The Single Reason Trauma Survivors Do Not Heal

Author of #RecoveryInRealTime shares more about the writing process behind her “Anti-workbook” for surviving multiple traumas. The following post was published at Publishing for a Change, LLC. Shared in full here, with permission: 

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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For Immediate Release – #Recovery In Real Time: A Trauma Survivor’s Anti-Workbook Coming Summer 2016

 

~ FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 31, 2016 ~ Cover_#RealTime

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.

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME will be available exclusively through Publishing For a Change, LLC Summer 2016!

Author_Bio_2016_1Gail Dickert is an indie author, blogger, and children/youth advocate who has published two previous auto-biographical works related to grief, personal growth, spirituality, and self-acceptance. Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams currently remain available at www.amazon.com. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for conversion therapy survivors and young people. Dickert currently volunteers with the RAINN Speaker’s Bureau and co-facilitator at Beyond Ex Gay. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Currently, Dickert resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center. #Recovery In Real Time: A Trauma Survivor’s Anti-Workbook is the first project under Publishing for a Change, LLC, of which she serves as Founder and President. Follow her work at www.homospirituailty.com and beginning Summer 2016, at www.publishingforachange.com.

Volcanic Triggers: The 3 Realities of Trauma


Volcano_1There are moments in a survivor’s life that come in as if they are part of a volcanic eruption – but it’s a complicated and inward experience – an emotional implosion of hot lava and broken rock, filling our insides with ash and dense, unbreathable air.

All that can be done, in those moments is for someone to come alongside and see that a past life or an archived moment has suddenly and most likely without welcome, become all that the survivor can feel.

When you are witnessing this (and it helps if the survivor can throw out a flag that says, “I am triggered right now”), you have only a few options and mental dispositions that will be useful to you and the survivor at that time. Do you touch them? Do you give them space? Do you offer to listen? Do you ask them if they want to call a different person? None of this matters until you resolve your own angst over the following 3 realities:

volcano_2Reality 1: There isn’t anything you can say – the trauma happened.

You can try to remind us that we are better off now, or grass is greener in real time, but that is like offering a distraction, not a solution. The intensity of a trigger REQUIRES no distractions. It has come up because the survivor is ready. If you aren’t, that’s on you – so get ready. Release the expectation that you are going to heal this, stop this, or have magic words. You don’t. This is a moment for a genuine, “Shit, this is ugly. This happened and I’m here with you right now in it.” Those are the closest you will get to magic words, if you feel like you must speak.
 
Reality 2: There isn’t anything you can do – the past cannot be erased.
 
It’s awkward. Your loved one is transported to another place, another life, another hour of suffering that is unrecognizable to you. But you cannot undo this – you truly weren’t able to save them then and you won’t be able to save them now. You can’t minimize it by reminding them how long ago it was – yes it is past. But this is a trigger and trauma, for all of its complications, is incredibly astute at avoiding all sense of time. In that volcanic hour, the trauma could have happened an hour ago. Remember, that feeling is not insanity – that’s just trauma.
 
Reality 3: There isn’t anything that feels right – the wrong committed is unforgettable.
 

Finally, you aren’t going to be able to “make this feeling go away.” Nothing feels good… the survivor may actually only have words like, “I don’t feel good.” Literally, as a statement of value, he or she probably feels un-good. You can’t argue with this feeling and you can’t bring a pro’s and con’s lists to the table and expect to make a difference. The survivor is reprocessing their memories of trauma in real time – you are witnessing a sacred and brave act of self-care and genuine badassery. Time to stand in awe as we reconcile that what was past is unforgettable not because we aren’t forgiving or moving on, but because again… that’s just trauma. Trauma doesn’t “Live and let live.” Trauma… lets you learn not to die as you try to live sometimes!

So in those moments – it may feel like an awkward scene at a grave site or worse, a scene from a genocide or battle ground… But that is all it is – it is a scene.

If you are ever there for that implosion within, I ask you with all my heart, as a survivor and survivor advocate… Just show up for reality. 

Expect nothing but for the scene to change when the flow has slowed… the air has cleared… and coolness of your presence empowers us to move through the past and return to our current time and place.

Speaking for survivors, as messy as this experience is, we do come through most of our triggers with more wisdom and more acceptance – we come through better prepared for the life we are choosing because of the patience we have learned to have with reminders of the trauma we did not choose.

