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The Accountability Adults Need to Take: Reading Past a Façade

Many adults don’t know how to take accountability. Which is a bad influence to society. They honestly don’t understand how their action(s), treatment, etc. impact us young adults, let alone, other people. The same thing goes for parents; there’s no accountability taken in their child’s experience(s) and/or wound(s). And not enough people, psychology books or resources talk about this issue; The issue of external/internal accountability within recovery.

Reading the Doer (If the Shoe Fits, Wear It)


Self-accountability within many doers feels like a never thought. It’s mainly because the doer is in denial of how the other individual feels in relation to their personal involvement in their life. Which really boils down to how they are being viewed by the public’s eye.

Sometimes, the doer tries to over compensate via their work/act of (internally ‘needed’) kindness; in order to restore balance within themselves. It’s a way to feel better about how they treat others and/or a way to invalidate their subconscious perception of how they truly treat others.

** A doer (in this specific context) – the person (parent, friend, partner, etc.) who is mistreating you or other individuals.**

Taking Accountability can Heal!

Blindness of a perpetuator is harmful.

Society talks about suicide, self-harm, alcohol and drug addiction prevention but don’t see what leads up to those very instances or of having to recover. It’s very important to know the leading cause of each coping mechanism: trauma. Trauma includes how we are treated, what we have seen, experienced, etc.

From experience, it’s healing when someone takes accountability for their actions.

Not only that, but I always try to take accountability for my own actions that may have negatively impacted another person. Accountability involves self-reflection and working on the shadow self.

Here’s Some Irony: Reading into it Further

I can say that some of the people who talk about recovery are the very people who are stimulating such internal conflict to others. Or in other terms, are the doers and show that they are hypocrites to their own ‘practices’. And it’s hard for them to take accountability.

From experience, many doers take offense when they’re called out on their unjust doings, and perpetual lack of accountability. Some of these doers act innocent in the part they play in another individual’s experiences with them. Which really confuses everyone and the experiencer. So accountability matters.

But when accountability doesn’t happen, it’s real to say: “It’s the relationship to whiteness for me.”

It’s Giving… Very Colonizer

I know some of you are tired of my colonizer references. But there are things that need to be pointed out! Unaccountability heavily traces to colonizer culture which leads to avoidance as a coping mechanism.

Honestly, If the shoe fits, wear it. Take it personal and take accountability for your actions. Sit with your offense and internally reflect past your ego. Work on your shadow!

There’s nothing wrong with being flawed if you’re willing to improve yourself.

– Dez 🙂

7 Ways to Overcome Caring About What Others Think

I want to break down why we care so much about perception. Because I believe caring about what others think about us is so damaging. Caring about outside perception keeps us away from knowing what we believe about ourselves and knowing ourselves.

I personally admit that I think a lot about how people perceive me. And it’s rooted in so much shame, pride and fear. 

Caring and having the desire to know the perception of others is really a deeper desire for control. And for me, it is a form of anxiety. If I could control how people see me, technically I could control outcomes in my life. And I think, selfishly, that’s a want we all have.

Under the Layers: Authenticity

My authenticity is hidden under layers of my own perceptions of worth…. And a masking layer is applied every time I think negatively about who I am.

This is so hard with mental health struggles because some conditions create repetitive negative or intrusive thought cycles. Such as my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I also tend to feel like I am not worth being around because I have these conditions. So therefore I am starving myself of value and now am hungry for approval from others to replace what should be my core values.

I imagine a lot of this is due to the fast pace of media. Like the pressure it creates, catchy headlines and misleading or emotionally charged information. In general, it is making it difficult for us to know our values. To study what we care about, our opinions, and then therefore, finding people to uplift those opinions and strengthen us.

Caring About What Others Think

So the question becomes, despite the above, how do I free myself from wanting that control, and ultimately nixing the need for external validation? What is the discovery process for identifying our values in a world that doesn’t give a lot of space for formulating self-opinion? For having a belief system, and even giving work life balance to achieve a form of self care and exploration? 

I’ve learned that starts with peeling back the layers of negative thought and letting more of my authenticity appear in the cracks. For me, this is what that process looks like:

ONE: Identifying what I value and what I believe to Overcome Caring

Taking time to educate yourself in your belief structure is crucial to adjusting the course of your life and giving you direction. We are so often sold on the idea that exploration of beliefs is a lifelong process. While this is true, in the evolution of what we believe, it is not an excuse to avoid making firm statements. Especially truths and ideas during our daily lives, starting in the present. I personally have become fearful of making firm statements. Mainly because there are not a lot of safe spaces to express new thoughts and strong ideas today. Especially if it counteracts the majority opinion.

An example of this for me was confirming and standing up for my religion. It gives me structure, faith, and direction. I now know what to give time to in my educational process, in the people and experiences I look for, and that gives me confidence. It takes away negative, doubtful thoughts and gives me a truthful narrative. 

If you walk through life without confirming any truths, and you are constantly evolving with sporadic media and emotional voices, or thinking you need to recreate who you are constantly, you are opening up all those cracks for doubt, confusion and exhaustion. Being malleable and deepening education is key, but not anchoring yourself anywhere can create circles, and constant needs of reassurance. You have the ability to make time for this mindset change in your life. And therefore,  you don’t need to go on autopilot (aka, be runned by your anxiety driven thoughts).

TWO: Taking care of my physical and mental self is the best type of caring

Investing in yourself daily, in whatever way you are able, no matter the amount, gives evidence that you believe in yourself, and that you matter. This might be in the form of reading, boundary setting, drinking the green juice, going for a walk, journaling, whatever works for you. By neglecting to do this over long periods of time, you are putting value on other things over yourself. If we value other things, we are telling ourselves what we care about, perhaps work, or the opinions of others. Investing in yourself with the highest currency, time, is one of the ultimate forms of self care and with the bonus of giving us back from control that we might be seeking in validation.

THREE: Being kind and focusing on loving others

When I become very self aware for many days and hours, it usually means I am under distress. Or I am becoming more self-centered. A lot of us shutter at the word self-centered, which is totally understandable (me too). However, self-centeredness is actually a great indicator that we just need to adjust where our focus lies.

This can also include taking inventory of overall spatial awareness. Also awareness of others, and doing a check on our ignorance or assumptions. Taking the light off of us and shining it on others is a great way to improve connection in relationships and our community. Acts of kindness; sending a text, making dinner for someone, etc, can really re-ground us in gratitude and emotional needs. It gives us a better understanding of the human experience. It also allows us to sometimes exercise a sense of vulnerability. Kindness and caring often requires empathy, or taking a risk, or sharing a part of our story.

