I'm sure that many of you have heard of To Write Love On Her Arms before. I'm just a tad behind. No only because I'm in Germany, because I had seen a few things before I left Colorado. Mostly at Hot Topic. It seems like something I should have been aware of before, because it's definitely something that I can see myself being passionate about. Something I already am passionate about, but now it's something that has a Non-Profit behind it. I can get a rubber bracelet to wear and a shirt, so people can ask me questions and I can get into it.
For those of you that haven't heard of it, let me explain a little bit.
To Write Love On Her Arms, as I mentioned, is a Non-Profit. The mission is to provide hope for people dealing with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. They have all sorts of resources such as social media outlets, book suggestions, helplines, music festivals...there are stars and musical acts that support TWLOHA, which gives any Non-Profit "street cred" with the youth. They are not a helpline themselves. They are basically a resource to get help, but they have a LOT of information and they offer a lot of positive support. I would LOVE to work for a company like that one day. LOVE. Talk about a dream.
To Write Love On Her Arms
I am pretty outspoken about people needing to seek help if they feel their lives even tipping the scale of out-of-control. What I haven't been, lately, and not on this blog...is watching out for your kids. Watching out for your nieces/nephews. Not all behavior that appears dangerous is. But there are a lot of things to watch out for, some of which is listed on that website. I am going to cite it here. Then I will tell my story. Part of TWLOHA is big on each story being important.
We've gone over the fact that I spent some time in a mental health facility during the 15month deployment, that I have PTSD and I think I've mentioned Bi-Polar Disorder. I have General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and OCD. The reason I am mentioning these things is because I am not ashamed. I don't feel like it's something I need to hide. I don't think that there is any reason for anyone to judge me. The first, PTSD...well there's nothing to be done about that. I was probably pre-disposed because of the BPD to that, maybe, or maybe it's because ANYONE that went through what I did would have PTSD. Who knows. But that is what it is. And BPD is a chemical imbalance, just like type 1 diabetes. Sure, I'll take a pill for the rest of my life, just like someone else would need an insulin injection. It doesn't make me any less or a human being, it just means I need to be on top of it and aware of my situation. The Anxieties and OCD come from the PTSD situation. And no, I won't go into that. Not because I'm ashamed, because I'm not. But frankly, it's none of your business. If you know me well enough, you know. If you don't, you don't need to know. I've been married for 10 years and he only just found out. So that's how it goes. Onto the informational portion of the blog.
Quick Numbers121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. (World Health Organization)
18 million of these cases are happening in the United States. (The National Institute of Mental Health)
Between 20% and 50% of children and teens struggling with depression have a family history of this struggle and the offspring of depressed parents are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression. (U.S. Surgeon General's Survey, 1999)
Depression often co-occurs with anxiety disorders and substance abuse, with 30% of teens with depression also developing a substance abuse problem. (NIMH)
2/3 of those suffering from depression never seek treatment.
Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. (NIMH)
About DepressionAccording to the World Health Organization, depression is one of the leading causes of disability, with approximately 121 million people suffering with depression worldwide. The National Institute of Mental Health states that approximately 18 million people suffer from depression in America alone. Depression does not discriminate across age, race, gender, or class. Among teenagers it is estimated that 20 percent will suffer from depression at some point by the time they reach adulthood. There are also as many as 8.3 percent of teens suffering from depression for at least a year at a time, compared to 5.3 percent of the general population
About AddictionThe stigma associated with addiction is one of the greatest challenges to recovery. Each year only 10 percent of Americans who need alcohol and drug treatment get the help they need. Yet with treatment and support, people with addiction can lead productive lives.
The Addiction Project has benefited from contributions by the leading experts in the field of addiction. On their website you can find articles written by experts featured in the HBO Addiction series.
About Self-InjuryWhile not always the case, often untreated depression and other struggles lead to unhealthy ways in which we try and deal with the hurt and pain we are feeling. We try and find anything that we can do to take away the hurt, painful feelings, or negative thoughts we are experiencing. Often the things that we turn to seem to help at first, appearing to provide some of the relief that we need so badly. But, even though they may seem like they help, often they are unhealthy themselves, eventually becoming even greater struggles like addictions such as drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, or self-injury.
Self-injury remained very much a mystery until 1996 when Princess Diana revealed that she had struggled with it. It has become much more visible in society within the last ten years. Self-injury is also termed self-mutilation, self-harm, or self-abuse. It can be defined as the deliberate, repetitive, impulsive, non-lethal harming of one’s self, including but not limited to;
3) picking or interfering with wound healing
4) infecting oneself
5) punching/hitting self or objects
6) inserting objects in to skin
7 )bruising or breaking bones and
8) some forms of hair pulling
While these behaviors pose serious risks, they may be symptoms of a problem that can be treated.
Experts estimate that 4% of the population struggle with self-injury. It has the same occurrence between males and females, even though in popular culture it can appear to be more prevalent among girls.
• Inability to understand or express feelings
• Past Abuse
Self-injury, like many addictions, is often a coping mechanism to deal with some manner of internal pain, many who struggle with it also struggle with other issues such as eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse. While self-injury may be someone’s way to cope with or relieve painful or hard-to-express feelings and is generally NOT a suicide attempt, relief is always temporary, and usually only perpetuates a destructive cycle that continues the struggle. This cycle often means that those who do not get help can become more depressed and shameful, adding to the pain and need for relief, thus perpetuating the cycle.
While self-injury may not be about attempting suicide, the damage done while harming oneself always carries the risk of inflicting serious, and even lethal, regardless of whether suicide is intended or not. The continued cycle of addiction and self-harm, as in substance abuse and other eating disorders, can have a destructive effect on one’s health both physically and mentally, and the struggles can worsen over time without treatment.
