Photography Series: “Still Fighting” by Alessandra Ortiz

What if we could see depression?


Would we still doubt its existence?


Would we still think that it’s a sign of weakness?


Would we still believe that it’s “just a bad day”?


Would we still assume that it’s a cry for attention?


Would we still fear others’ opinions of ourselves?


Would we still be too nervous to ask for help?


Would we lend a hand to those in need?


Would we find the courage to fight and keep going?


Would we finally understand that we are not alone?


A very special thanks to Alessandra Ortiz for these beautiful photo submissions. You can find more of Alessandra’s work on her blog and Instagram. You can also read her previous submissions to Dear Hope, such as her piece, “Morning Routine” here, and her latest poem, “Her” here.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.


Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email

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A Lens Into Our World dear hope

“My Electro-Convulsive Treatment Experience” – Coping, This Is Who We Are, Entry 23

Below, we have a submission from Fishspit, on their experiences with electroshock treatment and other thoughts on life.

The people that were in the cubicles all around me; how can I put it gently? Ah hell, let’s just say it: they were fucked up man. Over the rainbow. Toodly-whooped. Deranged. Damaged. Or just plain worn out.  The last house on the block.  I watched; I listened and I thought, “Holy cats!  Am I that fucked up?  Do I look like them?”  Befuddled. Mixed up. Nobody home- can’t make friends with the brain.


Shock!  Shock!  Let’s shock ‘em back into shape!  Get rolling!  Keep them doggies moving!  Rolling!  Rolling!  Rolling!  The shock mill!  They were sizing up our situation-asking the necessary questions.  They were nice nurses; they had a lot of compassion.  One of them put her hand on my shoulder as they put the electrodes on that first time. It’s a strange thing, all so strange.  Pardon me, dear reader, if I bounce around like a ping pong ball. It’s a part of the program right now. A side effect.  Being flumdiddled!  “It’ll go away,” they say.  I don’t care if it doesn’t; I’ll be a total simpleton!  I’ll be the slobbering screwball of the century. Just get that fucking beast depression out of my soul!  Shock the shit out of it!  Zip!  Zip Zoom! Zap!  Give it to me!  Double doses!  No, hell!  Quadruple doses: make me a dingus!  Destroy my reason! I want to play again!  Shock!  Zip!  Whammo!

When you come out of it, Oh god!  The first time was a terrifying vision!  I can’t remember the details. I don’t want to. I just remember the fear. I weighed it all in the balance; do I want to experience that again?  I decided it was worth it, but what a bitch!  Misery upon misery!  Would I do it again?  I decided, “Yes!”  But why so much misery?

The second time?  It was worse. I couldn’t breathe. I was conscious. I couldn’t move!  I couldn’t speak!  It’s hard to remember details. I was shocked you know.  Most people have no memory of the whole process; this would become true of me. But this time, Jesus. I could hear them talk. Their laughter. But I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. It’s hard to remember it all!  I’m digging deeply here for you, dear reader. I’m visiting memories I’d rather forget . . . for you!  The anesthesia, the shock. Most people have no memory of the whole process.

I did.


A dead donkey has more sense than a person coming out of the induced seizure.  That’s what they do, induce a seizure.  Crazy!

I don’t ask questions.  No, I’m beyond all that.  I don’t give a good goddamned anymore.  Just shut up!  Shock me!  Let me become a human again. I haven’t been a human for so long. A jabbering idiot?  Yes!  Yes indeed.  I’ve stumbled through somehow, ended on that table.  Table?  It’s not really, dear reader. Wicked scientists? No!  They show the utmost compassion.  It’s soft, my little table. Plenty of cushion. The machinery-high tech!  Beeps, boops, tweets, twinks; all sorts of beeps going on. No use trying to separate them out.

My anesthesiologist (hey she’s kind of cute!) gives me her routine. Yeah, yeah, I don’t care; put me to sleep baby.  If I don’t wake up, well, was a rough life.  Put me to sleep!  Shock me!  Whammo!  Zip! Zip!  I want to be normal. I want that.

