A few years ago, I first became aware of what was being called “agitated depression.” It was my own most challenging struggles and the first ring of hell with clinical depression. It took me so much closer to the fire of self-hating/loathing, the desire to do yourself harm, and thoughts of suicide. The agitated piece is the anxiety and panic attacks.
Once I was clinically diagnosed with anxiety, I started to pop anti-depressants every morning with a breakfast I could barely stomach. I had to leave some lives I’d wanted because of my stress. Depression took a lot from me, but the most tragic thing is the way I could not bring it up to anyone. I told almost no one about what has been going on just because I didn’t have the courage to. I battled it on my own everyday, until I degradingly distanced my self with my friends and families.
Now this doesn’t mean that I have been depressed for my entire life, that isn’t how it works. It simply means that for as long as I can remember, I have experienced periods of depression of varying lengths. And that for as long as I can remember, I’ve lived in fear of those times.
No one invites you to be depressed. At some point you feel like you make life miserable for those around you, whose only sin is that they want to help, want you to feel better and see yourself as they see you as a friend. These are the moments that are the true crossroads in fighting depression. If you go down one road you manage to convince yourself that they and everyone else would be happier and better off if you were gone.
You want to save the people who love you from further pain and hardship. For many of us, thankfully, that is when you can actually save yourself by realising that this would be the worst thing you could do to the people who love you, who you will be setting up to punish themselves for the rest of their lives for not having been able to prevent your suicide, to have not been able to save you from yourself by finding the right words, being there at the right time.
Depression is far more complex, it’s visceral and in your gut, your soul is sick, your heart aches much more than your brain. I am sure that most people struggling with severe depression come to suicide wanting to end that very real, suffocating pain.
Depression is an odd subject, for it is damn near impossible to describe with words. It’s often hidden in the brightest smile in people who would never suspect to have a bad day. It breathes in the heart and not the head, which is why we aren’t able to rationalise ourselves out of this state. It is an inner battle that touches every aspect of your life, and one that is most difficult to control.
This is the part in my story where I stumbled upon Project Semicolon and getting myself attached to the community in the journey of my self-healing.
I got this tattoo as a promise to myself that I would never willingly end my sentence. I also got this to open up conversations between myself and other humans about mental illness, because as difficult as mental illness is, what’s more difficult is feeling stigmatised. Or like you failed. Or apologetic feelings towards you from others’ sympathetic eyes.
What makes depression so challenging is that it makes you feel isolated. You lose pleasure in the things you would normally enjoy. You lose the ability to communicate your emotions due to the most dangerous combination of all: fear and shame.
A semicolon is a place in a sentence where the author has the decision to stop with a period, but chooses not to. A semicolon is a reminder to pause and then keep going.
A reminder to stop and think. A reminder to continue.
My semicolon tattoo is a reminder that I’ve suffered. That I’ve been through times I’ve nearly given up, felt worthless and 50 tons of crap. But still here to fight, to keep on going, to continue.
Writing this takes a lot of courage out of me. The idea of sharing my story is even terrifying. Yet like how I battle it everyday, instead of escaping and running away, this time I want to stand bravely, and be open about it.
I am not showing this to say that I am proud of what I am and have been going through. No. My purpose is to express that I am ready to talk about it, to end the stigma, and to reach out to those struggling so that they’ll know they are not alone, never.
My depression and anxiety will never fully go away, I know. I also am aware that I’m susceptible for slipping back. But today, I can proudly say that I am in a better place that I have ever been. I live. I continue.
Mental illness is real, and everyone who has a semicolon tattoo has their own reason behind it. This is mine.
If you are, or know someone who is battling with mental illness and/or struggling with depression, I’m sorry. I truly am. I’m not going to tell you it doesn’t suck, because it does.
But I can tell you that there’s more to say. I can tell you that on a long enough timeline, everything is ultimately going to be okay. And I can tell you that you’re not alone, so don’t hesitate to talk and ask for help. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and can be a matter of life or death.
Everyone is fighting their own battle, be kind.
I used to carry the weight of my burdens and scars. Now I carry a semicolon because my story isn’t over yet. I cont;nue.