When I launched my blog two days ago, purposefully silently into the ether, I also got my first tattoo to seal the day and my mission forever. I will explain, through this post, why I chose the honest lines of soul ink that I did.
Yesterday when I had lunch with a friend, she noticed my tat immediately and asked what the significance of it was. As I explained my connection to the semi-colon project, and how close it hit to home, she asked me a question I wasn’t quite prepared to answer:
“I’ve been depressed. I’ve had some dark moments. But I’ve never once thought about taking my life. To be honest, I don’t understand why someone would ever feel the need to do that. Why? What goes through your mind in those moments?”
I struggled to find an answer, because how do you explain the desperation and senseless void of an urge you feel you can’t control? And then I remembered a chapter in a book I’m busy reading, called “Fierce Medicine” by Ana Forrest. I will be referring a lot to her work in my blog because her words line up like bullets in a mag, penetrating through the target of my message every time they leave that gun of a book.
“But tonight, the pain didn’t matter to me. It’s only when we think we have to live with pain that it becomes suffering.”
I realized that when I was at the point of wanting to take my own life, it wasn’t that I wanted to die, but that I felt I could no longer live with the pain. Living itself wasn’t the problem.
I’ve always maintained that fighting depression and trying to resist it only makes it stronger. We need to learn to make friends with “her” and work with her, use her as a gift, a marker, to show us where there is something wrong inside so that we can venture in and heal those broken parts. Depression shows up when it does for a reason. Often triggered by a seemingly small event, we can use those dark feelings to ask why that thing or person or happening pushed us into darkness again. For example: Your boss screams at you – it triggers a spiral into days of deep depression. You could just ride the wave and wait for it to end, or you can use your pain to track the cancerous growth of hurt inside and kill it gently. The depression itself isn’t the hurt – it’s the healing arrow pointing to what is.
So in this instance, your boss screaming at you may have reminded you subconsciously of another time you felt this way – hurt, worthless, stupid…like that time on the netball field when you were 11 years old and the coach screamed at you when you dropped the ball and your team lost. You recall the pain of feeling alone and clumsy and worthless sitting alone on the bus on the way home while the other girls all ignored you. It’s time to go back to that moment, hold and comfort that broken young girl, and then let that specific pain go. You don’t need it anymore.
“People are Velcroed to their known and familiar miseries. Just at the moment they’re faced with the wide-open space of the unknown, they start grabbing at their old paradigm because it’s familiar and not scary…Refuse to travel the old neurological pathways. Create new ones and travel them over and over and over.
Death must occur to make room for the new leaves and flowers…We have to make room to grow. Otherwise, all that crap just accumulates and we get backed up with psychic constipation. Whatever it is that drags and dims your life force has to die. Whatever you cannot transform, you must either form a new relationship with or shed. That’s my bottom line: evolve or die.
You’ve been making the same mistakes….you have to make new mistakes…Right now, find out what you are honestly ready to let go of in your life, and what you most yearn to go after. Sweep away what needs to die so that what deserves to live can survive.”
This is the kind of death I need. It’s the kind of death my soul keeps wanting me to face every time it holds hands with depression. I am never meant to kill myself. I am meant to find a way to kill the source of pain.
That is why I got my tattoo. I realized that the sword of death I sometimes hold has two sides to its blade. One is the desperate feeling of wanting to die; the other is the fight to stay alive. Sitting on that sharp edge is the mark of a warrior – using the difficult feelings to figure out a way to survive.
I choose to live. Seeing my soul’s victory flag on my wrist each day reminds me of that choice.
The true power of the semi-colon project cannot be fully understood until you have made a personal connection. This happened to me a few months ago at a work conference. I sat next to a lady I had never met. I didn’t know her name, her occupation, or anything else about her. But I noticed a tattoo of a semi-colon on her wrist.
I instantly knew we shared something very deep and meaningful in common and felt a strong connection to her. I never mentioned it, and we only spoke about business that week. But it reminded me that we aren’t in this battle alone. There are millions of warriors in the same war. That in itself is reason to go on.
Your story isn’t over yet, girl. Keep writing.
Title: Fierce Medicine
Author: Ana T. Forrest
Format: Soft Cover
Published by Harper One, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
Price: Approx R250 (depending on retailer)