#RecoveryInRealTime: Is it Worth it to Discuss Trauma Recovery in Public?

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as she shares her final blog post about her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

For me, trauma started sometime between being born and turning 9 years old - Now, 30 years removed from the first identifiable awareness of recovery, I carry with me the scars of being a survivor of multiple traumas.

To be honest, I don't know life without a sense of doom, loss, unimaginable trust broken, and confusion about what might be to come...

Yet I wrote a book - and not just any book, but an ANTI-WORKBOOK, about how to recover from trauma, on the daily.

I wrote it two years ago, published it last year (2016), and then spent this summer marketing and making connections about the scope and purpose of the book. 

Now that I'm here, with my last blog post, I ask myself one big question: Was it worth it?

It isn't the first time I have written about trauma or spoken about it. (Or the first time I've asked if it is worth it!) I've been doing this #IndieAuthorLife shit for some time now (2003, to be exact). Before there was Facebook, before social media, before I could actually watch rejection happen through lack of shares, lack of likes... before I could watch acceptance happen through going viral for 15 seconds with comments and views.

But this round of advocacy was more difficult than other rounds. I realized that I am always going to have an ebb and flow when it comes to engaging publicly about trauma. I feel now, similar to how I felt after appearing on Our America with Lisa Ling (Where my intention was to energetically kick Exodus International in the nuts P.S. #MissionAccomplished).

I am exhausted...

I am not designed to submit my process to the masses LONG-TERM. I cannot live like this... 

It is especially painful because people who know me in real life - people who have been in my home, worked with me, or knew me OUTSIDE of my survivor status, have changed the way they talk to me... some have stopped talking to me or checking in altogether.

It is uncomfortable, isn't it?

Knowing someone brave enough to write about their recovery process is uncomfortable - it would be so much more comfortable if I never said that I was molested for over 5 years during junior high and high school by a neighbor that everyone thought was harmless.

It is not comfortable to know that I was sexually assaulted on a date and honestly, the only person who was there for me that night was... the above-mentioned neighbor... 

It is not comfortable to hear stories about my life as a closeted Christian and how every part of my sexual identity that wasn't hacked away at by the person who molested me was nearly drowned by the church leaders, youth ministers, and conversion therapy counselors.

It is not comfortable to know I watched a man die by suicide and had to wrap my head around why, after years of trauma, "the universe" would place me at that tree, on that day, during that hour...

It is not comfortable to understand that my mind will always be influenced by formative years of emotional abuse, as I witnessed physical abuse in a home with a father who struggled with addiction.

It will never be comfortable to do this and doing it makes a lot of other people uncomfortable too.

So... how could all of this be "worth it?"

The truth is that I do not know - and neither do you.

Some of us don't put our stories out there to sell the book, or gain the audience.

Some of us won't know if it was worth it even if the book sells or the shit we say goes "viral" for that coveted 15 seconds...

Some of us create like our lives depend upon it - we nurture these projects into realities because they keep us alive...

Some of us don't know if it's "worth it" in conventional terms, or if it's only worth it because at the core, it helped us feel heard or understood.

It's been an excruciating process to write, publish and then market #RecoveryInRealTime.

Here's what I would say, to anyone who is asking themselves if it is worth it to share their recovery process in public.

I would remind you: You will never have to be a full-time advocate. It is safe to speak your mind and put truth out there and then proceed with your recovery... without an audience. 

I would remind you: The day you stop explaining yourself is the day you stop being you. Maybe you actually enjoy explaining what you've been through because it helps others and it helps you feel seen after decades of oppression. But that doesn't mean you have to do it every fucking day.

I would say that to you, so I say it to myself...

Yes, it was worth it for me, but only if I walk gracefully and gently with myself through the grief cycle - making nice with Denial, allowing Bargaining, welcoming Anger, enduring Depression, and celebrating Acceptance... for as many iterations and lifetimes that it takes. 

Thank you to the people who showed me how limited our connections really are - I needed to do a little cleaning/clearing of where I put my energy. And more, of course, thank you to the friends who showed just how real our connections are...

Most of all, thank you to the newest readers who have invested in this process for yourselves and with me as well. We mirror the hope that we will find #RecoveryInRealTime - brave survivors - reach out via email/social media anytime, if you need a reminder that we are not alone. 

I'll be back around for another season of advocacy, I'm sure... but until then, I'm recovering, in real time, for the rest of my life. 

Namaste, my friends.

# Recovery In Real Time: Shit Survivors Say (to Ourselves)

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as she shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

Maybe it's the therapy or maybe it's how we are consistently editing our negative self-talk... but whatever it is, survivors have a litany of mantras for getting through a tough memory, a terrifying event, a family gathering, a triggering moment, or a typical day in the life of PTSD or anxiety.

I was going to list some stories about how this plays out for me, but it reminds me of one of the hashtags from #RecoveryInRealTime (flip over to page 85 if you have your copy handy).

