm like looking here, looking over there or you know, and if people go “oh, why are you fidgeting so much?” And it's like, well, I'm not doing it on purpose.

Joshua: Yeah, and I think some people could just be rude and it's just...People not knowing what, what ADHD is. You also mentioned to me that that that that you've got autism as well.

Jax: I have autism. I mean, it was labelled as Asperger's on that form of the autistic spectrum, but due to well, the name change now, it's now regarded as autism, and that's what they called that, as well as a condition of dyspraxia. So I've got three... I don't know what you call them now. Disabilities? Conditions? That's the problem these days. Nobody knows how to uh, label everything.

Joshua: The way I see it, as long as you're comfortable with your own label, then just stick to that. You get what I mean? So I don't think of it as, is it right or wrong? Just make sure it's not offensive. Do you get what I mean?

Jax: Agreed, I mean, I have these conditions and sorry I can't function normally to the arrogant people of society out there, but it is what it is.

Joshua: Yeah, definitely. Cause I also know that you've got a lot of tattoos, and during your first tattoo, how did you prepare for that and was you quite nervous with your ADHD and your autism? And what strategy did you find helpful having tattoos?

Jax: Well, for my 1st tattoo I was just entirely focused on, believe it or not, I can focus, you know, but it just takes a lot of strength to do it. But I've always wanted tattoos. Ever since, you know? Obviously, when I was younger, I was bullied a lot. I was punched and kicked and, you know, so obviously I would go home with like, bruises or scratches on myself and everything and obviously I had a very nasty experience later in my childhood years as well, which involved more scars and bruising as well. 

So you know, I've always liked tattoos because they can cover up, you know, the nasty parts of your skin, even if the scars aren't there. Mentally they are. So they're a beautiful distraction for me, but getting my first tattoo, which was a mistake because I just picked something off the flash canvas when I should have gotten something more up my alley. I was just in that mental zone of wanting a tattoo, getting a tattoo. I see something on a piece of flash and I just went for it, but I was just so focused on getting a tattoo. 

There was pain and I was completely still and chilled because it was a very comfortable setting. But my advice: if you’re getting your first tattoo, really think about it. Don't make... I mean, I like the tattoo, but I wish I'd chose better for a first choice.

Joshua: Can you say what the tattoo is?

Jax: Oh, it's just a little Welsh dragon. With some tribal.

Joshua: I think you gotta think so hard about your first tattoo and I think that, when I'm picking a tattoo now I'm like, will I definitely like it and make sure that I will like it...well, try to say I’ll like it for the rest of my life, cause probably some people, they do change as humans. But the reason I think- my tattoos are gonna have a lot of meaning behind them, like, why did I have- Why do I have a particular music quote, for me it’s because it's helped me through tough times. So it I think it's it, it all depends on you. And I think that. I know that you've got a lot of geeky goodness on your body that represents you, cause you are a very geeky person in that respect, in terms of your Skeletor/Misfits tattoo, I love that

Jax: Ohh yeah, that was- now that would have been... I should have gotten that as a first tattoo in the first place, but because, you know, I was younger and I didn't really think at the time. Yeah, you know, or hadn’t thought of the, of that creative process. Yeah, like, you know, because I got my first tattoo when I was like, in a sense I was too old to be a boy, but too young to be a man sort of concept, you know. I mean, I would have the one I've got on my back, you know, again, the fiend from the band, The Misfits logo, and then done in the colors of Skeletor, with the skull being yellow and the hood being purple instead. You know, fusing that together. Because I like mixing things, I wish I got that as a first tattoo and I would have had it on my shoulder instead of my back. But it is what it is.

Joshua: And it's a good memory, I guess. Always gotta think of it as a good memory. Have you ever encountered any challenges during your tattooing process related to your ADHD or your autism and how did you navigate them?

Jax: To be honest, when I get tattooed, it's actually sanctuary ground for me. It's actually a therapeutic session, so when it comes to my ADHD and autism it's never been a problem. I mean, I've been in studios where -I've probably been in one studio where I wish I didn't go, but I got the work done. But you know. That's closed down now, but I think that was the only situation, but apart from that each session I've had has been more therapeutic, so I could sit down, calm and relaxed. I'm going to feel pain but I feel great because... I don't know. 

I find getting tattooed very...it calms my nerves and conditions. The only thing I do have trouble with is when they're asking me how to lie down they have to be very specific about it. Because of dyspraxia they can't just say, oh, can you lay down like that, please? And I'm like well, can you just be a bit more specific? Because if you want me to be in this position or that position, just, you know, give me a little bit more detail please.

