For or those who have read my previous posts, you will be aware of the fact that, in addition to my own challenges, my older son lives with mental illness. While we have both been stretched at different times in our ability to cope with these circumstances, I truly believe that we are also more closely connected because of our shared struggles.
I recognize that Christian’s illness likely results, in part, because of a genetic predisposition, and have experienced my fair share of “Mom guilt” because of this fact. Yet, I know that our closeness has also been cemented by the various mental health trials and tribulations that we have journeyed through together. And, while CJ has accompanied me on a few of my fabulous feats so far, this week’s adventure holds a special significance for me because it is something that acknowledges and celebrates our connection through mental illness.
This feat is inspired by The Semicolon Project. In 2013, Amy Bleuel wanted to pay tribute to her father, whom she had lost to suicide. Amy adopted the semicolon as a symbol to promote discussion around mental illness. The tattoo of a semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. Amy’s message is that that we are all authors, and the sentence we choose to continue, after taking a pause, is our lives. Since its beginnings, the Semicolon Project has become a global movement (www.projectsemicolon.org) that represents hope and love for those who struggle with mental illness, suicide, addiction, and self-injury.
When I first heard about the semicolon symbol, I loved the idea. For both Christian and me, there have been pauses in life, times when the sentence might well have ended, but, thankfully, did not. Appreciating and celebrating this victory, especially together, seemed to me like a feat well worth pursuing. So, when I had my nose pierced, we decided to inquire about the semicolon tattoo and within a few weeks had booked our appointments at Artistic Impressions.
I already had a tattoo, having fortold my 50 fabulous feats a few years earlier with the occasional mid-life adventure. On my 46th birthday, I got a frog tattoo on my ankle. As my spirit animal, the frog represented transition and it is very special to me. It also allowed me to dictate to my boys that I supported their own decisions around getting tattoos, and they could do so, like me, as soon as they turned 46.
However, I broke my own rule by taking my 23 year old son to get his first tattoo. We both filled out our paperwork and then CJ sat down to begin the process for getting a one inch semicolon on his inner right wrist. The tattoo looked great on his wrist, but when it came to be my turn, I wondered if it was too big for my arm, which is much smaller than his. When I asked our tattooist if I could get mine a size smaller, he smiled and said “you can, but if you’re getting a tattoo, get a tattoo.” I realized it was time to put my money where my mouth was, as my Mom would have said. If stigma and discrimination elimination was important to me, than I had to be willing to step up and play my part. And so, the choice was “go big or go home.” I sat in the chair and received my own semicolon, bold, black, and beautiful, on my forearm.
Christian and I topped off off he afternoon with lunch and occasional comparisons of our matching tattoos: a concrete illustration of the connections in our chemical brains as well as our emotional hearts. While CJ is talking about what his next “tat” will be, I think I’m done for now. But, I’m happy to have a feat that will be with me for a lifetime, that visibly celebrates my ability to live well with mental illness, and connects me to my beautiful boy in a way that is so much more than skin -deep.
Next up: Walking For A Cause: The Coldest Night Of The Year.