#SurvivorVoicesAreClear

"I know from my experience - The longer I evolve as a Survivor, the clearer my story and my desire to share it manifests in a way that is concise. It isn't that the story is perfect or doesn't require ongoing edits from a wiser or more evolved version of myself. The message morphs but the tone of peace and sanctity of my truth freely and accurately echo through the past. I find hope in the belief that my Survivor voice will get clearer in the future." (Recovery In Real Time: A Trauma Survivor's Anti-Workbook"

It is still a miracle that I add a day to my invisible "I survived" chart every single morning. Every single day is one more day that I show them all that they cannot break me completely and that I am in fact, a survivor... and every single day, my voice gets clearer. 

I see this in many survivor networks. This week I made time to connect with advocates on Twitter who lead a #SexAbuseChat every Tuesday night. As I followed, liked, retweeted and engaged, I noticed how many resilient mantras survivors create for ourselves!

I'm sure many of those Twitter advocates (who are slowly becoming online friends), have probably blogged about positive self-talk so after I get a few links I'll list them here, but for now, I just want to offer a simple list of Shit Survivors Say (to Ourselves). And I don't mean BAD shit... I mean, shit that shows we are doing the work, making sure we are taking steps forward, and being our badass-selves in recovery:

When exhausted from expectations, we say, "I'm really doing enough and need to calm the fuck down."

When faced with a tense, high-energy, complicated event, we say, "This situation I'm in right now will never be as bad as (fill in the blank of trauma)."

When recovering from another disappointing friendship, we say, "I will not let that asshole determine my capacity to trust."

When facing a flashback or anniversary of a trauma, we say, "Don't make me explain myself to you when I'm tired."

When looking in the mirror after a nightmare, we say, "Today is (insert date) and this is a day you can handle."

When deciding whether to post our public thoughts/feelings about the trauma, we say, "In the end, my voice is my voice and I will not be censored to keep others comfortable."

It isn't always eloquent, but it is direct self-talk that combines grace and tenacity.

It isn't always easy to describe, but the shit we say to ourselves, the good quality shit that keeps us from the edge of a knife or the bottom of a bottle is the shit that proves #SurvivorVoicesAreClear. We are all getting clearer every single day that I choose to live as a survivor.

Stay tuned for updates as I network with the advocates who are NOT seasonal, such as myself...

One more post to follow here at Publishing for a Change, LLC.

Thank you, to my brave readers... keep sharing. I’m here with you... a little while longer... #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

 

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# Recovery In Real Time: For the Seasonal Advocates...

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as she shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

In two short weeks, I will take a break from publicly processing my #RecoveryInRealTime stories and refocus my efforts on different writing projects, supporting other social change advocates, and giving all I can to my first practicum year as I earn a MSW in Social Change. (I'll still be maintaining an incredibly exciting leadership role at a nature-based early learning center, where I've been since August 2010... read any articles lately about trauma survivors and over-achieving? Sounds familiar!)

Overachieving aside - this summer has been a wild one.

Learning more about the interconnected and necessary survivor networks online has been encouraging, yet overwhelming. (Oh Twitter, you slay me with your limitless communities and chats! Amazing!)

Coming out publicly with very vulnerable information about survivor life has felt empowering, yet terrifying. (Sometimes I feel like I'll be coming out for the rest of my life...)

Walking a fine line between advocacy and obsession has been character-building, yet challenging. (I want survivors and our advocates to have this resource or I want people to know I made it so I feel that I've contributed enough to the cause? Which is it?)

As I look out on the village of survivors, I ask myself a lot of questions. I know that for me, I cannot (and am likely to never want to) be a full-time advocate for survivors of trauma. As a multiple trauma survivor, I wouldn't even know where to start anyway!

Should I dedicate myself to advocating for victims of sexual assault?

What about Child Sexual Abuse survivors? Perhaps that is where I am to focus my energy?

Then there's conversion therapy and religious abuse - I can speak for decades about that topic.

Perhaps I should focus on acts of violence and the effects on community and individual psyche - maybe that's my area.

Of course I could always dedicate myself to anything LGBTQ - I mean oppression is far from over.

The list doesn't really end there, but today, I remind myself - there's no requirement to become a full-time advocate for survivors of trauma.

I struggled with this in 2003 when I first came on the scene as a writer and advocate - as I look back over the last 14 years of my indie author career, I know that this is not what I want to do full-time.

But it is a part of me.

And it will always be - which is why I was so proud to compile and design #RecoveryInRealTime. It isn't a book for the full-time advocate who has a livelihood of trauma-focused advocacy *Though, we thank you for how you choose this and ride its turbulent waves!

This book isn't for the researcher who is continually looking for new strategies for "healing" the trauma mind/body/soul.

I wrote the book for the rest of us - the part-time advocates who live full-time survivor lives. 

At first I wondered if this book was just for me... then I started hearing from many of you. 

I used to ask myself...

"Is it just me... or does it feel like a full-time job to read workbooks on trauma recovery?"

"Is it just me... or am I required to hyper focus to recover?"

"Is it just me... or will I never be separated from my recovery process?

"Is it just me... or have I been basically ruined and thus doomed to relive trauma for the rest of my life?"

As I heard from readers, I discovered... 

It's not just me.

