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For roughly 10 years, I have been suffering from depression. It went undiagnosed and untreated for far too many years. I didn't take the step to attempt to get help until I had a breakdown and my suicidal thoughts and ideations were becoming too much for me to handle. Before talking to my doctor about it, I had just accepted that my depression would control the rest of my life.
Fast forward to October 12, 2017. I felt like my life was completely on track. I got accepted into a top tier program at one of the best universities in the country. I had what I thought was a good job and a great boyfriend. I was two years into my treatment for my depression and I felt like I was on top of the world. I had opened a new chapter in my life. Yet I still found myself getting distracted by the self-harm scars on my left thigh. They were barely noticeable. No one knew they were there unless they looked super close. But I still felt ugly because of them. I decided to do something about it. I got a tattoo to cover them up!
But not just any tattoo. A lot of thought and consideration went into choosing and perfecting what I wanted. I knew I wanted a semicolon for the Semicolon Project but I didn’t want just a semicolon on my body. It didn’t fit my vision of what I wanted on my skin. On a whim I decided to look into the symbolic meaning of my favorite flower. Turns out lilies represent rebirth. That’s exactly what this tattoo was to me so it was set. I worked with the artist and she drew me a perfect set of purple lilies with a subtle red and yellow semicolon. I felt like I finally had control over my mental illness.
Then the breakdown happened. March of 2018, I found myself hospitalized for a suicide attempt. I was stressed, overworked and my relationship turned out to be highly abusive. I just snapped. It was the lowest point in my life to date. Those six days in the hospital were a period of reflection. I thought all my progress in handling my depression in a healthy manner was out the window.
In that time though, I found new love of the tattoo on my thigh. At any chance I got I would look at it and remember why I got it. I got it because I had made significant progress. It served as a reminder that progress isn’t linear, that sometimes it’s okay to fall off the path as long as I get back on it when I’m better. It was a small dent in my path to a life where I’m not controlled by my depression not a complete derailment. The symbolism of rebirth made more sense to me after getting out of the hospital than ever. I had been “reborn” in a sense. I was no longer someone afraid to ask for help. I was not going to suffer in silence anymore. I was a completely new person; I had been reborn.
I have this beautiful, permanent reminder that no matter what I can get through anything that I look at any time I find myself slipping again. It’s amazing how something as simple as a tattoo can become an important part of the healing process. Any time I feel my depression creeping up, I find myself remembering why I got the tattoo and what it stands for to me. Surprisingly it helps. It was one of the best parts of my therapy.