I share this post as a woman who is a two-time survivor of sexual assault and a survivor of a over a decade of conversion therapy… and as a woman who  advocates for other survivors as a volunteer for organizations like Beyond Ex Gay and RAINN. Some of us find the words for our experiences and some of us do not – but most of all, ALL of us define for ourselves the paths we must take to endure the intrusive guilt, shame, and fear that can erupt within our memories without warning. If you choose to love us, you choose a reality that is not always pleasant, but is always honest…

And as a survivor now  25 years removed from the first trauma, I simply know no other way to say it – surviving trauma is not something I wish on anyone, but I do not wish it away from me because I am a softer, gentler and more open-hearted person to all I meet because I have seen a darkness in the human condition that most are spared. It makes me stronger… even when there are volcanic moments when I remember, it did almost kill me.

Namaste, survivors… and namaste to our loved ones who are learning of our brave and tenacious paths to wholeness.

And oddly enough – namaste, to the Criminal Minds writing team who wrote an episode on the topic of a survivor of conversion therapy. It sparked a complete meltdown in me when I watched it… but it brought me to write this post…
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RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

The Media’s Abusive Relationship with Survivors: Part 2

children_two_rulesI didn’t expect that the “Breaking the Silence” documentary on TLC would evoke the need for a second piece on the topic of the media’s abusive relationship with survivors, but I think that the longer I sit with the reality of what I watched, the harsher the truth becomes.

As an author and advocate for over a decade, on this and other issues related to trauma/recovery, I know exactly what happens when cameras are rolling, disclosure/release contracts are being signed, and the phone is ringing off the hook for “one more interview.”

Judgment is clouded.

That is exactly what I perceive happened to those involved in the documentary that aired on TLC, following the Duggar scandal and tragedy.

I don’t know any of the survivors involved personally and as an advocate for the two organizations featured (Darkness to Light and RAINN), it is hard to sit here and digest the following…

  • An 11-year-old female survivor was turned into a propaganda piece.
  • The Duggar Girls have a superfluous cameo that couldn’t have been more out of place.
  • Key steps in preventing childhood sexual abuse were covered.
  • Adult advocates shared important, brave stories about finding identity beyond their trauma
  • Education on the signs/symptoms and steps to take to get help was outlined…

But right… In a documentary designed to be a CALL TO ACTION to ALL ADULTS on how to PROTECT CHILDREN… An 11-year-old female survivor was turned into a prop.

I have been working with children and youth since shortly out of college, but also even as a young person, I was a camp counselor and actively involved with being a safe place for children/youth – The one thing I have always believed and practiced diligently is that children deserve a space for their childhood experience. Part of my survivor journey makes me what I call a “Mamma Bear” on this topic. Mainly, I seek to ensure that children get what I didn’t have…

Adults who understand and are committed to the healthy boundaries that children need during crucial formative years!

What does an 11-year-old girl know about the effects of disclosing in a media forum?

What does an 11-year-old girl know about how it feels to disclose to potentially millions before she’s barely approaching puberty?

Most importantly, how is her development shaped by having been given a LEADERSHIP role in advocating for her PEERS (other children) before she has even reached the stage of sexuality awareness on her own time frame?

Does she have an identity outside of her sense of being a survivor?

Putting her on screen, disclosing her name, her face, and her story before she is at the PROPER age of development and thus CONSENT, is exploitation.

And yet… RAINN, Darkness to Light, TLC, and the author of some books and a law, all stood behind this dizzying scenario?

The person behind Erin’s Law admitted that she herself, according to the documentary, came into the advocacy scene hard and fast, then stepped back and had to clear up her experience and her story – this is something I can relate to in part because when I first became an advocate in 2004, I realized I wasn’t ready…

But then I stepped back!

I grew up.

I got help.

I lived my life and formed my identity… 

And I didn’t come back into the scene until I was actually ready.

This is the sad reality of what was missing from the documentary – an awareness of long-term effects of exposing CHILDREN to the dizzying experience of a media-related role in advocacy.

I have always believed that children are resilient but even today, when I visited with some of my pre-schoolers, I thought about the 11-year-old who was featured in this documentary last night. As a 3-year-old clung to me during a transition, because she found me to be a comforting and “safe place” for her big feelings, I thought…

All children deserve to have a childhood.

And who more, than an 11-year old survivor who had a PART of hers stolen?

Time will only tell how decisions like this will reflect on child abuse victims, survivors, networks, and lawmakers… some will call the child brave, but let’s be honest here…

When she is ten years removed from this, will she know that she has privacy about her experience, or will she be GROOMED at a young age, to stand with ADULTS in arenas that are NOT DEVELOPMENTALLY appropriate?

