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.
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.
This essay comes after my involvement with the House of Representatives Subcommittee in Virginia on Thursday, January 30th, where I, along with other survivors, represented the truth of conversion therapy. (Audio links to the entire event at end of this post. You’re welcome) After the party-line vote of 4-1, to “gently table” a bill that speaks up for those who cannot represent themselves, I opted to speak to Christopher Doyle, a supposed beneficiary of and proponent for conversion therapy. I figured, if I can face Alan Chambers, what could this guy say that would surprise me?
When I walked up to Christopher Doyle, I thought, “Okay, what’sthisguy’sreal story?” What I said to him, verbatim in that moment was, “So, youguystryingtobethenewExodusInternationalorwhat? I mean, wesawhowwellthat turned out…” We half-laughed at my statement and he went on to say how little he cares for Chambers because he (Chambers), isn’t an educated man. So, refreshing as the moment was, to agree on Chambers’ lack of education on sexuality, religion or psychology, what was more disturbing than Chambers’ misguided heart was in fact, Doyle’s larger-than-life ego. We spoke for no more than 7-10 minutes, as I probed him (not in the way he would have liked, don’t be dirty), about topics related to psychology, adolescent development and the differences between actual abuse survivors and those who are in fact, homosexual without disease or disorder for being so! He didn’t seem to want to bend on his position that there are those who can change their sexual orientation but what became most interesting was how he spoke about “unwanted same-sex attraction.” Unwanted SSA, as they call it, can be likened to what you call a straight or bisexual person who would really like to have some support in making their choices regarding sexual identity. It’s a person with mommy/daddy issues who unfortunately, sexualizes those issues. Anyway, let’s get back to this ego thing because it was a bizarre encounter and folks who know me will understand why this was so entertaining, yet disturbing.
We spoke about his ethical duty as a licensed psychologist to treat anyone who came through his doors… and so I, out of some sick curiosity said, “Well, wouldyoutreatsurvivorsofconversiontherapy? Would you treat, me, perhaps?”
Would you believe the guy said, emphatically, “Yes!” Furthermore he stated that he could “first start by helping me deal with my anger.”
Awe… my silly, silly anger… anger, for being told that my father must have molested me and made me gay.
My silly, silly anger, for standing up for other survivors who have experienced suicidal thoughts, self-mutilation, depression and isolation because of their exposure to conversion therapy.
My silly, silly anger, for how the church and state have joined together in an effort to annihilate a population, causing an underground Nazi-ish phenomenon.
He is willing to help me with that.
So, reminder – a good psychologist will not look at your anger and see a problem. In fact, a good psychologist may see how your anger fuels you, inspires others and serves you in truly healing yourself, as you learn to express rather than suppress.
And… I digress again… dammit.
So, here we have me and Doyle and my very sick stomach and his hairless face and spineless psychology…
And up walks Delegate Krupricka, the only Democrat on the committee willing to stand on the right side of history during this vote. He interrupts my private challenging with Doyle, shakes my hand and thanks me for my testimony…
And I snap out of it.
What the hell am I hoping to accomplish in talking to Doyle anyway?
Well, Mr. Doyle hands me his card and I see it all come together… is he willing to help survivors, does he bill himself first as a psychologist, a helper of the people, a voice for the voiceless? Do I get a card which says something about the voiceless and how he represents them?
And so the clarity hits me about the whole circus in which my truth is currently being manipulated.
Politics, Gail. This is politics.
I think of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (cue old movie buffs) and I picture myself collapsing under the weight of the political machine so I decide it’s time to end this conversation. I say, “Okay, Chris… it looks like I may see you again. Maybe we will talk sometime…”
But honestly, after it was all said and done and a few days later, when I finished an additional and unsuspected interview for Sky News, it occurred to me that we probably won’t talk again.
I’ve said so much. And just like the last time I spoke before a camera and investigators who were hoping to represent the truth of my story, I can say, “This is enough… for now.”