FOUR: Making gratitude a requirement in my day, like eating a meal

Gratitude is a word often used in methods to improve happiness. Especially being in the present. Which helps with reducing anxiety and so on. And while this isn’t a new concept, the reminder of gratitude is important. One of the ways I’ve improved my gratitude dialogue is by viewing gratitude as a requirement. It’s like eating meals in a day. As a Christian, I get the visual prompt when eating to pray for my meal. And often try to slip in other words of thanks for parts of my day that once seemed insignificant.

Pairing a visual cue, like mealtime, with the act of giving thanks, can help rescale the balance between negative thoughts and dialogue in your day. 

FIVE: Taking inventory of the content I am consuming; social media, music, conversations, books, television, etc.

This is a habit change that so easily goes under my radar it’s scary. But when I switch up my media I notice an overnight and overwhelming change in my mindset. I also believe this is a habit we don’t need to constantly be strict with. But be strict with checking in with ritualistically. If you find yourself struggling to keep a more positive persona about yourself; your worth, value, age, appearance, success, and so on, it may be catalyzed by your consumption. 

This is something you can do today to make a potentially big impact for your tomorrow. 

SIX: Staying curious; exploring new things I might enjoy like new wine, or foods, a hobby, even a style of clothing or cosmetics, books and literature, etc.

Trying new things gives us permission to fail. Sometimes it’s a small consequence such as regretting a takeout selection, and sometimes, it’s taking a risk and quitting your job in pursuit of your dreams. Demonstrating to yourself and others that you decided to feed your curiosity, that you are worth investing in yourself, gives you a foundation of personality and authenticity. Therefore, minimizing the need to look to others for answers and approvals when you’re already seeking them yourself. By being curious you want to learn about the world and those interests point towards what you love, and when we focus on love we gain gratitude and joy and that also reduces anxious feelings.

SEVEN: Investing in things I believe in (such as goals, people, activities) even if others don’t understand the level of commitment or why I am putting the time/effort

I think strong authenticity, values and characteristics appear when our doubts are at their highest level. When we call upon ourselves to invest time and energy into a dream, a goal, despite the statistical odds, or others opinions…we are betting on ourselves. We then bet again, bet again, bet again, until we get the outcome we want. In this circular process we stop caring about other people’s bets or validation because we’re too busy rolling the dice, and finding out new things about ourselves while we build strength and stamina along the way.

In all these methods, the pattern is to get too invested to care, dig, explore, educate and lay firm foundations that are so strong that validation from others, or from this broken world are weak against what you’ve created.

My Body Image Journey

Growing up, I was always self conscious about my body image. Primarily because family members would comment on my body. I either looked like a “fat cow” or was labeled “anorexic” even though I was in the middle of the chart. Regardless of my weight, I was over sexualized and received uncomfortable comments about my body. It has caused quite the issue that has contributed to a body image turmoil.

Food to Hide vs. Losing to Be Seen

At some point, food became my only comfort. I tried eating to hide even though I knew it wouldn’t make me feel any better. I ate to no longer be called anorexic or be made fun of for being a healthy weight. So, I ended up gaining 77lbs in one and a half years; ending up at 220lbs by the beginning of my freshman year of college. And yet, my efforts weren’t enough for certain family members. My body image was then taunted with disgust.

That has led to a point in my life where I unhealthily lost weight. I lost about 60lbs in 6 months due to depression, an unhealthy eating habit, and taking weight loss supplements. I felt shame in my weight loss journey while also feeling better about my body image.

Personal Realization

It took me a while to lose weight in a healthy manner. I told myself that I had to do it for myself and in a healthy way. It has led me to research how to healthily lose weight. This resulted in me trying intermittent fasting; tailored to my active times while incorporating balanced meals. Outside of my body changes, I noticed that my brain functioned a lot better when I was fasting. I was able to do homework during the day instead of only at night. My overall mood, energy and sleep was better.

In those moments, I began to understand what I put into my body matters, not my weight. I’m only healthy by engaging in healthy things. My body is beautiful regardless how it looks because my soul is beautiful.

Navigating My Body Image Today

Although I had that breakthrough, I still struggle with my body image. In response, I try to engage in healthy activity at least 5 times a week. First, I started with a goal of stretching everyday. Then, I set a goal of doing at least 20 sit ups a day. Which is where I’m at in my journey. Setting a smaller goal actually motivates me to do more. This is what I have been doing (depending on my mood):

  • Jumping Jacks for 1 or 2 songs 
  • 15 to 20 Push-Ups
  • Air Punches for Half a Song
  • SpongeBob Dance
  • Arm Curls
  • Glute Raises

There are days where I do all of the workouts on the list! There are days where I would do just one workout. I can say that all of this has been making me want to start jogging. My next goal is to start jogging at least once a week! When I do, I may give you all an update!

– Dez 🙂

Life as a Game, Flash Poetry & More

Hello all! I have chosen a new title for this blog series! From “Navigating Autism” to “The Game We Call Life”. I’m still going to talk about my experiences with autism! I’m also going to talk about my experiences being BIPOC, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, with mental health and just my overall life experience(s). Or as Ally says, lived wisdom!

My Flash Poem

reminiscing life

Reading those words reminds me of how much I want my poetry to be dissected by an English class. Besides that fact, this poem highlights a generalized statement of personal experiences. I feel like many people reminisce days they never had. But this poem isn’t just about the reminiscing, it’s also about going after it; eventually.

For Future English Classes

Inspiration to write this poem was truck by feeling like I missed certain things in life because I wasn’t living for myself. I was controlled from a young age by what I can or cannot do because I was assigned female at birth. Reminiscing the days I have not experienced link to gender identity and BIPOC history. It was common that people of the BIPOC community (traditionally) didn’t assign a gender to their child at birth. However, a child was able to announce their gender identity by the age of 5 or 6 and live as their truest self. The land spirits, elders, and/or shaman would then give these children a name. In some cases, a child would name themselves. I’m quoting my ancestors on this.

Personally, at the age of 4, I became aware of my gender identity through my self-perception of being a boy. I was aware of my attraction to feminine people at the age of 4 too! I was actually really verbally expressive about my attraction to feminine people and my self-perception. Unfortunately, it was swept under the rug to be hidden from the world. I felt stuck in society’s “evolution” of norms.

I reminisce the day that I was able to be myself without expectations of gender identity from birth.

Maybe This Can Act as Words of Life Encouragement 🙂 !

As much as I can reminisce on the days I never had, I know I can’t live those experiences in this physical reality. However, I can call back what I wasn’t able to experience by healing my wounds. Play life the way you want to; as yourself.

