Bipolar Thoughts

Two Closely Related Independent Clauses

You may have seen or read about a new trendy thing regarding tattoos. It is the semi-colon tattoo.

The semi-colon tattoo started as a mental health awareness project back in 2013 where people who had struggled with mental illness, specifically with suicidal ideation or attempts, were asked to draw a semi-colon on their body, photograph it, and post it on social media.

It didn’t take long for people supporting those people to get in on the action. And it was just the next logical step to move from sharpies to needles.

Now they hold nationwide semi-colon tattoo events where the profits generated go to mental health organizations. Just a few months ago, nearly 400 of these tattoos were done in one day.

I first heard about these tattoos about a year ago. But they have really become a thing since then. It is a huge thing. I have seen two in public over this past summer, both on girls. I have seen articles covering the topic pop-up on Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Mashable, Huffington Post, Slate, and a few more mental health magazines. It is officially a trend.

I don’t normally do trendy things. I don’t purposely avoid them or anything, I just don’t get into it for some reason. A big trend I have avoided in my life is the tattoo trend.

But I am seriously considering getting this tattoo. It strikes me. Even if it is a trend, it is a meaningful one. I doubt I would be ashamed of having this on my body later in life. This isn’t like barbed wire on my bicep or anything.

This tattoo would be a reminder to me of not only what I have been through, but the fact that I came out the other side. It would remind me of the strength I have even when I am at my weakest. It might also start a conversation with someone who is unaware of what it means and asks, or someone who is aware and wants to hear your story. It could also be a flag, like with those two girls I saw this summer. Letting people know that I am right here.

I was talking to my wife about it and she is not a big fan of the idea. But, she told me to do it if I felt strongly about it. I jokingly said I should get three tattooed in a row (referring to my three hospitalizations) and she very coldly looked me in the eye and said ‘it’s not a competition, Steve. What are you trying to prove?’

She was right. I was joking, but she was right. Placing three of these on my body would be a way of saying ‘yeah you’ve done this once, look at how much I’ve suffered’; which is obviously ridiculous. But I began to wonder if having the single semi-colon tattoo was the same thing.

I like the idea of the personal reminder, but I don’t even really know what that means. Am I going to forget if I don’t mark myself?

I like the idea of people talking to me about my tattoo. Talk is the best way to end stigma. But there is an inherent narcissism to that. I mean, just look at how overly wrought with narcissism this blog is.

I like most the idea of it being a flag for other people coming from the same background. Minorities, especially ones that have a stigma attached, have always flown flags of this kind. It is an effectively way of sending a message or inviting someone for conversation, or whatever. But if this thing gets any trendier, it will no longer be an effective symbol for the community. It will just be co-opted and mainstream and then look more like narcissism, or worse, pop culture.

There are other symbols. The color green is a symbol, most people don’t know that. We have the green ribbon, you might see green beads on a safety pin worn on a lapel or the breast of a shirt, a green crystal bracelet; all mental health/ depression/ bipolar/ suicide symbols. Maybe the community should stick to just these?

I guess I never explained the semi-colon, why that symbol is important. A semi-colon, is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence, but decided there was more to say. You can see the tie to suicide. It is really quite beautiful.

I have no idea if I will go and get this done. I most likely will, most likely soon. Hopefully people will not look at me as if I am attempting to win some sorrow competition. I certainly am not trying to separate myself from the crowd. I am trying to show you that I have always been different and you’re just starting to figure it out.


  • IF you decide you want to do this, I will 1. Pay for it 2. Take you to get it and 3. Get one in show of support… you let me know

  • I love the symbolism of this tattoo as well. Maybe part of me likes it because I’m a nerdy English major who enjoys punctuation, but that’s certainly not the only reason. I find beauty in the symbolism and community that it represents too. I think you should go for it!
    I don’t personally have any tattoos either, just because I’ve never been able to identify something meaningful enough to warrant it permanently making a part of my body. Except something representative of my daughter.
    Get this tattoo because of what it will mean for you, and the potential it has for you to end the stigma. Don’t worry what anyone else thinks. It will become what YOU make of it! ❤️

  • Traci is the mystery tattoo benefactor.

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