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DE-FEATHER


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Co-occuring Disorders

Many with untreated mental health problems start using alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate.

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de-feather: may 2010

To Write Love On Her Arms: The Story A non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.

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Blue October Breaks Down

While on the Pick Up the Phone Tour in Germany, Blue October’s Justin Furstenfeld sat down for an interview with FRND TV, a German organization that deals with mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

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Suicide Rates Spike in Spring

How the sunshine can give people enough energy to plan and execute suicide after the long winter.

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Co-occuring Disorders Many, if not most, people who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs suffer from another mental health disorder at some point. People with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders must be treated for both disorders at the same time to improve the likelihood of recovery. People with addictions often suffer from other mental health disorders. Some with untreated mental health problems start using alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate. Conversely, there are cases where an individual begins to develop the symptoms and signs of a mental illness only after using drugs; suggesting that drug abuse caused or exacerbated the mental disorder. In 2002, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 7-10 million people in the United States have co-occurring mental and alcohol or drug use disorders. People are less likely to recover from addiction when their co-occurring illness is left untreated. “Careful assessment and treatment of co-occurring disorders is critical to maximizing the chances of success in treatment,� says Kathleen Brady, a nationally known addiction researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Many with untreated mental health problems start using alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate.� 3


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To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. This began as an attempt to tell a story and a way to help a friend. Pedro the Lion is loud in the speakers, and the city waits just outside our open windows. She sits and sings, legs crossed in the passenger seat, her pretty voice hiding in the volume. Music is a safe place and Pedro is her favorite. It hits me that she won’t see this skyline for several weeks, and we will be without her. I lean forward, knowing this will be written, and I ask what she’d say if her story had an audience. She smiles. “Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars.” I would rather write her a song, because songs don’t wait to resolve, and because songs mean so much to her. Stories wait for endings, but songs are

brave things bold enough to sing when all they know is darkness. These words, like most words, will be written next to midnight, between hurricane and harbor, as both claim to save her. Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn’t slept in 36 hours and she won’t for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she’ll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn’t ready now. It is too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her.

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UNSPOKEN WORDS She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-

“ She is full of contrast,

more alive and closer to death than anyone I’ve known...” inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of “friends” offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write “FUCK UP” large across her left forearm. The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms. She is full of contrast, more alive and closer to death than anyone I’ve known, like a Johnny Cash song or some theatre star. She owns attitude and humor beyond her 19 years, and when she tells me her story, she is humble and quiet

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and kind, shaped by the pain of a hundred lifetimes. I sit privileged but breaking as she shares. Her life has been so dark yet there is some soft hope in her words, and on consecutive evenings, I watch the prettiest girls in the room tell her that she’s beautiful. I think it’s God reminding her.

HOMEMADE REHAB I’ve never walked this road, but I decide that if we’re going to run a five-day rehab, it is going to be the coolest in the country. It is going to be rock and roll. We start with the basics; lots of fun, too much Starbucks and way too many cigarettes. Thursday night she is in the balcony for Band Marino, Orlando’s finest. They are indie-folk-fabulous, a movement disguised as a circus. She loves


them and she smiles when I point out the A&R man from Atlantic Europe, in town from London just to catch this show. She is in good seats when the Magic beat the Sonics the next night, screaming like a lifelong fan with every Dwight Howard dunk. On the way home, we stop for more coffee and books, Blue Like Jazz and (Anne Lamott’s) Travelling Mercies. On Saturday, the Taste of Chaos tour is in town and I’m not even sure we can get in, but doors do open and minutes after parking, we are on stage for Thrice, one of her favorite bands. She stands ten feet from the drummer, smiling constantly. It is a bright moment there in the music, as light and rain collide above the stage. It feels like healing. It is certainly hope. Sunday night is church and many gather after the service to

pray for Renee, this her last night before entering rehab. Some are strangers but all are friends tonight. The prayers move from broken to bold, all encouraging. We’re talking to God but I think as much, we’re talking to her, telling her she’s loved, saying she does not go alone. One among us knows her best. Ryan sits in the corner strumming an acoustic guitar, singing songs she’s inspired.

THE BEST GIFT

She hands me her last razor blade...”

She hands me her last razor blade, tells me it is the one she used to cut her arm and her last lines of cocaine five nights before. She’s had it with her ever since, shares that tonight will be the hardest night and she shouldn’t have it.

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While on the Pick Up the Phone Tour in Germany, Blue October’s Justin Furstenfeld sat down for an interview with FRND TV, a German organization that deals with mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

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what bi-polar is. It’s “yeah, we’re in this band, ooh rock stars.” NO. It’s a vessel for me to be able to communicate and to be able to stay on this Earth. Without it, I don’t know what I would do. Jeremy: It makes you angry. It makes you angry at depression and bi-polar disorder and whatever else that comes along with it. It makes

it a disease or personality trait, but it’s something beautiful, and it’s something very scarry at the same time. Through it’s power, to think differently and openly and describe things that most people might not see or think about or hear about. But it’s very painful, it’s very dark, and for most people it’s “Oh, you’re just depressed, get over it.” Or “Oh, he’s just a sad boy, get over it, why are you crying, blah, blah, blah.” It’s very hard to explain to people how important Blue October is to me. After being into institutions two times now in my life, um, six months ago, I was put in one, [starts to choke up] and this is my first tour afterwards. And so getting back into the niche of things is very hard sometimes, but being able to speak to you is so “ahhhhhhh” [let’s out a sigh of relief]. Even thought I”m choking up. But when I think of my daughter, or my manager, or my brother, or my band [chokes up], or you guys wanting to talk

