(First, a warning. This post will include multiple personal references to suicide and depression. It will also be quite rambley as my mind has not rested for days.)
I just started getting tattoos in 2017. Each one has a very special meaning and is placed in a spot where I can see it when I need reminding of that meaning. The first, the sword with a ruby and Elvish is to remind me that I create. The second is a teal Triquetra for my connection with my husband- mind, body, and spirit.
My latest one is a Shakespearean quote in an infinity symbol. When people see it I often get told “That’s very you”… and it is, but not for the reason they think.
It’s to remind me to keep going, to stay fierce. It’s my suicide survivor/prevention tattoo. The common tattoo for that sentiment is a semi-colon to represent pausing rather than ending. Not stopping. That wasn’t enough for me, because I’ve “paused” three times now. I chose the loop because I will keep going on, I will have highs and lows, I will have an unending cycle in my life of knowing I have suicidal tendencies. The three distinct times I remember are when I was 11 and climbed to a 4th story window and wanted to jump just to see how much it would hurt and who would find me. The second was soon after college. I was alone in a big city. I shut my studio apartment windows, opened the oven and turned on the gas. Both times I stopped myself within seconds after the thoughts took over my mind. The third was just last year. I laid in bed and cried telling my husband that I wasn’t so sure I was enough of a person to live in this world. All those times were followed by highs, the first within minutes, the third was a high that last 6 months and lead to me frantically writing a book. An infinity loop for a never ending struggle, an infinity loop for the highs and lows.
Now, though, this tattoo has one more very special meaning. It reminds me that I have to endure those highs and lows, I have to keep going for one special young woman who could not. I don’t believe in god, or whatever you want to call an all powerful being. I believe that there are fates and mystical elements among us that push things to happen in certain ways and times. Those fates conspired with this tattoo. My next tattoo was supposed to be a nerdy one to represent my family. I’d been talking about it for a year. I wanted to get it last summer. Something in my soul told me to hold off, to do this one next even though I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted it. See, I got this tattoo at my birthday party where I invited friends to come get one too. One dear friend that came is the mother of the young lady who recently lost her battle with depression. The fates wanted me to have this tattoo. To get it with her. To have it on my arm NOW not later.
Depression, while an illness, a cancer to the psyche, is also a war. A day to day battle with the brain. It is not a sign of weakness. It is not a sign of anything. It is a disease. And anyone that has it is just as much a fighter, warrior, survivor as a cancer patient. But we’re too scared to talk about it. We’re too scared that it will mark us as unstable. IT. IS.AN.ILLNESS. It eats away at our conscious, our core of our being. The most wonderful young lady I have ever met lost that battle, and our world grieves.
Today my tattoo reminds me that I go on in Gracie’s name. I speak honestly and with passion about an illness that affects way more people than we all realize. That I fight the unending loop of highs and lows for those that can no longer.
So go listen to John Coltrane, Bob Marley, or The Pogues for Gracie and ride your highs and lows in her honor. If you need help, it’s not a sign of weakness to reach out. Click on the logos to find out more info about each group. Save the numbers to your phone. Share them with friends.
For Gracie, because she was fierce.
And I leave you with a video of Gracie doing what Gracie loved.