I have always wanted this tattoo. Even when I was a young teenager yo-yo-ing between an extreme self-destructive, self-hating streak and wanting to do amazing things with my life, I knew that one day I'd want this giant creature etched under my skin.

Grab accomplishments no matter where they come from. All the little wins count, they count for so much. I started this tattoo in the summer of 2015 and it's finally over, and it feels like Something.

There are a lot of other journeys that end and begin here too. This is a promise, a promise to stop hating my body and myself. It's a promise that nothing that has come before now has ruined my body: not the transgressions of the people I once trusted, not the illnesses that had/have taken root and like any good weed, refuse to leave. This is also a promise that when I can't help hating my body... it's okay — and not a sign that I am defective.

A drawing of a dragon with antlers and claws, and skin resembling seashells. This is one of the early drawings of the dragon I was contemplating adding to my body. I looked up some tattoo studios in Montréal, and when I brought about 20 different dragon drawings, some much more complete than others, to this one guy, he was really nice about them and even complimented a couple for being kinda funny. So, I decided to go ahead with that kind dude. Past Gersande chose pretty well, because Charlo Darko has a really kick-ass style and turns out he was also pretty nice to talk to over the dozens of hours, over the years, we spent working on this tattoo.

It's totally possible to accomplish this big a tattoo in much less than three years, but there were a few considerations that turned this into a real marathon. Tattoos are expensive and budgeting for this wonderful monster was sometimes a concern. Thankfully, Charlo was flexible and understanding. Then there was trying to schedule around my unpredictable mental and physical health which is a roller coaster even without the added stress of a huge tattoo.

Dragons are the ultimate hybrids, the ultimate liminal creature. I knew I wanted a dragon that felt like a real blend of prey and predator, of mammal and reptile. I knew I wanted a protector, a guardian.

I wanted a dragon that reminded me of the spirit of the forest from Princess Mononoke. I wanted a dragon that reminded me of that month of May in 2003 when I had lucid dreams almost every night, and in those dreams I became a dragon and flew everywhere and explored every place.

Tattoos can sometimes feel a bit violent, especially when they're very big, involve a ton of etching, and cover parts of your body that are very sensitive. You have to keep still, keep calm, and trust that everything is going to be okay. It's going to be worth it.

And I didn't realise it until we were roughly 16 hours into the tattoo, but the dragon sits over some of the worst of the nerve scarring down my shoulders, back, and side from the serious case of shingles I got in 2012. Turns out that tattooing over nerve damage (on a rib cage, to boot) can be... well, it's a trip. An absurdly painful trip.

I'm truly relieved it's finally over and that I'm covered in a giant dragon tattoo. It healed beautifully, all the bruises are gone, and it looks amazing.

Photography credit for all the photos of my tattoo on this page go to Myriame. Thank you for the wonderful photos!