Potential First Tattoo

So I’ve come up with a design for my first tattoo – which I really badly want, but am not sure when I’ll actually get.

Last night, my temporary tattoo kit came in the mail so I decided to test out the design, and the placement. I wanted to see what it would look like before I actually getting anything.

The tattoo ink is made from the pulp of a fruit called Genipapo, found in Panama. It is similar to henna in how it’s used – the gel-like liquid is squeezed out from a needle-point bottle the way henna is piped out like icing on a cake. I’ve used this product several times before so I’ve gotten used to drawing the tattoo freehand.

I feel like I did a pretty good job, except I got the arrow all crooked because of the angle I was drawing on. The temporary tattoo has developed overnight and it should get darker in the next half a day.

The tattoo design represents many things. Essentially, it’s the story of my life in a few symbols.

The semicolon (made from an enso, and the Fibonacci Golden Ratio), represents my lifelong recovery from mental illnesses; the enso (circle) representing “a moment when the mind is free to let the body create” which also represents strength, enlightenment and life while the Fibonacci Golden Ratio reflects my interest in art, as well as math – this I find beautiful because not only does the Golden Ratio helps artists create beautiful art, it also helps mathematicians do math. I like the intersection of the sciences, and the arts because of how much conflict there is between the two fields (especially coming from the sciences who claim that anyone who can’t do, are artists…). 

The curly brackets represents code – most codes are encapsulated with “{ }” which tells the computer to execute a function from what is in the middle of the brackets. It is a reflection of the field that I’ve chosen to put myself in.

The arrow signifies my strength and resilience because an arrow is useless unless you string it to a bow, pull it back, and let go. This reflects my life because of how all the struggle I’ve been through has caused me to grow stronger, and more resilient – like the arrow speeding forward after it’s been pulled back, I am also moving forward in my life. The arrowhead is the Star Trek TNG symbol representing my nerd/geek side.

I chose the Pi because of how despite it being an irrational number, it is also a constant. It reminds me during my dark times, that despite everything that could happen to me, that the world is still revolving, and Pi is still Pi no matter what happens. 3.14159, always.

The message “Don’t Panic” comes from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and it gives me a message to read when I’m anxious. It’s a directive, pretty simple and powerful for 2 mere words. The “42” is also from the same book, and in it, the number is considered the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. I believe in the theory that the number is actually not a joke as most of us have believed, but rather an asterisk (*)  (since the ASCII value for an asterisk is 42) in programming. The asterisk is actually used by programmers as a wildcard when searching for something, deleting something etc (Example, if you type rm *.* – it means that you’re wanting every file to be deleted from your computer). This means that the answer to life, the universe, and everything is what you decide it to be. 

Lastly, the equal sign is a nod to my struggles as a queer person seeking understanding and acceptance in society. It’s a subtle enough symbol for my sexuality that anyone who knows what the equal sign means, will know how I identify. 

So far, I like the design, and if I can find a tattooist who is okay with using my design (I hear that most don’t like to do that), and who can do good black and white tattoos with clean, crisp lines, I think this might be the first tattoo I’ll ever get. And since I’ll be getting it while I’m in my thirties, I wonder how many people will think this is a mid-life crisis. Haha…

Continue the Story

I wanted to write about the therapy session I had yesterday but a piece of news had shocked me so much last night that I feel it pertinent to address.

The mental health community has been rocked by the news that Amy Bleuel, the founder of Project Semicolon, has passed away from suicide. She had been an amazing advocate, a strong voice within the community against the stigma of mental health, a positive, and encouraging person to all those who struggle with suicide. So when the news came to me, I was shocked. Not only that she had passed, but that she had died from suicide.

I felt it ironic because just last night, when my temporary tattoo kit had arrived, I decided to tattoo my arm with a semicolon. When I have something tangible that I can see, touch, and read daily, it helps me keep going. So I figured if I had a tattoo of the semicolon, I’d be able to look at it and realize that my story isn’t over.

Then the news came.

It made me think.