– Dez 🙂

Your Expectations Of Me…

We are always trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations of who we are and who we should be, it shouldn’t be like that. What about the ones we have for ourselves? We always forget about what WE need and want when we shouldn’t. What we need has to come first, always.

This is something that has taken me a long time to learn. Now, I want to share with you a quote that I will always keep in the back of my mind. It is “Your expectations of me are not my responsibility to live up to”. And it is absolutely the truth. It’s NOT our responsibility to live up to everyone else’s expectations of who we are and what we should be doing with our lives.

Who we are and what we want to do with our lives is so much more important than what other people have to say about it. Stop trying to fill everyone else’s cup before you fill your own. We have our own hopes and dreams to follow. The expectations we have for ourselves should be our first priority always.

Please remember that it’s not your responsibility to carry all of those expectations on your shoulders. The expectations you have for yourself are what matter most. You have your own life to live and that’s okay, I promise.

Read Psychology Today’s article Letting Go of Expectations Is Good For Your Mental Health right on their website! 🙂

Also check out Kailey’s video Learning To Put Myself First here on TurningPointCT.org!

The Beginning

The scene is all too familiar. I am in bed, paralyzed by my anxiety and held down by my depression. I’ve been here too long but I am still tired. I think about the outside world and instinctively pull the covers over my head until there’s darkness and silence again. I close my eyes tight and hope that sleep will come soon to get a break from my mind.

Would you have thought that this person is in recovery from reading this? Probably not. Recovery is painted as the other side of the fence where the grass is finally greener or the place beyond the finish line where you stand on a podium and receive a medal for all of your hard work. This image we have in our head couldn’t be further from reality. Recovery is ugly, it is difficult, it is uncomfortable. It presents a whole new set of challenges that you never could have anticipated before embarking on this journey.

And please, don’t get me wrong. Mental illness and addiction is no walk in the park. It is a dark and lonely place. It is insidious because it doesn’t take the things that give you joy away from you, it just makes you completely disinterested in those sources of joy and even resent their existence. You suddenly look around you and find yourself in a world that you can no longer recognize and you start to forget that your life was anything more than the personal hell you are experiencing. You have withdrawn yourself from everything and everyone that you have cared for or about and you find yourself alone. This is absolutely fucking terrifying. All you are left with is your mind which feels toxic and unwell. It tells you that you are no good, unworthy of those things or people that brought you happiness. And the worst part? The worst part is you believe it.

But, despite this happening to you, there is something inside of you that makes you keep on fighting. So that’s what you do. You fight. You tell the people who have still stuck around you what has been happening. You go to therapy and find out a lot about yourself that you had been holding down. Soon, you begin to catch glimpses of the person you used to know, someone who isn’t plagued by their own mind. But, mental illness is not that simple. It won’t release you from it’s grasp even if you really want to get better and return to your life. It takes grit and determination to drag yourself back up everytime that you are pulled back down by it. This is recovery. It is doing what is uncomfortable for you because of your illness and doing it anyway because you know that on the other side is the life you have been dreaming of.

This is my story. I have been battling chronic depression, generalized anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, dissociation, and self harm since I was 15 years old. After 7 grueling years of trying just to survive, I can finally say I am in recovery. Not too long ago I didn’t even know you could be in recovery for mental illness. I thought that my life would be a relentless challenge, and I didn’t see any way forward. The most I could handle was surviving another day. After a stint in a psych ward, years of therapy, medication, dropping out of art school, and barely holding a minimum wage job down, I am here. I think of my future and I have hope, plans, drive, and determination. I am working at my dream job and I feel more like myself than I maybe ever have done.

However, this is not where my recovery story ends because despite the hope, the healthy coping skills I have learned, and the wonderful support network around me, I still have to consciously make healthy choices for myself. At every turn I am confronted with making a choice that feels comfortable for my mental health, or the choice that I know will be difficult but that will help me in the long run. Believe me when I say that choosing the uncomfortable option is not easy, but I like to think of these decisions as turning point moments, because I know that with every decision I can be brought closer or further away from my goal. Something as simple as drinking water can send me into a tailspin some days because even though the action of it is easy, it takes all the might that I have to choose myself rather than my illness. I have to remind myself that my illness is my enemy and I should not be catering towards it. It has taken everything away from me before and it will do it again if I do not continue fighting it.

At the beginning of this year, my boyfriend and biggest cheerleader was deployed with the US Army and I began setting myself up to reinforce my healthy habits to deal with the challenge up ahead. I started my job here at Turning Point CT, journaling everyday, going to the gym regularly, going on hikes with my dog, and regularly practicing yoga at a local studio. I began to feel in a position where I could handle this upcoming 9 months, if I was only able to keep the momentum going. Little did I know that this plan was about to be turned on its head during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine. Suddenly, I was bound to my bed like I had been in the midst of my mental illness. I was forced to be isolated like my mental illness had done to me. On top of all of this, my anxiety is screaming at me telling me that I can lose someone I love and care about. I was shaken to my core and experiencing real grief for those all over the world dealing with this global trauma. I felt myself slipping into my mental illness again. So I had to scramble and figure out all new ways of keeping myself on my path to recovery. I still haven’t figured it out yet, but I am trying to be gentle with myself while I do.

So I hope that you will join me in my recovery journey while I continue fighting this fight. I am going to try everyday to do something that shows myself that I am still here, showing up. Somedays the only thing I might be able to do is make my bed, or make sure I have fed myself enough food and water. Some days might be bigger and I manage to fall back on healthy coping skills rather than unhealthy ones during a panic attack. What I am saying is, that recovery is not a straight line because it requires constant effort. There will be times where it looks like I am not making progress, but even a small step forward is still a step forwards.

Rest in Peace Jonathan

Hi everyone. I am here to give some very sad news.
Jonathan, aka Someoneoddlyfamiliar passed away this Sunday.
Jonathan was a young person in recovery, a poet, and an advocate.
I only knew him through the poetry he shared with us here, but reading his words always felt like a treat and a joy. I often felt the vulnerability in his poems- the raw emotion and it reflected things that I too have felt but never could express in such ways.
It is truly a statement of Jonathan’s ability to connect with people, that even those of us who knew him online, through his poems, feel a deep sadness in the face of this terrible loss.
To our friends and partners at Advocacy Unlimited, and to Jonathan’s friends and family we extend of deepest gratitude for the words Jonathan shared with us here, and we extend our most sincere love and support to you all.

I would like to share some words that Advocacy Unlimited shared about Jonathan and his life:

A Beautiful Soul Remembered

August 9, 1997 – November 17, 2019
Johnathan M.S. McKenzie

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Artists Collective
1200 Albany Avenue
Hartford, CT 06112

Free Parking
Community Donations of Food are Welcome

Johnathan McKenzie joined the Advocacy Unlimited family just over a year ago – yet, it felt like he was a brother for lifetimes.

