To Write Love On Her Arms

Helps Those Struggling With Depression, Self-Injury & Suicide 

I wanted to kill myself. Writing those words in such a public forum feels painful, and yet to deny the truth would be to deny who I am today, and the journey I’ve taken to get here.

 

When my parents moved us from the inner city to small town Georgia back when I was 15, I felt like I’d lost everything. I could no longer see the best friends I’d had since I was 6 years old. I could no longer ride my bike to the movie theatre, or the arcade, or to my friends’ houses… because I had no friends. I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do, nobody to do it with, and no way of getting out.

 

To say I did not fit in at my new school would be an understatement. We’d registered late, and as a result I wound up stuck in a weight training with the Rockdale County High School football team. Due to skipping a grade and having a late June birthday, I was 2 years younger than most of my classmates. I was smaller, weaker and (at least in their eyes) I dressed funny, copying the styles of the New Wave bands I loved circa 1983. I was smart, sensitive and scared, like a lamb thrown to the lions, and they devoured me.

 

 

For the first 6 months, I got beat up pretty much every single day. Random fists would punch me in the face as I walked down the crowded hallway. A jerk named Danny and his two oafish henchman would harass me constantly, push weights down onto my chest or throat when the coach stepped out for a smoke, or accost me in the halls and punch me in the stomach, with two of them holding me still so I couldn’t get away. I spoke to the principal about it, but RCHS was a football school and ultimately it only made things worse.

 

Things weren’t much better at home: When I told my father about it, he said I needed to learn to stand up for myself, as if one 5’8″ kid could actually stand up to 3 or more massive football players. He became even harder on me than usual (which was saying something), almost as if to punish me for my weakness. I felt worthless and utterly alone, and one day actually found myself pulling his pistol out of the closet and starting to load it as I sobbed. Fortunately, a friend called at that exact moment.

 

As I got older, I got bigger and stronger, until I was intimidating enough that nobody would mess with me. But  on the inside I was just as scared and scarred as ever from being told I wasn’t good enough and couldn’t do anything right. Years of verbal and physical abuse eventually take their toll, and you learn to internalize your feelings, so that the voice of hyper-criticism and loathing becomes your own. I became depressed and suicidal, and in my late teens I began cutting myself. Though I’ve long since conquered my personal demons, I bear the physical scars to this day.

 

 

Now, my daughter is less than 3 years away from being a teenager, and already I see familiar issues popping up among her circle of friends. A few months ago, one of her friends was bullied for being overweight, then my daughter was picked on for standing up for her. As the girls develop physically, they’re becoming more judgmental and clique-ish, and my hackles of paternal protection are already starting to go up. Fortunately we were able to address the issue with school administration quickly to squash the discord, but millions of kids in this country do not have parents or administrators on their side.

 

I recently learned about a great non-profit organization called To Write Love On Her Arms, which works to help people struggling with depression, self-injury, addiction and thoughts of suicide while also investing directly into treatment and recovery. The organization was founded in Florida by Jamie Tworkowski in March 2006, after he and some buddies helped rally around a friend named Renee Yohe, who struggled with depression and addiction and had attempted suicide. Unable to get Yohe checked into a treatment facility right away, Tworkowski and friends decided to “become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life.”

 

 

The organization began selling T-shirts to help pay for Yohe’s treatment, their MySpace page began to blow up, popular bands like  Anberlin and Switchfoot started showing their support, and TWLOHA got hundreds of thousands of messages from young people struggling with the same issues. In 2009, the organization partnered with the Kristin Brooks Hope Center to create IMAlivethe first ever online crisis counseling center over instant messenger, which is staffed by people 100% trained and certified in crisis intervention.

 

I can only imagine how great it would’ve been for my teenage self to have an outlet like TWLOHA available, and I’m so glad to know that my daughter’s generation has a huge community of people who truly understand how difficult growing up to be. Please consider donating to TWLOHA, buying t-shirts from their online store, or joining their promotional street team through their website so that kids like Jonah Mowry will never have to feel alone again.  –Bret Love

 

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31 Responses to TRAVEL BLOGGERS GIVE BACK- To Write Love On Her Arms Helps Those Struggling With Depression, Self-Injury & Suicide

  • Jim says:

    Brave post Bret, and a good one to get the message out abut where kids can get support.
    Hopefully, if we can get past that self-loathing and self- criticism, we grow stronger because we have a deep understanding of the effects of bullying.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Jim! It took me a long time to get past the self-loathing, but I’m glad I endured it because I think it made me more empathetic to other people (and animals) who are mistreated or bullied. In some ways, I think my inability to protect my teenage self has driven an adulthood passion for protecting the “weak,” and for helping them to become stronger.

  • Jim & Rachel - The|Globe|Less|Traveled says:

    Bret – I really appreciate your personal approach in this post, and your willingness to share such powerful personal experiences with us, all for a greater good. TWLOHA is a new project to me, and I’m happy to learn of it. We’ll be exploring their site and their project to evaluate how we can best support.

