Blog

Dec27
2013

I Am Here Because I Care.

By Andrea West

I have never known what it feels like to have depression. I have never personally dealt with self-injury. I don’t know what the experience of an anxiety attack really entails. I don’t know what it is like to be a slave to an addiction. I don’t know—but I care.

At the beginning of my internship with TWLOHA, I questioned seriously if I belonged here. How could I do anything to help others if I didn’t know exactly what it was like to walk through a fight within my own mind? It seemed like everyone else I worked with had gone through something so much bigger than them. They could offer firsthand experience and advice to anyone who asked for it. But how could I ask people to seek counseling when I had never walked into a counselor’s office in my life? How could I share in someone else’s pain when I had never felt it to that degree? I felt like I was an outsider to this experience I could never truly understand. And yet, I was here. And I cared about our cause more than anything. There had to be a reason, there had to be a purpose.

We talk a lot about our stories here, almost constantly. I know the stories of each one of my roommates. If you ask them to tell theirs, they know exactly where to start. “This is what I battled, this is how I fought, this is how I got here.” That’s how it goes. I listen, and I listen. But I never consider myself a storyteller, too. I have always assumed I had nothing to speak of—until I thought long and hard about why I am here and why I left everything to devote my life to this cause this fall.

I am a storyteller, because of the characters who share my journey with me. Early in my life, I developed an identity as a listener and a confidant. It was my instinct to leave my heart open and let anyone rest there if they needed to. I approached every relationship with a hunger to learn people. I learned happiness and hope, but I also learned a lot more about pain and fear.

I am thankful for the pain I learned. By being allowed to know the whole of a person, I can take a chance and fight with them. I treasure each wall I have seen broken down. I hold each story I have heard as a part of my own. They are the most delicate and precious gifts I can ever hope to receive. Knowing the truth and honesty of those around me also means they are healing, and they are trusting me to be in their corner. There is nothing in this life I value more than that. Nothing.

My purpose here is to show people that you don’t necessarily have to encounter these issues directly to be involved in the fight against them. You can still show people who are struggling that they need to give others a chance to fight alongside them. You both deserve to know each other, to know what the other is feeling.

For those of you who are afraid of being a burden to others, especially to those who you think might not understand: I urge you to reconsider. Honesty and truth will strengthen your relationships more than silence ever can. A fake smile will never bring you closer to healing than the embrace of a friend. You are giving a gift by writing your story into the stories of others. You are giving them the chance to love you and to learn from that love.

I know what it is like to love someone with depression. I know the feeling of hugging a friend who struggles through self-injury. I know the experience of watching a family member fight through an anxiety attack. I know what it is like to see someone battle with an addiction. I know the pain of hearing that someone I love would try to end his or her own life. But I have also seen people, in each of these situations, embrace and live in recovery. This has made my relationships meaningful, significant, and true. This has made me care about speaking up and breaking walls.

I care. I am here, because I care.

— Andrea, TWLOHA Fall 2013 Intern

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Comments (18)

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for caring and for being here because you care. What a powerful message to so many kinds of people. Sometimes, as someone who has struggled with all of this, it’s easy to feel like no one gets it unless they’ve walked through the same thing. Even my therapist had fought so many of the same battles. But, there are many people who care and who get it enough to be able to love others. Your story is so powerful to me. Thank you for being part of mine.

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  2. Samantha

    I absolutely love this. I opened up to my friend, knowing she has never been through anything rough in her life, and when I told her the things that have happened to me that caused my depression, she cried. And it was that raw emotion that made everything real. She hasn’t been there, but she still somehow understood and respected what I’ve been through. Never underestimate someone you trust because if they care about you, they’ll embrace you, even if they haven’t been there. To this day, I’m so glad I let her in.

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  3. Emily Scott

    wow. A part of me thought that maybe I didn’t use to be as passionate about mental health and people’s struggles because I didn’t personally deal with it. It was easy for me to think I’m only passionate about it now because of what i’ve experienced and that’s what drives me to talk about it, but maybe the only difference is that before I just chose not to try. It may take you more effort to care and to understand, but it is incredibly encouraging to hear how much you DO care. To know that people care even if they don’t fill the same shoes is real empathy. Incredible post, thank you.

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  4. Danielle Durand

    I have gone through nothing as painful or prolonged as many of my close friends have. I haven’t suffered severe anxiety attacks in very public places; I haven’t taken a blade or knife to my stomach, legs, arms, or wrists; I haven’t struggled against a verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive relationship; I haven’t had a divorce or death rip through to the very core of my being; I haven’t been so dependant on alcohol or drugs that they become the things I need to survive my home life and get through to the next day; but I have listened to those who have. As I listen the pain and lose and betrayal they have felt, I feel. I understand. I care. I have become the confidant to many people I know. I listen and voice my opinion with any questions they have. I am honest with them and myself when trying to help. I tell them I haven’t suffered as they have so my views may be distorted. I make sure they know I may not understand anything they try to tell me, but I will listen until I do. I will listen, I will understand, I will care. I have helped one friend forgive himself for wanting to–and almost taking–his own life. I hope to spend the rest of my life helping people through their struggles and making them understand someone cares; someone will always care.

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  5. Desiree

    It is wonderfully helpful to have people that listen and care! Thank you.

