I am the mother of Renee Yohe. Who is she? She’s the troubled young woman whose story became a phenomenon when it birthed a global, non-profit movement called To Write Love on Her Arms (twloha.com; also on Facebook). They bring help and hope to those who struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Their website explains their purpose: “To encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.”
These are the issues my daughter has struggled with for years. She almost lost her life – more than once. My journey as her mom has been, by far, the most difficult experience of my life, yet the most transforming. And now her story has been transforming the lives of thousands, if not millions, around the world. We marvel over this.
A little over three years ago another amazing thing happened. A movie was made about Renee’s story and the five life-changing days that snowballed into what we know today as To Write Love on Her Arms (twloha.com). Yesterday, March 3rd, that movie, titled after the name of the organization, was released by Sony Pictures! Take a few minutes and read the story that started it all. It’s riveting and inspiring. You might be moved to tears. Parts of her story may sound a lot like your child’s.
A movie. Yes, a full length, motion picture with actors and actresses you may have heard of – at least your teen or young adult child probably has. Kat Dennings (Thor and TV’s sitcom, Two Broke Girls), Chad Michael Murray, Ruppert Friend, Corbin Bleu, Mark Saul, and Juliana Harkavy. My husband and I had the fun of being on the set a few times to observe the filming. It was fascinating. We were treated like celebrities.
Many of my friends have asked, “What did it feel like to have a movie made about your daughter, and you – watching parts of it being filmed?”
Surreal. Weird. Humbling. Strange. Amazing. Uncomfortable. And wonderful.
Who are we that this should happen to us? No one special. Are there many other beautiful and inspiring stories of recovery all across America? Yes. I’ve heard many of them. Why our family? Why our daughter? I don’t know. We still shake our heads in wonder and bewilderment.
I only know one thing. All of this – TWLOHA and the movie – has had a huge impact on all of us (her siblings included). On the negative side, our personal, private agony was suddenly spread all over the internet. No more secrets. Everything was out there for anyone to read about. People could form inaccurate judgements about her and us. I’ve never had the opportunity to publicly correct any of their assumptions.
On the positive side, her story – our story – being out there in the public arena, gave us freedom to speak openly and honestly to other hurting parents. We’ve been able to encourage many broken, desperate people with a new sense of hope. If we (and Renee) could survive and find help, then maybe they could, too. Rescue is possible. Caring people really can make a difference.
We agree with Renee. If the To Write Love on Her Arms movie can help even one person, then it’s worth it. I’ll never cease to be astonished how God can take the worst parts of our lives – the most embarrassing, painful and messy parts – and transform them and use them for good. He can turn them into something incredibly beautiful and give them purpose. There’s hope for all of us.
Thank you and bless you, dear Renee, for saying yes to sharing your story and then yes to a movie. Your motives were pure. You had no clue what would come from any of it. Isn’t it amazing?
If you see the movie, I’d love to hear if it helped you or your child in some way. By the way, it is not a Christian film (but does have undertones of faith), there is some language and sensitive subjects are discussed (self-injury, rape, addiction). If a person is a self-injurer, it’s recommended they see it with a supportive community.