Have you ever heard of the organization To Write Love On Her Arms? About three years ago, I saw some local teens wearing shirts with this logo, and being the naturally curious soul I am, I went and googled to find out what the logo was about. It would be an understatement to say that this cause is close to my heart.
The TWLOHA MISSION STATEMENT
"To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery."
The Story of TWLOHA
excerpts from their vision statement:
"..It hits me that she won't see this skyline for several weeks, and we will be without her. I lean forward, knowing this will be written, and I ask what she'd say if her story had an audience. She smiles. "Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars."
...Songs are brave things bold enough to sing when all they know is darkness. These words, like most words, will be written next to midnight, between hurricane and harbor, as both claim to save her. Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn't slept in 36 hours and she won't for another 24.
....She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she'll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn't ready now. It is too great a change
....She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has.. battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds.
...Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write "FUCK UP" large across her left forearm
...The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her.
...For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms."
I have battled depression for most of my life. It took until last year for me to really understand that, because mine manifests as emotional detachment, rage, and intrusive thoughts far more often than sadness and despair. I didn't understand that depression could manifest that way.
When I had post partum depression after my second child was born, I had a total disconnect of emotion to everyone but my baby.. and most mothers describe a lack of attachment TO the baby. I never understood that my emotions were a valid/recognized form of depression because they seemed different from the way other people were affected.
I have written quite a bit about my depression. I write to tell my story, to speak for those who have not yet found their voice, to give validation and hope, and to connect in meaningful ways with my community of readers. I have come to embrace authenticity and find empowerment in being vulnerable and transparent. The writing and work of author and speaker Brene Brown is a big part of finding that courage to risk sharing my heart here and other places online, as well as in my personal friendships.
I have struggled with Post Abortion Stress Syndrome (very much like PTSD and encompasses things like depression, dissociation, anxiety, guilt, suicidal thoughts). I am incredibly sensitive to criticism and condescension, and far more things hurt me every day than the average person. My skin is just very very thin. It doesn't help that I also have a very overdeveloped sense of empathy. If you've ever seen Star Trek: The Next Generation, I would identify with Deanna Troi, the empath. And yes, I linked it so you would go read about her extra sensory empathy, because even though she's a fictional character, there is some good insight into how I was made. There were episodes of Star Trek TNG where she had difficulty doing her job because she was so profoundly affected by the pain she was sensing from a ship full of people or an entity. I have been similarly emotionally incapacitated on behalf of others. And like her, it is something I welcome, that I would not turn down, that is part of who I am.
I have not lost a friend or relative to suicide. I am fortunate. I have worried often over the possibility of losing someone that I know is close to the edge, having talked friends out of self-injury and considering suicide more than a few times. I have stayed up late into the night, oftentimes all night, talking to friends who are in deep sorrow and bewilderment over the way they have been treated at home, by their boyfriend or girlfriend, by their spouse, by their friends. I have listened to countless stories being poured out both in stoic detachment and in soul-rending grief. Other people's sorrow resonates within my heart, I know whereof they speak. I have been in that kind of pain, even if I have not walked their particular road. I thrive on emotional connection, and because of that, I also know what it is to be without it. I know the desolation, the rejection, the loneliness. And I am compelled to help, to listen, to encourage, to validate, to re-ignite their courage and belief in themselves.
I'm just your average mostly functional suburbanite mom driving around in a minivan with her young children.. and I want to you realize that the people who battle addiction, who self injure, and who consider suicide are just like me. They are also just like you. Having a chemical imbalance, a family history, living with an addiction, chronic pain, chronic illness, or having a life of constant struggle is not a requirement to have reached the end of your ability to cope with daily life, to take one more step. Everyone is different, and unique in their own ability to withstand stress and pain. We cannot compare our journey to anyone else's.
Related to that, my friend Elan wrote this post recently and this part stood out:
from the To Write Love On Her Arms Vision Statement
from their website
"You were created to love and be loved. You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you're part of a bigger story. You need to know that your life matters.
We live in a difficult world, a broken world.....life is hard for most people most of the time. We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know that you're not alone in the places you feel stuck.
We all wake to the human condition. We wake to mystery and beauty but also to tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions – moments and seasons and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay. We know that pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real, and that help is real.
You need to know that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible, that God is still in the business of redemption. We're seeing it happen. We're seeing lives change as people get the help they need. People sitting across from a counselor for the first time. People stepping into treatment. In desperate moments, people calling a suicide hotline. We know that the first step to recovery is the hardest to take. We want to say here that it's worth it, that your life is worth fighting for, that it's possible to change.
Beyond treatment, we believe that community is essential, that people need other people, that we were never meant to do life alone."
I would encourage you to read more about TWLOHA and become involved in helping them spread the word. There are too many broken hearts, too many people without support, without community, and without hope.
There is hope.
You are not alone.
Linking up with @shellthings and others today and pouring my heart out at Things I Can't Say