A Living, Breathing Poetry.

By Alyce YoungbloodJune 19, 2013

Last June, I joined the To Write Love on Her Arms team as the new Editor. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours poring over the words of others, trimming, arranging, and perfecting them for an organization where words matter very much. I’ve immersed myself in the language, the research, and the stories of mental health. I’ve had email correspondences, posted blogs, and read articles that have quite honestly changed my life, and hopefully the lives of others.

It’s been a busy and rewarding year, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities and relationships this position has brought me. But one thing I had yet to do, until recently, was represent TWLOHA in person at an event. When a chance arose for me to do this at a festival in Atlanta, I was both eager and nervous for the experience—and had no real idea what it would be like. Writing about these issues is one thing, and I’ve gotten pretty used to that. But standing under a banner and candidly inviting those conversations would prove to be a new and different challenge for me—and one I am now better for having undertaken.

Within minutes of setting up the booth on the first day, a young girl approached the table, slowly. I greeted her, but she was silent at first. I then noticed her eyes were glassy with tears. I waited, and finally, she said, “I’m trying to figure out how to put this … because this organization has saved my life.”

The story she then told me was not unlike some I have read about before or would hear later throughout the three-day festival. But it was also uniquely hers, and the moment in which she entrusted me with it was uniquely ours. There is something about witnessing an individual’s search for the right phrases, looking into their eyes, shaking hands, or hugging shoulders that makes our stories come alive in a way that is overwhelmingly real and unforgettable. There is an intimacy in that immediacy.

There were many I spoke with after this young woman: addicts who were a few months or a few decades into their recovery, mothers and fathers desperate to find help for their child, teenagers with bright smiles and fading scars, men and women who were still reeling from their parents’ failures, victims of the kind of bullying and abuse that nobody deserves, individuals who had miraculously managed to survive themselves. And somehow, I was the one with the privilege of speaking to them. Somehow, our separate lives had intersected on a humid afternoon under a TWLOHA tent so that I could look at them and say, “I am so glad you are here. I am so glad you are alive. I am so glad you are getting better. I am so glad to have met you.”

As a writer and editor, I am passionate about the right words, in the right format, with the right spelling and punctuation. But somewhere between June 2012 and June 2013, I developed an appreciation for the fumbled words, the fragile words that have never been uttered before, the angry or honest words of a person who cares less about how they sound and more about just being heard. I found value even in the unspoken words, the things there aren’t words for, the sentiments that can only be communicated through heartfelt nods and a firm hand on a shoulder. They’re not always pretty, rarely perfect or “right,” but they are a living, breathing poetry all their own. I will treasure them always. And maybe, sometimes, I will write about them.

With Hope,
Alyce Youngblood

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Comments (18)

  1. Irelen

    I get chills when I read this. Thank you for doing what you do.

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  2. Laura

    For dedicating yourself to these complex issues, for inhabiting your role with compassion and for understanding that a lot of it is not in fact about words shared, but that if we are going to use them, and try to change the dialogue around such important experiences that they do matter so very much.

    with hope & thanks.

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  3. Kassy

    This is so touching and important. Not just this blog, which means the world, but you and your work and twloha. I can’t describe all what it means. Specially not in just a comments but when I read something like this I have the need to say thank you in some way.

    Reply  |  
  4. KImberly

    MY daughter found your organization when she was at a very low point in her life, Thanks seems so insignificant to say, yet, its all I can think of. She was at a very low point with thoughts of suicide and self harm going through her mind, then one day she comes to me with this website , want me to look it over and yes, I say, she has found others who are like her, special, in my eyes are all of you who are hurting or thinking it will never change it DOES get better, I know, but, in the end it isn’t about me, its about you and the others out there who have yet to find an outlet like TWLOHA, or a friend who will listen to them, its for these I pray for daily, and like my own daughter, know that one day it WILL BE BETTER!!!!! Thank you again for this AWESOME organization that has saved soooooooo many and has saved my daughter Thank you seems like so little you deserve a million more!!!!!

    Reply  |  
  5. Elena

    Really – thank you. For everything that your organization does. A few years ago, I was suicidal and addicted to cutting. I found your organization, and with the help of a friend, I stopped. I’ve been clean for four years now. And two years ago, I got a tattoo on my left wrist – “Love.” Your organization inspired it, and I wanted you to know that. Thank you. You guys are amazing. <3

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  6. Kat

    Your organization really changed my life. I found you guys a year and a half ago and love all that you do <3

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  7. Anonymous

    This blog touched me. Sometimes it is hard to form cohesive thoughts when talking about these issues – your reflection about that was spot on. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply  |  
  8. Brandon

    i went from being depressed all the time and i used self harm as a way out that was the first mistake i have ever made was starting self mutalation, but if you are one of those people who made the mistake by starting you can get better and there is help out there you just have to believe in yourself thats the hardest thing to do but you can do it because i never felt that i could untill one day i decided to believe and it made all the pain just melt away after awhile and now i do not use self harm as a way to deal with me depression and stress i turn to other things like taking a nice long car ride or riding my bike going on a run these are all ways that you can help yourself and others around you because it doesnt just effect you if effects everyone

    Reply  |  
  9. Anonymous

    I first found out about this organization when my brother was wearing your T-shirt I asked him what is stood for an just replied its for “M” I didn’t ask more but decided to research it in my own. I learned what it stood for and like most people didn’t know how to react when someone close to you that you love, that you would do anything to protect them would think of hurting themselves. My sister, my friend, who suffered from depression had suicidal thoughts and no one had a clue. She told me how this organization has helped her and is currently under professional help. I wanted to thank you for saving her life and many others.

    Reply  |  
  10. Dani

    That was so beautiful. I felt like I was there and could image this place, sitting across the way just watching this and feeling the heartbeat of both sides. You have such a gift and you are so gentle through your words. Thank you for sharing!

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  11. Gary

    Also consider that those who suffer from addiction may have criminal records which makes finding a job with a living wage extrememely difficult in Florida. Until privacy is granted to people who have been through the criminal justice system, rehabilitation will be that much harder. Peace

    Reply  |  
  12. Raquel S.

    Alyce, this is beautiful and so well written. It also perfectly captures how I feel under a TWLOHA banner.

    Reply  |  
  13. Darlene

    Thanks Alyce for the amazing words. Thanks for sharing the stories.

    Reply  |  
  14. Anna

    Like so many others, I have to thank you. As a writer and a human- and a sister to a beautiful woman who is slowly knitting the pieces of her life back together- I say, again, thank you for these amazing words, and for everything that you do.

    Reply  |  
  15. Jessica

    Thankyou for sharing this. As a writer, i can only hope to learn and develop the skills TWLOHA has allowed you to refine in order to help others. I see now that there is power not just in the absolute craft of writing, but in the humble words of a person who has simply chosen to stay alive. Thankyou.

    Reply  |  
  16. miranda

    I’ve read this at least 20 times and I still get chills everytime

    Reply  |  
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