PTSD

# 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: 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.

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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. 

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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: 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 - 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.

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"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!