The other day I was reminded of the film ‘to write love on her arms’ that I watched on my 17-hours flight from Dubai to Auckland in 2015. It was a time of intense experiences and emotions that had accompanied me for quite some time and grew stronger the further I tried to move away, to flee from it.
Back then, I could have never imagined that I would be able to live and feel through it. Its grip was tight and left me a prisoner in my own body, of my own thoughts. I was hurting with excruciating pain originating in thoughts, transforming and taking control over my whole body. At its worst, leaving me shaking on the ground; an open wound that could never heal. At times, it felt like dying every day – piece by piece, slowly – and no one could see it as I fell apart from the inside. A black hole at the center of my chest sucking me in with such brutality and mercilessness, I didn’t want a new morning. It didn’t take an army to break me; it only needed myself.
The grey and dizzy coat of indifference was a relief and the world got blurry and I could finally breathe again. Empty, exhausted, defeated.
And I got up, got dressed, had a coffee and went off to work. I smiled at my colleagues, replied to facebook-messages of friends, went grocery shopping, prepared food, went to bed and hoped that I, at least, had some time to catch my breath before the next round would hit hard. I could see no way out.
How do you tell people ‘I am not fine’? Especially if the follow-up question is: ‘What is wrong?’ And you have no easy answer. Actually, you have no answer at all, except for: ‘I am hurting, I am in pain.’ But the questions of why and what and how don’t come to an end. Yet, you cannot explain what you don’t understand yourself.
How do we make ourselves known and seen when the people we might need the most cannot understand that despite it all – the photos on facebook, the colourful stamps in our passports, the supposingly inspiring CV, a loving family and caring friends – that despite it all, we scream and shout and hurt and fight every day to survive.
We don’t know how people feel. We assume. We create our own stories based on one look at them or their social media accounts. And we forget about the actual person in front of us.
On public transport sitting across from me, I could see her longing for love on her arms. White stripes on her left inner arm, scars remembering days and weeks of hurt and despair; and the longing to feel. We smile on family portraits, next to our partner, in front of the most beautiful beach or up high on a mountain. We are lucky. Yes, we are. And still – how do we love? How do we feel love? Especially, when on the inside the screams of worthlessness rage a war.
We don’t know how people feel; unless we ask them. And if we do, are we prepared to truly listen? Do we really want to know? Do we really dare to tap into our own wounds in order to embrace the person in front of us?
I am lucky. I could have never imagined that I could go through it, accept it, acknowledge it and rise to be the person, the woman I am today, standing here today in my full presence. With all my memories and scars that might be invisible, but are reminding me every day of who I am. I am lucky. I know I am loved, deeply and widely and unconditionally. It has always been like this, but it took some time for me to see it. I am lucky. I was shown by songs, books, seemingly random encounters and people who I am and how I can shine. I am lucky. I continue to be inspired by incredible human beings in my life. I am lucky. You were there, all along the way. “I am here” – a promise I could hold on to and that hasn’t failed me. I am lucky. Today, I am here too.
The film ‘To write love on her arms’ tells the story of Renee Yohe who struggled with depression and drugs and self-injury. Her experiences led to the foundation of the non-profit organization How to Write Love on Her Arms.
Their mission statement (taken from their website) reads as follows:
“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.”
Another incredible non-profit is Live More Awesome. It is New Zealand-based mental health charity started by two men (!!), Jimi and Dan, and they have inspired me for many years! Whether the sharing of quotes and personal stories or the yearly August Photo Challenge.
They are also on Facebook:
There are many hotlines out there that you can call for free. Any time. It might not change your situation or transform your life, but it helps you to keep breathing. One breath at the time, one step at a time.
I know it might not relieve your pain or anxiety, but I want you to know: You are not alone. You have never been and will never be. You are not alone. You are here, just like myself.