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.
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