Survivors Empowering Survivors

Why I’m Not A Total Piece of Shit

In searching for fathers to contribute to the Trigger Points Anthology, I came across Byron’s blog Trauma Dad. As soon as I finished reading his post I Am A Killer, I emailed him because I felt compelled to help him share his voice as far and wide as I could. Although he was unable to contribute to the anthology, he has remained a friend to the Trigger Points community. Good things are happening for Byron and I am so thrilled that he has chosen to share an excerpt from his upcoming book I Am a Killer for the #SurvivorsEmpoweringSurvivors series.

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“I think “I Am A Killer” will help people.  More than that, I think the raw acknowledgement of my corrupt instincts, and how I turn them into positive action, will help stop people from being abusers, and will help them come to love themselves.” ~Byron Hamel

Choice.

There are times in our lives when we have choices, and times when we do not.

When we are children, we are led by those in charge of us.  They tell us to do things.  Mostly, we do what they say.  We believe what they believe, and behave how they behave.  We observe, and emulate.  It’s part of how we learn.  It’s human nature.

A mother is like God to a child.  Her will is destiny.  Fate.  “Do it, now” says the father.  And the child does.  The master teaches the apprentice.  This relationship between parent and child is a sacred trust.  A way to maintain safety, build character, and establish vital life habits and skills.  IF -and I mean a very big IF- the parents use their power correctly.

Essentially, as children, we are led.  And we follow.  When we are led poorly, bad things can happen.

Choices are steered by forces and circumstances beyond a child’s control or understanding.  Children neither possess the reasoning, nor the physical requirements to take command of their own lives in any responsible way.  Their views of the world are filtered through rules, limits, directions…

As children, we are sheep.  And we are vulnerable.  We are as helpless against the wolves as we are against the shepherds.  And that is why so many of us are taken advantage of as children.

We can not fight back when adults hit us.  We WILL not fight back.  We just get hurt.  And that becomes the reality of our lives.  If we are threatened into silence or submission, we will usually concede.  We will usually be victimized until, by some happy accident, a caring person intervenes.

The choice to end parental abuse is not our own.  Not while we are kids.

If we are lucky or clever enough to escape our abusive situations alive, we become adults.  And then we are called upon to make our own choices.  To behave in responsible ways of our own choosing.

But how?  How the hell do we know what to do, if nobody ever taught us correctly?

Maybe we learned when we were little that the correct way to respond to somebody denying us what we want is to punch them in the ear.  Perhaps we were taught that unsolicited fondling of another person’s genitals is the appropriate way of showing love.  It could be that we were beaten every time we expressed emotion, and therefore grew to hold our feelings inside, fearing punishment.

Now that we are adults, our understanding does not magically shift on it’s own.  If our minds and hearts become corrupted, they remain corrupted until we change them.  And change takes work.  Change takes wisdom.

But we are lost.  We truly have not been led to a place of responsibility.  But here we are, tasked with being adults.  Surrounded by other people who seem to be doing just fine.  But we’re not like them, are we?  We don’t GET IT.  We still need to learn all that very basic stuff.

And there’s a lot of it.

We are left to lead ourselves.  To teach ourselves.  But we haven’t been trained to lead.  And we don’t possess the knowledge to teach.

So what do we end up doing?  Well, we follow.  If we do not take control, we continue doing the things we learned how to do, the way that we learned how to do them.

And that is not a good thing.  It is a bad thing.  It is what monsters are made of.  But we’re not monsters.  We’re just grown up kids who got a raw deal.  And now some new kid is smiling up at us.  And we are God to that kid.  That kid is our chance to do the right thing. That kid is why we are not going to follow.  We are going to choose for ourselves.

We the abused stand on the edge of decision.  And we need to make a vital choice.  We can do the difficult thing, and learn how to parent properly.  Or we can do the horrible thing, and continue the cycle of abuse.  We the abused to do not have the luxury of inaction.  We must choose.  One, or the other.

Now that we are the adults, we have the power to choose.  We can end parental abuse before it even begins for our own children.  It may seem impossible to you.  That makes sense.  Ending a cycle of abuse is hard to do.  And I mean VERY difficult.  But the alternative is the continuation of abuse.  And that is worse.  Further, it is unacceptable.  It is inadmissible.

We need to take control.  We need to take the reigns, and choose for ourselves.  We need to parent ourselves.  Correct our damaging beliefs and behaviors.  We need to become the source of love, safety, wisdom, and security that we wish we had when we were children.

This does not happen overnight.