Beginning at an early age, Johnathan’s interest in neuropsychology, philosophy, and socioeconomics stemmed from his personal journey through New York and Connecticut’s psychiatric inpatient and outpatient systems. Upon discovering some of the fundamental flaws that lead to many of our society’s struggles, Johnathan began his pursuit of advocacy while inpatient at Connecticut Valley Hospital.

Alarmed by the inhumane treatment and the disregard of client rights, he transitioned into the community with the support of Char’Donne and Connecticut Legal Rights Project. With is new found freedom, Johnathan began participating in civil protests, mental health awareness campaigns, and LGBTQ pride events.

This led to a growing commitment to change the conditions of society to ensure all people have the opportunity to achieve their dreams free from institutional and systemic discrimination.

Despite experiencing the harshest of circumstances, Johnathan believed in the goodness of people. He was a leader who inspired all those who witnessed his grace, dignity, and charisma. His devotion and passion for protecting civil and individual rights was seen in so many ways.

Through his leadership, the Danbury NAACP Youth and College Division was founded in 2016. He then transitioned to the role of Community Coordinator with the Waterbury chapter where he was recognized this year in Detroit, Michigan for his outstanding efforts and involvement with the NAACP.

While volunteering, Johnathan became more involved with local efforts to reform the mental health service system. He joined the Connecticut Young Adult Services Statewide Advisory Board, and subsequently joined the Join Rise Be team at Advocacy Unlimited as a Training Coordinator and Young Adult Warmline Operator.

As a member of the JRB team, he collaborated directly with the Department of Mental Health of Addiction Services Young Adult Services division. Working alongside his peers to strengthen the voice of young adults and improve the partnerships between those engaged in YAS programming and the staff that work with them.

What a year it has been for Johnathan – a rising star and an agent of change. Along with receiving the youth award through the NAACP, Johnathan was recognized in Torrington as the 2019 recipient of the Fredrick “Ricky” Lagassie III award this past May and as the recipient of the Emerging Adult Voice Award through Keep the Promise Coalition for his testimony at the Appropriations Committee of the Connecticut Legislature.

Beyond the words that describe his achievements – Johnathan was passionate about running, martial arts, meditation, writing, and music. Johnathan is remembered as a quirky, dancing, improving, bowtie wearing, awesome hat rocking, roller blading, martial art doing, music making, writing, kareoking, advocating, brilliance that lit every space he entered with pure heart and presence.

Johnathan’s presence was an embodiment of love, expression, kindness, freedom, and connection.

Johnathan was love, the rarest and most pure love. His expression of kindness gave permission to all people to simply be free just as they were – nothing more was needed. He was committed to connection – wanting people to feel a sense of belonging.

For those of us lucky enough to have worked with Johnathan will remember him sitting in the office for hours, surrounded by paper placed strategically around him, candles lit and music blasting. He was changing the world each moment and breath he took.

Each letter he wrote and word he spoke was with a conviction that came from his soul. He would spend hours talking about the purpose of life, the purpose of our being, and always asking how we can define happiness. When asked, he would define happy as, “sitting right here doing all the things I love with the people I care about.”

Well, Johnathan, you changed the world for many people. Through your love, expression, kindness, freedom, and connection – those who knew are better people because of your presence.

Despite the pain, you found your way through the darkness and you lit a flame that will forever burn in the hearts of us all. You belonged right here, all along. You will never be forgotten.

To read some of Johnathan’s poetry, please go to www.TurningPointCT.org and to connect with Join Rise Be you can either check out our website www.joinrisebe.org or call the Connecticut Young Adult Warmline 7-days a week from 12-9PM
at 1-855-6HopeNow

If you, or someone you know, is navigating the abyss – you can learn more about Alternatives 2 Suicide by going to https://www.westernmassrlc.org/alternatives-to-suicide.

A New Chapter

Hi TurningPointCT  Welcome to the next chapter!

I haven’t been on here in some time, so I think you’re all due for an update! I have some new blogs on the way, so stay tuned for my normal style of writing.

So it was a bit of a bittersweet good-bye to my position at TurningPointCT… I’m still involved, but I’ve ventured onto a new chapter! I am now the Recovery Liaison for Recovery Network of Programs (RNP). RNP has 19 different programs and several levels of care for people seeking recovery for addiction and/or mental health disorders.

What’s really cool about my new job is that I’m the first of this project that I am a part of. RNP partnered with Optimus Health Care to bring more services to their clients and patients. Basically, I’m mainly stationed at one of the Optimus Health Care locations and when a patient comes into the facility to receive general medical care, they are given a set of questions and depending on their answers, I get involved. Once someone indicates that they are in need of either mental health care and/or substance abuse treatment, I engage them and try to get them enrolled in treatment.

It’s really exciting because I have so much flexibility with my job role. RNP supports the involvement I have with CT and local communities, so they are encouraging me to still do public speaking and be on committees and whatnot. One thing I love about RNP is that the leadership are inspirational women that have had a huge impact on my life, as well as members of my family. Sometimes I get to bounce around to other agencies and site locations and spread the news about our new “Primary Integrative Care Team” aka the PIC Team 🙂 So if you see me all around Bridgeport – I promise I’m there for good reasons 🙂

But here’s a little secret: I was once a patient at RNP. I used many of their services throughout my active addiction years and still utilize their services. I went from being a patient to an employee! A blog on that is in the making!

So that’s an update on my professional life. My personal life has had some major changes as well:

1. I moved into an apartment with my best friend Jen earlier this summer!
2. I graduated college – check out the blog on that here
3. I changed churches & am shifting my spirituality pathway- stay tuned for a blog on that
4. I found out I’m not as weak as I thought I was

Wait, can we just go back to number 4 … I found out I’m not as weak as I thought I was.

This summer, I’ve learned that the weak, broken, bruised woman I thought I still was; is not me. Since so many big changes happened in such a short time, my mental health was starting to be neglected. I was becoming so absorbed in everything and I had quickly labeled myself as some awful things. I couldn’t be happy for myself because I was allowing other people, places, and things be the decision-maker of my emotions and thoughts. For someone living with PTSD, having no control is one of the worst feelings and can trigger a spiral in my thinking process.

So long story short, it bubbled to the surface and the only word of defense I was able to come up with was: No.

Little did I realize, this was going to be the beginning of using a word I was afraid to use my entire life.

Once I saw that I CAN say no, it was a ripple effect. I was “no this” and “no that” for everything. E V E R Y T H I N G.

