After my third assault, the very worst one, I was a complete wreck & barely human. I only left the house to go to work & take my dogs out. I would come home & immediately take sleeping pills. I felt absolutely nothing but this ethereal, distant, disembodied rage that was like feeling tremors of an earthquake from 100 miles away.
I didn't even know about PTSD & I had no idea how sick I really was. I didn't see friends & I would take days to return texts. I felt no joy doing things I normally loved to do. I had gotten laid off, & my dog (my heart-dog, my soulmate) had died. When he died I was recovering from an adult tonsillectomy (plus adenoids) & I couldn't eat for a month & had stitches in my throat, & when he didn't wake up with me I screamed so hard & so long that blood was pouring out of my mouth like I had swigged a full cup of red paint.
The only things I felt were grief, pain, & rage, & even still, I did my best to run from my feelings or never feel at all. The only times I ever truly felt were when I dug into my books - the A Song of Ice & Fire series by George RR Martin. For some reason, I felt a completely full spectrum of feelings, both healthy & unhealthy, while reading these books. I laughed, I cried (a lot), I got so upset I threw the book across the room. I related to & empathized with the characters.
I knew I always had severe depression - the first time I wanted to die I was 4, & I still have the scar from the kitchen knife with the blue handle. I just didn't know that PTSD was also eating holes in my brain & soul along with the pre-existing conditions. I eventually got into therapy & worked really diligently, really exhaustively, for about a year & a half.
I was ready for my next tattoo & based it on my favorite character, Arya Stark. It's also a tribute to themes in the book, & a secretive order of assassins who worship "the many faced god" aka- the god of death. The tattoo (drawn by my incredible online pal, Sören) shows a faceless, hooded figure, swords surrounded by deadly nightshade, & bears their credo: Valar Morghulis, Valar Dohaeris. This means, "All Men Must Die; All Men Must Serve".
The faceless men believe death is a mercy, a gift. I know I will always have a sickness in me that believes the same. But for now, I serve. I wanted a second tattoo, another based on A Song of Ice & Fire. It's actually not in the book, but I still consider it canon, as George was so involved with the writing during the first season. It's still something that struck me right in my heart's gut the first time I heard it.
Arya is taking her "dancing lessons" - learning how to sword fight from the infamous Syrio Forel, First Sword of Braavos. It's a huge part of her origin story, & he teaches her ethos & theory as well as the physical act of kicking major fucking ass.
He tells her,
Syrio Forel: What do we say to the god of death?
Arya Stark: Not Today.
This became something I'd find myself whispering, repeating in my head, muttering to myself, sometimes like a prayer, & sometimes like a plea for mercy from my Big Bad Illness. When my brain goes bad & my monster comes for me, when I think terrifying, disturbing, dangerous thoughts of wanting to die, I say to myself, & to the god of death, Not Today.
Someday, yes, & I'm not sure if it will be at my own hand or, the many faced god willing, a tender mercy from the universe at old age, but: Not Today.
So, that's why this matters. That's why I need this reminder. Every day. Not Today.