To Write Love - Hope for Depression, Addiction, Self-Harm, and Suicide

There is power in a story. You tell me your story. You are seen, heard, affirmed. I tell you my story. You know that I am for real. We are not alone.

To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) harnesses the power of story to offer hope to people struggling with depression, addiction, self-harm, and suicide.

The organization itself began with a story, a young woman who was suicidal but could not be admitted into a treatment program because she was also addicted and they couldn't bear the liability of her detox.

Yes, if you think you're done after you tell your suicidal friend or family member to get help, read that sentence again. Trying to get treatment can be enough of a nightmare to push us over the edge.

But that was just the beginning. A group of friends took it upon themselves to create a safe place and treatment program for this young woman for the five days it took to detox. The treatment program was admittedly unorthodox. She stayed with friends. In rotating teams they supported her, kept her safe. They also took her to concerts, Starbucks, and church. They prayed. They smoked cigarettes. They were her hospital.

Mostly, they listened.

On the last night, she handed over the razor blade that had been in her possession the whole time. Anticipating a difficult night before going back to the other "real" hospital, she thought she shouldn't have it on her.

Her life began again from there. And TWLOHA was born. As the website says, We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body, to move for things that matter. He is not invisible when we come alive.

TWLOHA came alive. Today it publishes the stories of people who have survived these things, who are recovering. It "exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery."

I once was working on a novel that included the concept of "Hospice for Suicide" as a suicide prevention strategy. But I'll have to mine that concept another time. For now, story.

Today a psychiatrist on my Twitter feed tweeted about a time when he was suicidal. If you told me then that I would recover, qualify & receive a standing ovation from 1000 people at a conference in Lisbon for sharing my story, I would never have believed you. How differently I hear his words than those of another psychiatrist who tells me there is always hope.

TWLOHA's website is filled with stories. You can submit yours. Let's not walk this road alone.
photos by author and Helen Keefe

Mental Illness Podcasts: Teaching and Tickling the Mind

I have to move a lot to manage my anxiety disorder. So why did it take so long for me to discover podcasts? I can do research and fold laundry at the same time! Here are four of my favorites:

My therapist recommended The Hilarious World of Depression, hosted by John Moe, a few years ago. And I recommended it to you as part of my Giving Thanks series last November. A depressive himself, John interviews comedians, musicians, and other celebrities, asking the question, Is depression funny? Not everybody thinks so, but that's my brand. The show was recently cancelled. Sigh. But with five seasons, that's a lot of bingeable laughter to come your way. And you can often find Youtubes of the featured comics to extend your pleasure. So have at it.

I should mention that John has just published his memoir by the same name, for when you can sit still and read.

I discovered Beyond Well, hosted by Sheila Hamilton after reading her memoir about her husband's undiagnosed bipolar and subsequent suicide. It is the cautionary tale and not so funny version of my book. Well, she wrote hers first, but I don't want to say I wrote the funny version of hers. It's not always funny.

Sheila is an award winning journalist in the Portland, Oregon area whose career turned to mental health journalism after her husband's death. Her guiding principle is: We are all on a spectrum of mental health and everyone will struggle at some point in their life. Beyond Well is here to listen, affirm, and share stories to help you feel less alone in the world. And that does describe the effect of listening in on the conversations that Hamilton has with professionals and people with lived experience - to feel less alone.

Both Moe and Hamilton are included in the resource section of Prozac Monologues: A Voice from the Edge. The following are discoveries made after my project manager refused to accept any more revisions.

Kimberly Berry's Being Unnormal is like having coffee with a friend, a powerful, dedicated, and smart friend, my favorite kind of friend, who does not mince words and is a mother tiger when it comes to her kids, and then talking about the stuff that matters to the both of you: being queer, being adhd, being bipolar, being black and traumatized... Oh, and she invited an expert to join the conversation. You laugh, you feel, you think. And you show up next week to find out who shows up next.

Berry is the mother of one daughter with bipolar, another with ADHD. She is the founder of Being Normal, a coaching and consulting group that assists people navigating the world of mental health and companies to create mental health focused policies.

And then there is Gabe Howard, who hosts the Not Crazy Podcast on, along with his former wife Lisa. Not Crazy advertises itself as the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts. This is a more reflective podcast than most, if I can use that word for heated conversations about controversial issues. Reflect: consider issues from a number of angles, rather than simply educate on a topic. They take a perspective, or Gabe takes one and Lisa challenges it. Then they wrestle it into the ground, often trading positions in mid argument. The anti-psychiatry movement, mental illness humor, the role of religion in treatment... Two people with mental illness (Gabe has bipolar,Lisa depression) arguing passionately about the things that interest people with mental illness. It works.

Personally, I love it. Their conversations remind me of late night debates in my college dorm. Okay, I went to Reed College. Maybe that's not what you were doing late nights in your dorm, but it's what me and my buddies were doing in ours. Gabe's bipolar makes me feel like I am with my tribe, loud, bright, passionate.

Gabe also hosts a more conventional mental health podcast, the Psych Central Podcast where he reins in the intensity "to break down complex topics in simple and understandable ways.

I haven't read his book yet, but I post it here, because I think he puts out a quality product. This guy has been at the mental health advocacy gig for fifteen years and has earned his street cred.

So what about you? What are you listening to? Who should I add to my list?

book covers from,, and
graphic from

COVID Mask Resistance and the Death Wish

Why won't people wear masks? If their answers don't make sense, maybe we need to listen more deeply.

Truth be told, I want to respond with name-calling: selfish, anti-science, "drank-the-kool-aid"... I am tired of dodging the maskless in the street and the grocery aisle. I resent being confined to my home to protect myself from my fellow citizens. I grieve the slow, and now not so slow, decimation of the population of the United States, my native land, hurdling toward third world status as our health care system collapses, our food chain folds, and our future generations head toward long-term disability.

Side comment/serious question: There is such variation world-wide in leadership and results. Some countries have got this pandemic under control. Who benefits, who is the one who gains by our abysmal mismanagement and consequent destruction of the United States of America?

But 1) name calling is not helpful, 2) I actually care about some of these people, and in general, 3) I commit to the Way of Love. So I am stuck with listening more deeply.

Is It Time to Call a Therapist?

There is a difference between feeling depressed and having depression, which makes it hard to figure out what we need right now when - doesn't everybody feel like crap?

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