A trailblazer tattoo trend emerged a few years ago with a very important meaning behind its rather simple outlook. The inking is a semicolon punctuation mark that is associated with mental health, in particular suicide prevention. It’s about looking at what plagues your mind head on, and commanding your life into your own hands. Those who get it say it’s about rewriting your story, and giving this messy thing you call life another chance.
This tattoo is supposed to be a mark of struggle and survival.
The semi colon is the middle ground between extreme punctuation variations. It’s the semicolon that depicts the struggle to survive. The next stage of your life is associated with your past, but it’s slightly detached. It’s detached because it isn’t entirely a new beginning – there are elements of your past that still remain. The sentence is your life, and instead of ending the sentence, you choose not to.
While the original meaning sprung from a social media movement where people would draw temporary semicolons as a show of solidarity, it swiftly brew into a tattoo craze all over the world.
The tattoo is considered the symbol of those who were strong enough to overcome suicide.
Nayab is also someone who recently had herself inked with this incredibly expressive tattoo, with a heartbreaking back story.
Hailing from a conservative family, Nayab felt liberated having made the decision to get a tattoo. She’s lived her entire life in Lahore, and, in a conversation with MangoBaaz, shared the motivation behind getting herself the tattoo.
“There was a time when I was at the verge of ending my life, that was the tie when I ended up cutting myself open, writing a suicide note, with tears in my eyes and a knife in my hand. I struggled to buy myself a little more time because that’s what my therapist told me to do. She told me to buy myself time.
That day I said to myself that if I survived this I could survive anything. I did survive that horrible day and that was when I decided to give myself a special gift.
That was the day I decided to get inked.
Breathing in the darkness and choking on it isn’t a joke. Being suicidal isn’t either. They say suicide is for the weak but what most people don’t know is how huge the struggle is. Being 21 and suffering from clinical depression, anxiety disorder, OCD and a personality disorder isn’t what people exactly look forward growing up to. Why I am the way I am is a story for another time.
I spent half my childhood and most of my teenage being bullied by the people I loved the most.
It is sad to see how much mental illness is misunderstood. Living with the labels is even more difficult. They tell us to stop overthinking and that it’s all inside my head. It’s like I want to throw them into water and tell them not to worry when they drown. Lots of people silently suffer in Pakistan just because mental illness is far too stigmatized. We really need more mental health professionals in Pakistan and people who are empathetic and kind.
This month old semicolon on my wrist is a reminder that I survived the day that I thought to be my last.
That struggle with years and years of suicidal ideas and self-harm taught me something though – it taught me that no matter how terrible everything gets, my story isn’t over yet. This tattoo is a symbolic representation of that. It means the world to me. Whenever I look at it, I whisper to myself that I choose to fight. I choose to continue my story and not end it. It gives me the hope and courage to continue.
So I went to this little tattoo shop in Lahore. I loved every bit of it. It didn’t hurt much. Some parts didn’t hurt at all and some parts felt like intense threading. It was entirely bearable and totally worth it.
As soon as I have enough money I’m going to get another one.”
Cover photo via Nayab Imtiaz