Former Staff and Interns Reflect on #TWLOHA10

By To Write Love on Her ArmsMarch 28, 2016

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been celebrating 10 years of TWLOHA by looking back on our history, reading old blog posts, and reminiscing about some of our favorite memories. We also spent that time reaching out to a few of our former staff and interns. You can read their thoughts on their time at TWLOHA below.

Former Staff and Interns

What made you want to be an intern?

I come from a pretty small town in the North of Ireland, yet somehow that tiny town managed to have one of the highest suicide rates in Europe. I had been a supporter of TWLOHA for years, and one night I happened to be browsing the website and came across the Intern page and decided why not? I haven’t been able to watch my intern video since. It actually makes me cringe to think of it, but it landed me the job! I believe in people, and I believe in the potential for change. I knew TWLOHA would instill in me something fresh and something new, something that I knew I’d need to bring home.
Rachel McCluskey, Fall ’12 Intern

I had a friend in high school, Jacob, who passed away just as I was deciding on if I should apply or not. Jacob was a guy who was there for everyone, a real shoulder to lean on. He was MVP of his varsity volleyball team and could always make anyone smile. He had the loudest laugh and the most positive energy. When I found out that he had died by suicide, I couldn’t believe it; my heart broke. Jacob did not tell anyone that he was struggling. I could only imagine how lonely and heavy that must have been for him. I applied to TWLOHA that day for Jacob. I did not want anyone to feel that alone, to have no one to talk to. I dedicated my entire summer to Jacob.
Emily Sehl, Summer ’15 Intern

My heart has always ached in a deep way for those whose lives have been touched by suicide. In the last several years, my sister struggled with depression and self-injury, culminating in a suicide attempt on one occasion and suicidal ideation on another. The ache I mentioned has always been there, before this even happened, but this personalized it for me and brought it closer to home. It became a catalyst for me and my desires to do anything and everything I could to help anyone who struggles with mental illness and feels alone.
Nate Morrison, Summer ’15 Intern

I found TWLOHA when I was in a tough place. Two people close to me took their own life within a few months, and I moved away from home for the first time to go to college. The months that followed were really tough, but I continued to find hope in TWLOHA’s message and in their blogs. I wanted to be an intern to give something back while having the opportunity to help others who were struggling. I knew I could use my story to help others, which gave me a purpose for the pain.
Billy Dwyer, Summer ’15 Intern

I wanted to intern at TWLOHA because, truthfully, the work resonated with everything in my life that really mattered. Throughout college, I found myself captivated by opportunities to help foster community and honest conversations. Since 2006, I’ve been fascinated with the many ways in which this movement has been able to give a voice to the many human needs often silenced in the world today, messages that are so simple to say and yet so profound to hear: you matter, your story is important, hope is real, you are not alone. The TWLOHA internship was simply a first step for me in engaging with this movement more intimately, in a direction and season of life I felt called to dive into head first.
Joe Ward, Summer ’13 Intern

My brother was an intern for TWLOHA in the Spring of 2014, and while he was away, I was going through a hard season. Even 1,400 miles away, my brother supported and loved me, and he let me know that there were strangers there who loved and supported me, too. My hard season passed, and I was called to give back to the organization that gave so much to me and my family.
Cara Johnson, Fall ’15 Intern

Former Staff and Interns

How would you describe your internship experience?

The people who I was lucky enough to spend a season of my life living and working with are honestly some of the most genuine, kind, and loving individuals I have ever met. The word “community” is a word that’s used often, however, this internship brings it to the next level. And it’s beautiful. But it’s not always easy. There are things that feel heavy, but so many others that feel light. Through both the heavy and the light, you are challenged and changed, in the best way. You start off the term strangers, united by a common interest. Then, you leave with life-long friends and an incredible organization that will always stand in your corner.
Billy Dwyer, Summer ’15 Intern

If there is one thing I learned most profoundly, it is this: what a privilege it is, a gift in this world even, to be invited into someone else’s story…and to walk alongside others…in their pain and your own…that is the notion, “hope is real,” felt and manifested in miracle of human connection.
Joe Ward, Summer ’13 Intern

