***TRGGER WARNING, THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS SUBJECTS THAT MAY BE TRIGGERING FOR THOSE WITH A HISTORY OR MENTAL ILLNESS, DEPRESSION, AND/OR SELF-INJURY. PLEASE READ AT YOUR OWN CAUTION***
So, I got a new tattoo this weekend…
As I have mentioned before, my girlfriend is a tattoo artist. Saturday, while hanging out at the shop, I decided that I was ready to get this one. It’s one I have been thinking about for a while.
I am sure you have heard of the Semi Colon Project. It is “a global non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction, and self -injury:” (You can read more about them here:
The basic basis of the project is to spread awareness and hopefully reduce/prevent the above mentioned struggles. It has, in part, heavily influenced this tattoo.
A semi colon represents a sentence an author could have ended, but chose not to. As a writer, I use semi colons often in my blogs and other works. In this instance, my life is my story, and I have chosen not to end it. The heart in this tattoo is because I always have worn my heart on my sleeve. I feel easily and I give even more freely. This has left me open for a lot of love in return, but also a tremendous amount of pain. The heart isn’t closed off; it has open spots, to show how my heart is always open and willing to give love. A special touch by my sweet partner, the tattoo artist, was added. She styled the design with some color “dripping” off of the bottom of the tattoo; this ties in with my being a bleeding heart. The colors in the design speak to the various life events that have caused the feelings and sparked the emotions I have felt. They are done in “water color” design to represent how they all run together.
I have spoken of my issues with depression and self-injury throughout various blogs but I have never talked specifically of this subject in any depth. So here goes!
I still remember the first time I cut my self. I was in the 7th grade and struggling with things that most teens do; my identity, my views on religion and sexuality, the list goes on. This particular day I was listening to a Metallica cd in the hallway at school before classes started. I found myself feeling in a rather low spot. I was bullied a bit at that age. I was thicker than most girls my age, and I struggled with acne pretty severely. I was not considered to be a very attractive young lady. There were two boys in particular that seemed to find a great deal of joy in making my life miserable. The two young men often taunted me about my weight and sent me crying to the bathroom on more occasions than I care to count. On this day, I had had enough. I was standing by my locker and these boys grabbed my cd player, pulling the headphones off of my head and ripping the cd out of it. One of them took the cd and smashed it on the ground laughing. He then took all the pieces and threw them at me. I was terrified, embarrassed, scared, and shaken. The level of my humiliation sent me reeling. I was dizzy and felt nauseas. I don’t know, to this day what gave me the idea. I don’t recall having ever had seen anyone purposefully hurt themselves. But I took a piece of that Metallica CD and I scrapped it across my arm; a long, not too deep scratch that stretched from my inner elbow, down the length of my arm, through the soft skin stopping at the little creases of my wrist. The visible shaking in my hands stopped. The rushing feeling in my brain stopped. I took a deep breath and I felt a rush of endorphins that I had never felt before. At that age, I certainly didn’t know or understand how the pain was causing reactions in my brain and body; all I knew was that this act I was participating in caused me to feel alive, almost euphoric.
And that is how it all began. I didn’t cut again for a long while. I can’t speak to exactly what was going through my riddled brain, but it felt like I needed to save this feeling for times that I desperately needed it. It was my secret escape that I had to save for those moments when life just seemed like too much. Over the years those moments grew more and more frequent. I found myself cutting more often, which led to finding new things to cut with. I disassembled shaving razors, collected razor blades that my family would leave lying around. Anything that was sharp, and small, that I could easily hide was taken and set away in a secret little stash. The increased cutting was starting to leave marks on my arms. When people started questioning the random scratches and scraps, I realized through the panic and fear of my secret being discovered, that I had to switch up where I was hurting myself. The marks started to spread over my body. Some of my upper arms, easy to hide with a t-shirt, sometimes on my outer thighs, because no one ever sees those. At time I would cut my stomach, a source of just a little too much insecurity.
The growing ebb and flow of the ups and downs also grew harder to control. I would often get very low, and end up cutting, which would give me a temporary high euphoric lift. But then that never lasted and I would crash into a low again. At this point, I knew that I wasn’t the only person who did this. I had learned how to use the internet (This was 15+ years ago!) to look up and research others like me. Not only did I find out that this was a multi-national problem, but I started to look for in in the people around me. I started to notice when people would sit in a room, or outdoors, sweating, but refusing to put on a short sleeved shirt or tank. I began seeing the signs and looking for them everywhere. I learned that some of my friends were doing this as well. It was a lot to take in. My curiosity on the internet led me to learn about a whole new sub-culture of support and dangerous groups that both fascinated and terrified me.
By my Jr year of high school, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was cutting daily, sometimes multiple times a day. It was never about suicide. I didn’t want to die. But cutting allowed me a bit of choice in how I felt pain. The physical attacks on myself lessened the pain that anyone else could do to me. I was of the mentality that those taunts and teases were nothing compared to the pain I could do to myself. But I knew that I couldn’t keep going on in the way I was, this thing had taken over my life. I was held by its secrets with nowhere to turn. So, I asked for help. Asking for help was a BIG DEAL for me. I was scared of the reactions I would get from anyone I told. I mean, how do you look at someone and tell them, “I feel so much pain, and the only thing I can do to relieve it, is to cause a physical pain to myself. “ It didn’t make any sense when I tried to put it into words. But, a point came when I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I first went to my youth pastor. She was a woman who I held in high favor; the first person in “the church” to speak to me with understanding instead of arrogance. She guided me to talk to my parents and request for them to get me into a therapy program to help me deal with all of the issues my mind had built.
My parents are very good people. They would give you the food off of their table and the shirts off of their backs if it meant you would be a little better off. They honestly had hearts of gold, but they didn’t understand some things. When I finally got up the courage to talk to them, it didn’t exactly go as planned. I, along with a dear family friend sat down and told them. They immediately blamed themselves. I can say honestly that while I held a grudge against them for a long time, I now understand why they reacted in the way they did. I did not receive therapy at that time. I was grounded and things got a little harder for me. It was almost as if I was treated like a child who kept breaking the rules, instead of a child who needed help. My parents simply couldn’t comprehend the reality I was in.
Over the following years I learned to deal with my depression in my own way. I cut often, and was depressed more than anything else. My cuts grew deeper and I ran out of lies and excuses for the scars on my arms. Boyfriends and girlfriends asked questions, but I learned how to either brush them off or to let them go. I also figure out who it was ok to share my dark secret with.
Now, I am 28, nearing 29 and I still struggle with the urges, the rush, of wanting to cut myself. Luckily for me, I did eventually (once I was living out on my own) seek out treatment and learned better, more healthy patterns for coping with depression and anxiety. I no longer cut but it creeps into my mind often when things in life go wrong.
My new tattoo represents this struggle, this addiction to pain, and all of the roads I have traveled to get here.
Please take some time to think about the people around you. Love them, cherish them, and always support them in a healthy way.
If you struggle with any of these issues, TALK to someone. Seek help, because YOU are WORTH living a full and happy life. It can happen, you are not alone.
Peace and love my followers.