It will take time.  We will need help.  We will need, perhaps, medication and therapy.  We will need to be kind to ourselves.  Patient and persistent.  If we are to succeed in this, we need to learn to love ourselves in all the ways that we were not loved as children.

With this effort, we find our voices.  We make our own choices.  We take our own actions.  We refuse to emulate the wills and ways of those who damaged us.

Choice.

I made a good one.  I make good choices every day.

That is why I’m not a total piece of shit.

————-

BIO

Byron Hamel was raised by a violent man who got the death penalty for torturing and killing a baby.  As a result of his upbringing, Byron dedicates his life to fighting child abuse.  He lives with Complex PTSD, Depression, and Anorexia.  Despite his obstacles, he’s an amazing dad to his two lovely daughters.

An award-winning Canadian journalist, and television producer, his documentary film, “A Breaking Cycle”, is a powerful journey into the world of tough bikers who protect abused kids.

Byron is currently writing for his blog Trauma Dad, and his book “I Am A Killer”, to be released in 2016 by the Gravity Imprint of Booktrope Publishing.  This post is an excerpt from his work in progress.  His writing challenges readers with both depth and simplicity.  It’s raw and funny, but leaves you feeling hopeful and inspired.

http://traumadad.blogspot.ca
https://www.facebook.com/traumadad
https://twitter.com/byronhamel
https://www.facebook.com/GravityImprint

Survivors Empowering Survivors

How I Used My Own Detour to Help College Students

I’m so excited to kick off the #SurvivorsEmpoweringSurvivors series with Amy Oestreicher. You will be shocked and inspired by what this beautiful woman has not only overcome, but accomplished in spite of some of the most difficult challenges one can imagine. Her resilience is astounding. We’ll hear from Amy again later in the month when she shares her story of sexual assault and how she learned to move through the hopeless feeling of why did I let this happen to me? Amy’s story lent itself to a major ah-ha moment for me and I can’t wait to share it with you. Today, Amy will be taking you through her “detours” and proving to all of us that despite the detours, anything is possible.

I’m the only person in the world that feels this hopeless. 

How can things ever get better?

 I must be crazy.

I feel so alone.

These thoughts raced through my head for years.

When Life Takes A Detour…

These were thoughts I had when my “thought-out” life took a detour.

What’s a detour?

A detour is a curve in the road, a bump in a path, a big sign in the middle of your trip that says sorry, you have to go THAT way.

Nobody expects a detour to happen in life. It’s what happens when we think we have things planned and all figured out, and then we’re thrown a curveball.
Believe me, I didn’t expect to be in a coma my senior year of high school.

At 17, I was molested for almost a year by my voice teacher, then at 18, my stomach literally exploded due to an unforeseen blood clot, I was in a coma for months, and almost died.

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It’s a mouthful, I know.  That was my detour.

For a long time, my detour felt like a dead-end.  After 27 surgeries and six years unable to eat or drink, I didn’t know where my life was going anymore.  As my stitches healed one by one, my thoughts seemed to unravel day by day.  My detour took me to a very scary place, into a new body and a new mind, troubled by Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome – PTSD.  Not only had I woken up in a new body, I now had a mind troubled with anxious thoughts, associations and memories.

Stress Makes Us Feel Alone

Stress and anxiety can make us feel like we’re entirely alone in our struggles.  College, especially, can be a breeding ground for stress – a turning point in our lives where we’re independent, perhaps for the first time.  Doors become open to us that we never even knew existed.  We realize we have the power to make choices, which can be equal parts empowering and frightening.

When I was going through my traumas, the biggest thing I needed to know was that I wasn’t alone. I wanted to reach out to a friend, a mentor, or a community of people, just to listen, to show understanding and compassion.

I realized I wasn’t alone in my stress, depression and anxiety when I saw how mental health issues and emotional concerns were a campus-wide issue.

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Plagued with their own anxiety, as well as taking on the anxiety from their families, many students appear more stressed than ever.  The office hours of my professors were jam packed with students asking for advice on how to handle situations outside of the class room or looking for advice on what to do. Counseling centers are operating on waitlists and students are not learning how to self care properly.  Students may feel uncomfortable reaching out to health and counseling services.  Worse, students may be unaware that these resources exist.

The Frightening College Reality

I was shocked to find out, in a 2011 NAMI study, that 64% of college dropouts were for mental health-related reasons, and that, of those, 50% never accessed any mental health programs or services.  73% of college students report having experienced a mental health crisis while in college. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students.

This inspired me to develop a program that combines Broadway theatre and mental health advocacy.  Now, I deliver this keynote to colleges and universities, providing hope, health, and saving lives.