Many of us have varied involvement with our families, struggle with livelihood choices, face our social fears, walk uphill battles to find a faith that fits, read every single book that may keep us afloat, dedicate ourselves to musicians and artists who help us feel less isolated, thrive professionally because of our hyper vigilant minds, and ultimately, feel like we need a few months of the year when "trauma" doesn't define us. 

There are 25 hashtags for each stage of the grief cycle in #RecoveryInRealTime. Every once in awhile, I read through all 25 for the Acceptance stage, just to remind myself that it does happen - Acceptance.

Just like the rest of the cycle, we do sometimes discover acceptance - maybe it is in spite of the trauma or maybe it is because of the trauma...

All I know is that, it isn't just me...

Some of us can only sustain an advocacy role in seasons and as this season draws closer to an end, I want to thank you for your emails, tweets, shares, and comments - and for buying the book so you have your own resource for #RecoveryInRealTime...

It's not just me...

Advocacy, for many of us, will ebb and flow.

It reminds me of this wicked photo I captured of the full moon in Aquarius (98.6 % full). It was a moon that on the other side of the globe, had been eclipsed on Monday... but on my side, here in Washington, DC area, it was cloud covered until finally, Tuesday night, I was able to spy the scene. (Shout out to In This Moment because #TheWitchingHour was blaring in my ears while I watched and waited for my lunar friend).

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Advocacy for me, is like a full moon... you can count on me to have something to say each month, but sometimes there are clouds, so to say you saw it may involve making a special plan, giving it focus, and having an intention not to miss it. 

But the moon is always there - like trauma, whether it is full, waxing, or waning to the eyes of others, the moon is the moon... is the moon...

So too it is for me and my relationships with multiple traumas.

Trauma is always there and sometimes it calls to me and requests that I give it my full attention.

But in a few weeks, it will be my private journey again. 

For me, that is where it belongs ultimately. 

Private.

Hidden behind my inner circle of friendly witches and clouds.

Eclipsed behind my wife, who is the Earth shadow that keeps life mysteriously powerful.

Private.

Sometimes I wish it could be a full-time role - I mean, after surviving multiple traumas, I know I have a lot to add to the conversations...

But also, after surviving multiple traumas, I also have the right to change the conversations.

And so do you.

So this post is for anyone who is a "Seasonal Advocate, but Full-Time Survivor."

I see you...

And no distance from any spotlights, pages, microphones, or cameras will ever take away the fullness of our orbits around something other than... our traumas.

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you... a little while longer... #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

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# Recovery In Real Time: Validation vs. Depth

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as she shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

The truth is that I didn't just "write" Recovery In Real Time...

I spoke it into existence.

I literally carried a voice recorder as I walked in circles around a favorite small park and I spoke most of the words in the book into existence. For months, I transcribed them, asked myself if they had value and after sharing them with my wife, recognized that what this project represents is a lifetime of grief and recovery, in a digestible format.

My wife hugged me after she read the first draft of #RecoveryInRealTime and simply said, "I cannot believe what you've been through and how much you've brought to life through this project."

Everything she said to me, everything she did and everything I felt can be summed up in one word: Validation.

No family member, friend, or partner prior had ever heard and seen "all" of what I have been through and held such sacred space for me the way she did that night. 

Survivors, we understand this, don't we?

Our need for validation - it's as if there is a tiny funnel through which validation gets "in" and yet on the other side of our hearts exists a severe wound of insecurity and shame through which validating statements rush out.

It's already been 2 years since I showed my wife the project - now it has been edited, shared, reviewed, and is "out there" for public consumption. 

Yet, I still need validation?

Why do I still hope that various celebs who have influenced my trauma recovery will "like" or re-tweet my posts? Will I really feel "better" if Maria Brink (of In This Moment) knows about the project? Am I going to be saved from my endless shame if Tori Amos knows she's been saving my soul for over 25 years? Will I sense an energetic shift if Alanis aligns with this style of advocacy? Is Mariska Hargitay going to provide me with the sense of security I've been looking for since I was 9 years old?

I'm almost 40 years old!

What is it that I'm seeking?

Here's the truth: I am a survivor of sexual assault, long-term sexual abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, religious abuse, and a witness to suicide...

There's not a damn thing ANYONE can do to end my quest for validation!

And that statement has more power than anything else I've written or produced since I started this indie author journey in 2004. 

Trust me when I say this - no matter how many tweets are seen, posts shared, or in this case, books sold, what I need for recovering from trauma isn't validation alone.

I need depth.

I need long walks with old friends, who can remind me that I've always been a sensitive person and there's no shame in that.

I need phone calls and quick texts from my wife, telling me that she loves me and respects every choice I make along my journey.

I need an online community that steps up with positive, honest words when I'm floundering in a sea of negativity.

I need cards and notes from my mom, who can feel my disappointment, fears, and depression in her bones.

I need the risk and rush that comes from taking a chance on a new friend, no matter that I'm scared shitless of rejection. 

I need time alone in nature so I can listen to its wisdom and find a safe way to breathe and face the stillness or chaos of my own presence.

I need...

Depth, if I'm going to recover in real time.