Joshua: Yeah, I know what you mean by that but not specifically, but in a different context because I want tattoos on my left hand. For example, because I can't straighten my left hand, I'm like I can't. I have to like lay on the bed. But then I have to get either hoisted or get my brother and Dad to lift me. Which I know I should be having them tattoos soon before my dad gets old or my brother just can't do it. So, while they can, I guess I should have it done because I want them done, but that's a problem I have. 

In terms of that, but then being precise with you, to do with your condition and stuff, you gotta be very precise. People should be aware of that. I think sometimes I question like, what side do you mean? Or when someone mentions a body part, I'm not very good at like, knowing different parts of my body sometimes. So yeah, I struggle with that. What advice then, would you give other people that may have ADHD and autism, who are looking to get a tattoo then Jax?

Jax: Be very sure. Be very sure if that's exactly what you want. Be very sure you're willing to take it. Be very sure you are willing to get it done. Be very sure that you are ready to compromise having pain. And be very sure you have got the patience to get it done because if you want a big piece you are going to be sitting there for about three hours or more and maybe it'll be done in two sittings, so be very sure, because what you need mainly for a tattoo is time, patience, thought and money and those are the four things you're going to need: time, patience, thought and money because it's a big step and it's a very permanent step.

Joshua: I would also say good pain threshold as well. Like I don’t know about you, but it's when the tattooist goes over the tattoo so like so like you've done like part of the top bit, and then you do the bottom and then you go back to the top and fill in some detail.

Jax: Yeah, cause you know, it depends on your threshold of pain, because sometimes people can take the outline but then not the non outline stuff and then it's always... and then sometimes it can be the wiping as well, but like I said it depends on your pain threshold. But a tattoo is a really big decision because it's not a piercing. It's not getting your nails done. It's not getting your haircut. I mean, all those things can disappear. I mean, if you want your tattoo to disappear, you're going to have to either cover it by wearing clothes and not being, you know, completely stripped for the rest of life, or you get it lasered, which is just as painful and more costly. So if you want to get a tattoo, go for it. 

But you know, stick by and own the decision, because you gotta know what you're going in for. You save your money, be ready for pain, have a lot of patience for it and make sure you make it a right decision. A lot of people sometimes get tattoos and they instantly regret it because they were like, why did I get that over like 20 years ago and everything. But then there's the good things about getting it covered up, but then they probably don't want a tattoo, and then they've got to fork it out for lasering or basically put on a jumper or whatever for the rest of their life so they don’t look at it, but...

Joshua: Yeah, or blackout and stuff. Do you like blackout?

Jax: Blackout is personally uh, it's not for me because I don't have any work I want blacked out, however I do respect the form because it's people wanting to try it. Because the thing is when they're blackening out their arms, they're not just getting blackout work for the sake of the art form they're having it done over with white ink and everything. 

Like the most interesting blackout piece I saw, which was actually a couple of weeks ago where I was at a medieval fair and this guy was covered from tattoos from his neck to his arms to his chest. And he had a blacked out sleeve, whatever it was previously I don't know, but he had this blacked out sleeve and in white ink he had all runic writing all over it. And I thought that's pretty creative.

Joshua: That's pretty cool cause you can perhaps get that blacked out again, and I think that's the thing about blackout.

Jax: With blackout, I do advise anyone that has got tattoos and wanting blackout work, now that's going to be- probably not long- but that's going to be painful because it's multiple needles and it's a lot of blackening. It depends what... I mean, if you’re getting your arms and legs blacked out, be ready for it.

Joshua: Yeah, for any of you guys listening who don’t know what blackout is, it's just basically covering yourself, covering your tattoos. Like just black for sleeves and your legs and what have you.

Jax: I mean, I've seen a lot of artists with blackout work mostly. But then that's because that's their choice and everything. I mean, whatever tattoos they got when they were younger or performed onthemself and they're like, oh, it's time for a change, you know? So I've seen a lot of artists with blackout.

Joshua: And I just think it's like a buzz thing now, like everybody wants it. Uh, but it's not for me, but who knows down the line and stuff. But have you found a tattoo that has had a positive impact on your mental health and well-being as someone with ADHD and autism like we obviously mentioned?

Jax: It's the tattoo we mentioned. The ADHD tattoo we mentioned is always positive, I mean. There's not been a day where I felt like “Oh, I'm sorry for having this condition.” It's never made me felt sorry about it again. I look at it, and I'm not just thinking of the band. I'm just going “Yep, that's what I've got”. I mean, take it or leave it. What you see is what you get and if you're going to be one of those people who goes “ohh, he's got ADHD. That's not a real thing”. It is. And you're just too arrogant to educate yourself.

