May is Lupus Awareness Month AND Mental Health Awareness Month. These two things effect me greatly. I thought I would share a little more of my story through my tattoo.
I had been contemplating getting a tattoo that would represent me in a special way; one that would remind me who I am and how far I have come. I thought long and drew some ideas out. And then I finalized my drawing. The next step was to decide where should I get this tattoo? I knew I wanted it visible to myself. I wanted to see it to remember. But did I want it visible for everyone? Am I ready to talk about it? Do I want to explain it and open up to vulnerability? I kept that drawing for over a year. My son gave me the gift of this tattoo for Christmas this year, so I had no excuse not to do it.
There are three components to my butterfly tattoo. The butterfly is one of the symbols for lupus, which often causes a malar or ‘butterfly’ rash across the face on cheeks and bridge of the nose. Lupus affects my everyday life and there is not a cure. It is sometimes called an invisible illness, because ‘you don’t look sick.’ I want to bring awareness to lupus. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates 1.5 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide have a form of lupus.
The semicolon makes up the butterfly’s body. Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, shares the meaning of the semicolon.
“It represents continuance. Authors usually use the semicolon when they choose not to end the sentence. You are the author and the sentence is your life, and you’re choosing to continue.”
I have depression and have contemplated suicide multiple times. Yet I continue, I chose not to end the sentence. I got help, and I continue to seek help at times when I can’t fight it on my own anymore. My story is here, if you would like to read more.
Chronic Illness and Mental Illness overlap in many ways. We don’t always feel free to share our struggles. We are afraid of being judged or thought less of. But we need to share. We need to speak out. Others are struggling and feel alone in their feelings and isolated from others. We need to bravely share our stories to encourage those struggling and to inform and educate the other people in our lives.
There is no shame in admitting you are not well, be it physically or mentally. Mental illness is a medical condition. Treatment is available. Please reach out to someone if you feel helpless. Suicide is not your only option.
So I said there were three components to the tattoo. The last thing is really the first thing.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I became a new creation. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, the old has gone, the new is here. When you belong to Christ, you become a new person, you begin a new life with Christ. You are a child of God!
Of course this does not mean my life is easy or I am always happy. But I have a solid hope to build my life on.
Project Semicolon is a wealth of resources for mental health, both for one suffering and for those who are trying to understand and want to help their loved ones. Check it out.