Yeah, that’s a picture of my wrist.
Yeah, I have a semicolon tattoo.
Yeah, I have lost friends to suicide.
Yeah, I have had suicidal feelings at times.
No, I’ve never attempted suicide.
No, I don’t have suicidal thoughts anymore, nor have I for several years.
No, this isn’t a “cry for help,” or any other random way of me looking for sympathy for my past, current, or future issues with depression, bipolar disorder, or anything else.
This is me talking about my tattoo, who it’s for, why it’s there, and what wearing it has meant for me.
This tattoo is for my uncle, who took his own life while his wife folded laundry on the porch. This tattoo is for my actor friend who survived not only the suicide of his father, but also his twin brother, and grew up to be one of the strongest, most talented motherfuckers I know. This tattoo is for my pal Logan, whose demon won the fight one dark night. This tattoo is for every writer on the Mid-South con circuit who woke up one morning thinking “What could I have done to make it better?” This tattoo is for my friend Dave whose life caught up with him and overwhelmed him. This tattoo is for my poker buddies who sat around a table with me wondering “How could he?” then listened in shock as I explained exactly how he could, and what it felt like on the inside of that struggle when everyone around you is completely unaware that you’re even fighting.
If there’s anyone that’s a better liar than an addict, it’s a high-functioning depressive. And if you want to talk about a dubious fucking honor, that’s one right there.
I put this semicolon on my wrist earlier this year. My buddy James R. Tuck did it, along with other tattoo work. James is my brother from another mother, a helluva writer, and a good man. When he asked me which way I wanted the tattoo to point, I didn’t know.
“Is it for you, or is it for other people?” he asked.
I didn’t know the answer. But in the moment, I said “For me.” And he oriented the tattoo so that every time I look at my wrist, I’m reminded that I’m still here because I have shit left to do. I’m not finished, and I’m too arrogant and stubborn to think that anyone could carry on my projects without me. So I guess I’ll stick around.
All of that still holds true. But since I put that tattoo on my wrist, a funny thing has happened. Funny, and heartbreaking at the same time. When they see mine, they show me theirs. It’s like we’re part of this odd club – the survivors. I’ve had gas station cashiers roll up their sleeves out of the blue, waitresses hike up their uniform pants to show me an ankle, and more than one person at a con give me a questioning look before showing me their ink.
Yeah, I’ve been there. I love and hate that I’m part of this club. I love it, because there’s a network of people wearing this tattoo and talking about their pain and their issues. I love it, because every time we have an open conversation about mental health it helps erase the stigma associated with it, and that can lead to someone getting the help they need before they become another statistic. I hate it, because it means that a lot of other people have spent a lot of time hurting, and I really wish that weren’t true.
But if I can bring more attention to the fact that a lot of people have earned their semicolons, whether they have a tattoo or not, then it’s worth a sometimes-awkward conversation. If you aren’t familiar with Project Semicolon, their website is here. It horribly ironic that the founder of this website and movement lost her battle with depression and suicidal ideation, showing that it’s a never-ending struggle.
I’m okay. This has been a good week, following a good month. Not a great month, but a good one. I’m consistently hovering around a 4-7 out of 10 on my personal wellness scale, where 10 is amazeballs and 1 is dead. My lowest in recent history has been a three, which is pretty good. My highest has been a nine or so, which is awesome. Most days I’m on the high side of the scale, which is great. So I’m okay. But if you aren’t okay, please understand that there are people out there who have been there, who give a shit, and would like to see you around for a long time. So if you need help, find help. There are a lot of resources out there, and a lot of resources on the #HoldOnToTheLight website.
You story isn’t finished yet; keep on writing it.