A semicolon is a punctuation mark used by a writer to indicate a pause between two main clauses where the sentence should have ended. When a semicolon is placed on your body as a tattoo it signifies your life while the person carrying the tattoo is the writer. By the young age of 20, I had already lost three friends to suicide and attempted it myself. I placed a semicolon behind my ear and shaped the circle like a waning gibbous moon with three birds flying out. Each bird represents a friend I've lost to suicide. When I was 18 I attempted suicide but thankfully failed. Although I struggle with my depression on an everyday basis, I have mentally strengthened my mind to move forward and not dwell so much in the past. I’ve learned to let go of the things that weigh me down into a hole full of sorrow memories that trigger my depression. I wear this tattoo to remind myself that I am strong and my story is not over. Each bird on me signifies a friend who no longer feels weighed down and can finally be free from the demons that haunted them in their everyday lives. I pay tribute to them every day by placing it behind my ear where it is noticeable for anyone to see and ask me, “what does that tattoo mean?”
At the age of seventeen, I lost the first person I knew to suicide. I was a junior in high school and Jeffrey Cabral was a freshman at UAlbany. Jeffrey and I met when I was fourteen at a house party. After the party, rumors had been spread about the two of us and although Jeffrey had apologized I never accepted his apology, I would see him at events and hang out in small groups with him but I always avoided conversing with him. Jeffrey was a funny individual, he loved photography and music and was always able to light up the room. On April 1, also known as April fools day, we were informed that Jeffrey hung himself. It was difficult to believe due to the type of person he was. For the next few days, many people thought it was a prank but when we attended his funeral, it became very real. It haunts me that I never forgave him for something so childish as a rumor, I wish we could have grown past that.
During my senior year I lost someone else to this battle, Evelyss Calderon, She was definitely one of a kind. I met Evelyss when she was in middle school, in my younger brother's class. We ended up in the same high school and every time I’d see her in the halls I would yell her name in excitement, just to embarrass her a little. She was her own person with her own style and unique personality. Evelyss was one of those individuals that didn't care what anybody thought of her. She had these green gauges in her ears and somewhat of a punk rock kind of look. She was also a big sneakerhead. Evelyss was someone who never seemed to be hurting inside, this made it difficult to read the signs. One morning Evelyss got ready for school like any other day, she put her makeup on and while her mother was dropping her little sister off at school she gave in to her demons at the young age of 16.
Losing two people back to back the way I did as well as my own personal family issues I too became very depressed. I started cutting myself well before Jeffrey and Evelyss stopped walking this earth but I did it mostly to feel something and escape this numb feeling that took over my world. In my senior year, I decided I wanted it all to end, I didn't care who was affected because living in that deep dark abyss didn't seem like anyone did care. One night I swallowed a bottle of pills, and I woke up in the hospital with an IV in my arm. I overheard the doctor say I was on suicide watch and because of my age, although I was still in high school, I had to be admitted into the adult psych-ward. I arrived on a stretcher in an ambulance. I shared a room with an older woman whose first words to me were “if you hear me speaking to someone in the middle of the night, it's just my brother. He sometimes visits me.” I immediately realized she had more demons than I did. I spent 72 hours there and studied different individuals. This experience made me realize I wanted to help people like my roommate and me more than I wanted to end my life. I was discharged after speaking to a psychologist. For a short time period after being discharged I would still cut myself but I never attempted to take my own life again.
Almost two years after being released from the psych ward, I lost someone closer to me than the two previous individuals, someone I considered a sister, Kimberly Feliz. Kimberly grew up in the same building I did, we hung out in the same group and she eventually dated my younger brother for a few years. They were each other's first love and she was constantly in and out of my house. We would share secrets and talk about everything and nothing. Kimberly had some family issues, as we all do but it never seemed like it affected her to the point where she needed that type of escape. The day she passed away was definitely one I will never forget, her cousin came knocking on our door around 11 A.M. crying and breaking the news to my brother. My sister and I were unaware of what was going on when our brother stormed past us and slammed the door to his room behind him. About five minutes later a friend of mine called me and asked if it was true, did Kimberly really die? At that moment we ran to my brother's room to find him on the floor in full tears repeating “it was Kim, Kim killed herself.”
The loneliness depression can cause someone to feel is somewhat indescribable. It feels like you’re living in a deep hole of complete darkness and when you look up you can see how far the world is. This dark abyss is cold and somewhat wet, all you can feel is hopelessness. You can hear people conversate above you but you're too deep in the hole to connect with anyone the way you once were able to; the way you could before this hole became so deep. When depression hits someone at a young age it becomes part of who they are. Smiling during difficult times becomes second nature. You learn how to agree with your friends with a simple laugh and occasional nod to indicate you are present and participating, even though you feel no real connection to what they are saying. Inside you're actually numb and sometimes that causes you to be extra active and participate in different activities or hang out with different crowds just to see if you can feel anything. It becomes difficult to understand that you're mentally ill, that this hole you're living in is not actually getting deeper. You're not as alone as you may think and the world above you that seems 10ft high is actually one arm pull up. You're not suffocating or drowning as difficult as it may seem to breathe and although you may feel numb, as if you cannot connect to anybody, that does not mean others cannot connect to you. For that very reason, it is important to speak up on your emotions, once you let depression and suicide win all you did was pass your depression to someone who loves you. It is difficult for people to know what you're going through because many people with depression mask it so well but I promise you, the people around you would much rather listen to what you are going through than attend your funeral. Speak up together we can lower suicide rates.