Only the strongest survive: tattoos, anxiety, anorexia and depression

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about how my new tattoo helped me with health anxiety and my ongoing fear of death – read the full article here.

Since then, I have been overwhelmed by the support and stories from those who have experienced something similar, those who also related to the phrase ‘Never Say Die‘.

I’d like to share their tales with you all.

Firstly, from a lovely lady named Spike

Depression 3

Reflecting on anxiety can be a difficult thing. Looking at the reasons for it and trying to find answers can be just as hard.

Personally, I have years of experience with anxiety, however, for me, it comes as part of a package. I have anxiety, clinical depression and anorexia, all associated around environment, people and stresses.

I’ve had this package of nightmares for many many years but I went through a stage a few years ago where nothing was going right…

I was in a very stressful job in the NHS – shifts were always under-staffed and holidays and days off were non-existent. I was at college studying and although I loved it, I just couldn’t catch a break.

I got through college and went to university, found another part of the NHS to work in, but nothing changed. Even though was trying to better myself and was in a slightly better position, I still could not catch that break I so desperately needed. While all this was going on, I was also seeing someone and although he was clearly in denial about depression and was suffering himself, I did what I could to help – being the loving girlfriend I was at the time.

Towards the end of the second semester of my second year, the boyfriend dumped me. Now, I’ll just explain, I’ve been dumped for a lot of things in my time but it’s usually the “it’s not you, it’s me – I have bigger priorities than you” scenario. I’ve had this from friends, family, lovers, associates, people I’ve worked with. You name them, I’ve probably had it from them.

When it comes to the reasons, it’s usually something really really random. I’ve been dumped by a boyfriend over his cat – I shit you not. His 18 year old cat was more important than his girlfriend and when it came down to it, I had to go. The ‘dumping list’ consists of job titles, working hours, family, children, pets, taking sides, non-existent bitching, not enough time spent with them, not enough time spent at work… it goes on.

When this particular boyfriend dumped me over his 6 year old daughter, I was in total shock. I come from a broken family so I totally get how important time with children is… I even gave him ideas to spend quality time with her and do things together. But no, this compassion, understanding and empathy wasn’t enough. I got dumped because his depression had got the better of him and he was taking it out on me.

So what was the result of all this?

I was already stressed about my job, university, getting results, paying bills, and now someone who was supposed to love me had again decided to leave over some excuse. I couldn’t take it anymore, I needed that break. But I broke instead.

I decided I didn’t want to be around people anymore. I didn’t like them… all they did was ruin my life. Take what they wanted and throw me away when they didn’t need me anymore. I was broken. I didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, didn’t want to work, didn’t want to leave my flat or my bed.

When I did have to work or be around people, I made sure I was as far away from them as possible – in the back corner, in the back of the room. I had become terrified of having yet more of my life destroyed by people who are supposed to care. I became a hermit.

When I was on a break from lectures, I’d be in the library or with a friend of mine. She watched me fall apart and there was nothing she could do about it other than talk to me. After a couple of weeks, eventually something got through. It was small and a bit cliché, but it got through.

Only the strongest survive.

It stuck, and for the following few weeks, when I had had enough of lying in bed, I’d say to myself… “only the strongest survive“. It served as a reminder that it doesn’t matter what happens today, you have to get through it. You don’t have a choice.

I built a runes-based tattoo with just the words “only the strongest survive” and had it tattooed on the inside of my right arm. Every morning, I look at my arm and I think “I have to get through this“. It’s just a reminder that everything will be OK. I needed it and still need it today.


I’ve more recently been through some serious traumas back-to-back and I did attempt on my life. A friend of mine who works in Afghanistan phoned me when he found out what happened. He was furious at the person who had caused me to do this.

He said something significant which will stay with me for a long time, and be another addition to my tattoo artwork…

We are the alpha.

It made me realise that I need to fight this. What good is an alpha with no fight? How can you lead when you’re wounded and weak? I couldn’t let this situation, anxiety and depression beat me. I needed to fight back and prove that I am strong, and they have lost.

Things are getting better, one day at a time. Things are moving, finally, in the right direction. I have fought this fight every day since I was about 12 and I am now 31 years old. It still gets the better of me now and again, but everything is getting better.

I wanted to share my tattoo story because like many others, I know what it feels like to have overwhelming anxiety about something so insignificant and irrational. I understand and completely empathise with the thoughts, feelings and daily fights of others.

It’s hard. But if you never say die, only the strongest survive

Words: Spike Davis-Riseborough, Alchemy Tattoo, Wigan

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