Crafting meaning for yourself in life is such an extensive and significant topic that I can’t possibly do justice to it in one little article. I am however quite certain that I will continue to expound upon this subject because it is, at least to me, an immense aspect to recovery! Why do I feel this way? Because in my opinion many disorders either result in or can be partly caused by a sense of meaninglessness. Yes, I’m looking at you depression, you’re the number one suspect!
I will only be covering a certain small aspect of meaning that I found for myself about a year ago; my carefully selected tattoos. Now I’m not saying you should go out and get yourself a tattoo! No no no. This is just to indicate how remembering something with great meaning to YOU, can be helpful. I wasn’t ready for a burning fire of meaning to guide my way in life…you know what I mean? I did however see the opportunity to give myself a permanent / visible reminder. (Again, please don’t rush out with a half-baked meaning and have it inked on your forehead or something! Haha. Seriously though, this is such a personal and permanent commitment which means it entails a lot of thought, digging deep, and finding something that holds metaphorical resonance for YOU. It can be simple; short and sweet. It can also be more complex if that’s your thing. (I’m not refferring to size in case anyone’s wondering.)
Maybe you’ve seen this…the semi-colon tattoo is fairly well known and I’m not talking about punctuation! First off, I absolutely did NOT get this tattoo due to popularity, the sick and twisted mental disorder ‘aesthetic’ that came about after nor anything else of the kind. I’m not one to follow trends…seriously I’d be a grandmother not understanding what ‘kids these days’ are saying. And that’s by choice! With this however, as soon as I read the meaning I knew it was perfect for me.
The General Meaning & Purpose
The symbol became an icon for mental health in 2013 with a social media movement supporting sufferers of mental disorders. It used to be a mark to draw on yourself for a day, kind of like any day that supports a cause. Now it has become a permanent icon. But why of all things a semicolon? Well, a semicolon is used when the author could have ended the sentence but has chosen to continue instead. Therefore it’s a symbol of hope, courage, continuing despite the darkness as well as a symbol of survival and reinvention. It’s used as symbolism for many mental health problems but has the specific meaning for suicide survivors that they almost ended their sentence (their life), but are now choosing to continue.
What it Means for Me
As you know, I need to observe and reflect on the meaning of anything to know whether or not to incorporate or reject an idea. In this situation however I was immediately touched, and quite profoundly. I had self-harmed for 3 years and had attempted suicide twice during that period, which made the symbols’ significance extremely powerful. I got it done after much reflection just to be safe…and I hoped it would serve as a reminder that I survived and that I must keep going even though the battle was so incredibly far from over. I also thought that if I was suicidal, looking at it would help me gain control. (This didn’t work, I was in the hospital two weeks later. And after that. And after…you get the idea. Dark times. I’m not proud.)
As time went by with the tattoo I realized more and more that it was perfect. Not only did I survive and was keeping going (despite not getting better), I discovered a new significance. I have always loved reading, and with that came writing. It was and continues to be my strong suit. I had also been writing a personal journal for myself since almost the onset of my disorders, and then later I had made the scary decision to share my story with others. I wanted to be a writer in order to help other people suffering from mental disorders. That’s when the semicolon wasn’t just “when an author chooses to continue…”, it was about me BEING the author of MY story. (I’m sure I’m not the first to have this meaning but I came to it in my own time.) I am now the author of my own story and I am continuing to fill the blank pages ahead of me. I don’t know how many pages I have, but I’m going to do my best with them!
This is a variation of a very old symbol that has often been used for religious interpretations, particularly originating with the Celts but there’s some controversy. The Trinity can be made to include an infinity symbol which adds a connotation of love.
As I try to become more and more interconnected with the world, nature, and humanity, this has included a certain amount of faith. Faith in a big…SOMETHING; something that I don’t and may never know or understand. I call it the Universe, but in the words of William Shakespeare; “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This faith I’m trying to develop is a combination of unconditional gratitude and the admission of not knowing why things happen. It opens a world of questions for me because I’ve been existential to different degrees from the age of 6. No joke. There are many new questions, others have broadened and caused painful confusion, but I’ve always had that disconcerting inquisitiveness…if that makes sense. I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of my major problems and yet a gift as well. But, I appear to have taken a tangent so moving on…the tattoo symbolizes my eternal love, respect and faith for everything known and unknown. It also reminds me that everything is infinite and cyclical with no beginning or end. To me pain, joy, fear, love, grief, happiness, sadness and the entire range of human emotion is on a continuum, and as such, are woven into an endless transitional loop called life.
If you’d like to hear about my view on faith in general, you may want to visit How Faith can Help You and Make a Positive Difference.