It felt so empowering. I felt in control. I felt peace. It started off with little things, then the big things came. I said no to men. I said no to helping someone when I mentally couldn’t. I said no to pushing myself when I knew it wasn’t safe to keep pushing. I said no to plans that I couldn’t uphold. And ready for this… I said no to things that I simply just DIDN’T FEEL LIKE DOING.

I may seem cold, but it was the best way that I felt I could shake my fears and insecurities and start becoming my own woman.

So anyway, that is some updates for now. I’ll be posting some cute apartment pictures soon! Jen and I living together is literally a constant sleepover with my best friend. Plus, Luca basically lives with us too, so it’s nice always having them with me. There’s never a moment that we aren’t laughing – or eating lol

I love you all and to the one that’s reading this that is struggling at saying ‘no’ — start with small, manageable things and then keep going– you will be surprised how it will create a ripple effect. I hope you all keep watch for my upcoming blogs about: my new spiritual path, becoming an employee at a place I was a patient, more about my PTSD, and lots more!


Meme Monday!

Hey Guys!!
Check out our new thread- MEME MONDAYS!!
It doesn’t have to be a Monday to post a meme! We want to see them all! Funny memes, weird memes, home-made memes.. SHARE THEM ALL WITH US HERE!

Stress Awareness Month

Hey guys! April is stress awareness month.
Stress is something we all cope with, some of us cope more effectively than others, and some us us have more manageable amounts of stress than others.
So, lets check in!
On a scale of 1-5 (1 being not stressed and 5 being losing it stressed) how stressed are you?? What’s going on?
And on a scale of 1-5 (1 being coping really badly, and 5 being coping super well) how well are you coping?? What are you doing?

I’ll go first.
On a scale of 1-5, I am teetering between a 4 and a 5. I have a lot of days that feel unmanageable.
My stress levels make sense to me in the context of my life right now. I just moved a few months ago (still not unpacked), I am full time at school (almost done for the summer!!), working 2 part time jobs, and of course, motherhood- which doesn’t stress me out itself, it’s feeling like I am missing out on my child’s life that is stressful. But, then I have amazing days, like yesterday, I took a mental health day and stayed home from school after staying up until 4 am doing homework. Why? Because I needed to. And I didn’t feel bad.
How well am I coping? I would say between a 2 & 3. More days I’m a 2. I’m not falling back into all my old coping skills, but I’m not on top of myself and using coping skills or self care the way I know I should. But, then I have better days and remember it’s not the worst thing I’ve lived through and it’s not forever!

So, after all that, how about you guys?? This is your chance to check in with yourself and let a little steam out if you’re feeling stressed!
Also, I found this really cool site. So, if you are feeling really stressed and are having a hard time, check this out.

Mental Health video by young adults!

Guys, check out this awesome video!

“From award-winning documentary filmmaker Arthur Cauty, comes Faces of Mental Health, a short film which challenges stigma and encourages open conversation around mental illness and suicide in young people.

Students in Bristol were offered a space to open up and share their thoughts and personal experiences of mental illness and suicide, with a view to encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds across the country and around the World to step forward and speak out.”

It’s on vimeo, and definitely worth a watch and a share!!

Check out the video here on vimeo

Long time, no see!

Hi everyone! It’s been a long, long time since I last wrote in this blog.

What’s kept me away?
• I started school and became a full-time student (I made honors last semester!)
• Willow and I left the shelter and moved into our own apartment.
• Willow turned TWO.
• I’ve been taking on more responsibilities at work and I’ve been working hard in school.

There are a lot of days that I’ve been happy and hopeful and staying afloat with a lot going on.

There have also been a lot of days that I’m busy all day. When I wake up early and stay up late and I’m exhausted and stressed. And that has been hard.

But I’m also staying afloat, in fact I’m doing well, too. Not all the time, of course, but still, I’m not giving up. If this were a few years ago, normally in a time like this, I wouldn’t be ok. I’d run at the slightest feeling of defeat, self-destruct then hide away.
At a time like this, I would be doing the worst I’d ever done, again.

But, I’m not. I’ve been doing better than I remember being for a long time. And I’m so grateful for that. I feel like I have found who I always was underneath the things that glued me to the floor.

Every so often though, I feel scared. Scared because I know I have so much at stake, and because I know I have come so far.
I wonder, sometimes, why am I ok? I wonder not if but when I will fail?
Then I remember the same things that scare me also help me be ok. They motivate me, support me and remind me to keep working. I think about the things that make me want to be ok.

I think about Willow, about being able to do more than just function, about being hopeful for our future, about school and my job, and I think about peer support. I think about the things I went through, the journey of shifting between the fine lines of patient and peer. About getting to speak with people who I understand, people who are struggling through high school with depression or anxiety or while fighting with their family every night. I think about how much peer support and the opportunity to use my story to better empathize with others, which have helped me be ok in times like this.

And I even though sometimes I feel scared, anxious, or doubtful – I feel good about continuing to move forward. I don’t feel tempted to stop, or give up, I feel excited to see what comes next; that fills me and keeps me going forward through fear and doubt.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week!

Today marks the start of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week! From February 25th- March 5th we can try to commit to being happy with ourselves and our bodies the way they are, not the way we think they are supposed to be. Instead of trying to fit into a box, we can appreciate the utility of our bodies, the way they function to keep us living. The amazing strength we have. The unique beauty each of us posses. We are all amazing!

Today, I thank my body. But, I also thank myself. Because for a long time I hated nearly everything about my body. The things I focused on we small details of perceived perfection I wanted so desperately to achieve. Yet, no matter how much I forced my body to change, no matter how unkind I was to myself, using food and weight as my weapon, I did not grow to love my body any more. I grew to hate it more, to see my flaws as being bigger, more unmanageable, more important and glaringly obvious to everyone. How exhausting it was to fight a battle for years against myself and food, a battle I had no idea was impossible to win.
So, I thank my body and myself. Because today I am a person who has recovered from an eating disorder, and it is such an incredible thing to say!

Even if you have never suffered from an eating disorder or known someone who has, this week is important. We all face stigma, shame and “rules” about our bodies, beauty, and standards. Isn’t it an exhausting ride to be stuck on?
So, instead of trying to fit into some arbitrary ideal of beauty, which doesn’t truly exist, lets love ourselves. Lets love our bodies, even the parts we sometimes hide. Because our bodies love us, they are for us, they do everything in their power to take care of us. Lets thank our bodies with some well deserved love, and reap the benefits!

If you are concerned you or someone you care about might be struggling with eating or with their body image in some way, help them out by suggesting they take a screening and offer your support. Help is out there. Recovery exists. Here is the link to a free and confidential screening that you or someone you know can take online, click here.

