“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road-trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs but people more than anything else. You will need other people, and you will need to be the other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe in better things” – Jamie Tworkowski
Jamie Tworkowski is not a name that many people know. I think it is a name that more people should know. He is the founder of a non-profit organisation, or charity if you will, based out of Melbourne, Florida, that focuses on giving hope and getting help for those struggling with issues such as depression and self-harm.
The charity was founded in 2006, the name is a direct reference to the first person the organisation ever helped. A young addict who self-harmed – she wrote the word ‘fuck up’ on her arm with a razor blade. Jamie wrote an article hoping to help her get cleaned up and write ‘LOVE’ on her arms instead.
I first came across TWLOHA in, probably, 2010 around the first time I had depression. Back then, I thought it was a sign of weakness, I was in denial for a long time. I finally was diagnosed, and then – after refusing any help from the doctors – I started to look on the interweb for things that could support me and help me get better. TWLOHA came into my life then, and I have followed their journey ever since. September 2011 I was officially not depressed anymore but I still followed them because I believed in their work and what they were doing and trying to achieve. January 2014 came and I hit a downward spiral, and I was diagnosed with depression again. 2 years later I’m still on medication for it, this time around I am not ashamed to admit it, because TWLOHA have shown me that I am not alone; that there are millions of people the world over that struggle with it too. I am one of the lucky ones who got help in time, who got help before it got too bad.
Of course, being non-profit means they have to fundraise which they do in various ways such as by selling merch on their website; some of which you may have seen your favourite singer or celeb wearing because a lot of public names have recognised the incredible work they do and shown support for the organisation. They gain exposure through public talks, events, social media, they go on the road every year for the Vans Warped Tour in the states, and they really are helping people. There are countless people online who talk about how TWLOHA has helped them through personal struggles.
Last year Jamie announced he would be releasing a book called “If You Feel Too Much; Thoughts on things found and lost and hoped for”; it would be a collection of his writings and blogs across the years. It was released in May but I never got around to buying it. I bought it just after Christmas. I have been slowly getting through it on my journeys to and from work and each day, Jamie gives me food for thought, makes me feel less alone and gives me hope. I would say I wished I bought it sooner, but I’m just glad I’ve got it now. I’m just over half way through now and I wanted to share some of the thoughts and things that have struck a chord with me the most in his writings, so here they are…
“…for love is a choice more than it is magic”
“I am less and less impressed by “impressive” things or people who are presented as having things figured out. I am impressed by people who are honest and kind. I am inspired by moments of vulnerability, moments of confession and compassion, moments where someone makes it clear that they are a person in need of other people and someone else makes it clear that the first person is not alone”
“…love is a choice as much as it is magic. Magic comes in moments, but choices stretch out over time. We make them each morning”
“After my first winter in NY, I learned that spring makes sense only because of winter. You notice the warm sun on your face because it hasn’t been there”
“I’ve become embarrassed by most things “Christian”, but I still believe in a God who loves people”
“Be loved. Be known. Love people and know people. Be so brave as to raise a hand for help when you need it. Make friends and make sure they know they matter. Be loyal to them and fight for them. Remind them what’s true and invite them to do the same when you forget. If you do some losing or you walk with someone else in their defeat, live with dignity and grace. It is a middle finger to the darkness.
In the event that we live to be old, I doubt our last days will find us aching for success or achievements. I doubt we’ll ask for bigger names or internet followers or virtual friends. If influence comes, then let it come, but it was never the point of the story. We will look back and smile on the moments that were real, the people who knew us and the people we knew, the relationships and conversations, the days we walked together, the story that we told. We will consider the moments when we were embraced by people who loved us even at our worst. And they simply loved us not for any sort of fame but simply because our stories had joined somehow and that miracle of friendship had taken place.”
“…There is a car in their driveway. There is a TWLOHA sticker on the back of that car.
We don’t know whose car it is or how the sticker got there.
But we know what that sticker means.
It means that millions of people struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. It means that the majority of those people never get the help they need and deserve. It means that what we do with our pain – how we respond to it – matters. It’s one of the biggest questions we get to answer in this life.
We believe it’s possible to change. We hear from people taking brave steps towards hope and help and healing. We hear from people sitting across from a counselor for the first time, people stepping into treatment and people picking up the phone to call a crisis hotline. We hear from people pursuing sobriety and stability. We believe that great help exists and we know the first step is often the hardest one to take.
If you’re struggling, please talk to someone. Its okay to ask for help. People need other people. If someone you care about is hurting, talk to them. We know it’s not always easy, but it could be the thing that changes everything.”
“I feel sad more than I feel happy.
I feel stuck more than I feel free.
I feel defeated more than I feel accomplished.
I feel I should have found love by now…
…so do not despair for there is more than what we feel.
There are things missing in every single room, but there is even more not missing.
So don’t be blinded by ghosts. Don’t let them glow brighter than your friends. Don’t let them glow brighter than your family. Be present. Fight to be present. Don’t live only in your head. It’s lonely and it’s dangerous.
Put your phone down for a few hours every day.
Talk to people. Look someone in the eyes and be honest and invite them to do the same.
Read a good book and watch a great film and put a song on repeat and remember who you are. Keep dreaming all your dreams. and perhaps as well some new ones.
Go to counseling if you need to go to counseling.
Take your own advice.
Take care of yourself.
Take care of the people you love.
Tell them that you love them.
There is much to be thankful for.”
I am thankful for Jamie. For TWLOHA. For all my family and friends that have never given up on me and that see me as I really am but love me and support me anyway. Someone who is not perfect, who struggles and stumbles through life day-to-day, who – on most days – doesn’t see the girl they think she is, who is learning to be happy in her own skin, who lives in her head more than she should, who overthinks, takes things to heart but can appear emotionally disconnected (although sometimes they do peak out from behind the wall that’s there). The girl who has no clue what she’s doing or where she’s going in life, but who is trying to have some fun along the way.
Lastly, if you’re struggling know that hope is real and help is real. You’re stronger than your demons; they are a part of you but they don’t define you. You’re not alone.