Frere and I got (matching) tattoos on Saturday. I got a tattoo. Look!
It hurt like a bitch. I’m talking – wow. I didn’t cry, but I definitely almost broke both of Frere’s thumbs as I tried not to hyper-ventilate or move my left arm. He, on the other hand, didn’t even flinch – but then, he’s a huge adrenaline junky and would probably get a sleeve of ink if it weren’t a near guarantee that he’d remain unemployed for the rest of his life.
In all seriousness, though, Frere was the entire reason behind getting this. And yes, it was all my idea. About three years ago, Frere found himself feeling really low. Not just kind of sad, not the kind of cloudy-bad-day that goes away when the sun (literally) comes out. He was tired, anti-social, unmotivated…As I’m sure you can guess, he was severely depressed. But it didn’t go away. Now, depression runs in our family, so none of us are strangers to the disease. But this was different – meds weren’t really helping. They made him dizzy, nauseous, all around worse. It was incredibly painful to watch happen, although I’m eternally grateful that we happened to go to the same college and that this happened during my senior year – while I was still there. Eventually, the pain was too much for him to handle and he began cutting himself. When I learned about this, I was heartbroken and also relieved. Heartbroken for obvious reasons; relieved because, statistically and psychologically, cutters are far less suicidal than non-cutters for the sole reason that they are “coping” with their pain.
One night, though, coming home from the bar, Frere called me. I’d learned at that point to always answer his calls – no matter what. At that point, I never had my phone on silent and I would have walked out of a class lecture to be there for him. His voice was strained and I knew he’d hit a low point. He could barely mutter “Yes” when I asked if he needed me to come over. As if I didn’t know. I left my roommate in my room and ran across campus to find him curled in his bed with several friends standing awkwardly nearby. The silence was eery; no one was moving or talking. I curled up next to him and he broke down. I can’t even put into words the rest of the night – it was one of the most emotionally draining I’ve had in my life – but that night truly embodies (to me) the meaning of what it is to be siblings.
Not so soon after, but eventually, Frere worked with a psychiatrist and psychologist to get better; I couldn’t be more proud of the distance he’s come since then. Earlier that same year, though, someone else was having a hard time with her life. Her friends rallied around her to help her realize that her life was worth living – and founded To Write Love on Her Arms, a movement now dedicated to educating people and raising awareness about depression, suicide, and self-injury. This past March, Frere called and asked me if I would write love on my arm in honor of the movement’s anniversary. Without hesitation, I did it – and then kept re-tracing the word over the next several days. When a co-worker asked if it was a tattoo, I realized that I wanted it to be. For me, the tattoo honors the connection I have with my brother and demonstrates (to him, to the world, but mostly just to me) what he means to me.
I thought for a long time about this tattoo. I never considered myself a tattoo type of person (whatever the hell that means) and I definitely never felt compelled to get something etched and injected permanently onto my body. Before deciding to get this, I couldn’t totally grasp what would compel someone to do that. Now that I get it, though, it’s an awesome feeling. It’s so personal – and yet so public. I am thrilled with how it turned out and I’m so glad I did it. It was definitely worth the 4 minutes of white-hot, burning pain.