Standing firm with other survivors, I will continue to write and connect with allies and victims as they come out of that cult-like environment, but for now, the cameras are off…
Unless of course, Anderson Cooper calls. 😉 My gay male friends would never forgive me for refusing to interview with him lol
What I learned from my day on the small political stage was that magic tricks aren’t just for the professionally trained, but also the politically diabolical. I also learned… that some supposed proponents of conversion therapy are really, simply put, political consultants who operate from hatred for those not like them.
Just pain. A chronic pain that seems to come and go at various levels of awful without much cause otherwise. It is my “biofeedback mechanism” that says, “Take care of you” and it’s also my body’s way of saying, “Stay away from that!” It has many messages actually… and that is the book I am writing right now, which I’m expecting will reach an audience that has never heard pain discussed quite so openly.
But I don’t need any more “book fodder” when it comes to this pain and so… when my life goes on temporary “pause” every time I choose to bring my story forward for public consumption, I have to take it all in stride, ya know? Unlike the proponents of conversion therapy, I have a real job, supporting positive work in the world and I don’t make money on manipulating anyone to believe what I believe…
I get physically sick after being in the presence of those who twist survivor stories or misrepresent their own in order to suppress the truth of what goes on behind closed doors. When I talk to a legitimate therapist afterwards, about these public encounters, it becomes clear why I get so sick…
How frustrating it is, for example, to know that “Touch Therapy” becomes a way for would-be molesters to feed their need for power over the vulnerable.
How frustrating it is, also, to know that sometimes false allegations of abuse are made and healthy relationships with parents are threatened.
How frustrating that folks with mommy/daddy issues are claiming to be gay in the first place, let alone discussing change orientation? They weren’t gay… they sexualized their relationships with their parents for whatever reason and yes, should be in therapy… but no, that has nothing to do with being gay!
It’s similar to how a person with an eating disorder goes through the world… with a negative perception of food, nourishment and body image. That’s all these proponents of conversion therapy are – sexually starved or sexually overfed, hurting people with some unhealthy views on nourishment.
So, when a small and very strange group of extremists within my culture opt to redefine “gay” in a way that makes it look unhealthy for those of us who are just fine with who we are, I’m going to get sick, find it painful, and get angry…
Because the public deserves better out of people who calls themselves ministers or psychologists.
These conversion therapy believers do need therapy… and now because of their twisted ideas about sexuality, so did I!
So this week, I asked my therapist why survivors work with other victims. I asked, “Why does a rape survivor work in victim recovery and rape prevention?”
I can’t quote what she said, but I can come back to what I said in the question… and that was the word prevention.
That is why we do what we do…
Not because we like talking about the trauma and not because it’s easy. We aren’t “removed” from it and it’s not like it happened in another lifetime…
We just know that this stat matters…
And we hope to be a voice that ends a type of manipulative therapy which undermines a child’s ability to trust, talk to and grow with… her parent.
P.S. To the 4 republican delegates who sat in front of our stories, I wish you nothing but awareness of the shameful failure to protect our young people. Your party line and your religious beliefs will be responsible for another teen suicide today and every day, until you send a message to our young people that they are not pawns in a political game. You have your codes of ethics. I strongly consider taking a red pen to the section known as integrity.
To the 6 or 7 unnamed people who came up to me after my testimony and thanked me for sharing, I just want you to know that in that moment, you were the angels that were absent when I was 12 years old. Your kind words sustained me at that very second you thanked me for my courage. Thank you.
To Delegate Krupika and Delegate Hope – thank you for the kindness in your eyes… and to be perfectly honest, Chairman Peace… thank you, for the genuine confusion and curiosity in your eyes. May your children, Camden and Harry, always be protected from anyone who would seek to undermine your relationships with them, in the name of religion or psychology.
For more information about the bill that was “gently tabled” and the work of Alliance for Progressive Values, click here.
For more information not related to any of this political/religious nonsense, stay tuned to my blog. I didn’t come back from a sabbatical just to talk only about this stuff 😉 Love and light, my friends.
As promised… the links to the hearing, in several parts. (FYI you will need headphones to hear. Quality on upload was not the best)