Emotional Ink

Showing the fight against mental illness with a tattoo.


Photo Courtesy of Rory Martin

Senior Rory Martin’s semicolon tattoo.

Jasper Robertson, Staff Writer

Senior Rory Martin was a heavily competitive swimmer freshman year, swimming on two teams and practicing two hours everyday. On top of that, they were taking hard classes, trying their best to stay caught up on all their work. They were also fighting depression and anxiety, and just last August they got a semi-colon tattoo to represent their fight against their mental illnesses.

Swimming consumed my life. But the thing was that it was not something that I was enjoying anymore. I did it because everyone else wanted me to, and it was badly affecting my mental health”

Along with their struggle with swimming, Martin had undiagnosed ADHD, another factor in their plummeting mental health. They were affected by burnout, as well as difficult classes going into freshman year. 

“I was behind on work, I had trouble staying focused in class, stuff like that,” they said. “It was just piling on top and on top and on top. And so during that summer when I had finally gotten that break, everything just kinda came crashing down on me all at once.” 

Martin found out about the semicolon tattoo around 2016, but only decided to get the tattoo a few years ago, when they came to terms with the fact that they were struggling.

“At the time when it had happened, I thought that it wasn’t that serious, that maybe I was faking it or something like that. But looking back I saw just how dire the situation was, and I think for me it was kind of a way for me to say to myself what I experienced was real,” Martin said.

A big factor in Martin’s recovery was their mom, which Martin wanted to represent with their tattoo.

“When I got this tattoo, when I designed it, I wanted to represent what we both did to get me where I was today, because it was a team effort, and we both loved each other enough to get through this, for both of us,” they said. 

Originally, Martin’s mom wanted to send them to a mental hospital, but thought it would be best if they were surrounded by family instead, and began working to help Martin recover.  

After the initial shock, after her kind of bewilderment, she became super supportive,” they said. “She tried everything. She would look into clubs, look into things that she thought I would like, to help get my spirits up, and especially during that time.”

After everything they experienced, Martin came up with a design to represent the relationship between them and their mom; lavenders and lilies surrounding the semicolon, to represent both their favorite plants.

I designed this tattoo myself,” they said. “I spent an entire night figuring out how to draw the lilies and lavenders, it was a nightmare.”

Now that they have the tattoo, Martin feels that people are put off by the tattoo. 

Everyone who ever really sees it honestly, just kind of, I think it makes them uncomfortable,” they said. “I don’t actively want it to, but it’s not for other people. I got it for myself, and when my mom had warned me about it, ‘you know people are gonna look at you,’ I’m like ‘I don’t care. This tattoo is not for them, it’s for me. It’s a reminder for myself.’”