I never thought that 10 years after I was supposed to start college, I’d be doing a different kind of college tour!

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Gutless & Grateful, the honest one-woman musical story of my life, shows the great and not so great aspects of a “detour” in life.  How I traveled my “detour” was by trial and error – and it still is.  But what I realized is that when I finally spoke up, asked for help when I needed it, and shared my story, I was finally able to heal and move on from it.  Gutless & Grateful is the story of how I became a Detourist.

It takes “guts” to talk – and sing – about my sexual abuse, my anger, my guilt, how I lost hope in things ever getting better.  But I share to show that things do get better with patience, trust and resilience.

From my own decade of medical isolation, I learned that nobody can heal in a vacuum. Being able to reach out for help and find support is what helps us realize we’re not alone.  This inspired me to start trying to bridge the gap of communication between departments on campus – academia, career counseling, wellness resources, accessibility, and student groups.  There are barriers between academia and a student struggling with anxiety, campus life transitions, and common adjustments needed for college.
Students often feel embarrassed, afraid or too overwhelmed to seek out wellness resources available to them on campus.  Those who are struggling may not even know there are resources that can help or they may fear being labeled. What ends up happening is many students fall through the gaps.

Starting the Conversation on Campus

My show Gutless & Grateful aims to introduce helpful resources on campuses that can help students build resilience.  I’m sharing the story of my life, and then talking to campuses about what students can do to create their own resiliency toolbox; a must-have in order to deal with stress and navigate life’s detours.

In the final component of my program, I introduce  students to a panel of counselors, faculty and wellness resources on campus, opening the channel of communication between the student body and staff.  If we can bridge that gap, we can help more students get the help they deserve.

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A strong campus community is full of compassion, support, and resilience.  The more open we are about our struggles – whatever they may be – the more we can normalize needing a bit of help.  Resilience is a learned skill, it’s a challenging task, but it is achievable.  Through resilience, I learned how to cope with stress, anxiety, and even better, I was able to travel my detour long enough to finally find that beautiful clearing.

If life's taken you down an unexpected path, you're a Detourist

We all need to learn how to cope when life doesn’t go like we expect it to. We all could use a few tips on learning how to love who we are.  We all have detours in our lives, and we become empowered when we trust that we can travel those detours and come out okay – even better! This “detour” in my path has turned into the richest time of my life and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. That’s why I call it my “beautiful detour.”

amy 01.pngSo when life gets stressful, or just doesn’t go as you plan, think of it as a detour – and make it a beautiful one.

As you travel, remember to reach out and ask for the help you need.  Together we’re stronger.  Together, we can navigate our beautiful detours.

 

 

 

Learn more about Amy’s program for colleges here as well as her programs for LGBT students and sexual assault survivors.  Get involved in the student Detourist movement here, and help contribute to making #LoveMyDetour a world wide movement.

Amy Oestreicher is a  PTSD peer-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright.  As a survivor and “thriver” of nearly 30 surgeries, a coma, sexual abuse, organ failure and a decade of medical trauma, Amy has been challenged with moments of extreme difficulty.  But as an artistnewlywedactress, 28-year old college student and overall lover of life, Amy eagerly shares the lessons learned from trauma and has brought out the stories that unite us all through her writingmixed media artperformance  and inspirational speaking.

Amy works directly with survivors of sexual assault and those healing from PTSD. Learn more about her college sexual assault prevention initiative here. All artworkwas created by Amy as a way to heal from her own history of sexual assault.

Amy Oestreicher

Actress, Artist, Writer, Speaker, Survivor, and Detourist

Watch Great Comebacks Documentary

Writer for Huffington Post. Featured in Cosmopolitan and on TODAY

Speaker for RAINN

Motivational Speaker on Student Mental Health, Women’s Empowerment, and Entrepreneurship

Creator of Gutless & Grateful

Follow me on Twitter InstagramEtsy and Facebook! Join the #LoveMyDetour Campaign.

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

A Sneak Peek at the Survivors Empowering Survivor Series.

You’re not going to want to miss what we have in store for the month of February! The Survivors Empowering Survivors series is shaping up to be no less than awe-inspiring.

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Here’s a sneak peek at just a few of the survivors you’ll be hearing from:

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Amy Oestreicher – A PTSD peer-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright.  As a survivor and “thriver” of nearly 30 surgeries, a coma, sexual abuse, organ failure and a decade of medical trauma, Amy has been challenged with and continues to overcome extreme circumstances she calls life’s detours.

 

byron hByron Hamel – An award-winning Canadian journalist, television producer, author and blogger at Trauma Dad. Despite being raised by a violent man who got the death penalty for torturing and killing a baby, Byron is a loving father dedicated to fighting child abuse and empowering others to heal.

