An early Christmas present

I’ve considered getting a tattoo for ages, probably for at least 15yrs, but I’ve never found anything that I liked enough to want to keep on my body permanently. Earlier in this year an organisation called Project Semicolon started to trend in the online media, and it caught my interest. They are a “global non-profit organization dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury.” The idea behind the semicolon is that any episode of mental health or suffering is only a pause in your life, not the end – particularly trying to encourage and support those who are tempted to put that full stop/period in place in the form of suicide.

It seems as though the idea has really taken off and that many people, including myself have found that visualization particularly helpful. Many people have started getting semicolon tattoos, and I could see how a visual reminder could be extremely useful on bad days, a little prompt that better days are to come, and therefore not to give up.

I continued to consider doing something with this for a while, but really didn’t just want a semicolon, I wanted something at least a little beautiful. I came across someone who had had it tattooed as part of a butterfly, and I really liked that. I saved the picture and stored it in the back of my mind for a few more months. When you have bipolar and have episodes of mania and hypomania, you have to be extremely careful with making big, or long lasting decisions! I wasn’t taking any chances.

About 3 months ago I got a friend’s daughter (who is extremely artistic and amazing with henna – thanks Kenni!) to draw the basic design on the inside of my left wrist to see if I liked it being there or found it annoying. The henna lasted about two weeks and I really enjoyed it being there, so I started to really consider it being done.

Finally, I decided to go ahead and got a great recommendation for a tattoo artist from a friend of Peter’s who until recently ran his own tattoo parlor. I took the photo to him, and he asked for a little artistic licence as the photo I showed him was extremely basic and he had a long history of inking butterflies so had some ideas. It turned out bigger than I expected but I really like it, and think that I will continue to do so.

The semicolon is straightforward – it’s a constant reminder to hope – that there are many things to hope in and to hope for, and that if today is terrible, it is unlikely that this level of suffering will continue forever.

The butterfly side is a little more complicated. The reason that I chose it is that I am fascinated by the concept of metamorphosis – the change of one thing into something completely different. Earlier in the year we bought Amelie a butterfly enclosure for her birthday. It came with a voucher/certificate to send off to get caterpillars in the mail, which you then fed intermittently until they formed chrysalises. The caterpillars were so incredibly ugly, and when they had wrapped themselves in their cocoon-like houses they looked dead. In fact, in transferring them from the feeding cup to the enclosure, one fell to the bottom of the enclosure. I was sure it was dead, but went to pick it up to place it in the correct place and it wriggled! The sensation was so weird that I dropped it yet again. I was convinced that I had killed it. Eventually the other butterflies emerged, and it seemed like the last one which had been dropped wasn’t ever going to, but about 4 days after the others, there is was: all beautiful when it had been so ugly. It’s a bit cheesy, but my hope for this horrible season in my own life and that of my families is that something very worthwhile, and even beautiful will be able to emerge from what has been a truly awful time.

I considered not making it public (any more than just people noticing it, which will be regularly since it’s on my wrist!), but I think I also wanted to let people know this – that if you have a life which is often, or even just sometimes so difficult that you struggle to hold on to hope, that it’s ok to need help to hope, to need reminders, to need encouragement. To know that you’re not the only one who’s tempted to give up, to know that you’re not alone.

Yes, so that’s an extremely long-winded way of saying “I got a tattoo”. Here it is:

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~ by jennkeast on December 7, 2015.

3 Responses to “An early Christmas present”

  1. Its lovely xx

  2. It is really lovely Jen, and a great idea. When we are faced with bad days I remember a story I heard about a king who wanted to receive a gift so amazing it would change each day for the better. He sent out many wise men but none could find it for him. Then a child gave him a piece of paper that simply said, ‘ nothing lasts forever’ it means that bad times change, but it also means that so do the good ones, both are ok because when we are challenged and time is rough we know better things are to come, and equally when things are good it reminds us that it may not last, to live each day and treasure those moments. For me it also means that great joy can also quickly become great sadness. I find it helpful to remind myself of that piece of paper so often, it helps balance life. I love the idea of the metamorphosis as well, we are all constantly emerging and growing into who we are, it’s a forever journey. Enjoy your early present. Alison

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