Joshua: I don't know. Like I would think, do I want to have a tattoo to represent my disability? I don't know. Like I would want something funny saying I can't run or something. But that’s my humour, I’m a very dark humour person but yeah, I don't know. Maybe in the future, who knows? But yeah, I do love people having their disability on them to showcase who they are.

Jax: Yeah, well, it's choice. At the end of the day, it's personal choice. Just because you have these conditions, you don't have to have something on your skin or wear it on your sleeve or like saying, oh, this is what I've got. I chose to get the ADHD tattoo. I chose to get it because I wanted to. I mean, you can be proud, you can be proud of your disability, but you don't have to have it marked on your skin. You know? I mean, I did it because I chose to have it because I wanted to. I mean, if you don't want to get a tattoo that states your condition, fine. I mean, no damage, no harm, no foul.

Joshua: And is there a message that you would like to share with people today who are hesitant to get a tattoo because of ADHD and autism? And how can we promote that greater accessibility and inclusion in the tattoo industry for disabled people?

Jax: Obviously, like I said earlier, think about what you're getting, but another offer of advice I go: make sure  the studio you go to understands the condition and is still helpful to give you the tattoo, so go to a studio that understands your conditions and disabilities. And this is if you've got autism, if you've got ADHD, if you are disabled physically. If you've got other mental disabilities as well, make sure the studio is not just a money taker. Like “OK, I'll do it. If you got the money.” 

You know? You need the artists to care for what you have and not just see you as another money maker. I mean, that's what I can offer. Make sure they care and understand and know. Like if they want to give you that- like if you want to get tattooed but you need a break like- I remember. Oh, this was years back. I was watching a YouTube video and this person had Tourette's. They were doing really well. They did really well. 

The artist was, you know, the artist wasn't much of a talker. He was a very helpful with the person getting tattoos because the person getting tattoos, they weren't swearing like that often cliche people believe again. They were just like making noises. They weren't moving. It was more like clicks and noises while they were getting their leg tattooed. But the artist was, like always checking in on them. Going “You OK? Would you like a break” and everything. So, you know, get an artist like that, an artist that is going to care. Going to give the time and give the tolerance to you.

Joshua: Yeah, I can agree with you there because I just recently had a new tattoo, last Thursday and my tattooist is like “can I just put my hand there, to put pressure on while I tattoo?” And I was like, yeah, of course. And he's like, “are you sure?” Yeah, of course you can. 

But then again, he was just being caring and making sure that he won't hurt me. But I was just like, man, come on, you're sticking a needle in me! Yeah, but no, it's so cool. And it's good to have tattooists like that, that actually care about your condition as well. I know my other tattooist, because I’ve got two, and my other tattooist was saying to me “Are you OK to have it there” and stuff like “it won't affect your spasms and stuff?” So yeah, he's just very cautious and stuff because he doesn't want me to jump with the needle when I have a spasm, and then like, he swipes something on me where it’s not meant to go.

But yeah, thank you for this podcast. Well, technically this is the second time because the audio messed up the first time, so thank you. Have you got anything else that you would like to add, plugins because I know that you've got a podcast yourself?

Jax: Yeah I have a Podcast/Broadcast show on Instagram called “The One Take Live Cast”. I interview anybody and everybody of many talents and areas, and I've got a few guests lined up. The next couple of weeks now. So if you want to give us a follow, we're on Instagram and that is “The One Take Live Cast”.

Joshua: Yeah, I'd recommend you checking it out, especially if you like alternative stuff as well, because I know that you have a lot of alternative people on there which is fantastic to find out stuff so.

Jax: They're welcome to come on, but it's for everybody and whatever your preference is.

Joshua: Yeah, that's cool. And you did say that I could be on it one day. But you still haven’t got me on it! It’s been like a year now. I'll give you a call. When I'm free anyway.

Jax: I've been asking. And you’re too busy. You're too busy hanging out with the king.

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Joshua: Yeah, yeah. Maybe King Charles can get on the podcast with me, who knows? Anyway, my name is Josh and I’ve just spoken to Jax. Bye everyone!

Jax: Thank you!

Isaac: Thanks to Josh and Jax for a great episode. It was great to hear about Jax's experience in the world of tattoos. We'll put a link to Jax's podcast broadcast show “The One Take Live Cast” in the show notes on our Simplecast site if you want to check it out. You can also find the full transcript there too.

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We always love to hear from our listeners, so do get in contact by emailing us at disabilitydownload@leonardcheshire.org or contacting us on Twitter or Instagram @LeonardCheshire . If there’s a topic or a guest you’d like to hear on our podcast, do reach out and let us know.

And don’t forget to like, share and subscribe to the podcast! Until next time everyone, I’m Isaac and this has been, the disability download.