I’ve been running all of my life

From something I cannot see

An unkind and relentless villain

That lives inside of me

I’ve never known a single day

That didn’t require a fight

It shouldn’t be so damn hard

To make it through the night

I looked for ways to numb

Became quite the masquerade

As the bottle touched my lips

And the chemicals wrecked my brain

I didn’t recognize the face

there looking back at me

It wasn’t supposed to get this far

Oh mirror please set her free

Her eyes were dead and hollow

Her bones protruding through

If only I could have told her

If only someone knew

Instead she tried to hide

Too much guilt and too much shame

How could anyone understand

Or look at her the same

She took what she thought

Would be her last breath

Praying that peace would finally find her

And greet her in death

She is so grateful now

that it didn’t end there

She would’ve missed so much beauty

And the opportunity to share

In case you didn’t know

You all are the reason I am still here

Taking on this world

and boldly facing my fears



~ Jess


If These Walls Could Talk

If these walls could talk, they would reveal a common bond that is shared when our masks come off.  Though our lives are as vast as the shade under an old oak tree and our experiences as complex and muddled as the branches above, we were all led by something to be embraced by these four walls.

If these walls could talk, they would tell of unfathomable loss, grief, rage, pain and guilt.  They would tell you about shameful secrets and their ability to pillage the human soul.  They would show you the faces of addiction, affliction, depression, confusion, disease, doubt, abuse, abandonment, fear…

If these walls could talk they would tell you a story even through the discomfort of paralyzing silence.  I’ve been told that the body remembers even when the mind adamantly fights against it.  Perhaps our bodies are like that of a tree as well.

I can vividly remember running through my grandmother’s yard as a child, my cousin and I were notorious tree climbers.  There was something incredibly liberating about being so high off of the ground.  We would sit up there for hours and often until it began to get dark outside.

I was so sad when one of those trees had to come down.  I sat on what was left of that beautiful timber and ran my fingers over the splintery surface grieving its loss.  It seemed so naked and small without its sprawling cover.

As I looked closer I noticed what looked like a frozen ripple effect, as if someone had tossed a stone into its very core then stopped the hands of time.  I later learned that those distinct marks were called “annual rings” or “annual growth rings.”  Those rings represent the amount of wood produced during one growing season.  It fascinated me and filled me with wonder.  Some rings were thicker than others. Why were some of them fragmented? Why were some of them dark and some light?  If that were true then this tree must be one, two, three… how long had it been here?

If these walls could talk they would reveal the lucid rings encapsulated within our own hearts.  Just as the tree reveals evidence of past trauma such as a fire, plague, disease and drought, the human body also remembers.  Trauma and its resulting stress can literally create physiological changes to the body and the brain.  Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

If these walls could talk they would tell you that growth is possible in the midst of it all.  The tree is living proof of that.  It continued to generate new cells and persevere in the midst of it all.  Even when a force much greater pushes against it, and the tree is forced to lean… it still grows. It creates much wider rings known as “reaction wood” to help support it.

If these walls could talk they would introduce you to hope, strength, courage and change.  Even through the ups and downs and the rise and falls, through the shadows and fears and endless tears.  Something led us all here.

If only these walls could talk


(I’ve had this image in my mind for quite some time and I seem to be finding them everywhere)


This was a gift, it is a cutting board.


I sat in the floor filled with emotions after giving my first on camera lived experience interview, then I looked up and saw this hanging on the wall.


Outside of the elevator


The main entrance to the Marriott in Little Rock, Arkansas. This is where the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Annual Leadership Conference was held.

Talk Saves Lives #AFSP16


Leaning into discomfort every damn day, because it is absolutely necessary for continued growth. My personal interview with producer Jeff Gersh over lived experiences. #AFSP16


The beautiful and courageous Shelby Rowe (Manager of Education and Prevention Programs for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)


The beautiful and courageous Shelby Rowe (Manager of Education & Prevention Programs for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)


The beautiful and courageous soul behind the front lines, Alexis O’Brien (PR Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

Learn how you can get involved and make a difference. Talk saves lives!

