Yesterday, I got my semicolon tattoo in a now cliche display of suicide and self-harm survival. It was a last minute addition when I was sitting to get flowers added to my seasonal sleeve. The tattoo may be fully mainstream now, hiding on the wrists of strangers all around me, but the metaphor still speaks to me. As a writer, a punctuation mark to symbolize choosing to keep going speaks to me. I could have ended my story with a period but chose to keep writing.

It was 24 years ago when I was first suicidal and continued for roughly a decade after that. Years saturated with depression, pain, self-harm, self-abuse, awful life choices, and consequences. As my oldest child approaches the age I was when I first wanted to die, when her problems appear so simplistic and her understanding of life and the world so rudimentary, I remember how adult those emotions felt.

Wanting to end everything at 12 felt exactly the same as cutting my arm open at 19, feels exactly the same as when the depression gets black now. The emotions are exactly the same; it is my understanding of them and ability to deal with them that has evolved. I have matured and grown up around them. Yet they were just as real then; they only looked bigger and scarier. They filled my small body then. Now, they curl up in a corner in the back.

I need to remember that as my children approach that age. I need to remember that age and experience don’t decide what the pain feels like.

The dark time in my life somehow simultaneously feels like yesterday and another life completely. It both feels like the core of me and something that happened to someone else. In either case, it left a mark on my mind and who I am. Now, it has left a small mark on my flesh.

I’m not sure why I chose behind my ear. Maybe I’m just running out of canvas. Maybe I wanted it close to my brain, where the darkness has lived. I chose the right side because that is the side I write with and to balance out the wedding ring tattoo on my left hand.

I have a strange unbalanced symmetry in my ink. Both wrists, both upper arms, both shoulders, both shoulder blades, both ankles, a couple along the center of my spine, a finger on one side, and behind the ear on the other. Ink therapy. A map of many of the places I have been. How could I not have such an early milestone, such a formative part of me?

I think that dark and self-destructive period of my life is important. It taught me potentially the most about myself and about life. I continue to learn from it as I compare the way my life unfolds to that baseline. Perspective. It gives me and keeps things in perspective.

So now, I keep going. I keep writing.

 

Christina Bergling

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Comments
  1. Beautiful art work: the best kind of tattoo is an extension of the self!

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