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What This One-Word Tattoo Means to the Mental Health Community

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A warrior is an individual with incredible strength who is extraordinarily brave. These individuals fight strenuous battles and endure terrible pain. Even though a warrior is strong and brave, sometimes the battles and pain they endure cause them to fall, but only for a brief moment. Warriors may fall, but they get back up and keep fighting.

We are warriors. We have insurmountable strength and are exceptionally brave. We fight a difficult battle every day, and endure pain of the mind, body and spirit. We are strong. We are brave, but sometimes the battles we fight and the pain we feel causes us to fall but only temporarily. Because we are warriors, we get back up and keep fighting.

Mental illness is our battle. We fight every day to get out of bed, take care of our bodies and protect our minds from the torpedo of emotion brought on by our mental illness. We fight for control over our lives when our mental illness tries to take that control away from us.

The battle is exhausting, and can leave us feeling weak and tired. Sometimes, the battle seems too grueling, too much for us to handle. It’s those times we warriors fall slightly and contemplate what it would mean to not have to fight anymore.

Many mental health warriors have lost their battle, and many of us sometimes wish we would. Sometimes, we just want to find an end to our suffering. Sometimes, we are too tired to be strong, too broken to be brave. We let our thoughts of giving up consume our strong and capable minds until those thoughts become a battle themselves. Then, we have to fight to stay alive. As we fight for our lives, we look to one little symbol, one small weapon, to give us hope and restore our strength.

The semicolon is our symbol of strength and hope. It is our small weapon against suicidal thoughts and ideation. The semicolon is used when an author chooses not to end a sentence. In our case, the sentence is our life, and we are the writers. We look to the semicolon to remind us we can’t end our sentence and to gain hope and inspiration through its meaning. The semicolon means keep going, don’t give up and don’t stop writing.

Tattoo that reads "warrior"

My cousin’s first tattoo was the word “warrior” with the “i” replaced with a semicolon. This powerful tattoo embodies everything we are, and everything we do to fight our battle against mental illness. The word “warrior” tells us who we are and the semicolon is a simple reminder that we can’t give up or put a period at the end. It’s a reminder to keep fighting our daily battle, no matter how difficult it is or how exhausted we are. This tattoo is our symbol of strength and hope and defines us completely.

It is just one word with one tiny symbol replacing a letter. But it is inked deep into my cousin’s skin to send a message to herself and to everyone who struggles with mental illness: You are a warrior. You must not give up.

The power this tattoo holds is incredible. It means so much to those of us who struggle and defines who we are in three syllables. It encases our strength and our bravery and tells us to keep fighting our battle against mental illness. It reminds us we are warriors. We are strong individuals with extraordinary bravery, who fight a battle every day, and we win.

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Originally published: July 9, 2016
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