Has her path of abuse only continued, now in the hands of advocates of prevention?

I won’t name her here… she will remain in my memory as an 11-year-old girl whose story was misused as a pawn of the media and those involved with this piece. (She deserves anonymity from at least one adult who is thinking of her long-term well-being.)

Now the larger question becomes: Does this lack of judgment on the parts of those involved with the documentary cast a long, dark shadow on the value that the piece offered, when it comes to prevention?

Yes.

Because if we can’t produce a piece about preventing childhood sexual abuse without exploiting a child in the process, we don’t deserve to be speaking about such prevention.

To the brave 11-year-old girl, I am sorry that no one protected her from the FUTURE privacy she deserves on this matter. I wish her many, many years away from the camera and away from books that adults need right now in order to get the messages out…

children_natureI wish her mud puddles, hugs from loving caregivers, friends who know her for her interests, stickers, dolls, cars, coloring books, puzzles, trees to climb, and gardens to grow…

And to the adults…

Slow down and grow-up before you turn on the cameras again. Passing a law, airing a documentary, or writing a book cannot replace our general sense of what is truly right for every child… including those brave enough to trust us to go on camera when we should know better!

Tread lightly out there, survivors. I hope we find the bigger picture and embrace a more careful and mindful approach to our advocacy. We cannot create pawns, martyrs, and heroines and expect a collective shift toward a greater awakening.

To those tempted to boycott RAINN and Darkness to Light, entirely, I urge you to remember that most of their work is done well off camera for all the right reasons. Call them to accountability, but don’t forget that their educational and on-call resources are much needed.

Namaste.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area with her wife, where she serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

The Media’s Abusive Relationship with Survivors

Status

Courage_LiveThe following commentary represents my personal opinion, not the opinions of the organizations named in this piece. (Part two of commentary after watching available here.)

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have to come to my blog with the topic of the TLC “Breaking the Silence” piece which will air tonight. I have to write because I not only am a two-time survivor of crimes against my body and soul during formative years, but because I am an active advocate both for sexual abuse prevention and sex positive education.

I have to say something because I am not deaf to what survivors are saying and I’m not blind to what we are seeing.

The media has an abusive relationship with survivors…

How do I know? Because I am a survivor.

What is depicted by the media is the ignorance of bystanders, such as when reporters genuinely ask questions like, “Why didn’t you tell someone,” or “Why did you wait so long to disclose?” Furthermore, often survivors are recounting the traumatic details in such a voyeuristic manner that I can’t tell if I’m watching an interrogation or an episode of Law and Order SVU.

I’m not saying that the details of our stories don’t matter – they do! In fact, I arranged a training for my pre-school teachers this week, which was one of the modules designed by Darkness to Light, who is partnering with TLC and RAINN in this documentary this evening. The “Stewards of Children” is a well-designed training module where survivor stories are told in detail, along with an important list of steps that educators/families can take in order to prevent this crime against our children and their innocence.

RAINN also, has been advocating for victims of sexual assault since 1994. Many survivors associate their name with a safe place.

But the recent affiliation with TLC has caused many survivors to use words like “boycott” and “disappointment” when it comes to this documentary.

Such anger and readiness to walk away entirely from reputable organizations is a reflection on our fear (reasonably) that what will come out of cable news will just exploit survivors.

I saw it firsthand when I was a part of a cable special on OWN, which highlighted the survivors of conversion therapy and our interaction with one of the most outspoken hypocrites of the movement, Alan Chambers. (My piece with Sky News also exploited my experience.)

Lights, camera, action – our infatuation with these things has created an unsafe environment for survivors who off-camera, are still just trying to figure out how to do the following:

* Disclose to our loved ones.

* Live transparently among our families or coworkers without losing our boundaries.

* Believe in humanity.

* Trust that what happened wasn’t our fault.

* Separate from the negative beliefs about sex, religion, or community, which likely resulted from the abuse.

* Get online and not go numb when yet another article indicates that all anyone really understands is how to re-traumatize us…

So, if the “media” cannot be trusted with our stories, we have two options…

1. We can continue to boycott everything that screws up the WHOLE picture of our recovery and resilience (Not a bad option).

2. AND/OR we can find a way to bring our stories forward and connect with those who are LIVING out their recovery AWAY from cameras, lights, etc in order to fill in the gaps of what is presented in the media.