For even more resources on Eating disorders, check out our map or go to “resources” and click “support by topic”

If you have ever struggled with an eating disorder, how are you doing these days? If you have found recovery, what helped you?
If you have never struggled with an eating disorder, in what ways do you struggle with your body? In what ways do you love your body?

Random Acts of Kindness Day

February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day! That’s this Sunday!

In celebration of this day I wanted to share a video and ask a question.

The video is on Youtube, here Random Acts Of Kindness random acts of kindness

And this is my question: what was on time that kindness had a profound affect on you? It could have been something kind you did or something kind someone else did for you.

A couple weeks ago when I was surveying for the Youth Count I walked out of Dunkin Donuts to see an adult man sitting outside asking for change. Having been in his shoes not so long ago my heart ached for him, I wanted him to understand that he was understood and cared about. I wanted him to feel as though the weight of the world was not on his shoulders. That he was important, valuable. Anyways, I ended up going back and fourth in my head about what to do for a few minutes while I was inside. When I went to left I sat down next to him. I told him that I didn’t have any change and that I was sorry, but that I had been in his shoes before and I wanted him to know that I cared about him, even though I didn’t know him. We talked for a few minutes, and I felt so, so connected to him. I felt as though he did not frequently have experiences of being treated humanely by others. He looked deeply into my eyes and said thank you before I left, and it just struck me so much. It made me both happy and sad. But I know that we both had an affect on each other that day. That’s what kindness is to me! An exchange, a moment when caring for another person makes you feel just as loved. It’s a special thing.
So, how about you guys?

Random Acts Of Kindness Day

What are you proud of from 2018?

Hey guys! It’s 2019!
Pretty cool, kinda.

Some people seem to really care about New Years, it signifies a time to reflect and commit to change. Other people think it’s BS. And some don’t really care too much!

However you feel about New Years, it’s always good to reflect on time that’s passed and recognize strides that you have made.
My favorite quote when I was in the midst of a lot of struggles was,

“I may not be where I want to be but thank God I’m not where I used to be”

We don’t have to leap from ditches to mountain tops to recognize our power and strength. And sometimes it’s not even steps that deserve recognition, sometimes it’s staying right where you are, because it can be really hard to not fall backward, and good enough is good enough.

This New Years Eve, I laid in bed next to Willow while she slept and realized the changes that occurred over the past year. I thought about the pain, fear, and excitement I felt, and how hopeless I was at times. I realized how far I have come by looking back for a few moments. And it felt good, and it made me feel proud of myself. And I didn’t feel bad saying that.

So, what are you guys proud of from 2018?

I’m proud of myself for starting school, taking the leap to “real” employment and beginning the process of getting off of disability and SSI, moving, admitting to myself and a few friends that I was depressed, sticking with my path even when it was scary and painful and uncertain, trying every day to be a good mom, working hard, getting certified as a SMART recovery facilitator, Recovery Coach, and a Recovery Support Specialist, starting the path to getting my licence, and beginning to throw away things that I don’t need.

Let’s congratulate each other on our success in being here, even when it’s really hard work.

In Everything Give Thanks

Thanksgiving: A holiday where most families get together and share what they are thankful for while breaking bread. When I was using, Thanksgiving and many other holidays were awful. I would be rushing around trying to meet drug dealers and put myself together enough to show up for my family. They all would know that something was wrong with me, but would just give me a gentle reminder that I am loved and that they hope everything will be ok.

I don’t think the chaos of those holiday mornings are described well enough with the word ‘awful’. I would wake up in deep withdrawal.. vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, chills, aches, and extreme anxiety. Most of the time I would wake up with no money in my pocket because it was spent the day before on bags of dope that I would swear to save for the holiday morning. But once they were in my hand it was, “I can do these now and I’ll figure out the morning”. The morning was NEVER figured out and I knew this, yet I kept doing it.

Out I would go to steal something or rob someone. Scrambling to not get caught, usually outside in the cold, all while still experiencing withdrawal symptoms and only intensifying as minutes pass. Once I would finally score some money, the next mission was to find a drug dealer that was ‘around’ on a holiday. See, drug dealers are not always these guys that just sit in a house all day selling drugs. Many of them have families that need to see them too. I can’t explain the feeling of doom that takes over when all phones are off when you are trying to score. So then you have to go into neighborhoods that you know have people available and hope you score something that isn’t completely fake. All the while, your family members are blowing up your phone asking where you are and you’re already an hour or two late.

Today is the third Thanksgiving in a row that I will be celebrating while in recovery. This morning I have woken up healthy, besides a slight cold. I woke up with my best friend at my house after a sleepover. My mom is cooking and preparing the Thanksgiving meal. My dad is making breakfast and my brother is on his way over. I’m not reaching over for a needle. I have money in my bank account. I know that everyone in my family is in good health. I will be spending the afternoon surrounded by my loved ones and will be arriving on time.

Three years ago today I went upstairs in my bedroom while my entire family was over for Thanksgiving to complete a suicide attempt by a heroin overdose. As raw as that is, it was reality for me. So this morning I wake up with slight panic because it still feels real. I can feel all of the terrible emotions I had felt that day, I can literally feel them. But then I realize.. I’m not there anymore and that day has passed. I can’t believe that it has been three years. I’ve never had this long of recovery before. I’m in awe every day of God’s mercy and grace in my life.

I’m thankful for three years.
I’m thankful for my family.
I’m thankful for my best friends.
I’m thankful for my boyfriend.
I’m thankful for my cats.
I’m thankful for my career.
I’m thankful for my education.
I’m thankful for my co workers.
I’m thankful for my boss.
I’m thankful for my church.

& I’m thankful for so much more.

Today, I am also thankful for me… the courage that sparked inside me to stop that suicide attempt and ask for help. I’m thankful for making the call to treatment centers despite the immense amount of humiliation, fear, and shame that comes along with it. I’m thankful for the counselors that didn’t let me quit.

Little did I know that what I planned to be the end of everything, was the start to a journey of hope I’d never imagine.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Open Discussion: When Hurt Haunts

With this post Id like to create an open discussion to talk about when being hurt comes back to nibble at your brain a little bit. It can be really frustrating and difficult to be reminded of hard times especially when you’re on a roll, or getting over it, or you feel like you’re all better. Share what you do to try to either distract yourself, or heal, or whatever it is that you do to positively benefit yourself when those thoughts just wont leave you alone.

