Our stories matter. And we all have one to tell. Some of us have led relatively safe, calm, traditional lives. We managed to avoid the kinds of tragedies that fill the news media and bring tears to most people’s eyes on a daily basis. We can say we’ve been sheltered but we feel things deeply because we are moved to tears by the things that others endure on a regular basis and we wonder way and how these things happen in a country so rich in wealth and opportunity and we often feel so small and insignificant. Our heart break and we struggle to find the right words to say and people mistake our silence for coldness and we feel helpless. We tell the stories of those we offer assistance to and the strength we see reflected in their eyes.
Others of us have been through wars unimagined, often before we even finish high school – if we finish high school. We’ve live in places not meant for human habitation, gone days without food, been in and out of foster care, had family taken from us, been hospitalized ourselves for physical and mental illnesses too difficult to name and given medications that sometimes made the original symptoms worse but it seemed as if no one was listening. We’ve seen things, heard things, done things…but we’re here, we’ve survived and we need to, want to tell our stories to prove that we were here.
Project Semi-Colon is a way of recognizing people who have lived with a mental health diagnosis and giving them a chance to say their life is not over, that there is more to their story. When a writer ends a sentence, they use a period; however, when they have more to say, they use a semicolon to indicate that they are not finished.
When you see someone with the semi-colon tattoo, take the time to recognize that they are survivors, just like you recognize and celebrate the pink ribbons for breast cancer. Find a way to respectfully ask the person if they would do you the honor of sharing even a piece of their story with you. You can’t catch a mental health diagnosis, just like you can’t catch a bunion or breast cancer or high blood pressure. You might learn a lot about bravery and tenacity and humility. And they won’t judge you for not having asked before. :) They may even ask you about yourself.
In Honor of Recovery Month.