Now, don't get me wrong - validation gets us from one stage to the next. It has immense value. I hope for validation - from peer advocates, from mentors, from celebrities and gurus! I'm going to hope this project is seen and heard around the world of survivor-focused, trauma-informed communities.

But I don't need that to recover.

What I need is depth. 

Validation is welcome, but rather than cross my fingers and hope to become recognized in the future, I cross my heart and hope to live... in the depth of who I am today. 

Trust me, validation helps - it works wonders. Many of you have written to me to tell me that this book has validated your journey in ways no other book has and I know it was worth it because of your feedback! 

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We validate one another.

But we won't save each other's lives with our affirmations and validations.

Consider this: My book will not feed you if you're starving in the ocean of your flashbacks, fears, and grief - but it may keep you afloat until help arrives. 

And when help arrives, put the books down, shut down the computers, turn off the music, click off the television...

And be in the depth of the community of people who see you, just as you are.

(And if you haven't formed and found that depth yet, don't let go yet. Help is on the way!)

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

 

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# Recovery in Real Time: We are TOO BUSY for this! (A vlog)

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as she shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-Workbook" for surviving multiple traumas. For the first time on Publishing for a Change, LLC, Gail shares directly in the form of a 8-minute vlog. (Shorter vlogs to follow in August 2017)

How does it feel when the therapeutic process interferes with our daily lives? #WeAreTooBusyForThis addresses that moment when the last thing we want to do is pause, and give MORE time to the recovery experience.

But, it is in these moments, that we honor the losses, show acceptance of ourselves, and contain what must be contained, so we can function well on a complicated and sometimes difficult path.

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# Recovery In Real Time: When God's Silence is Holy

# Recovery In Real Time: When God's Silence is Holy

For me, the religious umbrella over my life hindered the light of recovery.

It kept away the healing rain of diversity.

It kept out the light that would warm my lonely skin.

It kept my face hidden from the world around me.

For others, a religious umbrella over their lives has the opposite result.

It insulates their sense of safety.

It protects them from their greatest fears.

It provides shelter from the elements that do not align with their beliefs.

I understand because for the longest time, that was how I felt underneath religious oppression - I believed it kept me "safe," when in truth...

The emotional abuse that went on, underneath that umbrella led to the deterioration of my mental health, sexual health, and ultimately, spiritual health.

# Recovery In Real Time: The SINGLE Reason Trauma Survivors Do Not Heal

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

I don't wear trauma like a badge, but I do know these scars are stories that can support others, as we all walk the path of a lifelong recovery - whether you are a survivor of sexual assault, damaging religion, emotional abuse, or witness to a violent act (to name a few of my scars), I know what it's like to keep chasing "healing." Imagine endless thirst while crawling through a desert of memories - That is the survivor's search for healing.

I know what it's like to have lovers, friends, and family members set out eggshells of "discomfort" as they become weary of our attempts to understand the trauma.

I know what it's like to have fellow survivors minimize the recovery process by pontificating about their psychological successes. We do this sometimes as a form of denial, by the way. We claim we are "beyond trauma" so we don't have to deal with it in any new forms, but that is not true. (It always cycles back - and it "should" if we are recovering, not resisting.)

I know what it's like to have intrusions from social media - ignorance from people who are trolling posts, or even that dreaded "suggested friends" list - ever seen an abuser or abuser's relative show up on your page? I have...  

I know what it's like to go several months without thinking about any major effects from trauma and then be right back in a grief cycle as if it all just happened yesterday.

There is only one reason trauma survivors do not heal.

It has nothing to do with reading the right books (though I think mine is helpful, it is for recovery, not "healing.")

It has nothing to do with having the right therapist (though this is a vital part of the process).

It has nothing to do with being on the right medication (though medication can be a tool for recovery).

It has nothing to do with how much time has passed since the trauma (time does not "heal" wounds of trauma).

The reason trauma survivors do not heal is simple: HEALING IS NOT A REALISTIC GOAL.

I created #RecoveryInRealTime as an Anti-workbook for a very specific reason - I was cycling through another iteration of my grief. I was grieving the innocence of my faith, as I thought about how toxic religion had destroyed a healthy sense of trust and hope. I was grieving how my body still maintained a level of memory of sexual and emotional abuse. I was grieving...

And the only resources I could find were hashtags about awareness/prevention or books about the BEGINNING stages of trauma recovery - 300+ page workbooks, starting at the novice stage of recovery. Worse, I had my original copy of The Courage to Heal, which had become nothing more than a bright-yellow paperback eye-sore on my bookshelf. I read my own notes in the book, which I owned for almost two decades...

And I decided to burn it.

I made a fire...

And I burned it.

Because what I was lacking was certainly not the COURAGE to HEAL.

I was lacking a tangible reminder that HEALING wasn't about about courage at all.

Healing had become like a dangling carrot on my path - it was costing me my sanity every time the cycle of grief found me.

Healing had become a false belief that with enough therapy and support, the effects of trauma would be wiped out of my life.

Healing had become an obstacle because it wasn't realistic. 

But... I had courage alright...

The courage to burn a broken path, with an unrealistic goal - and write my own damn resource book!

