It suddenly occurred to me the other day that pretty much every driver in NASCAR has a charity that he champions, sometimes even their own foundations, and then I thought, “What about me??” I know I’m not a NASCAR driver but I still matter as a human being and with this blog I can reach people. Maybe not hundreds of thousands but still, even if one person reads this it’s a good thing.
It was also in that moment that I realized that I’ve been supporting an organization publicly for years now. If you’ve ever seen or met me at a race I was probably wearing either my To Write Love on Her Arms t-shirt or my gray hoodie with the word LOVE written across the chest.
In purchasing those two items I was lending my support to the people who run To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA).
So what is TWLOHA? From their website:
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.
People, from the security person at the airport to a curious person at the dog park, ask me what my shirt means and I love telling them about TWLOHA and their mission. It’s something that’s very near and dear to my heart for a really simple reason. I’ve been there.
As a teenager I struggled with the usual set of teenage issues like boys, friends and wanting to be accepted. Forget about wanting to be popular, that was too much to hope for. It didn’t help that I was overweight, wore glasses and had people tell me things like “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.” All of those things might sound trivial but when you’re a kid that’s your whole world. I was quiet and shy and I lived a million awesome lives inside my head and in the short stories I’d write that had nothing to do with my actual life.
There was a point where things turned very, very dark, where suicide became a real option. Something that I rationalized was the best solution. I just wanted it to stop. I wanted to make the pain I was feeling go away and it just seemed like the only thing I could do.
Then through a series of events my mom realized what was happening and said the best possible thing she could say to me at that point in time. She told me what it would mean to her if I left. How she would be wrecked and wouldn’t be able to go on either if I were gone.
And with that simple statement of love my only option was totally off the table. I couldn’t do that to her and it meant so much to know that I was loved that much.
From that point on my life became about finding hope in anything and everything. It could be about getting through one hour, and then a day, then a week, and so on. I had to figure out a way to fight for the life I really wanted and knew that I deserved. I know it sounds cheesy and corny but it’s true. It’s easy to believe the bad things, but you have to look for the good no matter how hard it seems.
I know that this is a blog about racing and fun things. I don’t want to be a total downer but I really wanted to bring this up because I know how hard it is to talk about feelings and emotions, things that can be so nebulous and hard to pin down sometimes. There’s a stigma attached to talking about this and I think we all need to get over it. Depression isn’t easy to talk about but it’s real and millions of people are stuck inside of it. It’s so easy to keep these kinds of thoughts inside, but the most important thing, I think, is to get them out and talk to someone. Just being heard, without judgment, can make the difference.
Maybe you’ve been there, maybe you know someone who’s there now, the important thing to know is that there is help and it can be overcome. There are people out there that are rooting for you. And that is why I love what TWLOHA has been able to do. They’ve connected with young people all over the world and have presented so many with hope and the strength to continue on in this life.
And now TWLOHA has partnered with The Kristin Brooks Hope Center to launch a new endeavor called IMAlive that will be the first live online crisis network and it’ll also be the first to have 100% of its volunteers trained and certified. They hope to launch this year but they need help. To learn more and to donate and/or volunteer to go to imalive.org