Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TWLOHA: Three Years Ago

Three years ago today marks the beginning of what would turn out to be a worldwide movement.
To Write Love On Her Arms [TWLOHA] is a non-profit organisation that seeks to help people deal with depression and self-injury addictions, as well as helping those who have lost loved ones to suicide.
Three years ago today Jon Foreman [which is the only the coolest name for a frontman, ever] from Switchfoot wore a TWLOHA shirt at a sold-out show. The project began as simply selling these shirts for the TWLOHA guys to raise funds to pay for a friend’s treatment. Turns out countless other people were dealing with the same pain and today it has international musicians like Switchfoot and Paramore on board, and even our very own Straatligkinders.
This is just a quick post to salute these guys for great work. Though I have never lost anyone to suicide, my best friend attempted to kill himself last year. This is not me being emo, I am stating a fact. This kind of thing is difficult to deal with- when someone makes us as happy as they do, and at times seems to be the only thing that makes life worth living, we very arrogantly assume that we do the same for them. And suddenly you find out that their life is so dark that even living is not enough to stay alive for. It is hard, but it is also great knowing that there are people out there who want to help, who want to pull people out of the black hole they are sinking into.
TWLOHA believes a better life is possible. They have responded to more than 80 000 messages from people worldwide, and they’re certainly not stopping there…
Check out their myspace or their website: http://www.twloha.com/.
Below is the telling of how it all started, from their website:
Pedro the Lion is loud in the speakers, and the city waits just outside our open windows. She sits and sings, legs crossed in the passenger seat, her pretty voice hiding in the volume. Music is a safe place and Pedro is her favorite. It hits me that she won't see this skyline for several weeks, and we will be without her. I lean forward, knowing this will be written, and I ask what she'd say if her story had an audience. She smiles. "Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars."
I would rather write her a song, because songs don't wait to resolve, and because songs mean so much to her. Stories wait for endings, but songs are brave things bold enough to sing when all they know is darkness. These words, like most words, will be written next to midnight, between hurricane and harbor, as both claim to save her.
Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn't slept in 36 hours and she won't for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she'll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn't ready now. It is too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her.
She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of "friends" offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write "FUCK UP" large across her left forearm.
The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.
She is full of contrast, more alive and closer to death than anyone I've known, like a Johnny Cash song or some theatre star. She owns attitude and humor beyond her 19 years, and when she tells me her story, she is humble and quiet and kind, shaped by the pain of a hundred lifetimes. I sit privileged but breaking as she shares. Her life has been so dark yet there is some soft hope in her words, and on consecutive evenings, I watch the prettiest girls in the room tell her that she's beautiful. I think it's God reminding her.
I've never walked this road, but I decide that if we're going to run a five-day rehab, it is going to be the coolest in the country. It is going to be rock and roll. We start with the basics; lots of fun, too much Starbucks and way too many cigarettes.

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