For me, it was the first experience of its kind in that we received some really, really difficult emails from people in places that were so dark and often tragic, and we had to support each other and learn how to respond to them in an honoring, loving way. It felt so sacred to me that we were entrusted by the people writing in and by the staff to interact with people in all kinds of situations, and that is something I never took for granted. I remember the way we would support each other as fellow interns, aware when the person next to us was in the middle of responding to a really challenging message. This was a huge learning experience for me, and honestly cemented in me that counseling was the career I wanted to make my life’s work. Now I’m about to graduate with my Master’s in counseling (finally!) and I know I wouldn’t be the same person or have had the assurance to start school if it wasn’t for my experiences responding to messages at TWLOHA.

Of course the lighter (and equally incredible) side of my TWLOHA experience was meeting my now-husband, Kraig, which is beyond anything I could have ever, ever, ever dreamt of. Our internship allowed us the opportunity to become deeply close friends and companions, and I think of the little Bungalow and longboard and bike rides along the Indian River so fondly. Our life now together is so different from when we were friends at the Bungalow, but the same in a lot of ways too. We will never be able to say enough amazing things about the organization that formed the foundation to our relationship and brought us together from different countries, different stories. And it sounds so cheesy, but the entire experience would have been entirely magical to me even if I hadn’t met my husband. The opportunity to fulfill a dream of being part of an organization I was so passionate about – combined with the Florida humidity and Disney World factor – was honestly electric to me haha. It felt surreal, and I felt so lucky the whole time.
Lauren Rovensky, Fall ’10 Intern

Former Staff and Interns

How did you hear about TWLOHA?

Relevant Magazine, October 2006. It was a 5-question feature with Jamie. Black background, the title tee, and Sharpie notes and names on his arm. A MySpace URL written at the bottom. I read the backlog of blogs for the six months leading up to that point. I found that copy of the magazine a couple years ago when cleaning out old things at my mom’s house. I recycled most of those issues, but I couldn’t part with that one. That single page was too significant a beginning to toss away.
Whitney Wilson, former Editor

I first learned about TWLOHA in the fall of my freshman year of college in 2006 at a local concert and immediately felt connected to the message of hope, talking about things that weren’t typically talked about, and the use of music as a connecting, community-creating force. When I was about to graduate undergrad, I had applied to a bunch of different grad schools for counseling, but nothing really felt right, so I decided to take a chance and apply to the TWLOHA internship. It felt like a community of beautiful people – people who I felt a connection with even though I didn’t know anyone personally (besides meeting Jamie at an event haha). I felt a desire to be part of something so much bigger than myself, to use whatever small skills or parts of my personhood I could to bring hope. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I guess my gut just felt like this was a place I belonged, at least for a season. I felt like it was a place full of like-minded people who were dreamers and doers. It felt like a combination of my two biggest passions – mental health and creativity – so I naturally I wanted to be part of it. I really had no idea that it was something that could actually happen, so I was absolutely shocked / overjoyed when I found out I got it!
Lauren Rovensky, Fall ’10 Intern

Former Staff and Interns

What is your favorite TWLOHA memory?

On the first night we were all in the house together, we were snooping around (as anyone in a new house would) and found a bunch of leftover sparklers from the interns who had celebrated the 4th of July. After some convincing, everyone finally agreed to go out back and ring in our term with a faulty lighter, some slightly defective sparklers, a selfie stick, and too many takes and laughs to even count.

