Over the weekend, I added some extra color to this body of mine with my fifth (and final, promise!) tattoo. Each one – minus a random cluster of stars on my hip – has significant meaning for me. None of them are overtly visible, because they’re mostly just for me. They’re little reminders of things that I so desperately need to remember on a daily basis, or that have inspired huge moments in my life. While none are 100 percent original (nothing ever is), they’re not faddish.
(Soon, I will check to make sure that’s actually a word. But not now).
No – now, we talk about something worth talking about.
If you haven’t heard of it, The Semicolon Project is a global movement revolutionizing how we talk about mental health. While at the heart of it, the movement is meant to inspire a more serious discussion around mental illness, depression and suicide prevention, it’s evolved into a catalyst for talking about that which is most uncomfortable for so many of us – that to some degree, we all suffer. Some more than others, and some dealt with in different ways.
For most of my life, I’ve struggled with depression. Its form (and severity) has changed over the years depending on the stage of my life, but it’s always been there and likely always will be. I’ve found ways to cope – exercise, therapy, solo travel, happy pills – and I have a support system that rivals no other. But what most people fail to realize is that if depression is chronic – and not situational – it’s not something you can “just get over” or “snap out of.” It’s chemical.
And it’s real.
Sometimes, regardless of steps you’ve taken to fix it, you need a more permanent, constant reminder that your story (or a specific chapter or two, in my case) doesn’t have to end. That all you need to do is pause, then keep going.
So over the weekend, I got a mini semicolon tattooed on the base of my thumb. I see it constantly. It’s been strange to get used to, but it’s slowly becoming what I hoped it would – another reminder that I’m strong and in charge of my own story.
As I was sharing my story with others this weekend, I saw a flurry of social media posts on popular news networks criticizing the movement. That people are being dramatic, that it’s just a fad, that it’s not the right way to talk about mental illness.
But hey, look! We’re talking about it!
What we need to do is keep talking. And talking. And talking.
And even though I only [*though I hate that word in this context because it’s no less serious] suffer from mild(er) depression, I’m heartbreakingly sympathetic to those who have not gained the clarity I have or have access to the support I do. I’m so grateful to those who love and lift me up every day. And now, I want to lift up others.
Every movement starts with a symbol that people can understand, rally around, support and share. You can’t often explain why something resonates the way it does (e.g. Ice Bucket Challenge anyone?) but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that a message about mental illness is being rapidly spread across the country and now I’ve become a vehicle for that message.
Does that make me dramatic or overtly trendy? (Who cares). Or does it tell someone who sees it that we may have more in common than we originally thought, and that maybe we can be a source of strength for each other? (This has already happened!)
Wearing this symbol means I’m part of a conversation that we all need to start having, and soon. And if I choose to carry that message with me permanently, it’s my choice. It’s taken me years to confront my issues – and even now, I sometimes forget what I’ve learned – but I’m being open and honest and vulnerable and real.
My life doesn’t need saved. But if this semi-colon can start one conversation or inspire one more day for someone else, then it’s a scar I’ll wear proudly.
So here – hold my hand.