Raneesha De Silva (24) is a master’s student of Forensic Psychology. On the inside of her left wrist is a tattoo of an infinity symbol and a semicolon covering a number of scars.
She started cutting herself when she was fifteen. “People tend to think this kind of self-harm comes from mental disorders, depression or stress; that wasn’t the case for me. I actually don’t know for sure why I cut myself, but I think it has to do with how I grew up.”
“I grew up in midst of the Sri Lankan civil war and it wasn’t safe for anyone to be on the streets alone. This only enhanced the existing restrictions on women within a conservative society. It’s extremely frustrating. This discontent took over all my other emotions. I was completely numb emotionally, like a zombie. By cutting myself, at least I felt something. I tried it, began to enjoy it, and it became a kind of addiction. I stopped in 2014, when I realised that there was no room left on my wrist. That was a clear sign that it was getting out of hand. And as I got used to the pain, the sense of satisfaction lessened. Sometimes I still think about it, but I have it under control. My tattoo helps with that.”
She lays her left wrist on the table. “It’s a simple design, but very meaningful. I’m a Buddhist and we believe that life is an endless suffering. The infinity symbol stands for this infinity of suffering. According to my faith, a person is continually reincarnated until he or she reaches nirvana. This is the highest state one can attain – enlightened and free of suffering.”
“The second part of my tattoo is a semicolon. I relax through writing. In a sentence, the semicolon signals a temporary break; for me it stands for a break in my suffering. At the same time, the semicolon is an international symbol of support for victims of self-harm, suicide and depression. A victim – actual or potential – who sees my tattoo will know that I’m a safe space that they can confide in.”
“When people see my tattoo, they often seem reluctant to ask about it. Usually I’ll ask them if they want to hear the story behind it. I’m happy to explain it. I’m glad to be able to use my experience to raise awareness about one of the most pressing issues in current society. My parents are the only people who don’t know the real story behind my tattoo. They don’t know I used to cut myself and I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t want them blame themselves by thinking it was due to their misdoings. My frustration had to do with the situation in Sri Lanka, not with my family. I have shown them the tattoo, but they were so focused on the tattoo itself that they didn’t see the scars.”