Well, I did it—I finally got my semicolon tattoo! Almost 60 years old and I feel a little bit like a rebel, getting my first one (and it really is addictive like my family members and friends with tattoos say, because I’m already planning my next) at an advanced age. It’s on the inside of my right forearm, where it can be hidden with long sleeves if absolutely necessary. But I’m wearing it proudly as a symbol of my promise to my late husband that I would do as he asked and stay alive…no matter what life throws at me.
For those of you who haven’t heard of the semicolon except as an example of punctuation, it’s a metaphor for life as a person who has considered or attempted suicide. You know how the semicolon is used to connect thoughts in a sentence; the author could have ended the sentence at any point with a period, but instead decided to continue it. (See what I did there?) The author is you, and the sentence is your life.
The tattoo is more common than you might think. Several years ago a young woman named Amy Bleuel started Project Semicolon to honor her father, who died by suicide as a result of severe depression. It started out with people drawing semicolons on themselves with Sharpie markers, then caught on among the mental health community, many of whom wanted something more permanent. So the semicolon tattoo was born.
Sadly, Ms. Bleuel herself suffered from serious mental illness, and in March of this year she ended her own life at the age of only 31.
But for those of us who have looked into the face of death and lived to tell about it, our story is NOT over. We are warriors, survivors; while I personally have never attempted suicide, I know in my heart that if I had been sent home that day I checked myself into the ER for suicidal ideation and intent, I wouldn’t be here. You see, I knew where the pills were, and where the gun was…and it still scares me that I came so close to ending it all. In fact, the only reason I didn’t was that I didn’t want Will to find my body.
I don’t have him to keep me honest anymore, but I have many other reasons not to end my sentence. This tattoo will remind me of that every day for the rest of my life. My story isn’t over.