After the second treatment, I had gone home and was sitting on the couch watching my dear, old cat try to play, but this little angel has got some arthritis. 19 years old!  She’s still a kitten at heart!  Yes, but those back legs, especially them.  It only lasted for, well, I’d say a half an hour.  I sat on the couch, like I told you, looking at my cat. I realized there was no depression!  Absolutely none.  I have depression on me at all times, unless I drink liquor or take drugs. But with this path, I ended up homeless, sitting on a bench with my cat, swilling Potter’s 100 proof. Catholic Family Services came down to my bench once a day and brought me a sandwich and my cat a can of food.   Those days were done, though. No more liquor, no more drugs. I was left with a constant depression. I can feel it some as I write. Sometimes it’s a mosquito, a small pestering depression, a tiny dark spot on the soul. But then!  Oh my!  It can become a gorilla!  Consuming me absolutely!  Then I become bed bound, and sometimes, even have to be fed by another by hand, one spoonful of soup at a time.  I become so consumed by darkness I cannot lift my head.  I piss in the bed!  No getting up!  They roll me over and change the sheets.  It’s a hideous thing!  Oh god!  It’s black!  But I’m losing you again.

I’ll take you back. I’m on the couch, watching my precious, and I realize the depression is gone!  Absolutely, totally gone!  I thought Holy dipshits!  This is how other people feel!  This is how normal people feel!  It was then I understood how people navigated life so easily. I felt like others must feel what it felt like to be a normal person.  I could do this life thing!  It was a breeze!  Feeling like that . . . the weight off the brain and the soul. The horrors lifted; I was like, I can do this shit.  This shit’s easy!  Man!  It blew me away!   No wonder people mortgaged their soul, buying these suburban homes.  No wonder they popped out babies to an overpopulated world.  That shit, I realized, is easy!  For normal people.  Oh man, I could kick ass in this world. I was on top of it!  Ha ha, I’d be running this place.  God, life was easy without the black dog.

It went away though. I lost it. The depression returned. The grey and the brown sunk in. I sat, bewildered.




I don’t like to tell people I get E.C.T.  It’s too much of a hassle.  For instance, I’ve started going out into society again after a long hiatus.  My pal Bob took me to a musical jamboree.  I was smoking out back and this fellow took an interest in me for some reason.  We talked for quite some time.  I finally admitted that I get electro-convulsive treatment.  He didn’t know what I was talking about, so I said: “You know, shock treatments.”  People know that term!  He said, “Shock treatments have been outlawed since One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

God, if I had a nickel for every time that movie was brought up when I mention “shock treatments!”

I told him, “No, I get them.”  He demanded his assertion was correct.  He was calling me a liar, I guess.  I told him he could contact Swedish Hospital, the ECT department, if he didn’t believe me.”  He got up and left me in disgust.

Electro-convulsive treatment was good to me in that it got me out of a suicidal depression.   I still struggle, but at least I’m able to get up and get out of bed.  I was in bed for a very long time.  Still, its wreaked havoc with my brain.  They told me that it would affect my memory.  At first this didn’t seem to be happening.  I didn’t know what the big deal was.  But then, wow, things just seemed to slip away.  I forgot the names of people I knew very well!  It became difficult to tell a story.  It wasn’t only that I forgot the words needed, no!  It was also that I forgot the concepts that made up the basics of the story.  I don’t know how to describe this!  Unless it has happened to you, I don’t think you could know just what I mean.  Then there are the strange mental blank spots.  You are not supposed to drive when getting ECT.  I understand why!  I have been driven through places I have known for years, but I will look around me and not know where I am at.

I have been told that these side effects will diminish.  I currently get ECT once a month.  Depression has become a problem again.  It became very scarce with three treatments a week.  It seems to be rearing its insidious head again.   Vincent Van Gogh said something to his brother Theo as he was dying, after shooting himself. I once knew the quote quite well, but now I not only have forgotten it. I have forgotten which notebook I wrote it in. That’s one thing to mention: I take copious notes because my memory is so poor, so many that I’m becoming overwhelmed by the amount of notes.

Vincent said something to the effect that suffering never ends.  I know exactly what he was saying.


