On September 20, 2015, myself, Theo and Elle Fleury, all placed an important permanent symbol on our wrists — a semicolon tattoo. If you are unfamiliar with ‘Project Semicolon’, it is a global awareness initiative about suicide prevention.
“A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. The sentence is your life and the author is you.” – Project Semicolon
Elle, Theo and I share some key things in common: all trauma survivors, all board members of the Breaking Free Foundation, but on that date in 2015, we all stood tall as suicide survivors too. Getting the semicolon tattoo was not about reminding ourselves that we had once been driven to the darkest parts of emotional pain, but reminding ourselves that we rose above it.
Kim Barthel said something so profound one day that I never forgot, that we should tell our trauma stories backwards. When we tell our trauma from the beginning, she explained, we can get lost in the story. But when we tell our story from the place we are right now, we can remind our brains that we came through it on the other side.
This is why I am starting this story at the end. Today is ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’, and 17 years ago, I reached a level of sadness and pain that drove me to a suicide attempt. That moment, while scary in the aftermath, kick-started a lifetime healing journey. It would prompt my first of thousands of therapy visits, my first time writing about my depression and a slow, but eventual climb towards a better life.
At 30-years-old, the struggle is still real. And I don’t mean that in the cliche way that people speak about their jobs or responsibilities on social media, I mean it in an honest way. I have had ups and downs with my mental health for many years, and the past few months have been particularly hard for me. A trauma anniversary, loss of relationships and overall “yuckiness” have left me with some lingering depression that I am continuing to work through.
But here is the good news! I have so many amazing resources now, that I didn’t have or even know about when I was 13-years-old. I am so incredibly grateful for the support people in my life, my job(s), my volunteer work and the fact that I am alive and mostly well.
Now when I stare down at my wrist, I feel nothing but gratitude. I chose to live, and I am here for a reason.
One thing that triggers me about suicide these days, is the stigma that surrounds it. If you have never been in that state of mind, it may be hard to understand why someone could act in such a seemingly selfish way. The best thing we can do to prevent suicide is to allow open and safe conversation about it. The more we learn, the more we grow as people and a society. There is some great information on this topic on the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention website here.