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  6. Molly

    Andrea, I can relate to your story so much. Thank you so much for sharing.
    It’s truly inspiring to hear this because I have a desire to be there and help others but have felt inadequacy because of lack of experience. So thank you, I will look back on this often.

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  7. Anonymous

    I care too. Big love to you. Keep doing what you do. Many Blessings. <3

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  8. Candice

    Andrea, thank you for sharing this with us all. It was beautiful to read and I truly value people like yourself!

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  9. Anonymous

    That was marvelous. That kind of love and dedication is rare, but more valuable than you may ever realize.

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  10. Justin Banister

    Hello, my name is Justin. I’ve always considered myself a helper. I started a page for my peers to come to and know someone cared, that they could reach out to for hope. I’ve experienced quite a bit. I’ve found myself in the same situation you detail. I have done countless hours of research on anxiety, trying to find ways to combat it. I tell others to let go of worry but I get worrisome about being stuck and not being able to help others with their situation. I approach other’s problems as my own. I assume the position of how I would feel in their situation and try to mold my words around what I would need to hear. Thank you for helping to know that this will always be a learning experience, that we don’t always have the right answer, but we learn through the stories of others. We grow together. We find hope together. Thank you for sharing your story. You truly are an inspiration! Stay Strong!

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  11. Kendra Doyle

    This blog entry is perfect.. Brought tears to my eyes.

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  12. Peter

    Andrea:

    I’ve struggled with self-harm for close to 30 years. Tried ending my story 7 times. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been in the struggle. We need objective, neutral people to counterbalance those in our life whose emotions can’t handle their sons, daughters, moms, dads, or significant others harming themselves.

    People like you can change the world of someone like me. All we need, sometimes, is a shoulder to try on. An extra long hug does wonders. A kiss on the forehead and a caress of the face shows true, earnest empathy and tenderness when the world is imploding and we feel like we are shit. We need someone whom we can learn to trust to talk about our story…without feeling judged or “saved.”

    We don’t need to saved…I’m the hero of my story. But sometimes heroes fall. We do fall epically. And that’s where you come in…to help us up, to dust us off, and carry us when we cannot carry ourselves. Our stories can get to even the most strongest will. Our holes in which you pull us out can be very deep and very dark. But with your light, and others around us, we can see the light again.

    Stay strong, Andrea. Have faith that you have a positive impact on our world. Never, ever give up. 🙂

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  13. April Purdy

    Thanks for caring Andrea. And joining us in the fight.

    There are very, very few – including best friends and family, who even attempt to understand on some level the intensity of the pain from these issues if they haven’t experienced it. I’ve lost more friends since I’ve been vocal about dealing with depression and PTSD than I ever imagined possible. That is more painful than the depression. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few like you, but people like you are few and far between. Thanks for being courageous and compassionate enough to reach out.

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  14. Madison

    “I know what it is like to love someone with depression. I know the feeling of hugging a friend who struggles through self-injury.” ” I know the pain of hearing that someone I love would try to end his or her own life. But I have also seen people, in each of these situations, embrace and live in recovery.” I needed to read this and have this hope, thank you

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  15. Anonymous

    Hi! I love that more and more people keep coming out with their struggles and I feel less alone in mine. I have struggled with cutting on and off I was almost 3 months into recovery when I relapsed this month. I have battled self image issues and low self esteem, depression, panic and anxiety attacks, suicidal thoughts, one suicide attempt at 15, and now 19 I still have struggles. I recently saw a psychologist who wants me to see a psychiatrist in January to get evaluated for bipolar disorder because over the past months of 2013 I’ve showed the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder.

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  16. Emily Borden

    Amazing. I hope you never have to deal with these issues. Coming from someone who has dealt with many of the things you have listed, your empathy, and your empowering nature is very moving to me. Thank you for interning at TWLOHA.

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  17. Jade

    @Andrea West, a TWLOHA Intern 2013.
    I just wanted you to know that what you wrote touched me deeply. For someone who has never experienced, personally or through a friendship, any of the issues that TWLOHA deals with it is obvious from the beginning that you do Care!

    The voice you have spoken in is brilliantly haunting (in a good way). I had tears in my eyes and just wanted to reach through my monitor and hug you. You need hugs too. 🙂 It seems like so long ago that I could have used the people who started TWLOHA & it is a very long time ago as I am a Baba (Russian familiar form for Grandmother)now to a two year old. We just celebrated his 2nd Birthday on the 29th of December, he helps to heal my heart.
    You see, now I only have my son as I lost my daughter at 6mths to S.I.D.s. I blamed myself for years and the pain just wouldn’t go away. I know pain! I try to help here as best as I can however I volunteer for too many organizations that my New Years Resolution was to cut out the ones that already have an overflow of volunteers.
    I am having a difficult time figuring out who to take my time away from. You see, I am disabled and I have conquered cancer twice, I am a Survivor. I don’t know how to do anything else but help others.
    What you wrote helped me realize that I am a volunteer for all of the places I volunteer for because I care.

    Thank You!

    Jade

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  18. Anonymous

    Such an incredible blog post! I have always thought and struggled with the idea of having a place somewhere. Like you, I have never dealt with depression or self-harm. I have been surrounded by many others who have dealt with those issues, and found myself always being the listener and caretaker. I never realized how important being the listener was until I read this post! Thank you so much!

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