Justin: Hello I’m justin Furstenfeld, lead singer of Blue October. Jeremy: Hello I’m Jeremy from Blue October, and I play drums. [Justin’s brother] Justin: It’s hard to explain to people what bipolar is because I still don’t know what it is. Um, but, it would be extreme highs, extreme “ahhhhh” very passionate, and then extreme lows. To find that middle balance is is is... peace, and you get that very small. I hear things that aren’t there sometimes; I see things that aren’t there sometimes. And it’s hard to explain that to people, and when I talk about it I get choked up, and don’t feel bad if I get choked up right now, or don’t feel uncomfortable, because this is

“It’s something beautiful, and it’s something very scary at the same time.” you angry because maybe you don’t have it or you don’t feel it so you don’t quite know exactly. Even though growing up with Justin I could kind of, you know you kind of know, but... inside you never know what they’re feeling. Justin: It’s, I don’t know if you call

about it, that helps me pull myself out of a hole and go “Ok I will talk about it. And I will cry on TV.” Because I can’t help this [points to his eyes]. This is who I am, you don’t like it, fuck off. You know. If you do like it, then embrace it and hear what I’m saying. Because it might

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“And I’ll whisper in their ear: You’re not alone. You’re not alone.” not be you that feels this way but your cousin or your grandmother or your mother or your brother... that one that hans’t talked to you in a few years... the one that you call coocoo... he’s the one going through this. And that’s who I’m speaking for. I think that’s the main problem; nobody talks about it. And my concerts might be a schitzofrenic fit, but at the end of it, you’ll get what I’m talking about. You’ll understand. And anybody out there who might seem... I’ll see people in the audience... All of a sudden I’ll see one person, and they’re just like [imitates crying] and they crack, and they cry. And that’s when I just focus on them, and I’m like “Ah! You get it! You understand! You get it.” And then I’ll see there’s another [points to the right]! There’s another [points to the left]! There’s another [points away]! And then I’ll seek them out after the show and I’ll just hug them. And I’ll be like, “Oh, you’re one of them.” It’s almost like we’re aliens [laughs]. And it’s like, “you’re one of them,” and I will hold them and hug them as much as I possibly can just to let them know. And I’ll whisper in

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their ear [whispers] “You’re not alone. You’re not alone.” Jeremy: If I could put a piece of advice out there for anybody who is a brother or a friend, you know, study what the diagnosis is. Learn about it. And that will give you a better idea of how to deal with that person. You kind of have more of an idea of what they may be going through. Justin: It’s the light at the end of the tunnel when I get to see my daughter, and she goes, “Daddy!” And when she runs up to my legs and she looks up and goes like this [holds arms up to the sky, lookin up]. That’s when it’s like “Ohhhhhh. I’m normal” [smiles big]. Some people go “Oh, he’s so overdramatic!” A lot of Americans think I’m overdramatic but it’s just they don’t get it. They don’t take the time to ask me questions like you; you’re the first person that’s ever sat down and asked me about this kind of thing. And taking it seriously. And allowed me to cry, and allowed me to get mad, and allowed me to go “GarrrrAAHHHHHH!” And I appreciate that. Because it all comes down to “Daddy” [holds arms up to sky].


Suicide Rates Spike in Spring We often hear that suicide rates are highest during the holidays. I even heard a character in a Christmas TV movie warn about the risk during the last holiday season. Seems to make sense, in a way. After all, the holiday season even has its own syndrome - the holiday blues. Many people are stressed out, and for anyone who’s alone and depressed, the contrast between the ideal of the holidays and reality can be hard to take. Here’s the problem - the prevailing wisdom is wrong. In fact, we’re not heading away from the most dangerous time of the year for suicide, we’re heading towards it. Suicide rates are actually at their highest during late spring and early summer, and at their lowest around the holidays. There does appear to be a jump on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, which is thought to

be due to the holiday season ending and harsh reality settling in. So why, despite all the stress, does the holiday season seem to damp down suicide attempts? First, the increased socializing

keep your mind from focusing on your depression. Also, even if someone’s depressed, the beauty and joy of the holiday season can provide a temporary lift. Also, you begin to realize that if

The sunshine can actually give people enough energy to plan and carry out a suicide.” and contact with that many people do during the holidays may actually keep those suicidal thoughts at bay. The support of family and friends is one thing that keeps people from utter despair. Second, there are plenty of distractions. You’re busy, busy, busy. This may be a source of stress, but it also can

you don’t feel good during this season, when the world is renewing itself, you’re never going to. In addition, there’s a paradoxical response to the increase in sunshine that is thought to contribute to suicides in the spring. The sunshine can actually give people who have been feeling fatigued by the lack of sunlight.

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De-Feather  

De-Feather is a self-help magazine dedicated to educating people about suicide and mental disorders. It is meant to provide hope for those...

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