Remember, you’re never alone,

and you’re always loved.


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“The Violent Ward” – Coping: This is Who We Are Entry 22

By: Leif Gregersen

He had me firmly by the left arm and was twisting it.  It hurt bad, and he was going to take me back there again, to ‘the room.’

“Wade, you don’t need to force me, I’m not resisting you.”

Wade was a good looking guy with shoulder length brown hair and a neatly shaved face with a well kept moustache.  He twisted my arm more as he walked me to the isolation room and looked down at it.  I looked at his face again, and I could see him smiling, trying not to laugh at the fact that his actions were severely hurting me to the point of injury.  He had to be a closet psychopath.  Me, I was only psychotic.

Wade brought me to the side room, shoved me inside and slammed the door.  I could hear the metallic click of the magnetic lock that only opened from the outside.  I was back, and I hated the feel of the white painted walls, the hard floor with the interrupted pattern of small tiles on it that seemed to put messages in my head.  Most of all I hated that nothing I could do would get me out of there before someone on the other side of that door felt like opening it.

I had so much anger, so much pain inside me that when the staff put me in the side room, I would cut loose.  I screamed a string of profanities as loud as I could, and let go as many hard kicks to the door as humanly possible.  I did this until I was hoarse and my shoeless feet ached.  I don’t know what I was accomplishing, but it helped me calm down, and the staff never seemed to be able to give me trouble for it, so I kept doing it.

The room was small, maybe 12 feet by 12.  There was nothing in it, no TV, no padding, no window.  My only companion was the air conditioning unit in the corner built into the wall.  It hummed out a throaty, low sounding waft of cold air for a few minutes every hour.  Still, the air seemed pretty stale in there.  It was institutional air, a lot of other people had breathed it in an out before me and I would likely breathe the same air in again in the near future.


All I had in that room was a bottle to piss in, a plastic mattress and what they called a strong sheet.  There was no way to hang yourself or injure yourself in any way unless you got creative like I had done, and you kicked at the thick metal door until you felt like your foot would break.  I saw people pick at the linoleum if they were motivated to find a way and take a little piece of the stuff to try and cut their wrists.  It rarely worked.

I had arrived on that ward about five months ago.  I had been living alone, and it seemed like everything was going right for me.  I had credit cards, I took trips, I had a car and led an active life. For some inexplicable reason, I decided that I could lower my medications—not a lot, just a little.  It was a mistake that nearly cost me my life.  At the very least it cost me the next six months of my life that I spent in that horrible place.

My psychiatrist seemed to have no interest in helping me.  I had gotten sick of the doctor’s inaction and the fact that he never talked to me, and I ended up telling the nurses and other staff members that he was incompetent.  They laughed and told me to tell him that.  Little did they know I was just crazy enough to do so.

“You’re incompetent, and I want a different doctor,” I said.

“Get out.” He said in reply.

That was it.  ‘get out.’  The next weeks and months went by so slowly I could hardly stand it.  I didn’t get a new doctor or any help from the old one.  Once he came by to tell me that I would be put in jail if I kept making phone calls to people.  I had called a former girlfriend’s dad one time to ask him a couple of questions, and he had gone ballistic.  No one took into account that I made no threats or insults, and I was severely mentally ill at the time.

My doctor had left instructions that at the first sign of any problems they could put me in the side room without hesitation.  There was no judge and jury process, no need to contact a supervisor, they just had to gang up and throw me in, with or without injecting me with something ominous, and they could leave me in there as long as they wanted.  Over the next five months, I must have been in that room more than a hundred full 24-hour stays.  I tried everything to get back at them for this injustice.  They had set things up so even the ward receptionist could have me put in the side room for absolutely no reason.  One time I filled the piss bottle and then tossed it under the door frame.  Another time I took my mattress and tipped it against the wall and hid behind it making them have to come in and take it away from me.  I like to think that my spirit couldn’t be defeated, that I had a will that would outlast those bastards, but it didn’t work out that way.  I turned into a simpering wreck in the long, tedious, painful and arduous months.  I even made a phone call to the Canadian Special Intelligence Service thinking they had been torturing me for information.  What they didn’t sweat out of me they tranquilized out of me with a long list of medications.