I told my psychologist yesterday that sometimes I feel guilty for being an advocate, or for doing something contrary to what he and I have discussed because I know I shouldn’t beat myself up, I know I shouldn’t feel the way I do, etc, but I still end up in the anxious/depressed situation.
“S, sometimes I feel really guilty… I feel guilty because I hear your voice in my head saying, ‘Jules, these thoughts? They’re not your reality. They’re just thoughts. They’re fleeting, which means they won’t stick around for very long. But they don’t define your reality’ and I think to myself, ‘S’ is right. Why am I moping then? Why can’t I stop moping? Why do I want to just die?’ and I feel guilty,” I’d said to him.
He sat up. He always pays extra attention when I talk about something that relates to our therapeutic relationship. He’s always very conscientious of the fact that sometimes the things he says could affect me.
“Oh yeah?” He asked.
“Yeah… I feel guilty because I know that recovery isn’t a straight path upwards. That sometimes I may regress. I know that…”
As I said that, S smiled because I had answered myself. Recovery isn’t linear.
The news of Amy Bleuel’s passing gives a lot of clarity to the issue. It teaches me that every single day is a battle, and sometimes, you may lose but hopefully if you have a good support system, you’ll never have to consider losing. Or ever find yourself at a place where you could potentially do some serious harm.
 
It’s awful to lose someone to cancer, or a disease, or old age, or accidents, but how much more awful is it to lose someone to suicide? This is in some ways a wake up call because it’s telling us that if we don’t check in with the people we love or give them our support, we may lose them forever.
 
All it takes is for one person to say “I care” to the person struggling with depression, for them to realize that they are worthy of love, and life. All it took for me were people who cared. The staff at CAPS had been that for me, but since then, my support system has grown. I’ve slowly learned to start loving myself as well through that.
I know what it’s like to stand in the dark, feeling like I’m all alone and that my only choice is to kill myself. And now, I also know what it’s like to be in the dark, but then have someone reach out their hand to me to walk me back to the light. Knowing these two sides, I really want to encourage anyone and everyone who is reading this to reach out to their loved ones, to let them know how much you care for them.
If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out. Someone will reach back. Please stay. You are so deeply valued, so incomprehensibly loved—even when you can’t feel it—and you are worth your life. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. If you’d like to talk to a peer, http://warmline.org contains links to warmlines in every state. If you don’t want to talk on the phone, you can reach Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. (**Note: I stole this from Facebook, from Dese’Rae Lynn Stage)
RIP, Amy Bleuel, you have made an impact to many – and I was one of them.

A Stranger’s Hug

Inkbox Tattoo

So I just got a new inbox tattoo (Inkbox Tattoo) after not having one for many months and this time, it was a reward for backing Inkbox’s Kickstarter campaign to produce their second formula. The second formula turned out to be much easier to apply and the tattoo turned out much darker than the other ones I’ve done before using the first formula.

Anyway, at the time of backing their campaign, I had chosen the semi colon design as my reward and so, I’ll be having a semicolon on my arm for the next 2 weeks.

Tonight, a lady at one of the tables I was serving saw the tattoo and said, “I really like your semicolon!” I smiled because I liked the tattoo as well. Then she said, “I know what it means. Come here! I want to give you a hug!”

I was surprised by that. I don’t mind hugs so I went over and hugged her. It turned out to be one of the best hugs I’ve ever had because it was not a half-assed hug. It was a full hug and I could feel the warmth of her kindness spread into my being. It felt good.

“I know what the semicolon represents and I’m glad that you’re here,” she said as we hugged.

“You give good hugs!” I said to her when the hug ended. I wish I had thought of thanking her properly because I was so flustered that I had forgotten my manners. I wish I could’ve said to her that I was very thankful that she had hugged me and how much it meant to me that she understood what the semicolon was for as well as not talk about it in front of her 7 other friends. I don’t mind talking about my story and why the semicolon but I usually prefer not to do so while at work. It just makes things awkward because I’ve learned that not many people want to talk about mental health issues over dinner.

