Project Semicolon: July 2015

 

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I don’t like needles. I don’t like the idea of a permanent commitment. And I certainly don’t like doing things that make me nervous. So why would I choose to get a tattoo?

There has been a lot of news lately regarding the Semicolon Tattoo Project. People have shared that their tattoo is a commitment to themselves, a daily reminder that their story isn’t over. They have survived their own battles, and I commend those who are brave enough to inspire others to celebrate those victories.

At first, I thought it was a great idea. Spread the awareness around depression and suicide because getting people to talk about their experiences reduces the stigma attached to them. Share your story and have a tattoo that commemorates how far you have come. I really thought the whole idea was quite impressive.

However, I wasn’t sure it was for me. I have never publicly talked about my experience with depression before to people other than a close few. I said I was open about it, yet I never really discussed it. I didn’t think it was anyone’s business or that anyone would want to hear my story. I did not feel comfortable telling everyone what I’ve been through.

I had decided one day to post an inspiring message as my Facebook status. I touched briefly on the fact that depression played a part in my life the past few years. I was shocked by the amount of love and support people had to give back to me. I was overwhelmed with the generosity and kindness of people that took the time to say nice things to me. I felt like I had opened a new door, allowing people into my life in a way I had never let them before.

When my cousin saw my posts about the tattoo and asked me if I would get one with her, I knew I had to jump at the offer. I finally understood why so many people got this semicolon tattooed to their body. I began to comprehend why people shared their stories. It was liberating to not have the weight of secrets hold you back. It was fulfilling to be able to share your story and have other people resonate with what you were saying.

This tattoo is very special to me, as it is to many others who have joined this movement. I want to bring awareness to how many people have been strong enough to continue their stories, despite their setbacks and challenges. This story isn’t just for me, it’s for all of those who fight for a happy and healthy life. I am inspired by those who are open and honest, and I hope to be that same role model for somebody else.

So yes, I still don’t like needles. And yes, the idea of a permanent commitment still scares me. But I also have gained so much more than what my fears have held me back from. I have a small print on my wrist that tells me I have let go. I have let go of feeling unworthy, and I have let go of letting depression run my life. This tattoo is so important to me because it is a symbol of my story that continues each and every day.

My story could have ended a long time ago. I could have been another tragic statistic of a teen gone too soon. But it didn’t. I am here, and my story comes with me. I used to carry around the weight of my burdens. Now I carry a semicolon because my story isn’t over.

Late Night Infomercials

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Growing up with anxiety issues, sleep didn’t always come easy to me. Whenever I couldn’t sleep, I loved watching infomercials. The magic bullet that chopped and diced anything, the perfect hair straightener that calmed unruly curls, and the cleaning supplies you didn’t know  you needed…I wanted them all! But mostly, I just wanted a quick fix to difficult problems, preferably with a satisfaction guarantee.

As middle school transitioned to high school, my anxiety exhausted itself into depression. The infomercials that put me to sleep were now replaced by sleep that I wanted all the time. My desire for a quick fix to my problems quickly plummeted and I got a healthy dose of reality.

I thought the therapy would instantly change my life and I would never look back. I thought the medications would bounce me into a bright new chapter of my story. I thought friends would stay, family would understand, and I could pick up the pieces of the mess I had made.

The therapy was exhausting and demanding. The medications made me sick and tired. People in my life didn’t stay or understand or even know what to do. When I thought going off to college would be an easy way to start over, I missed the fact that I wasn’t ready and wasn’t in the right mind set to do so. But again, I wanted a quick and easy fix to my problems and thought that shipping myself off to live away from home was the answer.

For anyone struggling with a mental illness, fighting for your own mental health can be like a battle you don’t have the strength to fight. It can be so tempting to want life to be like an infomercial and hope that something simple and easy will come along and be transformative.

It’s not going to be easy. There will be days with the infomercials run rampant and you need a quick fix to your challenges. Turn off the TV and know that you are worth more than a fast solution. You are worth all the time, energy, and patience people have to offer. Your life is more valuable than a scripted gimmick shown in the middle of the night. 

I want to be clear. You are worth fighting for. Your mental health is a priority and despite the stigma around these matters, you deserve to get help. No amount of 1-800 numbers will ever compare to the help you deserve to be receiving. Talk to a professional therapist and listen with your heart. You matter in this world. If medications are prescribed, take them out of self love to nourish your body with what it needs.

Most importantly, don’t be ashamed. The more we can be open and honestly share our struggles, the more understanding we have of people who face these challenges. Be a voice for those who can’t find their own. Be a champion for those who can’t fight anymore. And above all, be a role model for those who are not able to share their story. The more we talk about mental illness instead of glamorizing it, the more we are able to shine light on the lives of people who are affected by it.