If you don’t take anything else away from this review, please know:
- You are not alone
- There is help available
- You deserve it. Yep, even you! 😃
If you need immediate help and you live in Australia, please contact Lifeline at 13 11 14 or online at http://www.lifeline.org.au. If your life is in danger, please call 000.
The note at the beginning of Project Semicolon says it much better than I could …
“WARNING: If you suffer from suicidal ideation or mental illness, some of the stories that follow may trigger an adverse reaction. If you feel this kind of content may be triggering, we advise that you consider not reading this book. And if you do read and a story is beginning to upset you, please stop reading immediately.”
There are a multitude of potential triggers in this book. They include suicide, grief, mental illness, self harm, bullying, abuse, addiction, eating disorders, and plenty of family dysfunction. If you’re looking for a hopeful, lovely read, this is not the book for you. If you want to gain understanding about what leads to someone wanting to take their own life or what life is like for the friends and family members of those who have, this is the one. This is a super duper important book.
Whoever you are and whatever your background, please be safe while reading this book. It’s full of people courageously sharing some of the most difficult life experiences anyone can go through. There is hope but there’s more pain. This is an upsetting book. There’s no way it can’t be.
I would have personally preferred for there to be fewer stories but more detail in this book. Often I felt like the stories were written with a focus on the pain and ended with either the writer saying things have or haven’t improved but I would have liked for there to have been a greater focus on the steps in the journeys that helped each individual. While no book is a substitute for medical advice or counselling, I feel it would have been useful for people looking for hope in their own lives to be able to clearly identify what worked for each writer so they could implement the tools that they feel may be beneficial to them in their own lives.
If you need support after reading any part of it, please reach out for it. The best first contact I can suggest (besides your local suicide hotline or emergency number) is your local doctor. I personally have two GP’s that are unsung heroes in my life. Your local doctor knows your medical history (physical and psychological) and can offer support and guidance that’s suitable for your situation. They can prescribe medication should you need it. They can refer you to the right service for you to get the help you deserve, whether that’s a counsellor, support group or any number of other services that you probably aren’t even aware of in your community.
I’d recommend making a long appointment so your doctor and you have the time needed to spend on coming up with a plan that will help you in the short or long term. Your local doctor has likely heard it all before (many times) and you won’t be telling them anything that will shock them. If you’re too embarrassed to say what you need to then write it down and hand it to your doctor or read from it. In all likelihood they’ll be supportive and proud of you for taking the first step in getting help. If your doctor isn’t supportive then by all means try another and another until you find one that will help you.
I accidentally came across Project Semicolon on social media several years ago. When I read that the semicolon was chosen because in literature a semicolon is used when an author continues a sentence rather than ending it, I loved the symbolism and it’s stayed with me.
I liked seeing all of the various semicolon inspired tattoos scattered through the book. While I don’t have any permanent tattoos, I adore them and always have a variety of the temporary kind on hand whenever the whim comes to decorate or express myself. I do have a stack of semicolon tattoos and use them whenever I’m going through a difficult time to remind myself that I’ve gotten through difficult times before and I’ll get through this one too. I find it’s a subtle but effective visual reminder.
When I’m struggling with whatever I’m facing, I remind myself that my story is not over yet and that simple reminder has never failed to provide me strength. In the midst of emotional or physical pain it can be difficult to see past it and remember that it hasn’t always been like this. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that everything is temporary.
I’ve had times where I was certain I’d never smile again and when I look back on those times now it hardly seems like I’m the same person who felt that way. I’ve had a number of the triggers in this book as my triggers over the years and some of those are no longer triggers, and those that are don’t trigger me with the same intensity or frequency that they once did.
I look back at 15 year old me who had already attempted suicide three times and I want to go back and tell her all of the things she’ll miss out on in the future if she doesn’t survive. Not wanting to sound facetious, but can you imagine the books I would have missed out on reading over the past 20 odd years and how many I plan to read in the future?! And that’s just one thing I would’ve missed out on! I think of a primary school friend who seemed to have it all yet died by suicide in her early 20’s. I want to give her a huge hug and say that one thing, whatever it would have been, that would have meant things would have turned out differently for her and her family.
I promise you, nothing stays the same. Things can, and do, get better. There is someone who will understand you and your situation. You do have what it takes to recover, whatever that looks like to you.
Once Upon a Blurb
This book from suicide-awareness organization Project Semicolon chronicles the global phenomenon of the semicolon tattoo, combining photos of individuals’ tattoos with their stories about struggling with suicide and mental illness.