A little over a week ago, my sister and I got semi-matching tattoos. Two halves of the same butterfly with the semi-colon as the body. I chose the words “Love, Laugh, Dream” to remind me how to live.
Now, I have several tattoos, but this one brought tears to my eyes. It wasn’t physically painful, but it touched on a part of my life that for a long time I’ve hidden.
When I was around 19, I tried to take my own life. I was in a bad place and I felt as if I had nothing left to give to the world. I was completely drained. I thought my family would’ve been better off without me.
About a year and half ago, I disclosed this information to my family. I still didn’t go into detail, but I felt like I was ready to let go of the pain. To heal, I had to talk about what I’d done. Even if nearly 17 years had passed, that hadn’t mattered. They had to know.
I’m sure many of you have heard about the semi-colon project. The idea is that the semi-colon represents the continuation of your life. Instead of ending it, you, as the author, chose to keep going. It took a long time, but I did eventually realize I had something to live for. I had to go forward; even if it meant I took it one day at a time.
Towards the end of 2015, my sister and I agreed to get the semi-colon. She’d heard about the project and I thought it would be a good representation of where I’d been. We’d gone to the tattoo parlor and it had slipped her mind. I hadn’t remembered until our artist was working on my tattoo. I got my semi-colon; a small one on the outside of my right wrist. Later, my sister tells me she wants to get the semi-colon as the butterfly.
Okay. We can do that. Two halves to make a whole. Each of us with one part on the inside of our wrist. That had been the plan. Mine was supposed to be on my right wrist because I have something on the inside of my left already. The design ended up being too big for the wrist. But we were alright with it being on the arm. It wasn’t until I went to get mine that I realized the significance.
The scar from where I’d cut myself is on the inside of my left forearm. It has never really been a huge scar, hardly noticeable, but I’ve always known it was there. And the reason why. I sat in the chair, stared at my arm, and looked at my sister.
I said, “It’ll cover the scar where I cut my wrist.”
“You did it wrong. That’s why it didn’t work,” my sister replied.
Leave it to my sister to point out the obvious. But it was the words that left my tattoo artist’s mouth that brought tears to my eyes. Two simple words. “Thank God.”
Yes, thank you God. Thank you I had no idea what I was doing. Thank you for the knock on the bathroom door that stopped me from trying to figure out the right way. Thank you for keeping me safe all these years. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
It was so important I included a suicide attempt in my second novel, Punished. The scene takes a realistic look on what happens when a person uses pills in an attempt to purposely overdose. After a failed attempt, Bella (the main character) buys some more pills because she intends to be successful. Her friends, unknowingly, stop her. Not everyone has that knock on the door.
I think back now on the me 17 years ago, locked in the bathroom, desperate to end the pain. And I think about all the people in that same position. Those who have someone to stop them and those who don’t. It saddens me because suicide has become such an epidemic and we continue to say nothing. We remain silent. We’re so afraid that if we talk about it, it’ll put ideas in people’s head.
What you don’t realize, it’s probably already there. They’ve already thought about it. What they aren’t thinking about is how much the people who love them will miss them. What it will REALLY be like without them. If we want to save lives, we have to stop being afraid to talk about suicide. We have to stop doing nothing. We have to stop being quiet.