Anyway, I truly appreciated the hug. It was timely since I was still trying to recover from this morning’s session with S. It had been painful and difficult as I’ve mentioned in my previous post so getting that hug was very helpful. I just regret not letting the lady know how much she had done for me just by her words and her hug.

Project Semicolon 416

“On April 16, 2016, everyone who is feeling suicidal, struggling with mental illness, living with anxiety or unhappiness, self harming, surviving a broken heart, or learning to live without a loved one, post a picture of your semicolon, whether it’s drawn on your arm or tattooed, we want to see it.

A semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” – From Project Semicolon.

Below is my contribution to Project Semicolon‘s call out:

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I’m still here. Despite having lost my battle to self harm just recently, my wounds are healing and I’m still here. In just 6 days, I’ll celebrate one full year of psychotherapy. It’s been a journey of mostly downs but I’m seeing progress because I’m beginning to reconnect with myself and slowly, with others as well.

This by no means claims that I’m now ok because I still struggle but at least for now, I’m still here. I’m learning to not be ashamed of my weaknesses and not to be ashamed to be mentally ill.

I don’t know what tomorrow will hold and in fact, I don’t even know how I’ll feel once my 10 hour shift at the restaurant ends tonight but I’m going to try to plug along. For now, I’m just surviving and it doesn’t seem like it’s much of a life but I promised S that I’d at least try. So I’m going to try. Maybe someday, maybe soon, I’ll come to see that life does get better as everyone keeps claiming it to be.

For now, at least, I have a husband who loves me and a psychologist who is supporting me. I think I’m very fortunate in that way and so I’m thankful.

#semicolonproject416 #projectsemicolon

My Purpose to Share My Story

Now I believe in God and the Bible. I read the Bible literally. I know there are many who don’t and that’s fine by me because I don’t care whether someone believes in Him or not. I want to preface this post with that because I don’t want needless debates about His existence and what not and I also don’t want people to think that just because I believe in God that I’m somehow ignorant or stereotypically like one of those “Westboro Christian” types. I don’t condone or even agree with the things they do and say to people. I don’t even want to call myself a Christian because I don’t agree with a lot of the things that churches are shoving down people’s throats.

Suffice to say, I firmly hold to the philosophy that to each his/her own and I don’t judge a person by what they do or don’t believe. I judge a person by what they do or say unto others.

Now that we have that out of the way… Let’s get to the point of today’s post.

Today, as I was sitting on the couch with my dearest husband watching a YouTube video, a thought struck me. “Why am I still alive? What is the point of me being alive? I struggle so much every single day and every single day, I just want to die. I want to die because I feel like everything is out of my control and I feel overwhelmed. I don’t get why God would still keep me here on this Earth…”

Then as I finished that thought, another thought entered my mind. This time, it was a stronger voice that said, “Maybe it’s because God is not done with me yet. He still has plans for you. Maybe He is keeping you here because He wants you to keep sharing the story of your struggles. Maybe He is using you as a means to touch others’ lives and to advocate for all those with mental illnesses…”.

The thought calmed my anxiety down a little. It dampened the depressive pressure that I’ve been feeling these past couple of days. And suddenly, things shifted into a different focus and perspective.

When someone is struggling with mental illnesses, it’s hard for them to see the big picture because all they feel is pain every day. That’s how I feel every day. It’s hard to see the big picture. It’s hard to get my mind out of the dark alley. When I do though, suddenly things are just that little bit easier to deal with.

Tonight, I was struggling. My worst days in the week are usually days when I have to work because as I’ve mentioned before, I work as a server at a restaurant. And to those who have never had to work in a restaurant before, consider yourselves extremely fortunate because restaurant work can be the most soul sucking and life draining job someone can have. I suppose most jobs where you have to deal with unreasonable people can be the same way.

Halfway through my shift, a couple sat in my section. Probably about an hour in to their dining experience, after they received their entree, I went by to check on them to make sure they were doing alright.

The husband said to me that he noticed the tattoos I have on my arms. (My Inkbox tattoo had faded and I’ve applied new ones. Now I have Pi on my left arm on top of the word “Worthy” and a semicolon on my right arm).