Look, I’m not sure what to expect of tonight’s “performance.” Surely I will hear things that will remind me of my own experiences. No doubt, I will see brave faces and hear things that embody the truth of my experience.

There will be gaps. It’s only a documentary. It will not be thorough and it will not be perfect. It’s also possible that when the mic is handed to someone whose belief in God surpasses the healing journey and reasonable psychological needs, I will cringe and maybe even feel sick to the stomach.

If someone blames the victim (or themselves) or even, in a sense, blames god, I may not be able to eat until sometime tomorrow…

But I’m making the choice to watch because I feel like RAINN and Darkness to Light wouldn’t produce something that puts their entire reputation at risk…

Am I wrong? Well, we can all turn to the comment section here and find out 😉 I will be live-blogging through the comments and on my Facebook Page throughout the airing.

Spring nature background with grass and blue sky in the back

Spring nature background with grass and blue sky in the back

In the end, what I can celebrate is that we are aware enough to challenge the media and call them to be accountable when it comes to representing our stories.

I support those who boycott, because I understand.

I support those who watch, because I understand that too.

The truth is that our journey of recovery with ourselves, our families and our communities will not be summarized by a show, a law, or any single movement.

We are brave because of what we do every day, off screen.

Remember that today, tonight, tomorrow – your courage matters.

I applaud the courage of survivors who challenge the “media” and ask questions of leaders who form potentially shady alliances. I also applaud the courage of survivors who take the risk of appearing in the media. Having been there, I can tell you that those who let themselves be filmed and recorded carry scars from those experiences that are almost never discussed on camera or off camera. If you boycott, keep the survivors who were involved in your thoughts…

Let’s hope education shines over exploitation. That is a hope worth having, my friends.

Namaste, yo.

~~

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area with her wife, where she serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

A Brief Meditation on Gentleness

Gentle_Strength“Too often the timid are taken advantage of because we will not compete with the cruel… somehow it is our commitment to strength in gentility that makes us a target. Nothing bothers those trapped by internal conflict more than the peace others have because it cannot be bestowed OR taken away… When their weapons of jealousy, projection, misrepresentation, self-hate, or greed head in your direction, remember that it is a distraction. Nothing more – nothing less.

The gentle are mostly annoying to the harsh… because even if their words bring us to tears, they call us names, they threaten our integrity, or they push us aside like we do not matter, the gentle do not succumb and the gentle will not be made hard in our hearts.

Soften yourselves and be with peace… then, we will proceed toward justice, as it includes a brand of gentle indignation.”

Aho and Namaste.

~ Turtle Whisperer, 8.17.15 ~

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DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

“Gay Rights” Photo Reflection: An Advocate Reflects on 12 Years

In an effort to purge some of my memorabilia from relationships past, I sat down with boxes of cards, poems, photos, and keepsakes from the last 12 years and came across a portrait of something more powerful than my difficult past… Something beyond finding love after religious and sexual trauma…

I found a series of news articles from June 2003, highlighting the major headlines that shaped the movement for equality in America. I saved these articles, just one month after graduation from Cincinnati Christian University, where I was closeted for years. All of these articles, I cherished,  a year year before I published Coming Out without Coming Apart.

I placed these news articles in this collage below…

Equality_2003

And I leave this photo with you, to begin your own reflection on what we have accomplished in the last 12 years. We have a long way to go…

But looking back on half a generation of advocacy work represented in this short photo reflection, I can say the following:

I finally believe that I am whole.

I finally believe that my country can learn to respect my dignity as a citizen.

I finally believe that I can choose faith or I can leave it if it does not lift me higher.

I finally believe that my bedroom and my body are mine.

I finally believe that my President is on my side.

I see evidence that Love really does matter.

After all we’ve seen in the last 12 years, maybe we can finally believe that we DO belong…

One can hope.

Consider for yourselves, how far we’ve come and perhaps you can believe in our ability to go even farther!

Namaste, yo.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

My Better Half, My Better Self: A Letter to my Wife

This piece is for lovers… and those who believe in lifelong love, no matter how long it takes for life to present it to us.

To My Dear Wife,

I’ve never known someone like you – your willingness to walk through the uncertainties of all that is unstable, whether it be economic, emotional, physical, or just plain human, is more than commendable. It’s life. As Neruda says, “In your life I see everything that lives.”

IMG_6007You go toward all living things and every corner of humanity. I see it in your work and friendships but pleasure of all pleasure, I see it in how you approach me…

I recently wrote about my survivor experience and how powerful it is that you became the woman who was detached enough to let me be fully present for my recovery process, but also attached enough in love and trust, to bear witness to it.

