I’ve been itching to write this blog post because I am so excited that my absolute favorite writer, Tyler Knott Gregson, will finally be releasing his first book titled, “Chasers of the Light,” come September. I originally discovered Tyler last year on Pinterest and quickly fell in love with every ounce of his work. I look forward to his daily haiku’s on love, and his typewriter series is flawless (in my opinion, of course!) If I had to pick one of my favorite parts of life and the world, it would be words and someone’s unique ability to express themselves through the use of any combination of the 26 letters of the alphabet. Tyler Knott’s ability to do use his word’s and his ability of expression has blown me away since day one. Last year for my birthday my mom bought me two of his printed poems which she had autographed for me, and this year I am super excited to receive his book, which of course my mom has already pre-ordered for me! While I am pumped for Tyler’s book, I got even more excited when I found out last week that my favorite non-profit organization, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), has teamed up with Tyler who will be donating $1 from every copy of his book that is pre-sold. Check out his interview with TWLOHA here: http://twloha.com/Tyler-Knott-Gregson-Chasers
For those of you who have never heard of TWLOHA or don’t know much about them, they are a non-profit organization that started with a story and has become a viral movement dedicated to supporting individuals dealing with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. Not only does this organization provide support to these struggling individuals, they work to provide hope and inspiration to them as well. I originally discovered TWLOHA about 8 years ago when I saw several people wearing shirts at school, which prompted me to look into what they were for. Since that day I have strongly supported their message and this movement, as I have extremely close emotional ties with both suicide and depression. While I am not ready to openly tell a detailed version of my story, there are many other reasons behind why I so closely relate with the movement of To Write Love On Her Arms.
“Approximately 11% of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18.” [NAMI]
Approximately 30,000 lives in America are claimed each year by suicide, making it responsible for more than 1% of deaths in the United States. [NAMI]
“In 2010 there were 38,364 suicides in the United States – an average of 105 per day.” [CDC]
20% of all annual suicides are of those among the ages of 15-24 [CDC]
In 2010 suicide was the tenth leading cause of death for all ages [CDC]
Between 14-24% of today’s young adults have turned to self-injury at least one time in their lives, and one quarter of them have done it more than once. [SIOS]
487,700 people in 2011 were treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries [CDC]
Maybe these numbers don’t mean much to you, but the fact that an average of 105 people a day think this world is such a bad place that they would rather not be a part of it or that their life is so bad or they feel so lonely that they would rather just not be alive does not sit well with me. While I understand that suicide effects all age groups, the other fact that 20% of all annual suicides are within the age group of 15-24 makes me sad but unfortunately doesn’t surprise me…which makes me even more sad. I am nearly 22 years old, which means that I fit into this age group that makes up this 20% of suicides. And do you want to know why it doesn’t surprise me? I have been the victim of bullying and I have watched other people be bullied. I have had someone verbally attack me both in person and from behind a computer screen. I have had people make fun of me. I have gone through hard times that I thought no one else would ever understand. I have suffered from anxiety my entire life. I have had rumors and lies spread about me. I have been talked about behind my back. I have felt alone. I have felt sad. I have been depressed. I have laid in my bed and cried myself to sleep, and those were the days that I thought, “What if I just ended it all?”
I remember back in junior high I started getting sick every time I would eat or drink something which is obvious cause for concern. I went to doctor after doctor, I had test after test done, and every time it would come up that nothing was “medically” wrong. I was a medical mystery until they determined I was to be “diagnosed” as they would say with anxiety and depression. Getting sick was the way my body had decided was an appropriate way to handle stress, especially the stress I decided to keep bottled inside and not tell anyone about which also led to panic and anxiety attacks that would make me feel like I was going to die. When I was told this, I cried. I was frustrated because I was in junior high and what was I supposed to tell the kids at school when I went back and they asked why I had been gone for months? They would make fun of me for being depressed or they would see me as too weak to handle the every day stresses that came with being a teenager and not capable of dealing with my problems on my own…so I lied and told them they never found out what was wrong. My mom made me see a therapist to help me figure out how to deal with it, but I always refused to go because “it wasn’t going to help.” I didn’t want to be labeled as depressed, I just wanted to be labeled as normal. Over the years I have become more accepting of my anxiety which has helped me learn to deal with it appropriately, and my depression has evened itself out on it’s own. It was a process of learning to accept it and deal with it rather than hide it and run from it. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, but I know that not everyone gets lucky like I do.