Then one day my doctor took a short vacation.  I got a chance to see the Psychiatrist, and he had me immediately taken to a ward that didn’t even have a side room.  After all that waiting, all those ‘side room’ visits, I was put back on the medication that I was taking before my hospital stay—but now at the proper dose.  I got better within a month, good enough to walk right out of that place.

The next months on the outside were rough.  I went to a group home run by a penny pinching, self-serving, uncaring old wretch of a woman.  She did things like serve us one potato with watery gravy for supper and took 90% of our disability benefits each month.  One day her sister came over and caused a leak with her washing machine, and she came to me and screamed in my face.  My roommate convinced me that was assault and that I should call the police.  I did, and the cop went right to her, listened to a small web of lies and then came down to threaten me with being taken back to the hospital.  It makes me so angry to think of not being able to say my side of an issue because an oversized moron who is too lazy to do his job has a gun and a taser and will use them.

My life was a mess when I left that hospital.  I never thought I would work again, never thought I would travel or do the myriad of things my heart longed to do when I was younger.  But I found a home.  I found a group home that gave me regular medications, someone to talk with and a comfortable bed.  A group home where everyone dealt with mental health issues as either sufferers or caregivers, and suddenly the stigma of my mental condition was gone, and I could heal.  That was 15 years ago.  The whole world changed since the time I was in the hospital for six months.  There have been wars and stock market crashes, oil booms and opportunities of every kind.  This Spring I made a lifelong dream come true of traveling to London, England and was in awe of the history and traditions.  Five years ago I published a book about my life with bipolar disorder and two years later a sequel.  Life has become a thousand times more incredible than I ever thought it could, and as I finish writing this short essay I wonder how many of those people in that hospital did care, really did want me to get better.  I know I could have been a much easier patient to deal with and that I was pretty bull-headed.  What would anyone do when someone took their freedom away?  How would a person without an illness react when treated so unfairly?  But I also thank the stars that a place like that mental hospital, for lack of a better term, exists that can take someone in when they are seemingly beyond all help.  It may not be a pleasant thing to be drugged and warehoused, but now that I’ve come out the other side I feel stronger for it, and now have a whole new understanding of my loved ones and friends.  Every opportunity I never thought I could have had has come my way.  I don’t know if there is a way to end all pain, but I do know faith in yourself and hard work towards a worthwhile goal can change bad luck into consistent positive results, and bring meaning to any life.


This incredibly brave and moving piece comes our friend, Leif Gregersen. You can read more of Leif’s work based on his experiences with mental health here, or you can find his mental health memoirs on Amazon: Inching Back to Sane and Through the Withering Storm. Thank you, Leif, for sharing your story with us.

Always know that you are not alone.

You are always loved.


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Coping: This Is Who We Are dear hope

Interview with the Artist: A Day Without Love’s “Solace”

Without the ability to find comfort in battle, you will never be able to win the war. I wrote this record so I could win the war.”


Back in January, we talked to Brian Walker about his life’s journey, inevitably intertwining his times of both triumph and struggle. His willingness to be vulnerable, as is with anyone who submits a Coping piece, was extremely courageous and admirable.

One of the focal points of Brian’s life was, and is, music. The inspiration he’s gained from music over the years inspired him to become a musician himself. In his Coping piece, he mentioned how his band, A Day Without Love, came to be.

Now, nearly nine months later, ADWL has freshly released Solace, a new album that speaks to many of the themes and experiences that Brian has thoroughly described to us. I had the pleasure of asking him some questions about the album, the processes of writing and recording, and the future of the band.


1) What inspirations went into writing Solace? Are there recurring themes throughout the album that stick out to you?  

I was inspired to write Solace during a very dark time in my life as well as a very transitional time in my life. I had decided to write this full length after leaving SXSW and beginning to stop drinking. This record is kind of my way of trying to let out all of the vices in my mind. Sonically, I would say Kevin Devine has been a very large influence, as well as Alex G and Modest Mouse. Thematically, there are recurring themes around racism, depression, and alcoholism.