I think about moments like those, when what moves between us is a flow of honesty… words, facial expressions, silence, an embrace… it is simply, unguarded honesty.

It doesn’t bite back in selfishness or fear.

It doesn’t look away as if it is overly concerned or intimidated.

It doesn’t find tools to help as if it is so awkward that it needs to fix the discomfort.

It loves.

It’s honest.

IMG_6040I have caught glimpses of this intimacy, but never has it stayed so constant, before you. I held out hope for it – like an oasis for my dehydrated soul.

And so you have come to me… and I have come to you. This is our marriage.

I remember all these years of wanting marriage, watching other marriages grow, fall apart, thrive, or end. I’ve been learning about marriage all my life – what makes a marriage look “good” to me and what makes marriage look impossible. Most importantly, I’ve listened to couples speak of when they knew that the one they love was the one they wanted to grow old with…

I knew that the day I met you.

Of course, I didn’t know how to let my heart run with that feeling at first, and that’s okay too – but I learned from others, how to stay open to this kind of love.

One of those “others” was my friend Katie, who you would never get a chance to meet, because her life and our stories could never intersect. She died during a season when the narratives between us were farther than I ever imagined they could be… but I was there when she married the love of her life… I remember her emails before her wedding day, as she discussed the priority of her partnership and their life together. I was there when she spoke of commitment, faith, and a hope for a life full of laughter and mutual acceptance. At her wedding, I remember even knowing that the one I was there with, didn’t compare to the “you” I still believed was out there. I was prepared to settle to never have what I saw in their marriage because I wrongfully believed it was only for them.

It was the way they looked at each other – such grace and such simplicity…

For over a decade of my adult life, I’ve held out hope that what I learned from their relationship could become a part of my life. I held out hope that I could learn from others, that even death could not separate the heart from a lifelong love…

All these years later, here you are, my wife, supporting and loving me as I become my better self… and we get to learn from each other, how OUR marriage will grow.

IMG_6042 (1)Sometimes I feel like I’m late to the game on this – so many other experiences and I’m now well into my mid-30’s as if I’m an old maid… I have my baggage, but I’m here.

We are here. And this is our marriage…

I used to believe that it was really important to correct people when they described their partner as their “better half.” As a woman who values her independence and autonomy, I would mock that concept, even when I was in partnerships before you – I wasn’t anyone’s “half” because I am WHOLE.

The truth is that a marriage is whole, but comprised of two whole people – and in some ways, you truly are the better half of this marriage. And in perfect form, I’ve heard you say the same about me – that’s what loving couples mean when they call the other, “the better half.” It is a respectful and humble acknowledgement that this marriage would be nothing without you, and I in it, am better because of you.

Today, as you travel the globe in your work, my heart travels the depth of relationships – reflections on loss, hopes, dreams, grief, and… all emotions. As I soar above it, I am a poetic jumble of anticipation about how our family will evolve and how our connection will only deepen… but in the midst of that creative chaos, I am here with a sense of peace and acceptance.

I found the one to call “wife.”

And you found me.

On this relevant day, in real time, with a vulnerable voice, I celebrate our transparent life.

That is our marriage.

Te amo, mi amor – my better half, my better self ~
Gail

~~

In loving memory of Katie Reider – (May 23, 1978 – July 14, 2008)

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

 

The Evolution of a Survivor: Emotional Resilience

Darwin_ResilientI’ve been working on a new writing project which dives into survivor experiences, as a means of highlighting what we understand about resilience, grief, and the healing journey after trauma. As I partner with other survivors, advocates, and psychologists, I notice that there is a sense of “strength” in this work. I’m preparing to launch the project as an e-book and it will hopefully highlight our experiences, educate the media, and provide support to those who are finding their way through the healing process. The project has been called “brave” and “powerful” by those who have reviewed the outreach approach and the content… yet…

We need to be transparent about our emotional resilience and its source.

I’m not brave.

I am not even strong.

I just evolved under changing and traumatic circumstances.

When my father emotionally abused my family, I learned to be responsive to change.

Home isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my neighbor abused my body, I learned to be responsive to change.

My body isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my church abused my mind, I learned to be responsive to change.

Spirituality isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my peers abused my spirit, I learned to be responsive to change.

Being me isn’t safe? I will evolve.

To all of us, who have evolved from every unsafe environment and emerged each time as a new species within our own emotional ecosystem, know that I see you.

