In 1484 Italian printer Aldus Manutius published the semicolon for the first time. Manutius used the punctuation mark as a means of separating opposing words to allow an abrupt or rapid change in direction of differing yet interrelated clauses. Nowadays the mark is commonly used when creating lists or linking ideas and clauses in literature. A semicolon is a slight pause. It’s not a definitive endpoint. It is merely an opportunity to digress from one thought into another.
So let’s digress. Let’s leave semicolons behind for a few moments and start talking about depression, anxiety, mental health and suicide. We’ll come back to punctuation mark eventually, but let’s build a little context first.
A friend of mine recently passed away. A victim of mental health, he ended his life at the age of twenty nine. His passing left behind two loving parents, two sisters, a brother, a partner, and a group of friends so close that to call them anything other than family would be an affront to the bonds we share. We have always been a rare breed; a band of brothers whose unity transcends age, geographic location, surnames, beliefs, and anything else. We grew up together as kids, and we always assumed that we would grow old together as men.
We’d heard about suicide. Many of us have been through depression or suffered through anxiety, but we never thought that one of our own would take their life. Until it happened. We lost a brother to an illness that can destroy from the inside without any of the discernable physical side effects we often rely upon to detect disease.
And we’re not alone. The unfortunate reality of the world we live in is that there is an increasing prevalence of suicide and depression within our society that continues to grow with each passing year. Some studies are predicting that by 2030 depression and mental illness will be responsible for more disability and death than cancer. Break that down even further and compare genders side by side and the statistics are even more alarming. While mental health is statistically 20-40% higher in women, men are four times more likely to end their life as a result of a depressive state of mind.
Why? Because men are stubborn. We’re arrogant. And we are quite literally killing ourselves as opposed to accepting and acknowledging that we are struggling. We live in a society that is supposed to by highly intuitive, intelligent and ultimately accepting and accommodating. Yet for some bizarre reason men across the globe still feel as though emotions and angst are matters to be suppressed rather than spoken about.
But we have to talk. As difficult as it may seem we need to create conversation on a global scale, and perhaps more importantly, we need to talk in our homes. We as men need to find a way to put to rest our archaic beliefs and macho-mentalities and start having open and honest dialogues with those closest to us. There’s no shame in admitting that you are not OK. There’s no indignity in asking for help. There is however, honor in being a voice of reason or an ear of support for someone in need.
In my lowest moments I have contemplated my own death. Questions about my own morality usually strike at the strangest of moments. I once found myself driving down a highway wondering what would happen if I were to crash. Would the world simply go black? Would I feel anything? Would it almost feel as though I had fallen asleep? Before I knew what I was doing I had shut my eyes for a few moments just to imagine the blackness of the end while I raced down the motorway. But I opened by eyes and the world was still in front of me; and my life continued. I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to know what it felt like so that I could tell myself that whatever I was living through was better than not living at all.
It took me a long time to overcome my demons, and even now I struggle to accept the person that I am. I often wish that I were more like everyone else; that I didn’t want to make a difference, and that I could move with the vast majority rather than dig my heels in and strive to be a voice of change. Yet even though I still have moments of loathing and self-doubt, things eventually got better for me. They always do.
Which brings us back our lesson in punctuation. A semicolon is not a definitive endpoint. It’s a slight pause: an opportunity to link and digress. Anxiety and depression can be tough, and at times a situation can feel hopeless. But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel of despair. There is always an opportunity to create a semicolon in your life and digress towards something new. Suicide is an endpoint. It is an act that cuts your story short and ruins the opportunity for your life to get better. But that funny little dot and dash that we often misuse in literature provides us with the opportunity to transition from a state of anxiety and depression to recovery.
Life is a beautiful gift, and one that should never be taken for granted. If you are down, or if you know someone who is struggling I implore you to reach out. Ask for help, or lend an ear to someone in need. It’s all right to not be OK. It’s not OK to bury our heads in the sand and pretend like anxiety and depression aren’t killing people. It’s time that society, and men in particular, find their voice and start talking about mental health. It’s time to move past our chauvinistic habits of suppressing and ignoring psychological torment and anguish. Find your semicolon, or become one for a stranger or someone you care about.
Life can always get better. You just have to give it a chance.
**Author’s note. Aaron Sorkin once said that ‘Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from the outright.’ The concept of the semicolon was stolen from a brilliant organisation called Project Semicolon. If you ever need a ray of hope, pay them a visit. If you ever need help or someone to talk to, there are countless organisations across the globe who can assist.**
86 thoughts on “;”
Great post, I enjoyed reading it
Semicolons, life and turning points
Would talking about it always help?
Seeking strength from another struggling sole may not be an answer
As the other may also be seeking strength
All humans can have their plates full through life’s ups an downs and that what’s life is all about
Life is a difficult journey that end with the only truth – reality or what the Arab call it as The Real Life
However, you need to continuously better yourself to deserve eternity
Suicide is a form of giving up
You need to see the truth to be part of it
When I die…
When I die
when my coffin
is being taken out
you must never think
i am missing this world
don’t shed any tears
don’t lament or
i’m not falling
into a monster’s abyss
when you see
my corpse is being carried
don’t cry for my leaving
i’m not leaving
i’m arriving at eternal love
when you leave me
in the grave
don’t say goodbye
remember a grave is
only a curtain
for the paradise behind
you’ll only see me
descending into a grave
now watch me rise
how can there be an end
when the sun sets or
the moon goes down
it looks like the end
it seems like a sunset
but in reality it is a dawn
when the grave locks you up
that is when your soul is freed
have you ever seen
a seed fallen to earth
not rise with a new life
why should you doubt the rise
of a seed named human
have you ever seen
a bucket lowered into a well
coming back empty
why lament for a soul
when it can come back
like Joseph from the well
when for the last time
you close your mouth
your words and soul
will belong to the world of
no place no time
~ RUMI, ghazal number 911,
translated May 18, 1992, by Nader Khalili.