2) Bring us through the recording process. I noted that you took the photo for the album cover as well as writing the lyrics and music. How was the process for you? Was it different from previous recordings?

 Yes. My friend Brianna and I got out to a park with my friend Karaamat (the album art designer) and we took some photos in West Philadelphia. It was a pretty cool day. As far as writing the record, I wrote 60 songs in about a year, chose 15 to pursue, and then narrowed it down to the 13 songs that are on the album. The songs were written acoustically and then built up with me and my former band mate from there.

3) Are there any songs that you particularly like or are proud of? Any songs that were harder than others to put together?

For the exception of Persistence and Solace most of these songs stayed the same way that they were written. Cruel changed a few times before we set it down to recording, but most of the writing of these songs moved very smoothly and I think my favorite song on the album cannot be narrowed down to just one. All of the songs are so different, much like a reflection of so many things that have changed in my life. In terms of difficult songs, I think tracking Too Fast was pretty tough, especially the last riff. I guess you can say that was the most metal riff that I have done in my discography so far.

4) Do you have any plans to play the songs from Solace live? If so, where and when should we keep a look out?

Yes. I will be playing across the Northeast, South, and Midwest on 3 to 4 day tour stints while managing a job. You can view most of my show dates on the band website and subscribe to the Bandsintown link to see me play at a show near you. Also, I will be playing solo sets mostly, and doing a full band show at Ortliebs, a venue in Philadelphia.

5) I hear the emotion behind this music. You noted that much of the struggles you’ve faced (racism, mental health, death, etc.) went into the content of Solace.  How was turning your pain into an creative, artistic medium?

 I find the writing this record to be very reflective and, if anything, the most reflective piece of artwork I have ever done in my life. I have samples of my grandfather in here who died of lung cancer during the writing process. I kind of see the record as a way of reminding myself of who I was, who I am trying to be, and what I am today. I know there are many problems I highlight in the record, but the point of the record was not to discuss problems, but what I do with those problems, and how do I find ways to overcome the things I can not control.

6) You also highlighted that this was your first album sober; first of all, congratulations on that. I remember from your coping piece that this was a struggle for you, and I commend you on that. What emotions, difficulties, and triumphs came from creating Solace from a place of sobriety?

Initially, I felt like I lost my best friend by not writing under the influence of alcohol and drugs. But after giving that up I felt like I was discovering myself again, which is why I think this record sounds so different than my previous records. Creating music from a place of sobriety is not only freeing; it’s comfortable because you know that you are writing from a place of honesty, a place that is clear, a place that is not covered up by the drugs and alcohol I used to drown my body with. So writing songs sober is really tight.

7) What’s the next step for A Day Without Love? How are you feeling moving forward?

Currently I plan on touring as much as I financially can. I am on a major weight loss and self-discovery journey. I want to write a record on body positivity, and I am probably going to make this sonically more different than other records. In addition, I may release a lo-fi record soon.

8) If you had to pick a single message from Solace that encapsulated the album, what would it be? What does the album say more than anything to you?

No matter how much people hate you or you hate yourself, do your damn best to find peace and comfort in the war you are fighting. Without the ability to find comfort in battle, you will never be able to win the war. I wrote this record so I could win the war. In some ways, I believe I am not alone, so I want others to feel that they know they are not alone, and they can fight their battles together. Hopefully one day we can fight our battles together.


You can become more familiar with A Day Without Love here, as well as giving Solace a listen, here. If you’re not familiar with Brian’s journey, check out his Coping piece from this past winter.

Remember-you are not alone,

and you are loved.


