Maddie's first tattoo hid the deep scars in her skin she’d put there herself

Body of art: Maddie learnt to accept her scars but found it difficult when asked by others to explain them. She finds strength in her tattoos. Photos: Sylvia Liber
Body of art: Maddie learnt to accept her scars but found it difficult when asked by others to explain them. She finds strength in her tattoos. Photos: Sylvia Liber

More Than Skin Deep Series

Maddie Raisin got her first tattoo to hide the deep scars in her skin that she’d put there herself.

“I was 18 years old … I got tattoos to kind of cover up my scars so I wouldn’t have to remember those hurtful feelings and thoughts I thought of when I did self harm.”

The scars will always be just below the surface but Maddie can no longer see them – and that goes a long way to making her feel strong and in control of her future.

“The tattoos make me feel more comfortable in myself to know that I have achieved something and overcome my fears and my weaknesses,”’ she said.

Maddie and her little sisters grew up in the foster care system. They went through “a lot of rough patches” at a very young age.

“For me being the eldest one I had to find ways to deal with my stress and anger without trying to have my sisters in harms way,” she said.

“The end result i was hurting myself so I wouldn’t hurt others. I was just hurting myself in the end.”

Maddie learnt to accept her scars but found it difficult when asked by others to explain them.

“’You can’t keep using that they are cat scratches and they are dog scratches anymore.

“And it’s hard to really explain to kids or even your partner why you did what you did cause even at that time you don’t really know, you just did it. It was just a feeling to feel something because you feel so numb.

“Sometimes that’s just the way people cope. Could be with eating, not eating, could just be with locking themselves in the room … all people cope in different ways and that’s just for me how I coped when I was younger.”

Maddie’s mood lifts when she talks about her body art.

“I’ve got so many tattoos. My most favourite? … the first piece I got on my back,” she said.

There’s one flower for each of her siblings. The Geisha is also hiding signs of darker times.

“The ones on my arms probably are not as bad as the ones on my legs. But every time I look at her it reminds me a bit of me, that you can always be beautiful in your own way and strong.

“Every time I look in the mirror she’s always looking back at me.”

Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; beyondblue 1300 224 636.