I was out at an event last weekend and the person in front of me was struggling. They were hunched up, tense, staring straight ahead. Their friend was checking on them off and on, and then two folks who I assume were their parents showed up and sat next to them. They were being supported to the extent that they could be in a large room full of other people.
At one point, they stretched their arms out and I saw a tattoo of a semicolon. Many of you probably know about this symbol. Grammatically, a semicolon is used when you could have ended a sentence, but you chose not to. When it's tattooed, it generally refers to suicide. A life not ended, or the wish that it hadn't been. Sometimes it's about themselves, sometimes it's about a loved one. Those tattoos are fairly common, but they always have an impact on me. This one was different though.
That semicolon on their arm was inside a maze.
It's a powerful image, and as someone who sits with people multiple times a week who are, quite literally, grappling with whether they should end their lives or not, it struck me hard. From my current perspective, I thought about how hard it can be to reach people when they're in that place. To wander through that maze, searching for a way through. From their perspective, I see that maze as protection. It keeps them safe from those that would seek to harm them. The more elaborate and involved the maze, the safer they may feel. The heartbreaker is that the harder they are to reach, the longer it takes for them to receive help.
I can't say what that tattoo meant for this person. I watched as the people who cared about them tried to comfort them, and from my perspective, it looked like they were barely scratching the surface, bumping around on the outside of that maze, always hitting a dead end and needing to backtrack. It looked they all knew the dance steps, the helpers knowing they weren't getting all the way in, the one needing help knowing they were not allowing them access. But still, in the moment, it seemed like enough.
So, for all of you trying to reach someone who is struggling, don't stop trying. even when it feels like they don't want your help, even when you know you won't get as far in as you want to, make the effort. It's often the effort that makes the difference.
For those of you in need of help, know that we won't stop walking the twisted and narrow paths of your maze. We see the occasional flower blooming in the ivy on the wall, and we know that it hints at the beautiful garden at the center.
You are worth our efforts; you always have been.