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Article dear hope

A Message to Myself: It’s Not Your Fault

Hi friends,

I wanted to share some food for thought for anyone else who gets stuck on the track of thinking: Something about me is fundamentally wrong, I don’t deserve the things I want, and my hopes and expectations are too high.
This way of thinking can come about for any number of reasons. Sometimes, when our expectations don’t match up with reality, it feels like this is somehow due to a moral failure or a sense of unworthiness.
Often, things simply don’t work out. Not because we did something wrong. They just didn’t work. It’s pretty simple, right?
But for some reason, instead of internalizing things this way, our inner dialogue goes more like this:
This didn’t work out, and it’s my fault, and this will continue to happen because of who I am. Maybe I deserve less than I thought.
Have you been there before? Have you felt your energy shift as your mind goes from thinking about small disappointments to making a giant, irrational leap in thinking that somehow, you are being rejected for who and how you are, and that’s why things aren’t working? 27955620062_70b62fc866_k.jpg
I don’t always feel this way, as I’ve worked for years to change my inner dialogue and it has dramatically improved. But when I do feel this way, I want to shrink and hide. To stop asking for more. To be as small as possible to avoid future disappointments.
But I think that as tempting as it is to do that, we really need to do the opposite. When circumstances in your life lead you to believe that you are not good enough, or wrong, or undeserving, the best (and maybe only) way to push past those self-imposed limitations is not to curb your ambition and enthusiasm and your hope for better things. As counterintuitive as it feels, in those moments we need to expect more, know that we deserve more, and hope for bigger and better things. Especially when we feel that the opposite is true.
Not everything negative that happens is a rejection of who or how you are. In fact, most things are not. Sometimes they are just reminders that you are settling for less than what you deserve: which is to feel loved, fulfilled, and inspired.
Lots of things about you are fundamentally good. You deserve the things you want. Your hopes and expectations are not too high, so long as you are willing to put in the work to get them (and I know you are).
I’ll be repeating that message to myself for as long as it takes to really believe it, and I hope you will, too.
With love,
Samantha B.

Thanks to Sam for contributing her words to our site.
Always remember you are not alone.
You are loved.

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Article dear hope

Poetry: quiescent ontogeny (shedding September skin)



go back some steps and paint the rest the colors they were meant to be.

parasites preventing psychology-
absent sounds without answers, potential apart metamorphosis.
the mistakes were easy,
splitting monochrome apart of the omniscient wind.

and they never learned anything.

I couldn’t escape the quiescence of ontogeny
descending east or west in our
oblivion as nothing-
these spider webs bury dead
under my intuition
ashamed of my own decisions
refusing to light,
but the flicker always subtle in the night,
aggressive how I wanted to make it shine.

we’re butterflies with broken mirrors,
scintillatingly self-reflecting that our deepest fears will never resonate with
the man under the bridge or the
child in Idaho or the
part of my father i never want to see in myself,
but always will.
hand-crafted maps fade because we’re told to abandon
as if this growth was a virus and not a blessing disguised as
thousands of glass shards unlocking doors.
I wanted to know more.

I couldn’t think where my mind begins
it shifts back hollow where I started
blonde curls lost frivolously among the pile of careful maple leaves
you should’ve tried to understand while you
blurred the sharpness of this image,
shades of fuschia indecisions
evading a dream,
incomplete sets of glass menagerie fog when I fall asleep.
shuffling the shutter, parallel to the stress it put me under.
a life repeating its first day,
continuing cabarets
confusing caves in sheep
an endless disease.

flowers don’t communicate in binary;
your daisies were fireworks,
mute mutilations of my morbidity,
simultaneously transforming
sheep from tangible reality.
as I felt every strand of indifference-


our faces yield yellow hues in
both pines needles and piles of
orange maples.

ashamed of where I hadn’t  been
because of the person I have yet to become
knowing what I will never be.
It was strange to see me as a human being
feathers drifting incomplete
as crows without grief
circling aware
predicting what I could not escape
luminescent highways miles from fate
time spent
in the essence of these transgressions
pardon me gray.

what can i call colors i see,
branches of the trees from Polaroid memories,
or dreams of what the world should be?
where can i find these answers on this endless canvas,
this bruised, mountainous landscape,
constantly hammering away against our wars with self-abandonment?
what’s the spectrum where
trees and
everyone you’ve ever known that’s felt loss
can sing in harmony?

trapped in my mind,
hope is destiny when it’s not in our plans

running out of time,
the colors will fade as limbs grow thicker

footsteps erase.

mirrors adapt.

