Content warning: suicidal ideation, graphic thoughts of suicide
Most days, I forget I even have a tattoo. I see it, but I don’t think about it much. Yesterday was not one of those days.
Yesterday, September 10, was World Suicide Prevention Day. Everywhere I looked, someone was posting something related to suicide prevention. I also ended up looking at an old journal, and I happened to stumble across an entry of a very bad day.
For a lot of reasons (some of which I don’t yet feel comfortable sharing), I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation. I had a long battle with anxiety and depression, which were made worse by circumstances outside of my control. It was those circumstances that led to most of those episodes.
On May of last year, while attempting to stop a medication that was causing severe physical side effects, I had a VERY BAD day. I wondered what would happen if I shot myself. If my neighbors would hear. If my dogs would be okay. Strangely enough, it was the thought of my dogs being alone that gave me pause. And I remember looking down at my wrist and seeing this tattoo… a reminder that I chose to continue my life once, and that I could do it again.
The Story Behind the Tattoo
Summer of 2017 was… whew. Let me give you the crazy timeline:
- June 14, 2017: I find incriminating evidence of my ex-husband’s infidelity. I confront him in the middle of a very important work deadline and his deployment.
- June 15, 2017: I am very seriously considering leaving him. I trade in my 15-year-old car and buy a brand new car to make the cross-country drive back to my parents.
- June 16, 2017: A tornado ravages through my neighborhood and heavily damages my brand new car and 1-year-old home. I stay to deal with the aftermath.
- July 2017: My mother-in-law’s delicate health deteriorates.
- August 2018: My mother-in-law dies. I make the 24-hour drive from Nebraska to Florida with only my dog for company. While in Florida, I get the tattoo.
Between my almost-separation and mother-in-law dying, I reflected a lot on how my life had changed. At that point, the anxiety and depression I’d been fighting was mostly under control. But I felt that I needed a physical reminder of how much I’d grown and how strong I’d been. (Also, keep in mind that this is a few months before I decided to answer the call of Christ!) So I got this tattoo. The lotus flower because it felt like a good analogy for my life at that point: even though its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the lotus produces the most beautiful flower. The semicolon I got because of its significance and ties to mental health: I could’ve chosen to end the sentence (my life), but instead I chose to continue it.
Now, not only am I on the other side of that semicolon, I am not alone. I have a better understanding of the fact that God was with me during each day of that crazy summer. He gave me strength when I thought I couldn’t go on. He may have quite literally taken the wheel of my car more than once.
Sure, I got a divorce almost 3 years after that crazy summer and one year after that journal entry. But I have gained a stronger relationship with God, my family, my church, and my friends.
I’m making career changes and choosing to help others that may have struggled in similar ways. This blog is part of that effort.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please seek help. You are not alone.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.