    - Jim & Rachel

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, guys! I tend not to focus on myself in our travel stories, because I think the people and places we travel are FAR more interesting and I don’t want to focus too much on self-reflective navel gazing. But the issues TWLOHA attempts to tackle are rampant, and since I do have some personal experience with it I hoped my story might help others realize how crucial this sort of outreach is. So many teens really just want someone to LISTEN, and I love that TWLOHA provides them with that outlet, creating a community that ensures all troubled teens that they are not alone.

  • Nicole says:

    Thanks for bringing to light this great project and for sharing your story.

    TWLOHA was a new project around the same time when I had depression during high school, and though I never used it their inspirational words on their site and MySpace page were always welcome to my eyes. The work they are doing it amazing. I hadn’t hear about IMAlive so thanks for sharing! :)

    Your daughter is lucky to have such a wonderful protective parent. :)

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and thanks for the compliments on my parenting. I do my best to learn from the mistakes of my ancestors, and try to use the “What would I have wanted my parents to do in this case?” question as a barometer before taking any action. So far, it seems to be working well (knock wood). I’m very glad that TWLOHA was there when you needed words of inspiration, and that you now seem to be in a much better place. The teen years are tough!

  • Very personal and courageous post to make. Any outlet can help stave off the pain and give you a reason to keep on persisting.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Scott. I think it all comes down to believing you have something valuable to offer the world, and feeling that you have a place in it. Sometimes, that comes from external validation, but more often than not it has to start from within.

  • Andrea says:

    This is a really brave post – glad you’ve healed now and can use your wisdom to help others – thanks for letting me know about this important cause.

  • Bret Love says:

    Thanks, Andrea! It took many years to heal fully, but now that I have it feels amazing to pay it forward to my daughter and other friends who’ve gone through similar struggles. It’s amazing how widespread those feelings are, especially considering how alone you feel when you’re going through them.

  • this is such a powerful and moving post Bret. Growing up is indeed hard. I’ve been through a lot when I was a teen myself, I feel like no one’s actually there. I’m sure organizations such as this could help a lot of teens out there. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for a wonderful post Bret! It’s brave to talk so openly about internal struggles and mental health issues. Being a teen is a difficult time for most, and now in our 30′s most of my friends agree that for many, they spend their 20′s and sometimes 30′s learning to heal from their teen years. We decided to homeschool because we as parents don’t believe that being exposed to physical and mental taunting is a necessary form of character building for anyone. While some family and friends told us our children will never learn to be “tough” and they’ll miss out on important skills learned when with bully’s I truly believe that they will grow to be stronger and more efficient citizens by being treated with kindness and respect. It’s nice to know there are organisations out there for teens who are facing the horrible “teen struggle”!

  • Bret Love says:

    Wow, so envious of you being able to homeschool! I do think a lot of people spending their 20s-30s trying to figure out how to deal with all their childhood crap. For me, it took having a child of my own to truly get past it all.

  • Aaron says:

    What a great cause Bret and such insightful and fothright writing. Thank you for your honesty in sharing your own story and now the journey as a parent. Mine are 7 and 5 and there is not much that means more than seeing your kids do well.

  • Bret Love says:

    Agreed, Aaron! I think we all want our kids to have a better life than we did, we just don’t all have equal access to the tools we need to help them get there. Hopefully my being honest about where I come from can help my daughter avoid some of the mistakes I made.

  • Carolyne says:

    Saved, I enjoy your blog! :)

  • Armand says:

    Exactly where is the facebook like link ?

  • Patricia Blocker says:

    Love what you are doing with the blog, man!

  • Bret Love says:

    If you look just above the comments section you’ll see the LIKE box: just click it! You can also join us on Facebook by clicking LIKE at http://www.Facebook.com/GreenGlobalTravel!

  • Thank you for being so brave in sharing your story Bret. It is wonderful to see you doing what you can to help those who have suffered in similar ways to yourself. I also battled with the self loathing for many many years.

    Look how far you have come and you can show others who are suffering that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your daughter is very lucky to have you

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Caz! It’s great to meet other people who’ve been through similarly difficult times and made it through the other side to become healthier, happier and more positive. Hopefully we can make things better for our children’s generation.

  • Jason Takagi says:

    Awesome writing style!

  • Shannon Frye says:

    I so admire your courage, Bret. I’d heard of this organization once before and you’ve inspired me to take a second look. Sounds like they’re doing great work.

  • Bret Love says:

    Thanks for the compliment, Shannon! I’d heard of the organization, primarily through some of the bands that support them, but honestly didn’t know much about them myself until recently. But, given my past, and having a daughter who will be a teen in less than 3 years (YIKES!), I’m glad to know they exist. Thanks for reading!

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Co-Founded by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, Green Global Travel is an ecotourism, nature / wildlife conservation & cultural preservation magazine. More about us.

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