cult survivor

#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: 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 - 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.