Seize The Awkward

The beginning of the school year is exciting, stressful, and everything in between. One of the best parts of going back to school is seeing all of your friends.
The fall is also a really hard time for people- especially High School and College students. It’s busy, stressful, and overwhelming. This is a time of year when anxiety and depression peak. Young people turn to things like self harm, substance use, and other risky and harmful behaviors to cope, and suicide attempts peak.
Often times, when we struggle, we don’t know who to turn to. Our friends are our first line of support. Sometimes, they see us struggling before we even decide we want to reach out.
Check out this site, Seize The Awkward.We have to be there for our friends, and even though it might seem awkward- seize the moment and make sure they’re doing ok.

Plans for the Fall

August is almost over… HOW?!


It’s almost time to kiss Summer goodbye, and say hello to wonderful, amazing Fall!
I love the Summer, but I love the Fall so much.
Still, even though I love the Fall, and I’m no longer in High School, the end of Summer gives me a knot in my stomach… I get so nervous and anxious, no doubt because school was so anxiety provoking for me as a child and teenager, and Fall often meant depression, anxiety, hospitals… a lot of pain.
With time, my love for Fall is beginning to come back into the forefront when I realize Summer is nearly over- but I still cannot escape the dull lull of anxiety that sits within my and grows bigger as leaves begin to change and nights become long.
It’s also kind of sad!


So, how do you guys feel? Are you happy/sad/nervous/etc? What does Fall mean to you and what are your plans this Fall?
If you struggle with this time of year, what specifically do you struggle with? What makes it better?

We are here for you all during this seasonal transition and transition back to school!

4 Phrases I’m tired of being told when I’m struggling

I have been inspired to write this after coming across a similar article and from people that I have been recovery coaching. Although people say things with a good intention of encouragement, they don’t always realize that what they are saying can cause the opposite effect. So, I’ve gathered some phrases that people have said to me (and others) that aren’t very helpful and what would be more encouraging to hear instead.

1. “You must not be really giving it to God” or “you aren’t praying/reading/attending church enough”… basically something along the lines of criticizing and assuming how my Christian walk is going. This is said to me on days that I’m struggling with my mental health. It’s not helpful because if you think that I reached out to a human before the Lord, you’re very wrong. Not only have I read, prayed, attended services, but I’ve literally laid on the floor, sobbing, begging Jesus for peace and strength. And you better believe I thank Him for having an answer I don’t have. No one should have to defend this.

2. “But you’re in recovery now, so why do you still struggle?” You would be surprised how often I hear this. I hear this whenever I tell someone that I’m having cravings/urges/temptations, or when I’m just having a rough day. Just because I am sober doesn’t mean that when I’m going through a difficult time I don’t think about getting high or am tempted to give up the fight.

3. “Don’t forget where you came from.” UM HELLO I HAVE PTSD IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO FORGET! Sheesh, I WISH I could forget! Guess how often I’m reminded of my past? Every single day, multiple times a day. I just don’t necessarily act on the reminders, with the exception of things that are nearly impossible to control: panic attacks, flashbacks, and stomach aches.

4. “Just try not to think about it, just ignore it.” If ignoring triggers, urges, emotions, and thoughts were that easy, I would be out of a career.

There are more helpful statements to say to me in contrast to the ones listed above. Not only do they show validation of how I’m feeling and what I’m experiencing, but they also show some empathy. Sometimes just simply reminding me that you are there for me and that my emotions are real for me, can be so soothing and comforting. People seem to be worried that this is ‘enabling’ behavior, but it’s not. It’s reminding me that I am not alone and that I’m not crazy, I’m simply human, and most importantly: it is going to be ok.

1. Instead try, “I’ll be praying for you” or “Can I pray for you? Can we pray together”. For my spiritual friends, I know that your first thoughts are often accusing me of not doing enough in my spiritual walk. Try being a part of growing my faith by encouraging prayer WITH me. Giving me some comfort verses are also helpful, after I vent. Don’t forget to remind me that greater is He in me than in the world.

2. Instead try, “I’m here for you during difficult times”. Because the struggles still come and are difficult to face in recovery, gently reminding me that you are near is so helpful.

3. Instead try, “I’m proud of you and how far you have come”. I’ve noticed that whenever I post something that I’ve accomplished, people are quick to remind me to remain humble instead of acknowledging a victory in my struggle. Being proud of the work that God is doing in my life is much more helpful.

4. Instead try, “This will pass.” or “I’m here with you.” Again, reminding me that I am not alone. Maybe suggest a time that you have witnessed me accomplishing something or getting through a struggle. Saying something like, “I know this is difficult, but I’ve seen you get through tough times and I know you can fight through this” is not only encouraging, but it shows that you believe in me, because chances are, in that moment, I don’t believe in myself.

Is there something that someone has said to you that isn’t helpful? Is there something you would rather be told instead? I’d love to hear about it!

Voices 4 Hope

Voices 4 Hope is a peer run website that (similar to us) aims to connect young people with mental illness to each other with the goal of living happily and independently. They also use Young Adult peer voice to drive research and create new treatment that are helpful to the people who know most- the ones with lived experience!
Sounds cool, right?
Check them out!

Newport Academy Adventure Camp

Newport Academy is having a experiential therapy summer camp for teens!

This is the part of the Summer that can start to drag a little, when the lack of structure gets “boring” and perhaps can lead to slips in recovery.

Well the good news is that there are two summer camp sessions for teens to engage in therapeutic and recreational activities for 2 weeks!

Activities such as paddle-boarding, hiking, volunteering, and more will make up your days if you are interested!

If you would like a safe haven for the remainder of your summer, then contact Newport Academy
Or you can register with Robin Seymour at 203-644-4605.

The camp runs Monday through Thursday from 9:30 am- 3:00 pm
The first session is from July 23- August 2. The second session is from August 13-23

This is a great way to have a safe, fun, and structured remainder of your Summer!

National Disability Awareness Day 2018

Hi guys! Today (July 16th, 2018) is National Disability Awareness Day.
Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes; they affect people in a multitude of ways, and can be invisible or obvious.

The most difficult thing that I faced when being labeled as ‘disabled’ was my perception of my self and my ability. I had spent a great deal of my youth with large aspirations and goals, and believed I was capable of achieving them- however being told that I was unable to do certain things convinced me, I was truly incapable of “normalcy”. Now, in recovery, I am beginning to see myself in another light, I’m making friends with myself and the person I want to be, and I feel closer to happiness than I have in years. I’m grateful for the gift of self-reflection and the strength and will to change. And without the years I spent believing I was “less-than”, I would not have the incredible sense of empathy that I am so grateful to be able to use in my life.

If you or someone you love lives with a disability- today is your day. Recognize the strength you posses, congratulate yourself for the strides you make, and know you are capable and worthy of anything and everything.

What is the most difficult part of having a disability? What are you grateful? Has your disability given you any gifts?