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He said that he was intrigued and would like to know what they meant to me. So I explained to them that I’m a nerd and I like math so the Pi which is a mathematical constant is there because I like math. Since it’s a constant, it’s also a reminder to me for how even when everything else in life sucks, that there are still things that will never change – like Pi. Then I explained that the semicolon is a way for me to advocate for suicide prevention and awareness. It is also a reminder to myself that despite the struggles, that I do have a choice to continue my life. I explained that there is a movement called “Project Semicolon” whose purpose is to advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. The couple expressed that they have never heard of such a thing before so I briefly explained the social media reach that this organization has. I also explained to them that I struggle with ADHD, Depression and Anxiety.

It was then that the wife told me that their 15-year-old daughter struggles with depression and anxiety as well. And she said that it is amazing that they ended up at my section and ended up talking to me about mental health. She mentioned divine providence and it reminded me of the thoughts I had this afternoon. Perhaps I was supposed to speak to this couple and to share with them a little about my story.

At the end of their meal, I gave them the address to my blog and told them that I write my story here because I believe that when you share your story, others will share theirs too. And I believe that no one should ever suffer in silence and no one should ever suffer alone. I also gave them my email address and told them that they’re free to contact me any time they’d like or if their daughter just needs someone to talk to, that I’m willing to lend my ear.

They seemed genuinely grateful for this short interaction and I was too. I’ve always described my depression as me being dragged into the sea and struggling to stay afloat while waves crash about me. Tonight, after this interaction, I felt like I was able to pull myself up from under the waves and take a deep breath. I really appreciated them asking me what my tattoos meant. I really appreciated being able to be share my story.

Sometimes, all someone wants is to be heard. I’m glad I was able to be heard tonight.

Update:
It turns out that this post is my 100th post on this blog! Wow! What an amazing coincidence!

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A Day of Small Victories

Today was a day of small victories.

I’ve been struggling through a depressive episode for the past 4-6 weeks now and it hasn’t gotten much better. In fact, last week itself, I was feeling quite suicidal through the entire week. No matter how much I tried, everything just seemed bleak and negative.

I didn’t know whether I’d ever get out of it or whether I could ever see who the post-depression me is like. I have several major stressors in my my life right now which are pressing down on  me and I feel like a spring that’s heavily compressed.

I feel really bad for my husband because he has to live with me and live with my negativity. I know it must not have been easy for him either. He also struggles with his own inner demons. Yet, he never fails to try and cheer me up. (He surprised me with two cute stuffed animals last night – gifts he had secretly bought).

When I’m down and negative, I know that I am. That’s the worst part for me – it’s knowing that I’m irrationally negative and yet not being able to stop feeling that way. I know I have a lot to live for and so many things I have still yet to achieve. Yet, all I want to do is cut myself, punch walls or die. It’s hard to accept that a “normal” person like me is struggling through so much for so long.

That said, like I said, today was a day of small victories. I had seen my therapist for my usual Tuesday therapy session and though it seems insignificant to most, my day was made when he recognized my “Firefly” shirt which features a somewhat obscure reference to the TV-show. His response which was immediately after he saw my shirt was, “Firefly now?” which launched us into a 2 minute conversation about the show and how I’m a latecomer fan. Therapy went well also, which I counted as another small victory. Then later, I managed to get an extremely satisfying upper body massage which helped release all the knots in my shoulders, back and neck. Another small victory. I then got three prompt email responses from people whose responses mattered to me. Another small victory. I was also invited to showcase my mental health series of artwork at a “Coffee House” session at my campus and to speak about my experiences with mental illnesses on October 9th. Another small victory.

I know some of those things may sound silly but to me, they are vital to the positive feelings that I am currently bathed in. My depression had crept up and whispered, “Enjoy it. It won’t last… I’ll be back with a vengeance” but for now, I am actually feeling calm. It’s the little things.

Update: This post was published on Project Semicolon‘s Facebook page! Whoohoo!!