Is #RecoveryInRealTime possible? Yes.

If you're a long-term survivor, you've probably had enough of the unrealistic goal of "healing."

We minimize the grief cycle every time we accept the product of "healing."

I do not want to "get over it."

I do not even want to "heal" from it.

I want to have the courage to see it when it visits and process it, in real time, so I can keep living my life.

Survivors and loved ones reading this - please consider... 

How much lighter would the burden be if the goal was integration, not healing?

What if the journey is the destination?

What if the process is the goal and there is no magical product known as healing?

We must stop selling healing and start buying into our own stories of recovery.

This is why there are 125 hashtags...

So you can see yourself in the black and white print another had the courage to put out there.

I gave you a mirror.

Look deeply.

See your own recovery as it happens, right now, in real time.

See your own story, as it unfolds, each new chapter, at every new turn of your life...

It is not the courage to heal that we need to find...

It is the courage to see and share... without apology, for the rest of our lives.

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

~~
Disclaimer:  Therapies and books that recommend healing often provide immediate respite for the beginning stages of healing. #RecoveryInRealTime exists for long-term process for survivors - an angle on trauma that is often minimized. If you are just recently disclosing your trauma, you may find that these resources are incredibly helpful. 

~~
Preview of next week's post: (July 19th) 

It wasn't the way they told me I was going to hell... it wasn't the way they told me the abuse was my own fault... it wasn't the way they quoted the Bible like they wrote it themselves...

It was the way they enjoyed it.

Emotional abuse in the name of God left me with a tangled view of myself and others, but what it did to my sense of pleasure is what really needs a voice, especially when #GodIsSilent...

# Recovery In Real Time: Thank you, Flashbacks and Anxiety

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

There are too many untold stories behind the hashtags in #RecoveryInRealTime... but I'll tell this one today, because #MostDoNotUnderstand is one of the hashtags that gives me a great deal of peace.

It gives me a lot of peace about being complicated.

It gives me a lot of peace about being intense.

It gives me a lot of peace about being unlike a lot of other people.

It gives me a lot of peace about being angry.

It gives me a lot of peace about being sad.

Most people DO NOT understand what we have been through as survivors of trauma. Sometimes we meet therapists and friends who sort of "get it," and maybe there are a few movies and books that highlight a part of what we've been through - but I wrote #RecoveryInRealTime because I needed a resource that captures the complexities of lifelong recovery! (Yes, I wrote it for myself - I published it for others.) 

Sometimes we are okay... sometimes we are functional and we have plans that makes sense... sometimes we know how to heal and sometimes we are reliving trauma and we don't even know why!

But most of the time, #MostDoNotUnderstand what it is that we are dealing with... (trigger alert below).

Recently I've been having nightmares about a childhood abuser - almost every night for the last month, he comes into my dreams at the same age he was when he was touching me, luring me in, grooming me, befriending me, manipulating me...

I'm now 39 years old, but when I close my eyes and fall asleep, I'm suddenly 12 years old again, confused about the advances of a brother-figure who is a senior in high school. I am not attracted to him, but I am drawn in... vulnerable... eager to please and full of shame.  I must be a "bad girl" to have "made him" want me this way... I must be an evil girl, because I am not attracted to him... Abuse is not my type, but neither are young men... 

So I go to bed afraid that he will still have an influence over me in my dreams... and he does. Last night he wanted me to go down on him and would not let me leave his living room until I "did what I was supposed to do." In the dream, I argued with him... I fought back for a moment... I refused and told him I wanted to leave. I woke up before I could find out if I "won" last night... 

In my dream, I was brave.

I woke up anxious, terrified to look in the mirror, and unable to move for a few minutes.

But then I remembered it was just a dream... and instead of anxious, I was depressed immediately. Tears filled my eyes. I heard my wife's alarm and it was clear to me - I was on the edge of a flashback and...

In my dream, I was brave.

But in reality...

I did everything he told me to do, everything he manipulated me into doing... for 5 years.

This morning's shower felt like the shower I needed 27 years ago.

Suddenly, I realized I needed to head into work and be 39 years old - a somewhat successful Executive Director, community leader, social change agent, author, foster parent, wife...

Survivor.

And the truth is...

#MostDoNotUnderstand how I can do this.

But survivors understand... how flashbacks and anxiety, in a moment, set us apart, validating that we feel isolated sometimes because we were isolated! We feel different, because we were different... we feel separate, because we were separated... we feel lost in time, because every time they touched us, time was lost... 

Thank you, flashbacks and anxiety - for reminding me that my path is my own. I am a lifelong survivor of multiple traumas against my essence.

If I can handle intrusions from the past, what is it that I cannot handle?

Today, I have great peace knowing #MostDoNotUnderstand because I am also then not obligated to explain myself to most people... 

I am obligated then, only to myself... to keep going... to be here, now - brave NOW, for the young girl whose survival was submission.

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

 

# Recovery In Real Time: Trauma, Depression and the Hope of Sadness

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

Turn to page 60 of the Anti-Workbook and let's see if there's some method to the madness of these 125 hashtags for trauma recovery. 