 

liz mullinarLiz Mullinar A woman who walked away from being one of Australia’s leading casting consultant for over thirty years, after realizing she gained more satisfaction helping those who, like herself, had been abused. Liz co-founded ASCA (Adults Surviving Child Abuse) and is the founder of Heal For Life Healing Centres, a program for survivors of child abuse and trauma, run almost entirely by volunteers – people who have healed through the program and want to help others to do the same.

 

 

If you are looking to connect to and learn from other survivors, or you have the itch to use your experiences and own recovery to engage with and help others, you are sure to find motivation and guidance in the stories we will be sharing.

There is still time to submit but the February 7th deadline is fast approaching. You can read more about the submission process and what we are looking for here.


A parenting book by survivors for survivors.

Trigger_Points_AVAILALBE_NOW

Copies available in print and for Kindle.

Join the Trigger Points parenting survivor community on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Contributor news: Cis White

We are so proud and excited for Trigger Points contributor Cis White, who has just done something really big! Cis just open the Heal Write Now Centre in Weymouth, MA. This is a space to gather to create hope, health and happiness. Dawn and I know the incredible power that writing and creativity have had in our healing processes, and we are so blown away by the impact this is going to have. Read on to find out about some of her upcoming workshops for trauma survivors.

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All workshops held or hosted at the center focus on the following:

  • healing
  • creativity
  • mindfulness
More than half of us have or will experience traumatic stress. Many of us live with post-traumatic stress. All of us grieve, face loss, go through major life transitions and have emotions and experiences worthy of sharing.
Here’s what is offered every month at the Heal Write Now Center:
  • Facilitated expressive writing, 4-Sunday sessions
  • Free-Write Friday Night
  • Adverse Childhood Experience Workshop on the lifelong impact of childhood adversity on adult health.

While expressive writing is therapeutic – no therapy is provided. And that’s by design. For one, I’m not qualified to do so. Plus, in this space we gather as equals. A diagnosis of whatever doesn’t matter nor do any big fancy degree. WHO YOU ARE is what matters, not what you have or do.

We gather as the experts of our own experiences. Isn’t that what we all crave as humans – to be and feel safe and real?  Yet, too often we are silent or feel ashamed of or hide our deepest selves.

Writing allows us to tap into bliss, loss, joy and sorrow and cull the wisdom or the message from each. Writing invites us to remember that while we can’t right the wrongs of the past we can write the present and shape a new future. We are the authors of our lives. We get to narrate the now. We get to know and tell our own real-life stories to the open page (and if we want – one another).
You don’t have to consider yourself a writer or someone in recovery or healing to attend any workshop. We ALL have a story we have a “write” to tell even if only to ourselves on the open page. Doing so is good for health.
I offer and share tools which are portable and affordable, accessible and effective. That’s why I host workshops by others. Award-winning author and columnist, Suzette Martinez Standring will give her Hypnotic Recall for Writers Class on Jan. 17th. A week later, on Jan. 24th, Mary Lovely and Laura Parrot Perry of Say It, Survivor will lead a workshop for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There will be guided imagery coming too.
I hope to see your face and maybe you’ll check out a class or workshop or have one you’d like to offer.
I admit I’m an introvert and better at writing and creating than marketing. I’m trying to fin way to communicate that a my passion for writing and social change has become a business. I could use some help. If you are willing to share news about my open house, workshops, website or gut-honest memoir I would appreciate it more than I can convey in an email. I also consult with and speak to organizations about the following:
  • trauma survivors as super utilizers of healthcare
  • expressive writing for wellness
  • making sure trauma-informed care is informed by trauma survivors
  • learning how to live, love and parent well even after being raised in hell
If you know of any leads, grants, funding or initiatives related to health, writing, developmental trauma, feminism and creative healing please send them
Thank you for supporting me, my business, healing, writing and growth. I’m so humbled and grateful.
Thanks again for any help spreading the word on any of the following.
The Heal Write Now Center events: http://healwritenow.com/events-at-center/
The Heal Write Now website: http://healwritenow.com/
The Heal Write Now Facebook Community of over 1400:https://www.facebook.com/HealWriteNow/
The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Jodie Ortega, survivor poet

Our anthology contributors have been up to some amazing stuff, so we wanted to share with you the amazing work they are doing in the world to help fellow survivors.

Check out this video of Trigger Points contributor Jodie Ortega performing spoken word poetry at Royal City Literary Arts evening. Jodie’s spoken word is so raw and vivid, we are big fans of her work.