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I Wasn’t Ready to Get a Semicolon Tattoo

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I am a warrior. I’ve never been in the military, never fired a gun and never even been in a fight. I don’t battle a physical enemy or even one anyone can see. My battle is tough, painful and invisible. So what am I talking about?

Every day, I wake up the same, tired, foggy, confused and a bit scared. I shut off my alarm and crawl back in bed, reaching for the remnants of my latest dream. I repeat this three times before I’ve officially slept too long. I need to get up and function. I get the kids some breakfast and chocolate milk. I’ll sneak away while they finish so I can get dressed.

I yawn my way through applying some makeup. I wouldn’t want one of the other moms to think I was a zombie. I think about all the things I should get done, throw some clothes on the kids and realize I’m running late. I’ll pack a quick lunch for my son and run out the door.

I’m usually awake by the time we get to school. I stay a minute to help keep my son calm if he’s having a rough morning. I give him a kiss and leave him to some wonderful teachers. I try to look put together, adult, thriving and working hard to support my son. I get back in the car and think again of all the things I should do that day.

Usually, my day involves grocery shopping, going to the gym or doing chores at home. Tuesdays, a speech therapist comes over for my daughter. Sundays, we go to church as a family. The rest of the time, I’m on my own, deciding what to do with my time. Whatever I do, there seems to be much more human interaction than I sometimes want.

I’m in an area that is crowded. So it’s easy to blend in and stay unnoticed, but I can’t live that way. I go to the same stores every week, the same laundry room and the same school every day. I run into many of the same people, and although they are strangers to me, their faces become recognizable. I’ve become a master at my disguise.

I don’t know how these strangers I see every day judge me, but I’ve been told I give off an aura of peace. I appear unphased, happy and confident that I know what I’m doing. I must be a d*mn good actor! As I’m dropping off my son at school, I’m stressing because we were almost late. I’m wondering what his teacher must think of me. I’m worrying the other moms are judging me because I look young.

As I’m picking out items at the grocery store, I scrutinize labels, worrying something in these foods are bad for my kids. I’m wondering what people will think of me if I spend more than five seconds in front of the ice cream. Then, I’m worrying someone will think I’m vain because, this time, I whispered to myself I don’t need it and I walked away. I laugh with my daughter, act silly and dote on her to keep her smiling. Inside, I’m practically numb, but a stranger doesn’t see that. They just see a happy, young mom with a pretty little girl.

I’ve been wanting to get a tattoo for a long time. I went back and forth trying to decide what to do for my first big one, and I liked too many things to decide. However, I finally made my decision after going through the worst depressive episode of my life. I got the idea for a sword. I thought on it and thought on it, and after a few months, I realized of all my ideas, this is the only one I actually pictured on me forever. Then, I went back and forth, trying to decide whether to add a semicolon to it. Even after telling my husband I was going to, I froze at the tattoo parlor and never brought it up.

I wasn’t brave enough for a semicolon tattoo. Maybe that sounds silly because a small, simple semicolon would be a hell of a lot easier to get than the sword I ended up with. Yet, there’s a reason for it, one which I plan on changing soon. Here’s the thing. I love fantasy novels. So when I think of strength, I think of war, of soldiers fighting on horseback and battling evil enemies. I think of battles that look impossible and of fighting again and again. I think of continuing to go forward even though all you can see is grief and loss.

I feel like this every day. My depression has only gotten worse over the years and I fight it almost daily. My anxiety is ever present and agonizing. I’m in constant physical pain from my severe scoliosis. Sometimes I wake up thinking, “What’s it going to be today? A haze of depression? Suicidal thoughts? A panic attack? Will my back keep hurting like this or will my arthritis act up?” I know it’s not healthy to think this way. I’m just so tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of living inside a body that struggles to survive. Tired of battling against a mind that wants to die.

A woman shows her sword tattoo on her forearm.

That’s why I got this tattoo. A sword, to me, represents my own choice to arm myself with a weapon. I choose to keep going. I choose to stand up even if I’m not strong, and even if I don’t want to that day. I choose to push past the pain and the despair and keep fighting. A tattoo means no matter how down I feel, there was a time I chose to make a permanent mark, declaring myself a fighter. I can do this. I can survive this. I can thrive. I will fight. I am a warrior, and every warrior needs a weapon.

It took two and a half hours for this tattoo. I handled it pretty well, and I even enjoyed it a bit. Yet, I chickened out on the most important part. See, to a stranger, a sword is just a sword. If I choose to, then I can tell someone my story. If I don’t want to, then I can play it off. I can explain I love the “Lord of the Rings,” and this is my representation of Sting! However, people everywhere are learning what the semicolon means, and I’m just not ready to talk about it, face to face, with the world.

I plan on getting my semicolon one day. I want to, not just for me, but for anyone else struggling. I want to be the person with a huge smile, happily playing with my daughter in the grocery store who encourages someone just by flashing a tattoo. I want people to see it, to ask questions or just to have a smile. If it encourages just one person to feel like they aren’t so alone, then I want it.

For now, I have some healing to do. I’m taking up my sword, and I’m fighting. I’ll let you all know when I’m strong enough to fight alongside everyone else too.

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on What’s Mommy Thinking!?

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Originally published: August 30, 2016
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