There's no other way around it... hashtags #76 and #77 are linked to the basic reality that we face as survivors. When I was cycling through one of many depressions related to lifetime recovery, it occurred to me that everything I was feeling "should" feel sad. I try not to "should" on myself, but reflecting on innocence lost SHOULD hurt. What better way is there to validate the depression than by recognizing that innocence lost is devastating? 

All the time we spend in denial, anger, or bargaining lead us to recognize that it's really sad shit - what we've seen. I have noticed it more prominent lately as I struggle with secondary traumatic stress through being a parent to a child in foster care...

There's something powerful in being so sad that we can't get out of bed.

There's something meaningful in being so sad that we can barely eat.

There's something shocking about being so sad that we can't enjoy the beauty of life.

It could be clinical or biochemical, the sadness.

Or...

It could be that trauma is fucking sad!

Hashtag 76, #ItShouldHurt, is a reminder that something was taken from me, it's okay to be sad. Memories of trauma shouldn't be so desensitized that we go on like it didn't hurt. That's denial and we know denial is only useful for a season. 

But if we know #ItShouldHurt and we feel the pain of it all, how do we pull ourselves back together?

Hashtag 77 is right there to suggest the next step... #AbuseIsHeavy and so that awareness brings us to the point of reaching out to others. 

Depression says, "This shit is hard..." but then it also declares, "I need help with it."

The burden of our sadness is only too great if we bear it alone.

Our lives are not usual... our sadness, even when medicated so we can be functional, is not wrong.

The hope that I find in my sadness is this: I will honor that something was lost.

The day I watched a suicide, the years of molestation, the decade of emotional abuse, the decades of toxic religious indoctrination... My voice, my innocence, my essence - were all lost, in various ways.

Acceptance is not found unless we recognize exactly what it is we are accepting.

So today, if you're sad and the depression is knocking on your door, I'm there with you in this moment... as it slithers outside my door like a poisonous snake this week.

But I know it will only visit - it will shed its skin, and I will learn that this is just another layer of my recovery, in real time... for the rest of my life.

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

# Recovery In Real Time: They Knew Better

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

As some readers know, #RecoveryInRealTime is comprised of 125 hashtags presented in a 5-stage grief cycle. Why? Because trauma recovery is basically a lifetime of grief – we grieve our innocence and our lives before trauma, in iterations that can surprise us even years removed from the experiences. Denial is common, Anger is needed, Bargaining is natural, Depression is devastating and Acceptance happens… this is all part of the recovery journey.

But let's keep talking about anger a bit…

How often do we allow ourselves the permission to come back to the concept and truly appreciate what anger offers us as survivors?

I keep thinking about how this book is useful to survivors from many different trauma exposures. I have heard from combat survivors, sexual assault survivors, incest survivors, and even from those who experience vicarious trauma.

While I am empowered to know that the book is finding an audience, I do ask myself about hashtag #29 as the process continues… #TheyKnewBetter.

As the book reminds us, there is a culture and community of violence and cruelty that often promotes trauma and if nothing else, it stays silent in the face of survivors. I am glad it's finding an audience, but damn... there are so many trauma survivors and the culture of abuse continues unchecked.

I remember plainly the day I heard the current US President’s words: “Grab ‘em by the pussy,” he said. As a survivor of sexual assault and one who had grown stronger because of the efforts of former Vice President Biden, I still cannot stomach it.

To have a national leader suggest that women’s bodies were there for the grabbing…

To suggest that it was all just a joke…

To suggest that women or survivors were being hypersensitive.

Our anger still makes sense.

Anger is the most reasonable response from any woman or anyone who loves their mother, daughter, wife, grandmother, aunt… sister.

If we do not channel that anger, by understanding its depths, then we are all made victims again, at every turn. THEY did know better… our abusers, of course, but also the people and government officials who make up the culture of silence and flippancy that continues to shame us from being fully angry and fully present with the injustices that affect us all!

I don’t know how long I will feel angry – sometimes it is for an hour and sometimes it is for a month or longer. I find acceptance along the way and I know many survivors who find the balance of expressing their necessary anger and then practicing self-care.

Maybe I’ll stay angry until there is justice for trauma survivors and we are treated like more than one passing hashtag… 125 hashtags will do for now, but maybe #ItsOnUs to go deeper into the survivor process and make sure we aren't just heard, but also understood. 

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

# Recovery In Real Time: Forgiveness as Denial

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

For over two decades I heard messages about forgiveness, as part of the "essential" path for survivors. My earliest memory of it is when I was about 9 years old, discussing my father's addictions with the "alateen" group leader. But only a few years later, when I was disclosing to my youth minister's wife that my neighbor was touching me, she told me that I could be an example to my neighbor. I could "ask for forgiveness" as I extend forgiveness to him… it didn't really matter that he was 5 years older than me and I wasn't attracted to him or interested in um... being molested by a brother-figure!

Before graduation from high school, another teacher suggested that if I forgave the young man who “scared me” when he assaulted me during a “date gone bad,” I wouldn’t be afraid of young men anymore.

Then there was conversion therapy… if I forgave the men in my life and the women "who allowed men to hurt me," they said I would not be attracted to women.

