I had the perfect weekend, not because I was lounging around doing nothing or watching TV, but because I was doing something I really loved and I was recharging my batteries in the process. I was selected to attend a community conference for To Write Love on Her Arms. (TWLOHA) It’s not something most people would consider to be a relaxing weekend. It involved two full days of hearing and participating in lectures about topics that are usually pushed to the wayside in our society: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self injury, addiction and suicide. We had the opportunity to have an open environment where we could voice our feelings, knowledge and even personal struggles with each of these issues. I wanted to participate in this conference because I felt a longing to be a part of something bigger. But to tell you truth I expected to be drained at the end of the weekend, because I know that the topics are heavy subjects and it can take a lot of you to really come face to face with them, especially if you have struggled with them in the past. But at the end of the two days I was more hopeful than I have ever been. It was an incredible experience to hear some of the stories of pain turning into hope and redemption, it was inspiring to see groups of college students who wanted nothing more than to change the lives of those around them, but overall it was energizing for me to know that I am not alone in my hopes and dreams for a better world. I was truly touched by many of the people I came in contact with, whether they know it or not. I admire the strength of all those who were willing to share their stories, viewpoints and ideas with a group of strangers. We all came in knowing hardly anyone and we left with the overwhelming feeling that we are actually part of something much bigger than ourselves, and that together we can make a difference in this world.
After the TWLOHA conference I am filled with this need to do something meaningful with my life. I want the life I was created for… I believe my life and my story is here to make a difference, I believe that they can and will impact people in this world. I want something more than what I have now. And I am willing to do all I can to see that happen.
In my own way I am opening the door for real conversations about these topics. At my desk at work I have my flyer for the Out of the Darkness Overnight displayed, and when people have asked me what it is, I share a little bit about the Foundation as well as my motivation to walk. I am not ashamed of my past and I have gotten an overwhelming response. The majority of my donations so far have been from my coworkers which is an amazing accomplishment for me. The conference allowed me to interact with others that are in the same boat as me, and gave me the extra push to come out of my shell and speak about what is on my heart without having to make the other person or myself feel uncomfortable.
I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Overnight Walk because it gives me the motivation to keep these conversations alive in the world around me and it continues to add fuel to my passion to be a part of something greater than myself. By participating in this walk we are giving a voice to those who have made the decision to end their lives. We are showing that this is something that can be prevented with the right help, funding and support. If we don’t take the stand and fight the stigma…how many more people will lose their lives to the battles in their minds. I for one will never stop fighting to break down the walls.