This piece is a collaboration between Zachary Johnson and Danny Kochanowski.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.


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Creative Pieces dear hope

Music Submission: “Letting Go” by Greg Best

I wrote this song after my first therapy session in November 2013. I was struggling with severe depression and surviving the devastating pain of loss due to suicide. As my tears flowed out, so did this song. I realized that I couldn’t blame anyone for causing me the pain and that I must continue to work through it if I wanted to heal. I can’t change the past but I can make healthy steps towards my own future. Though I don’t always want to face the reality of pain and fear, I know I must honor the memory of those I’ve lost by healing and helping others heal.

No one is to blame for this pain
And I am responsible for my healing
None of us will lose in this game
Just sit and watch us fight till we all win
These memories won’t erase
They can’t change
But still I’m holding on to this faith
I trust you with my heart and I know
This is the hardest part
Letting go
Although this is the hardest part
Your name is written on my heart
Although this is the hardest part
Your name is written on my heart
Although this is the hardest part

Your name is written on my heart

You can follow Greg for more music and insight on Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, and Facebook.
Always remember you are not alone.
You are loved.

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A Selection of Poems and Art After Losing My Daughter: Peter Bruun of The New Day Campaign

Below are a selection of poems I’ve written since my daughter, Elisif Janis Bruun, died at age 24 of a heroin overdose on February 11, 2014. The drawings I include to accompany each poem I made recently, and to my mind invoke something of the spirit of the poetry.


Her body
has changed
from wire to round to wire
from wild cat life
one unmeasured impulse
and the next
spinning spinning spinning
night through day through night
madness and madness and madness again
her body
has changed
from itself to something else and back again
only now
a softly subtle wilting
to eyes
that love her
wanting her well.


Boys and Girls

The boy
In the beater
Gold-rimmed mouth
Nacho-chip-orange fingers
Lost eyes
Like a flick of a Bic
Ready to ignite
For another cig.

The girl
Pink thong strap
Above the fringe
Of black spandex pants
So easily pulled down
For a buck
And a fix
Teddy bear on the headboard.

In fluorescent corners
Boys and girls
Change hands
Prey and predator
One and the same
Nobody wins
This dance
Without music
Without chairs.

The Walmart goldfish
Still alive
By the framed photo
Of her son
On Santa’s lap
Wanting something else
Anything else.



is not what holds me
in your room
life smeared across the floor.

You are
rage and raw
pure love and hot pain
a tender contradiction
neck-high in crap
against my loss and shame.

I am
no less mess than you
wondering what it is to be a man
worth the ground my little feet displace.

You and me
holding pawed hands
as best we can
mercy with every breath.

FullSizeRender (1)

*This is an excerpt from a longer poem


Peter Bruun is an artist, curator, and founder of the New Day Campaign, an initiative using art programming and public engagement to challenge stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness and addiction, making the world a more healing place. Learn more by visiting his website at

I had the pleasure of meeting Peter at Mental Health America’s 2016 conference this past June. He is not only an extremely talented and compassionate individual, but one of the friendliest people I have ever met. Please check out his amazing artwork and his nonprofit work with The New Day Campaign. It’s good to know how much good there is in the world.

Leave Peter a comment below and always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.


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A Lens Into Our World dear hope

Just Sit Back And Relapse Again

By: KaLeena Genette

Any form of depression is tricky to handle. My form happens to be Bipolar II Disorder, and I’ve been battling that demon for nearly 11 years. Last year I finally broke–really, seriously broke–to the point of being nearly catatonic for about two months. After ten years of “I’ll go see a shrink eventually,” I ended up with no choice if I wanted to keep my job and my sanity.

I’m one of the people who are lucky. I landed in the office of a psychiatrist who made the right call on medication. I wound up on the couch of a patient therapist who watched me lose my mind for weeks until the medication started kicking in and the anxiety and depression started to recede.

Now I’m here, and “here” is still a difficult place to be. Over the course of ten years, I developed unhealthy habits and unhealthy ways of thinking. Even though I have the medication and I’m at the right dose, I have ten years of bad habits to put to rest. This version of life isn’t the miracle I was looking for.

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