So – I have some thoughts about forgiveness.

I have no doubt that the intention of forgiveness is valuable - the psychological or spiritual releasing of our abusers from their place of power in our lives is useful, but when forgiveness has been a tool of denial, we need to recognize that it is not always in our best interest to forgive.

Sometimes we need to hold on to the awareness of what happened.

Sometimes we need to grab the truth with both hands and refuse to let it go, especially if the letting go is so others can be more comfortable, not us.

Sometimes forgiveness is a mask for the reality of our trauma.

Today, I share hashtag #16 - #ForgivenessAsDenial, as a way of reminding us all that even forgiveness is not a one-time event, but also a cyclical experience.

I forgave my neighbor – but after hours of nightmares about him just last night, I will probably need to forgive him again.

I forgave my dad – but after a rough Father’s Day of memories and grief, I will probaby need to forgive him again.

I forgave the young man who assaulted me on a date – but after reading an article about date rape, I will probably need to forgive him again.

I forgave my youth ministers and conversion therapists… but that trauma still stings and forgiveness often feels like denial so who knows when I’ll say I “forgave” them all.

Forgive if you choose, but not as a means of minimizing what happened to you. Forgiveness as censorship is not forgiveness, but oppression of your grief process. 

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

Recovery In Real Time: Forgiveness as Denial

#Recovery In Real Time: Triggers Are Everywhere

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

#RecoveryInRealTime was born out of multiple traumas and sparked to life by the untimely death of a friend… but what do I know about trauma? Like literally… who am I to write a book about trauma?

I could discuss my awareness of human behavior and the relevant pieces of academic knowledge that I’ve acquired over my college and graduate school life, but that’s not why I wrote the book – I didn’t write it directly for professors, therapists, and social workers who TALK about trauma... 

I wrote it for us - Trauma survivors and our loved ones – who get up every day and because of our commitment to healing, we get our shit together and get through a day without giving up.

We put labels on the hard days - maybe we call it PTSD, technically, but it’s also called “Being a Survivor.” It’s not that we are destined to have lifelong triggers, but this book was designed to give us all a break when it comes to diagnoses and treatments. We need those too, but we also need real talk.

We need a break.

We need a companion.

We need recovery in real time.

There’s no forgetting our traumas and no matter what we do to desensitize ourselves too it, life will find a way to re-sensitize us to it.

So there are 125 hashtags in this book, yet I’m starting this blog series with Hashtag #83. Why?

Why start in the middle… with #TriggersAreEverywhere?

Because that is the way recovery in real time works... we don't start at the beginning of a grief cycle and we don't start neatly at page one of any workbook.

We start when we are triggered.

And the triggers? They are everywhere! 

I know because as a survivor of multiple traumas, there's no escaping my triggers. 

And every time I was triggered, I would hear the same message: 

My sensitivity to triggers implied that something wasn’t whole or healed.

What kind of unrealistic expectation is that?

I’m supposed to be so perfectly removed from the fact that my primary caregiver was emotionally abusive… so if someone I trust takes advantage of me, it doesn’t affect me?

I'm supposed to be so perfectly removed from the memories of being touched by my older neighbor for 5 years… so if I see a Facebook thread about sexual assault, it doesn’t affect me?

I’m supposed to be so perfectly removed from the fact that I watched a man die in a suicide… so if there’s a loved one struggling with depression, it doesn’t affect me? 

Am I to be perfectly removed from my own life and experiences?

Is that how we define healing?

I wrote this book because the answer to our healing isn't to be desensitized but to be recognized... 125 times, 125 different ways, for as many cycles as it takes to know how brave we really are for recovering at all! (125 at least!)

With 125 different hashtags, you can carry a book that exists as a mirror - a book that says, "I see you healing," rather than a workbook that says, "Work harder and you will be healed."

Every day you said yes to being alive is a day you have continued your healing.

Every day you knew that #TriggersAreEverywhere, but you kept going, you have continued your healing.

It's not always a hard day... but this is what I know about trauma and why I could write a book about it:

I know how to live with it and keep my shit aptly together so I can be present with the process of recovery.

So, I say… congratulations, survivor.

Congratulations, loved one of a survivor.

Today is another day that despite our reality - #TriggersAreEverywhere - we are making it.

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

#Recovery In Real Time - Grief Births the Process

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.
~~

#RecoveryInRealTime was not a project that happened overnight, but it did launch quickly. It was as if I was drinking water from the fire hose of trauma and started spitting out hashtags for the grief process. 

It was June 2015 and I was notified that a dear friend of mine was killed tragically in a car accident… 

Devastated, I found myself in yet another grief cycle without many resources for processing the loss… why does everything have to start with death? But why am I so equipped to handle loss? 

Is it just me or do some of us have an unfair share of bullshit to deal with in our lives?
I was only 37 years old… she was 35 when she was killed… 

And as I walked in literal circles on a path through my local park, it hit me:

I am a trauma survivor. I’m all too familiar with empty places in my heart.

I said that to myself as I walked for over two hours, crying on this circular path. I even played a song on repeat as I marched.

