I had heard about Project Semicolon some time ago. The Project resonated with me on a lot of different levels but most particularly because I, too, am a survivor. I remember the first time I thought about dying. I was 13 years old. I became obsessed with it. So much so that my best friend was worried, my mom was worried, my aunt who I stayed with that summer in Florida was worried. I wasn’t worried though, because I knew waiting on the other side was peace.
The thing that held me back from dying was, what if I was wrong? What if there wasn’t peace on the other side? What if it was more of the same? Disruption, chaos, heartache, malcontent. I felt I couldn’t risk it.
As I got older, I started worrying about what would happen to those I left behind. Would they be sad? Would my death cause someone else’s? What would my dad do? Would he blame himself?
During really low times, I convinced myself that everyone would be better off without me. I was sick all the time, I wasn’t any fun. I was no kind of mother, no kind of wife. The insurance payout and the social security my death would generate was surely worth more to my family than me alive.
These thoughts are awful. It’s a pretty safe gamble to bet that anyone who suffers from depression has had them. Yet, when we go in to our practitioners for our prescription the answer is always the same when asked, “have you ever thought about suicide?” We always say, “no”. We (being the Depressed) know what will happen if we confess to these dark thoughts. We’ll be locked away, have a permanent stain on our ‘record’. We’ll be thought of as crazy. Our kids might be taken away.
What I find crazy is that the Depressed are forced to bury these thoughts that are a naturally occurring part of our disease. It’s like saying, “Oh, you’re diabetic but you never have high blood sugar? Wow, that’s awesome!” It just doesn’t happen that way. Doesn’t it stand to reason if you’re sad all the time, you’ve thought about ending it to escape the pain? Of course it does, yet our healthcare system is structured such that admitting to such a major symptom of our disease is cause for shame.
Non-depressed people think thoughts of suicide are a sign of weakness in the Depressed. Something the Depressed can control. Like hell these thoughts are a sign of weakness. I can no more control my thoughts than an amputee can regrow his leg. Does it make me weak? No. Does not taking my life make me strong? No. What choosing to continue makes me is a survivor. Nothing more, nothing less. And I don’t for one second take for granted that I am a survivor TODAY. I might not be tomorrow and I know this. I know it is a possibility of the disease I continue to battle.
In my own small way to show that I survived today, and all the days before today, I tattooed onto my body a semicolon in a VISIBLE place (something I said I’d never do). I put it on the inside of my right ring finger to remind myself that I’ve had a lot of pauses in my life. I could have chosen to end my sentence but I didn’t. Instead, I chose to continue. I can only hope that when I reach one of those low points again in my life, I’ll look at my finger and know that I have the choice to end my story or to continue it – and that because I once had the ability to survive, I will find it again and will choose to keep writing my story.