I’ve been overdue for a new tattoo, but people who know me well know that my body modifications are always tediously planned out. I don’t get inked just for the sake of doing it; my tattoos each have a story that’s tied to my soul and likely represents something more than just the illustration. Meet my newest piece: the semicolon.
Laurel alerted me to the Semicolon Project last year, and while I’m not affiliated with them in any way, I respect the project’s vision and have a personal investment in anything aimed at preventing anxiety, depression, suicide, and self harm to all people. The Semicolon Project is a valuable tool for a world inundated with put-down culture. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that people are plagued with depression in our world because most of the images and messages marketed to us center on death, destruction, criticism, and getting us to emotionally react. Innovators of the Semicolon Project urged people who were feeling suicidal, depressed, or anxious to draw a semicolon on their hand or wrist. As explained by supporters of the movement, “A semicolon is used when an author could have chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to,” empowering individuals to choose another way.
My own experience with depression, anxiety, and suicide dates back to when I was a teenager and my parents were nearing divorce. All of the fighting, stumbling on my father’s plans to move me away from my mother and not knowing how to tell him, being asked who I’d like to live with, witnessing them lying to each other – it was a lot to handle. I didn’t have a sibling to seek comfort from, and the nearest extended family member’s home was 300+ miles away. That was the earliest, and thankfully one of the only, times I felt like dying would be a better option than waking up the next day. I was not suicidal again until I faced postpartum depression after having Kennedy.
Side note: My parents didn’t end up divorcing, but it’s important to point out that even a rock solid marriage like theirs has seen its battle days.
As far as I can pinpoint, depression has been a big bubble in my life, encompassing chaptered chunks of time that happen to be in chronological order. I didn’t know it was there half the time, but I think I was able to disguise it to myself by training my mind to think otherwise. After the third year of my parents living in Florida and me in California, I’d trained my heart to think it wasn’t hurting for them to keep myself from completely falling apart watching my friends all spend time with their families. Coping mechanism? Maybe. It’s been a complicated web to untangle, and that’s the best I can come up with so far. I’m still working on it.
Anxiety is an entirely different bear and by far the one I work hardest to manage. Anxiety is what tells me to worry, tells me to second guess myself, dreams up the worst case scenario and then plays it on repeat, and who shouts ugly things at me when I’m feeling weak. I hate it. I have it. But it does not have me. This tattoo is mostly dedicated to that. I chose my bicep too because, well, it takes strength to pause and decide. Our world values moving fast, but I say we take it slow. Slow down and be intentional. Stop missing things because you were moving too quickly through them. Pause, reflect, decide what serves you and discard what doesn’t, and last but not least: do.
My tattoo is a reminder that though my pace of life can become rapid, I am still in control of how fast it plays, and how many times it gets paused for reflection, for recovery, and for peace.