Friday, February 12, 2010

to write love on her arms

Today, Friday the 12th, is unofficially a "Write Love on Her Arms" Day... a day to write words of love and hope on your arms to raise awareness of and even maybe to be an encouragement and a source of direction for anyone suffering from depression or addictions and needing someplace or someone to turn to.

Write it on, show it off, and tell your story if you have one.

Part of my story is the fact that I spent a lot of my early teenage years engulfed in "functioning" depression.
The depression was very real, although I kept it all to myself because I was able to continue to function mostly normally (i.e. school, work, etc) rather than the stereo-typical depression where I would be completely unable to get myself out of bed or do anything at all. They call it "High Functioning Depressives" and it seems we are wired so that symptoms interact with our personalities in a way that allows them to still get on with life, although internally we often come to a halt. High-functioning depression is actually extra scary because unlike low-functioning depression, there are no outside symptoms as a red flag for others. On the outside you appear fine, great even. But it's completely a facade because things are so falling apart on the inside -the same feelings of despair and hopelessness and stupidity and aloneness- and you're so scared because you don't know how long you can keep it together... wondering when it'll finally all come apart and all come out. Leaving you even emptier and more isolated.

For a few years as a teen I cut myself. I hid it well and only a very few people knew, but I did it often. To this day, twenty years later, my arms have faint scars from where I cut, burned or rubbed my skin raw.
I hated myself... but so wanted to love myself.
I felt so alone... so achingly lonely, for a long time.

I never reached out and now -in my older wisdom and experience- I so wish I would have. I could have used help. I could have used a friend. I could have used love.
I missed out on a lot of life. On a lot of me.

Fortunately this was something I eventually climbed out of... through lots of prayer and the support of a couple of good friends and mentors. I "outgrew" some of the teenage angst and stopped with the self-injury and tried to keep focused on other things.

I do believe it's all still there... whatever imbalance is in my brain or personality that makes me prone to depression... it's still very much there on the edge of my life waiting for my weakness. It tries to peek in again every once in awhile.  It swept in again when I was pregnant with my second child and I had severe prenatal depression for almost all of my middle trimester. The time when you're supposed to be feeling good, right?!
Anyway, I did talk to a counselor that time and it helped tremendously.

I think my mental health is something I'll have to keep close tabs on my whole life.

Meanwhile, this has become one of my favorite and one of the foremost on my heart charities the past couple of years... a movement that deserves attention and awareness. The need is great.

(the rest of this post is pretty much paraphrasing -if not directly quoting- from their website)

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 hope is that we all -every single one of us- actually believe these things...

That 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. The truth is, life is hard for most people most of the time. Everyone can relate to pain, 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.

Life if full of mystery and beauty but also tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions and moments and seasons and cycles that try to rob us the joy our life is supposed to be. We know that pain is very real. But we need to suggest that hope is real... and that help is real.

It needs to be known that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible, that God is still in the business of redemption and renewal. We can see it happen. We can see 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.The movement behind TWLOHA has a vision.
The vision is that community and hope and help would replace suffering and secrets and silence.
The vision is people putting down guns and blades and bottles.
The vision is that we can reduce the suicide rate in America and around the world. That we can heal those who harm themselves.
The vision is that we would learn what it means to love our friends and that we would love ourselves enough to get the help we need.
The vision is better endings.
The vision is the restoration of broken families and broken relationships.
The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love.
The vision is graduation, a wedding, a child, a sunrise.
The vision is people becoming incredible parents, people breaking cycles, making change.

The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.

The vision is the possibility of the realization that we're more loved than we'll ever know.

The vision is hope, and hope is real.

You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.

If you need help, tell someone. If you don't have resources, you can find them here.
If you want to help you can donate, buy a t-shirt, attend an event, organize a walk or just write love on your arms.
Most important of all, love a friend... and let them know it.

You can read all about the TWLOHA movement here.

I have scars on my arms
from hurts of the past...
today those scars are covered with love.

Let's cover others with that as well.
(and yes, I got the kids in on it as well.)


Ryan said...


denise said...

Thanks for sharing! You are a strong person. The hardest part is to ask for help! But we all need help at some point or another in our life.

Mom said...

I'll love you forever...

Nicole said...

I never knew this about you. :( I knew about the depression... not the cutting. I am so glad you linked to these sites. What an awesome thing to support... I'm buying a shirt today. (PS... what size did you get??)

I have struggled on and off since my teenage years with depression... nothing actually diagnosed but I've had very very devastating thoughts at times throught my life. As a teen I asked to be put into counseling because I didn't know what was wrong with me... I didn't know why I hated myself... why I wanted to die... why I couldn't be "happy". But, like you said, I felt like I could mask it easily on the outside... it was the struggle on the inside I was dealing with that was so scary. I still go into bouts now and then... nothing as terrible as when I was a teen (although when I was pregnant with Hudson I had some very awful thoughts, very depressed hopeless way of thinking about life). Sometimes its just hard to ask for help.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story! That took a lot of courage.

I love TWLOHA...such an amazing organization. My SIL told me about it a few years ago. I need to go order a tee!

Ellemes said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Heather S. said...

Thanks for being vulnerable to us.

K.M.L said...

Love you Heather...thanks for sharing your story to others. Miss ya!

Peggy said...

Thanks so much for sharing that story... brought tears to my eyes! Funny how in high school we get so into our own worlds we don't know our friends as well as we think... Miss you! I LOVE that you had that conversation with your kids! You are an amazing mom!

Christy said...

This is an awesome post! Love you and so appreciative for your open and honest words. You are an amazing woman!

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