Mental health is not a game, and unfortunately a lot of people within my age group see it as one. And a lot of adults see it as phase or a stage we will grow out of, but what needs to be understood is that while some of it has to do with our age and some of it may very well be a stage, not all of it can be tossed into those categories. Over and over again I have heard or been told, “It gets easier as you grow up,” and for some it does, but for others…it doesn’t. Mental health problems can sometimes be hard to recognize and no one ever really wants to admit that they are depressed. Even though it is more commonly spoken about today, I feel it still comes across as a taboo subject and a lot of people still don’t understand it. And with most things that people don’t understand, they make fun of it or they call it weird or they just ignore it all together. Because I have personally struggled with this battle I always told myself that I would never be someone that added to the problem and I would always do my best to take a stand against it, and while I have stood by this to the best of my ability I will not be hypocritical and say that I have never been at fault for making fun of someone or saying things I probably shouldn’t have. Being young is hard, and growing up is harder. You get thrown a lot of life lessons all at one time and some people get them worse than others all while trying to tread the waters of life and learn about who you are and who you ultimately want to be. We are all human and we are all fighting for the same thing, so why make the fight harder?
That girl you just called a whore or a slut? She might be crying herself to sleep every night. The person you just made fun of? Maybe you just pushed them over the edge. That boy you just called gay? Maybe he went home and cut himself. That person sitting at lunch crying? Maybe they just need a friend or someone to talk to. The rumor you’re helping spread? Maybe it’s not even true but you ruined that person’s reputation anyways. The person you label as just wanting attention? Maybe they do; maybe they want someone to reach out and notice that they aren’t okay. Each and every person has a story. They have struggles you don’t know about and scars in hidden places. I guarantee every single one of us has dealt with suicide and depression in one way or another, whether it be through a friend or family member or we have personally struggled with it ourselves. But do you understand how easy it is to help the problem rather than add to it? Open your eyes and pay attention. Lend an ear or a helping hand even if it’s to a stranger. Be the place where the rumor stops rather than continues. Many people don’t pay attention because they think they’ll never be able to make a difference, but a smile and a helping hand to one person could open a door of recovery and allow them to some day be that helping hand to another person. I know all of that sounds cliche or like something you’ve heard a hundred times, but it’s all so true and I know that because I’ve lived it on both ends. I’ve been the person needing help and I’ve been the person helping. Get involved, shed the light, and take a stand to making this world a better place rather than a worse one. And if you’re the person needing help…please find it. Reach out and please know that you are not alone and I promise that this world is a better place with you in it. Every single day wake up and look down at your heart and realize that it is still beating because you still have a purpose to serve in this world, and that purpose might be saving someone from ending their life. Maybe one person can’t make a difference, but together we can and it’s easier than you think.
- Do something small like purchasing Tyler’s book before September 2 which will allow for the $1 donation to aiding TWLOHA in their efforts or purchase a TWLOHA t-shirt.
- Don’t want the book? Donate straight to TWLOHA or join their street team and donate your time.
- Check into your school or university and see if there is a club or the opportunity to start one on your campus to help raise awareness for mental health. [TWLOHA has UChapters or can help you start one at your university]
- TWLOHA also has an intern program if you have the resources and the want to really get involved
- TWLOHA also has many campaigns for both high school and college students to get involved in such as their Storytellers campaign or their Fears vs. Dreams campaign.
- But most importantly, take a stand and make a promise to be a light for someone rather than part of the darkness they find themselves falling into. Together we can be a voice, we can be chasers of light…and chasers of hope.
Below are links to all the things I talked about so you have access to getting involved or just more information as to what TWLOHA arms is about and what they do. I will also included a link to Tyler’s blog and book page so you can purchase the book if interested!