Follow the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Leadership Conference at #AFSP16

#AFSP16 -Little Rock

As I sit here taking in this breathtaking view from my hotel room in Little Rock, I am still in awe of the journey that brought me here. I am surrounded by so many beautiful individuals from all 50 states who have in one way or another been touched by suicide or mental illness. People who have “gotten their asses kicked and landed face down in the arena” as Brene Brown would say, yet here they are, on their feet once again, determined to make a difference.
My dad would have been 52 years old in a few days, on January 29. I still feel him with me every single day and miss him terribly, we all do.
Dad, I hope you are smiling that beautiful smile… Thank you for all that you gave us while you were here and all that you continue to give in your absence.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Leadership Conference

Taylor | Journal | CaringBridge


Please, please, please keep Taylor Renee Helland and her loved ones in your prayers.  This young lady has more strength than anyone I know, she has an unwavering faith in God’s will for her life and a steadfast determination to find a cure for pediatric cancer.  You are beating  cancer’s butt every single day sweet girl, because you refuse to let it rob you of anything else. 
You are my hero, we love you.

5 years later

I don’t even know where to begin with expressing my gratitude for life today. Five years ago on this very day, I walked into Alcoholics Anonymous once again feeling absolutely defeated.  The shame and guilt I felt, and the burden I carried from trying to live a double life almost killed me.  In fact, many times I wished that it had.

I hurt the ones that I loved the most through my addiction and couldn’t seem to escape that dark place.  I re-established many times throughout my journey to recovery and I managed to put together a few days here and there, thirty days, sixty days, ninety… the longest I ever had until now was one year.

I don’t know what changed this last time, but I am grateful it did.  I walked back into that room knowing that I had to give it my all.  I had to be willing to break down the walls I surrounded myself with, I had to be willing to tell the truth, I had to admit that I had a problem and believe it, I had to be willing to fully work the steps with another human being, I had to be willing to make amends to those I had hurt and I had to be willing to give back.

Each step has been uncomfortable, but so very freeing.  All of the “what if’s” have turned into “I can’s”.  Shortly after re-establishing I decided to enroll into a few college courses even though I lacked confidence and was terrified, five years later… I am a college graduate.  Then… I could barely hold a job and struggled to hold my own financially, five years later… I have a career in the medical field (that I absolutely love) and am pursuing a second degree in psychology.

Then… I hid from creditors and lived in fear of losing what little I had, five years later… I own a home and a dependable vehicle and am able to be financially independent.  Then… my greatest accomplishment was being a mother and though I loved him more than anything in this world, he deserved better.  Five years later… he is still my greatest achievement and I am able to be available in his life emotionally, physically, etc.  I am able to provide him with the safety and security he deserves.  He doesn’t remember what I used to be like and God willing he will never know what that mother looks like.

Then… I buried all of the things I didn’t know how to cope with, five years later… I live them out loud and have the privilege of helping others through similar struggles.

I don’t say all of this to make myself look good, I am far from perfect and I am not proud of my mistakes.  I say this because I am grateful.  I say this because I never dreamed that my life could be so full, and if any of you can relate to any of this, I want you to know that it is possible for you too.  One day at a time… you can.

Thank you God, thank you Laura, thank you Chacey, and thank you to everyone (you know who you are) who has encouraged, inspired and supported me along the way.  I wouldn’t be here without you.


2016 Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk – San Francisco


Over the past two years I’ve found myself on a journey that I never dreamed I would be a part of by joining an army of volunteers for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  To be quite honest I can say that about the last five years in particular.

I have been thanking God a lot lately as I approach the anniversary of my last sobriety date.  I realize that there are risks in sharing that openly but the rewards of speaking truthfully and the freedom I have found in doing so are far greater than the criticism.  Even when I doubt myself the most, someone will unexpectedly and bravely approach me and say “me too.”

Those experiences let me know that it is worth the risk and that God has a purpose for everything no matter how shameful and painful it may be.

I will be traveling to San Francisco this May for my second Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk, I will be walking for all of the lives lost too soon, for all those who still suffer and for those left behind.  I will be walking in memory of my father, my friend Joani, for Hannah Brewton Brown’s son Samuel T Simmons, for Mindi Wheat and her son Taylor, for Sarah Hope’s sister and Professor Shepp Hope’s daughter Chappell, and all of the beautiful people I have met along the way, the list is endless.

I am asking for your help in reaching my fundraising goal for this event.  If you aren’t able to donate please do not worry.  You can help by clicking on the link and sharing it with others, my story is included on my personal fundraising page.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is full of helpful information and you will also find many ways you can get involved in this incredible movement if interested.  Together we CAN and WILL make a difference.  Love and be kind to one another.

If you or someone you know needs help please call or visit:

1-800-273-TALK  (8255)

Suicide Awareness & Prevention video – My Personal Journey