Archives for September 2017

NO ALTERNATIVE: Project Semicolon

The issue of mental illness must be destigmatized. This is what compelled me to make “No Alternative” into a movie. My sister, Briana, was a victim of mental illness, and she fought against her illness with aplomb. She fought against it through her art—both painting and music. This battle in which she waged is something I wrote about in my novel, which was a love letter to my sister, a plea for her survival. I wish I could tell you that plea was successful. But, I can’t. While she lost her battle, I’m hopeful we can win the war—and we can do it in honor of her and other sufferers like her. It’s my sister’s story; her story isn’t over, because I’ve made it my mission to tell it.

I made this point clear when I got my semicolon tattoo in support of both my film and Project Semicolon’s campaign to end the stigma. It is a tattoo of a semicolon as part of an early typewriter’s type-bar.

I’m a writer, first and foremost. While it is difficult to label any aspect of my sister’s death a gift, I believe that my sister, through this tragedy, gave me a gift. In the ensuing weeks after she died, I came across a journal of hers, which she kept as a patient in a long-term rehabilitation program for drug addiction. There was quite a bit of writing in its pages, but the only mention of me was a single line that read: “My brother says I shouldn’t waste my talent.” The context had to do with channeling her turbulent emotion into her art, as a way of leaking some hope through that din of despair. It wasn’t until several months later, as the grief was exponentially worsening and my productivity hit a standstill, that I thought that, perhaps, I was meant to read those words, and furthermore that she wasn’t talking about me, about what I said, but that she was talking to me. Her words were staring back at me from the page: she was telling me that I shouldn’t waste my talent.

The type-bar semicolon tattoo on my arm is there to remind me of this realization, this post-mortem message from my sister to keep writing, to keep making movies, to keep creating art. My sister’s struggle should not be limited to the confines of her illness, not when her experience could potentially help other sufferers and immortalize her spirit on screen.

I’m thrilled to mention that my semicolon tattoo is featured Harper Collins’ best-selling book “PROJECT SEMICOLON: Your Story Isn’t Over.” The photo of the ink is on page 253.

The book was released this month and chronicles the global phenomenon of the semicolon tattoo, combining photos of individuals’ tattoos with their stories about struggling with suicide and mental illness.

William Dickerson is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache