conversion therapy

# 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: 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.


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: 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 - 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!