Others may think we are on the top of the emotional food chain and can handle anything.

And we can… and we will.

But sometimes rather than being viewed as the person who will “always survive,” we koalaknow we want to be viewed as the small and cuddly chipmunk, lower on the food chain, but adorable and cute too. We want to be seen as the butterfly, magnificent in her transformation, but fragile in flight. Sometimes… we are just a koala… looking for a tree branch and a soft place to call home.

Pay close attention to why some people are so “strong.” It may be simply because a tragic evolution required them to learn to stand alone…

I am fortunate because I finally met a woman who could walk this journey with me – recently, when my wife read through the survivor project, she did the unthinkable as a response – she put down the pages, said nothing, and simply hugged me – for those moments, I didn’t have to explain anything.

I didn’t have to describe my writing process.

I didn’t have to rehash anything I wrote.

I didn’t have to outline my plan for publication or my next steps as a writer/survivor advocate.

Before the editing, feedback, questions, or encouragement in the project, there was only the hug.

The best hug ever, honestly.

Because without words, she told me, “I see your resilience is because you weren’t safe…

And with that, I knew…

I am safe now.

My home, my body, my spirituality – me.

It’s safe to be me.

Evolve well, my friends. We are not alone. Namaste.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

Florence + the Machine: When Musicality Meets Magic

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All photos by Gail Dickert 2015

In all of my years of blogging, I haven’t felt the need to pause and discuss just how important concerts and music have been in my healing journey… but last week, when I saw Florence + the Machine for the second time at Merriweather Post Pavilion, I was fully captivated by the musicality and magic that exists when she enters the sanctuary of her stage. The scene cannot be represented with my words and even my photos from the concert or the videos that I’ve seen uploaded only paint a sense of her performance…

Truly, you would have to be standing there, in the front rows, as she extends her body, voice, and soul into the immediate aura that is, her audience.

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Photos by Gail Dickert 6.9.15

There are musicians who can perform and there are performers who are musicians, but what Florence and her magical machine offer in those hours of singing, movement, and direct engagement with the crowd is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Specifically during this tour, I saw such light, reverence and passion coming from her back-up singers and brass ensemble. From the entire band, there is a collective force of some of the purest energy I’ve ever encountered… and I work with children! 😉

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Photos by Gail Dickert 6.9.15

There were times I didn’t know whether I should be cheering, laughing, crying, bowing, or lying back as if I were blissfully staring into a sky of stars on a cool summer night.

Her performance, with her surrounding “machine” took me back to a sweet and innocent place where I could flirt with angels, feast on the inhibitions of childhood, and reconnect with both the internal and global peace that comes with being in harmony with others who were open to love and being lifted out of their own baggage.

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Photos by Gail Dickert 6.9.15

I know that every performer carries a humanity that would probably make fans blush or “lose respect” – we are in fact, human, no matter how many perceive us as imperfect in our art. For me though, it is the humanity that I perceive in Florence’s art that causes me to pause in gratitude, like I have found an artistic mentor or temporary guru in my path towards self-awareness and healing.

I am one who has never truly known how to be vulnerable. I can “do” vulnerability and “choose” it, but to embody it to the point where I don’t even know it is my state of interaction is the goal of my whole existence. She appears to me, to already have that down and maybe I am a fan with an inaccurate picture of her “real life,” but that is okay – that is art… it draws us to be clear about what we dream, how we hope, and what we choose as a priority for our lives.

So to close, I want to thank Florence + the Machine as well as her devoted FANS –

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Photos by Gail Dickert 6.9.15

… because it is the collective energy that can be felt at her shows that surely empower her to bring the magic to her musicality. When you’re at one of her shows, there is a cosmic pause that affirms all things vulnerable, all things love, all things broken, and all things… human. There is a deep surrender to the Heartlines that connect us all. I cherish this music and the experience of her profound lyrics and presence.

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Photos by Gail Dickert 2015

Namaste, Florence + the Machine… for the badassery you’ve brought forth for yourself and for all of us – your interconnected web of love and light otherwise known as… your fans.

“Oh the river, oh the river, it’s running free. 
And oh the joy, oh the joy it brings to me.
But I know it’ll have to drown me,
Before I can breathe easy.
And I’ve seen it in the flights of birds,
I’ve seen it in you.
The entrails of the animals,
The blood running through.
But in order to get to the heart,
I think sometimes you’ll have to cut through.
But you can’t…

DSCN1545We will carry…
We will carry you there…”
– Heartlines, Florence + the Machine

~~

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.