The song is “Fighter” by In This Moment:
“’Cause I'm a survivor
Yeah, I am a fighter
I will not hide my face
I will not fall from grace
I'll walk into the fire, baby
All my life
I was afraid to die
And now I come alive inside these flames.”

It was then that I decided I knew too much about grief to stay quiet – everything about trauma is a cycle of grief and it was “fresh” grief that reminded me of this.

It’s been almost two years since my friend’s death and as I tear up now, knowing I’m going public with the stories behind the hashtags of #RecoveryInRealTime, I dedicate this post to her vibrant life.

Survivor stories are coming alive in the flames of her untimely and tragic death.

What better tribute to grief is there than gathering our stories and telling them bravely?

What better way to memorialize our cycles of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance than marveling at our abilities to keep going?

I recently told a survivor, “We only know one direction – forward. Survivors never actually turn back or look back. The past keeps finding us, but our lives are forward-motion through cycles, but always forward. If you want to learn about letting go… look at how a survivor of trauma gets out of bed and doesn’t make excuses for hard days. Look at our lives. We will show anyone what resilience looks like…

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today. 

#Recovery In Real Time - The Stories Behind the Hashtags

Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.

~~

"Did I really write a book about trauma?"

I've asked myself this for almost a year. Releasing #RecoveryInRealTime was one of the bravest things I've ever done, but failing to put a marketing plan behind it until now was not simply out of lack of resources. It costs a lot to let people know you created something...

But the resources I needed weren't financial or creative.

This was purely a lack of emotional and psychological resources - if you're going to publish a resource for survivor of trauma, you must make sure you are ready for the attention that comes with it.

I was not ready to tell more of my story. After participating in the Our America segment in 2013 for survivors of conversion therapy, I thought I would never do another interview about that trauma. After participating in some advocacy work for conversion therapy survivors in January 2014, I did a few interviews and testified in the Virginia Assembly and once again, walked away from the attention that comes with being a survivor.

Why have I continued to have a false start every time I decide to participate in an open conversation about being a survivor?

Even after publishing #RecoveryInRealTime, I stepped back from interviews or public discussions about the book.

I hoped that the book itself would break silence...

I hoped that it would quietly catch fire and I could know I was helping survivors without actually speaking more about my experiences. 

I hoped that I wouldn't need to put myself out there directly...

But that's not how activism works. 

I need to talk about what it's like to grow up with an addict.

I need to talk about what it's like to grow up with a neighbor who can't keep his hands off of you.

I need to talk about what it's like to have trusted pastors, youth ministers, and teachers preying upon your innocence in the name of god.

I need to talk about what it's like to be trapped in a young man's car, terrified of what he might do to you next.

I need to talk about what it's like to stand at a burning car as a man dies from his own decision to end his chances of hope.

I can't hide the stories behind the skills that the book represents.

I'm ready. 

It has taken me almost a year since publishing the book, but I'm ready...

To explain why I'm an expert when it comes to surviving trauma.

So get your print or e-book copy of #RecoveryInRealTime and be prepared to follow along as I post some specifics behind each of the hashtags. 

It's going to be an intense process...

But I'm ready. 

And so are you!

 

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME RELEASED!

We are excited to announce that #Recovery in Real Time: A Trauma Survivor's Anti-Workbook is available for sale starting today! It's available on e-book as well as print.  

You can find it in the following places: 

Print Version | CreateSpace, Amazon, Barnes & NobleIngram Book Group

e-Book Version | iBooks, Smashwords, Amazon/Kindle, Barnes & Noble

We hope this can become a powerful resource and tool for all survivors, their families and loved ones.  

Do leave us comments and questions on the page to let us know what you think! 

PRESS RELEASE: #RECOVERY IN REAL TIME RELEASE

Survivors of trauma are gaining increasing coverage in the media. Because of pop culture cautionary tales like the Duggar Family, coupled with a call to action from celebrity icons like Lady Gaga, many are moving away from the standardized textbooks for trauma recovery. Survivors crave social media support and are inspired by self-help-driven tweets. #RECOVERY IN REAL TIME: A TRAUMA SURVIVOR’S ANTI-WORKBOOK by Gail Dickert, provides a modernized guidebook for trauma survivors and their loved ones in 125 hashtags.

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME is a concise and user-guided walk through a trauma survivor’s on-going recovery experience. With survivor-focused hashtags like #DenialIsContagious, #ReasonCanFail, #LyingIsSurvival, #TherapyIsTerrifying, #WeAreNotNormal, and #MediaDistortsTrauma Dickert’s Anti-Workbook provides survivors and their loved ones with relevant and poignant highlights of the cycle of recovery which includes major stages such as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME is a non-fiction self-help book with an anti-workbook length and approach that appeals directly to people who desperately need a real time version of Ellen Bass’/Laura Davis’ THE COURAGE TO HEAL. Due to the nature of Dickert’s diverse experience with trauma, #RECOVERY IN REAL TIME offers relevant recovery concepts for survivors of combat, physical abuse, or any situation that was traumatic. This condensed guide meets survivors’ need for digestible yet realistic snapshots of the life-long recovery process.