On our last night together, we found the sparklers again and rang out our time together the same way. It was the perfect start and finish, and I couldn’t have asked for better people in my life than the six that held those sparklers and let me walk beside them until they held them again. We held the flame for each other, together. But unlike sparklers, this flame will never burn out.
Cara Johnson, Fall ’15 Intern

It’s hard to choose just one, but I think my most vivid is the day we attended the Orlando Out of the Darkness Community Walk. It was the first time I had ever attended one of these walks and the first time I was introduced to the AFSP. Throughout the day I talked with multiple people who had either lost loved ones to suicide or had struggled themselves, and each story touched my heart. It was one of the first times I had ever heard words like depression and suicide talked about so openly. As we walked, I thought about my own story, the people I had lost, and how important it is to make our voices heard. Getting involved with the AFSP inspired me to become a walk chair and host an Out of the Darkness Walk in my own city the following year.
Erin Gillingham, Spring ’10 Intern

One of my favorite times would be in the morning, sitting around the intern table and responding to supporter emails together. It was the one time during the work day where we were all doing the same thing. Each morning it was so humbling to see all of the emails from the night before, all of the invitations into more people’s stories. Another memory is my term was the first term when the warehouse was in Melbourne. We were tasked with getting everything set up. We may have spent countless hours saran wrapping shelves, but I was lucky enough to be able to be a part of shipping packages to supporters all over the world.
Tamika Gilbert, Spring ’14 Intern

My TWLOHA internship really opened up my eyes to life. It made me grow up a lot, learn things about myself that I now use and value every day. It showed me that we really do all have an important and unique role to play in the world, which is a message I try to share with everyone I meet.
Clair White, Spring ’13 Intern

Former Staff and Interns

How have you remained involved with TWLOHA since you left?

The ache for statistics to change and stigma to fall never leaves you. You carry the mission and fire wherever you go…why would you ever want to shake it? I am so thankful for each person who continues to fight, even when the work is tough and the messages break your heart.
Rachel McCluskey, Fall ’12 Intern

While I deeply miss working with the organization from a more “hands on” approach as I did as both a staff member and former intern, I truthfully continue to support the organization most profoundly in living out the message as an individual. I would eventually like to help out more in the future once I’m finished with graduate school…maybe become a monthly donor or full-time benefit event coordinator in my community (wink wink haha). Actually though, I have recently gotten more seriously involved with photography and hope to turn it into a viable income sometime soon. I am still working on the logistics, but when that business plan is officially launched, I would like to donate 20% of all my portraiture income to TWLOHA. I want to be able to use my art and identity as a creative to continue pointing people to TWLOHA and their vision. I think this has a direct connection to my portrait work, in seeing how beautiful of an experience it is to be invited into one’s story through the experience of photographs…a truly vulnerable moment that turns out incredible if that vulnerability is cared for and affirmed and connected to.
Joe Ward, Summer ’13 Intern


Has TWLOHA impacted your current work?

I currently work in publishing at Penguin Random House – I sell children’s books. I would say that TWLOHA has definitely impacted my current work, even if I don’t use the same skill set on a daily basis. Working at TWLOHA taught me how to work collaboratively with others, and working with TWLOHA supporters – many of whom are the audience for the YA novels I work with now – gave me a special perspective on the importance of the words we put out into the world. There’s a “trend” in YA right now of novels that address mental health, and I’m definitely more sensitive to the handling of such an important topic after working for TWLOHA than I would have been otherwise. It’s my hope that these books becoming more mainstream will help break down the stigma still associated with mental health issues.
Danielle Cantarella, Fall ’09 Intern and Benefits Coordinator

TWLOHA impacts my work primarily because it has impacted me. I will always look at words, stories, and people differently. To be in media and publishing, on any level, is quite a responsibility, and it’s a field that could greatly benefit from a mature, compassionate understanding of mental health. I hope that, even in some small way, I can encourage or be one of those voices.
Alyce Youngblood, former Editor

I owe everything to my experience with TWLOHA.
Jason Blades, former Music & Events

Leave a Reply

Comments (2)

  1. André fontaine

    Bonjour je m’appelle André fontaine ,je suis de Québec,canada . Je suis très heureux, d avoir vu votre film et d’avoir connue votre association . Moi je suis un ex toxicomane,cela fait 20 ans que je ne consomme plus ,sauf que j’ai la dépression mais je m’en sort très bien . J’ai. deux beaux enfants ,lai 43 ans et je vais à l’école j’aimerais bien créer un bureau à Quebec, votre association. est formidable salutation à toute la gang Bravo!

    Reply  |  
  2. Bellla

    Grateful for you all
    God bless

    Reply  |  
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