Callie Lynn Nelson’s search for balance

“I would like to share the reasons I chose the word ‘balance’ out of all the words and phrases in the poem. There are many small reasons, but I would like to share the two big ones.

From Middle School on, I have always had issues feeling like an outsider and searching for acceptance. I always wanted to feel that I was part of a group, that I belonged to something ‘big.’ Although I now have more than one group of amazing friends, this is something I still struggle with to this day, at the age of 29.

One of the reasons I struggle with these feelings, and many others, is because of bipolar disorder. I was not properly diagnosed or medicated until 6 years ago, and although I have made many personal strides since then, it is something I will struggle with my entire life. Mood swings, anger issues, racing thoughts, paranoia, and anxiety are only a few of the issues I deal with as a result of having this brain disorder. This has made it even harder to feel accepted, as one of my big paranoia/anxiety triggers is feeling like others, whether they be strangers or friends, are edging me out or conspiring against me. Every day, I search for balance, whether it’s balancing my moods, balancing the racing thoughts swirling through my head like a cyclone, or balancing what is real and what exists only in my head.

I have 13 tattoos; the ‘balance’ tattoo is my most recent addition. I wanted something to represent my bipolar disorder, without getting something too negative or a cliché. When I heard about the Love Letter To the World project, I was thrilled to be a part of something so big and so wonderful. When I read the poem, the word ‘balance’ jumped out at me. This world is constantly teaching me about balance and so I decided this would be my next tattoo.

I chose the center of my upper back so the tattoo itself would have some balance and be easy to see. Even though I can’t see it, others do and compliment it often. And I always know it’s there and I’m always happy to share why I chose it. Every time I do, I give people insight into why I am the way I am. Hopefully, every conversation about my ‘balance’ tattoo is a step toward ending the stigmas associated with mental illness.


The tattoo was done by Jamie Hale at Bleed Blue. I asked her to leave the word black and to choose the colors for the design herself. Without even knowing it, she chose some of my favorite calming colors. This whole project has been an amazing experience, from choosing to get the tattoo, to meeting Kurt and Kremena in person, to getting my photograph taken. Every day, I battle mental illness. Every day, my tattoo gives me a little extra strength to do so.”

Callie Lynn Nelson (photograph by Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova)

Callie Lynn Nelson (photograph by Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova)