On November 8, 2014 while heavily intoxicated, Guadalupe Gutierrez attempted to commit suicide. Thankfully, she survived, and sought help. She admitted to her medical provider that she was self medicating with alcohol due to a sexual trauma. In January 2015 she went to Ft Belvoir Community Hospital for care and began to find her way through therapy, writing, and art. She went back to work. Then in October 2016, she experienced another sexual trauma. Filled with shame, she tried her best to pretend nothing happened but a year later, she wanted to commit suicide again. Thankfully, a great medical provider got Gutierrez the help she needed, and she enrolled in a program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

When she first started art/music/writing workshops, Gutierrez says, “I was so closed off I thought I was a lost cause and everyone was wasting their time with me.” In her first art session she was filled with so much anger she drew with red and black. “That’s how I felt. I tried drawing something happy but I couldn’t.”

She’d always liked writing, but was sure she would just scribble like she did in art.”Once Seema turned the music on and gave us free time to write, I wrote what I was feeling.” She wrote about childhood trauma. “I wasn’t ready to share what happened to me in the military yet.”After a while, Gutierrez looked forward to the writing group. “It gave me the space I needed to unload everything in my head.” She was surprised that she was able to write. “It gave a spark of hope that maybe I wasn’t a waste of space.”

The first time she wrote with live music, in a Music & Words workshop with Wytold and Christylez Bacon, it was absolutely amazing. “I didn’t know I had so much to say. I didn’t know the emotions that it would provoke. I didn’t know how much healing could be done.”

In these workshops, she found her voice again. She learned to write “without judging myself. I learned to trust my thoughts and validate my feelings. I learned that it’s okay to feel emotions.” 

“Writing has helped save my life, it has kept me sober, and it has helped me cope with everyday struggles.”

Art helped Gutierrez find a creative side that she didn’t know she had. “I’m not a professional artist, but it’s helped me with grounding when the world seems to spin. It also helped me find color when the world seems dull.” Before the workshops, Gutierrez says she was just going through the motions of life. “All three [art, music, and writing] helped me live again; helped me see that life exists after trauma and that I am not defined by my trauma. Every time I engaged in writing a part of me healed.”

Gutierrez transitioned out of the military in July 2018. It was difficult, but she’s been handling it well. “I used to think the military was all I had, I didn’t know who I was without the military.” Writing every day has helped her continue her self-discovery in a judgement-free way. She lives in California and journals every day. Once in a while she attends an open mic night and reads one of her poems. She encourages other veterans to write and together, they share their writings with each other, as a form of healing.

“I didn’t think my life had meaning and now I know life is beautiful. Sometimes life gets me down and I feel like it’s an uphill struggle, but I know that life is worth living. I turn on my music, I grab my pen, and I start writing. Even on my darkest days I know I have my journal to guide me to the light.”

Gutierrez lives in California and is still in treatment for PTSD and slowly getting better every day. She was recently accepted into a Veterinary Technician program, a complete career change. “I realized that I love working with animals.” One day she’d like to help veterans the way she was helped. Always willing to challenge herself creatively, she’s also started embroidering as a way of healing. “Hopefully I’ll be able to open my own Etsy shop one day.”

“Writing saved my life and that is something I will always be grateful for. I know for a fact that if I wouldn’t have had the programs available, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Some of Guadalupe’s poetry:

Consequences of silence.

Rigid stance, sweaty palms

Labored breathing, trembling hands

Deafening silence, unheard sobs

Misunderstood feelings, misplaced anger

Sea of guilt, torturing thoughts

Silence is cuts across your wrists hoping to be heard through death. 


When was the first time you felt this way? The question looms over my head. My therapist asks again, as if I didn’t hear her. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this question and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Does she mean the first time I felt a sorrow so deep, I thought it was imbedded in my blood? I struggle to identify the exact moment I felt that this world would better off without me. I don’t know when the sun stopped shining. Honestly, I don’t know when I first felt “this way,” hopeless and desperate, for all I know, the first time I felt this way was the moment the doctor held me in his arms and shouted, it’s a girl!