(SAFE alternatives - www.selfinjury.com)
Self-injury, like alcohol and drug abuse and eating disorders, is addictive, and thus not something that is easy to simply stop. However, while all addictions are very difficult to overcome, help and treatment are out there and available, and recovery and freedom are possible.We believe this is true whether someone’s struggles may be self injury, depression, drugs and alcohol, body image issues, sexual addiction, or other areas of brokenness.
Research shows that those who seek professional help and therapy have a very good chance of recovery, and finding relief from symptoms such as depression and anxiety as well as others. (APA, 1998)
About SuicideThe World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds.
The WHO further reports that:
In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 (male and female). Suicide attempts are twenty times more frequent than completed suicides.
Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest amongst elderly males, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries.
Mental health disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90% of all cases of suicide.
Suicide results from many complex sociocultural factors and is more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis (e.g. loss of a loved one, unemployment, struggling with sexual orientation, difficulties with developing one's identity, disassociation from one's community or other social/belief group).
The WHO also states that:
In Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, the highest suicide rates are reported for both men and women.
The Eastern Mediterranean Region and Central Asia republics have the lowest suicide rates.
Nearly 30% of all suicides worldwide occur in India and China.
Suicides globally by age are as follows: 55% are aged between 15 to 44 years and 45% are aged 45 years and over.
Youth suicide is increasing at the greatest rate.
In the US, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention reports that:
Overall, suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death for all US Americans, and is the third leading cause of death for young people 15-24 years.
Although suicide is a serious problem among the young and adults, death rates continue to be highest among older adults ages 65 years and over.
Males are four times more likely to die from suicide than are females. However, females are more likely to attempt suicide than are males.
Suicide within minority groups
Research indicates that suicide rates appear to be increasing within native and indigenous populations such as the Native Americans in the United States and Alaska, and the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island Peoples in Australia and New Zealand.
Suicide rates within migrant communities such as African and East Asian Americans or the Black British community are also of growing concern. Statistics show a rise but in some countries it can be difficult to calculate. For example, in the UK the place of birth is recorded on the death certificate, not ethnicity, therefore reducing data on suicides amongst minority groups. - http://www.twloha.com/facts/
So there is the info. Now my story. I don't have any history of traditional addiction. My history of depression goes back as far as I can remember. My main story involves self-injury. I am a cutter. I say "I am a cutter" because this, for me, is like being an addict, or like being an alcoholic. It doesn't go away. I haven't cut in nearly a year. Or a little over a year. The lines blur. But it stands, it's been a while. But I am still a cutter. At 30 years old. This doesn't just happen with 13 year old "Emo" kids trying to fit in. I wasn't Emo the first time I cut. Actually, my friends and I...we used to beat up the Emo kids. True story. Whoops. I was 15 the first time I cut. There was an endorphin rush and then the gratification of the pain that replaced the emotion. I did get caught, not by my Mom but by a friend. He got mad at me, yelled at me, I promised not to do it again. Of course I did. I just got more careful about hiding it. But I never really was that careful. I got caught several times, sometimes by my Mom. But she just didn't know what to do. Back then, the mid 90's, there just wasn't a lot of information out there. We didn't have insurance, so that meant no therapy. There just weren't options. So she cried and begged, and I got better at hiding. I was still a very highly functional person. And I didn't really cut myself much as long as I was happy. But my happiness depended on others, primarily my boyfriend. I was pretty dependent on him. Once he and I split for good...self-injury got worse and worse. We had been together for 2 years. The next boy I was with, I stopped for a while. The pattern repeated. It got to the point where by the time I reached adulthood I had literally thousands of scars.
When I went to the facility I had 300 cuts, from wrist to shoulder. From knee to thigh, 100. The tops of my breasts, several. I was covered. When I went into the hospital, good ol' Evans, the Emergency Room Doctor said, "You are a cutter, you won't kill yourself." and tried to send me home. She said, "See your PCM Monday. They will decide if you need to be admitted somewhere for long term." I was shocked. Flabbergasted even. I said, "I wasn't planning on cutting myself to death. I was going to take all of these pills. But I will not be here Monday. That's fine." I lifted my purse and shook the bag...I had a lot of pills. And I stormed out of the ER. I was seeing red, literally. The friends that had taken me to the ER were trying to talk to the DR, trying to see what was even going on. An EMT got into his personal vehicle to chase me down. My plan, cause I was completely sane, was to go into the hills behind Evans, take all the pills, and let the Coyotes eat me. Circle of life or something. Again, completely sane, I know. So the EMT pulls up in this Jeep and says, "They called the MPs. You can't leave without signing the papers when you're in there for a case like this. If the MP's find you, they will not be nice. If I bring you back in things will go much better." I stood there for a minute and saw flashing lights, heard sirens...and got into the Jeep. We sat there for a minute till the MP trucks sped past us, then we turned around and went back to Evans. I told him that I would not see that Doctor again, told him what she said to me, and he said he understood and he wouldn't leave me. He was off duty, but he wouldn't leave me. So we went back in. He stood in the corner while the MP's frisked me and searched my bag, he wouldn't let the Dr anywhere near me. He told her I didn't want to see her again, and to send someone else in. He personally drew my blood (they have to check for recreational drug use, that sends you to a different place)...then he drove me in his Jeep and stayed with me until I was fully checked in, at 4am. I can tell you my life changed from the moment I got into his Jeep the first time.
People need a story like that. That's not all of my story, but this is long enough. I will continue later, I'm sure. But for now, this is long enough.
As I said, this is something I'm passionate about.