It inspired me to write the following blog
Amazingly written… Thankyou for sharing…. I actually needed it at this point of my life…!!!
I just wrote something in this vein, albeit perhaps self-indulgent. Unlike your friend, I survived.
You wrote “an illness that can destroy from the inside without any of the discernable physical side effects we often rely upon to detect disease.”
This is maybe one of the most profound statements I have read about suicidal depression. Thank you for your insight.
This hits really close to home. Honest and beautiful.
Very wonderful and informative write! 🙂 Enjoyed reading!
Thanks for liking one of my posts!
Well, I use semicolons a lot, I deem it necessary to pause and to break a longer sentence into smaller parts with equal significance. Trying to change things is very challenging since majority goes with the stream. Being different is great. That’s all I always want to be: different. Being like everybody else is boring. I mean, lots of people are trying to be different due to nonsense and abnormalities. The most difficult thing is to be different and achieve this with regular means. Good article and I liked your writing. I will have an article about the importance of brain chemicals being balanced probably tomorrow on my lifeschool blog, that might explain why our brain wants to react one or another way, meaning, it’s not always us, our personality, intentions or thoughts. Sometimes it is simply brain chemicals.
Your post is so sensitive and beautifully written. My stepson committed suicide 17 years ago at the age of 23. It can be hard to deal with at first but somewhere in the painful experience there will be a gift of some kind. Thank you for liking my post
Great post! I was so intrigued I read a few of your recent posts. May have to follow you! 😄 love the way you write.
Loved this post. Really hit home for me.
Well timed. Like some of your other audience members, it hit home for me, as well. Thank you 🙂
I loved this! I have a semi colon tattoo and I loved learned even more meaning about semi colon’s themselves!!
Fresh and moving; human and real. ;>) Happy New Year!
Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.
Awesome Post. I love your writing style!
This post really spoke to me on so many levels. As someone who struggles daily with anxiety and depression, this post really hits home for me. Thank you for this very human and very moving post.
Sorry for your loss. Thanks for encouraging people to seek help. Depression is a real illness, physically and mentally. The hormone imbalance is a real thing. It’s not an imagine thing. People tend to ignore depression thinking that it’ll go away.
Thanks so much for popping by my blog and commenting. I have just read your Day 1 Blogging101 course post and learnt something interesting about the humble ; The story of your friend was moving Thanks for sharing 🙂
There has been a rather big discussion about men and suicide in Norway the later years. Apparently successful men in their late twenties, or in the start of their thirties commit suicide. Are there this huge burdensome sense of meaninglessness? Inadequacy in a too alienated and technological society where human values are constantly being downgraded and marginalized?
This is an impressive post Chris. Now I will wait for more 😉
First of all, thank you so much for stepping by my blog, I’m so glad that gave me the opportunity to get to know yours.
The post is inspiring and incredibly well-written. I’m very sorry for your loss and I’m sure it must have been extremely painful to write all this, but I have to say you might have just saved a couple of lives. Often when you find yourself in those situations you don’t want to listen to people saying that everything’s going to be fine, you just need to hear someone that has been through some awful stuff like you have telling you that it’s bad, but nothing is over until you decide it is.
Hope you’re having a lovely day and a great 2016.
I feel like I needed this read. Thank you for writing with such honesty. Good luck.
“There is always an opportunity to create a semicolon in your life and digress towards something new.”
I applaud you on not only the content of this writing and how it is so widely unaccepted and misunderstood, but also by the creative means in which you compared the content to a semicolon in such a way that made me question my own pauses in life; my own Semicolons. Thank you! 🙂
Wow, this is a very fine piece. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend–it’s a terrible place to come to, when all you want is out of this life–I know, I’ve been there. Thank you for writing this.
Thank you for share this inspiring story. And I’am so sorry about your friend.
Very well said. Bravo!
Poignant, articulate, verbose, clear, compassionate
Reblogged this on mentalnote8 and commented:
“In my lowest moments I have contemplated my own death. Questions about my own morality usually strike at the strangest of moments. I once found myself driving down a highway wondering what would happen if I were to crash. Would the world simply go black? Would I feel anything? Would it almost feel as though I had fallen asleep? Before I knew what I was doing I had shut my eyes for a few moments just to imagine the blackness of the end while I raced down the motorway. But I opened by eyes and the world was still in front of me; and my life continued. I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to know what it felt like so that I could tell myself that whatever I was living through was better than not living at all.”
“Find your semicolon, or become one for a stranger or someone you care about.
Life can always get better. You just have to give it a chance.”
Good piece. Your articles, though they mostly tackle depression and excruciating experiences, have a therapeutic effect. Writing is a therapy and so is reading. And who knows? Your words might’ve already cured a few souls.
I suggest you also write more on recovery. The good stuff you get out of life after overcoming the demons inside. Talk about the light, the morning after, the fresh start, the day when you open your eyes and you just feel grateful you’re alive.
sometimes, even when we are trying to get help, we don’t get it. let me tell you my story, briefly.
when i was 16 years old, i was a depressed girl and thought about suicide a lot of times. i never did it because i knew that once i was dead there was no turning back. when i tried to talk with my parents, they said i was only trying to get attention. i remember them asking what problems could i possibly have. luckily, a friend of mine noticed that i wasn’t going very well and talked to the school psychologist.
two years later, i got into depression once again. this time was worst, i was really going crazy and told my parents i wanted to work and be independent. again, they didn’t understand, so i left the house. it was the best decision i made in my whole life. and luckily, again, my boyfriend and his family accepted me at their house. now, we have a son and are really, really happy. 😀