Today I had a semicolon tattooed on my wrist and I’m hoping that, in a small way at least, it will give me an opportunity to dispel inaccuracies and fallacies about mental health.
The semicolon project is a faith based (though personally I don’t think that belief in anything but your determination to keep going forward is important when getting this tattoo), not for profit project which was started in the US by a young woman who lost her father to suicide and she came up with the idea because the main task of the semicolon is to mark a break that is stronger than a comma but not as final as a full stop.
The semicolon tattoo is almost always found on the wrist and signifies that the person is a “survivor” of mental illness. Survivor is an emotive word and means different things to different people and for me it means that I’ve come through yet another set of bipolar cycling.
There has been a time in my life when I took an overdose even though it was not my intention to die. I did it because life was too hard and I wanted the difficulty to stop. I didn’t want to die I wanted the hurt to stop.
On many occasions over the past 40 years the swings from mania to depression in various degrees and speed have brought me to a point where I felt that all I wanted to do was stop everything until the pain stopped and then begin to live all over again. Unfortunately suicide is a one way trip and though it stops the pain it also stops any chance of reshaping life.
The semicolon tattoo is, as I’ve mentioned, a way to allow people to ask questions and perhaps get rid of some of the stigma associated with poor mental health but it doesn’t stop there.
My tattoo is there for the bad times when I can’t cope, the mood swings won’t stop, my brain itches and hurts so much I want to rip it out and I really feel as though I need (not want) to die. Those are the times I can look at it and tell myself that I’ve endured equally bad times in the past and I’ve always come through. It will remind me that there are people who care about me who really want me to stay alive even though I can be the most irritating person on earth if I put my mind to it.
My tattoo is there for the good times when I do well and can store up memories and experiences that will fuel a desire too become well when I’m ill. It’s there to tell me of all the photos I’ve taken and will take, all those lovely train journeys I’ve been on and all those I will go on, all those kisses from my animals and the absolute bliss (and chaos) that they bring.
My tattoo is permanent because mental health is permanent it’s just that sometimes it’s not that good.
My tattoo is there because so far I have chosen to pause but, as you can see, I’ve never chosen to stop.