I am Ella from Oulu.

I study the first year as  a barber-hairdresser. I’m dreaming of having my own hair salon and a detached house. I have five tattoos.

The first tattoo I took when I turned 18, the Remember who you are – text. This tattoo is really personal for me. It’s for my father who died when I was only 3 years old. I have always felt his presence somehow. I feel I know him even though I didn’t have time to get to know him. It may sound funny but I have always had this feeling. I got the idea for this tattoo when I was quite young, from the Disney movie The Lion King.

Another tattoo is the logo of singer Ellie Goulding’s, with added purple and pink rose in it. This singer is particularly important to me. I have had mental health issues since teenage years but music, especially Ellie Goulding’s music, has been giving me the strength to keep going.

IMG_2883On the back of my hand, I have an anchor with Refuse to sink – text which reminds me that I can survive from anything. On the left arm, I have a semicolon. It symbolizes the mental health illnesses and is related to Project Semicolon which grew popular. (More in the end of this story). My rose tattoo doesn’t have any particular meaning but I like the fact the tattoo has been done by my important friend.


When I was almost four years old my mother found a new man after my father’s death. So, I got myself a stepfather. It took about a year when my little sister was born and about two years as my little brother was born.

Everything was just fine for a while, but then all of a sudden, I noticed that I no longer liked my stepfather. And it was because of a numerous of reasons. The fact is that he liked the taste of alcohol so much that he was often drunk and in the child’s eyes it was frightening to see how a man could become so different. I felt like I lived with two different stepfathers. The alcohol was numbing him from time to time and he started to be just OK-type of guy when he was drunk but other times he was an all-time bad mood, nasty, clear-headed stepfather.

When my little siblings were born I got to hear, one way or another, a daily reminder that I didn’t belong to the family. I was isolated from the rest of my family to the upper floor, to the farthest room in that house so I would be totally alone. Or so I I felt, and I was damn lonely. Rest of the family spent time downstairs and I was alone upstairs. But on the other hand, I didn’t know any better. I could go to the bathroom only with permission and I avoided that till the end because if I saw my stepfather on the way, he would yell at me.

I think that my depression began already in those days.

The time went in those feelings for around seven years until my mother had enough strength and bravery to leave from that hell. I was also grown so much that I didn’t any longer swallow everything my stepfather did or said. I realized that it couldn’t go on like this, he couldn’t be treating me like garbage. I felt I have the same rights as others have. Sure, my stepfather got even madder when he saw I had my own will and he couldn’t dominate my life anymore.

Today, if I find or experience injustice or unfairness, I say it out loud!

The fact is that if you experience so many years discrimination, bullying, name-calling, isolation, fear, alcoholism, insecurity in childhood, it leaves a mark on you.

They diagnosed moderate depression in me in my twenties.

I was pretty weak from my teenage to many years after that. Suicide attempts, incising, ending up to the department of care…

I used to hate myself and I was quite sure that life wouldn’t change, that this tightness in my chest wouldn’t go away. I wished I wouldn’t wake up the next day.

Then in one time, my mother took me again to mental health emergency department, because I collapsed. There I talked to a nurse, a doctor and my mother about my situation and my mother collapsed. She cried out of fear of losing me forever. Then I decided that I should overcome from this, I will not let this disease win.

Now it’s been a year since I last visited in therapy and I am finishing up the medication. If I survived, then anyone can.

– Refuse to sink



Text: Ella

Photos: Pinja
Translation: Pinja

Project Semicolon (link)