"Just For Today"

Here’s some dirt to chew on, I haven’t gotten any sleep at all last night, I’m feeling a little drowsy but I’m not at the nodding off point yet. My work is about 25 minutes away, I decided I would go in early today, and leave earlier since I had to drop off a package and then drive to work when traffic is supposed to be bad. Well I should’ve went home because it’s 8:30, I thought I’d get here around 9:30, and no one’s in the office. Screw me, right? But you know what? It’s fine, no biggie, I’m here, we’re doin this, I’m taking you guys down with me. So I want to talk about something really inspiring I heard at my NA (Narcotics Anonymous) Meeting last night, and yes the “thing” is applicable even if you don’t have a drug problem. The topic we were sharing on was “Just For Today.

What I had to share on that topic went something similar to this: Because of my generalized anxiety I had to teach myself not to look too far into the future, that doesn’t dismiss setting goals for some things, but not to focus on things out of reach that will cause me unnecessary worry. Take it day by day, tell yourself just for today. In NA we say,
“JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on my recovery,
living and enjoying life without the use of drugs.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in someone in NA who
believes in me and wants to help me in my recovery.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have a program. I will try to follow it
to the best of my ability.
JUST FOR TODAY, through NA, I will try to get a better
perspective on my life.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be unafraid. My thoughts will be on
my new associations, people who are not using and
who have found a new way of life. So long as I follow
that way, I have nothing to fear.

But sometimes, you don’t have the capacity to handle the day, sometimes you need to take it hour by hour, or maybe even minute by minute, and that’s okay. You do whatever you need to do to keep your disease tamed.

The shares that really spoke to me were people talking about how they were having a bad day, or a bad few days, or a bad week, or even couple of months. At first I thought, “jeez, what is it that time of year or somethin??” but what they all ended with was… “but you know what? I didn’t use” or “I’m still clean”, and that shit is powerful. I want you right now to think of yourself in the past, present, or future, having had dealt with or are dealing with a difficult situation(s). Now I want you to think of an unhealthy behavior you use as an outlet, maybe it’s drinking and drugging, maybe it’s hurting yourself or others, maybe it’s internalizing your emotions and pushing them on yourself, whatever. Final step, think about how it would feel to talk about all the shit you’ve been through, and finish with “but I didn’t XXXXXX”, think about how proud that would make you feel. If you need living proof take me for example, I’m 17, and for years I just couldn’t get my shit together, and when I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired, I heard someone share a story that went like this, “my son of 22 got into a tragic car accident and died, my son of 18 got into a motorcycle accident and he’s a paraplegic for the rest of his life now, and just two months ago my wife told me she was leaving me because she was in love with another man. This all has been in the span of the last ten years and I haven’t picked up a drink” (and remember, that “drink” can be substituted with any behavior or substance). That man told that story without a tear in his eye, he stood up there and shared that all to a room of people who want to get better, and did it without a pout or a frown or a sigh, he showed true strength and resilience. It was after that story just last year that I heard the “pop” of my head coming out of my ass and I thought to myself “I want that…I want the strength to be able to handle the inevitable events that will occur in my lifetime without the fear of falling into a deep dark hole powered by my habits and emotions”. And so those people sharing reminded me of that powerful experience and I can only HOPE some of the newcomers in that room last night felt what I felt about a year ago.

“Stare too Long” – Corrosion of Conformity
“Walk With Me In Hell” – Lamb of God
“Closer to the Heart” – Rush

Being Yourself

Everyone, at one point or another, eventually finds themselves. For many the journey begins in pre-adolescent to adolescent years. And in that time people typically try out different personalities, personas, and identities in hopes of find one that sticks with them. This process could last a few years to a majority of some people’s lifetimes, but there’s one underlying factor in the end of that journey, and that’s being comfortable with yourself, your looks, your personality, your actions. It’s normal to have some insecurities or things you’d like to better about yourself, but first you need to “be yourself”. The process of finding yourself begins with the release of preconceptions about yourself and judgement that have been passed on to you by others. From there, you create a some what blank-ish canvas to paint on. Sometimes we have a hard time trying to decide which paints to use, some paints we fear might be a little edgy, some paints we think my offend others, whatever it is about that paint that is holding you back from putting it on the canvas, let it go. Because if you’re even contemplating, there’s something about that color you enjoy, and if you don’t end up enjoying as much as you thought you would later, you can white it out, no big deal, such is the way of life. What’s something you eventually embraced about yourself after pushing through the fear of judgement?

The days I dreamed of in prison

I was driving to work the other day and a song came on the radio. I got so excited, turned it up, and danced while driving (yes, I’m definitely THAT person).

After about 30 seconds into the song, a wave of emotions started coming over me, then I was instantly reminded of prison. I was not only reminded, but I felt as if I was really there again. I could smell the scent of bleach that was often lingering in the air. I could hear the sound of people talking and the keys clanging as correctional officers walk through hallways. Then it was as if I almost heard a girl that was housed down the hall from me say, “Ally stop listening to music we have to go!”

The song that came on the radio was a song I listened to on the radio I had in prison. We had an AM/FM radio that had awful reception. It was one of the few tools I had to be able to have a sense of freedom in that place. I was able to put my headphones in and drown out the emotions and thoughts that I was experiencing. But that song… I would get so excited when it would come on the radio and would sing and dance and drive my cellmates and ‘hallway mates’ CRAZY. We didn’t have the option of putting a song on repeat or hearing it whenever we wanted; it was only when the radio DJ decided to play it.

I used to dream of the day that I could hear that song whenever I wanted ‘on the outside’.

I dreamt of many days that I hoped to have when I was out of prison. The day I would be able to:
-shut a door in the bathroom and be able to use the restroom in privacy
-have a real breakfast outside in my backyard
-wear clothes that made me feel beautiful
-wear makeup
-go out to dinner
-watch a movie with my family
-go for hikes and walks

And the list goes on…

I don’t know if it’s part of my PTSD or what, but when moments happen, little or big, I immediately think, “I remember when I would dream about this day.” I don’t know why I go back to that place so often, most of the time unintentionally. Sometimes I wonder if my mind maybe blocked out a lot of experiences I had there. I heard one time that your mind will literally not allow you to fully experience a situation in order to protect you from trauma. I don’t know how much I believe that because the trauma was definitely there. But I did handle it differently than I think I would if it happened right this second. So maybe, just maybe, my brain did some protecting and now it starts to flare sometimes.

The days that I dreamed of in prison seemed so far away, sometimes impossible to achieve, and as if they would never come. I can now say that I’ve experienced so many of these days and more importantly, ones that I didn’t believe were in the cards for me.

So if there is a day, or moment, that you are dreaming of happening; stay encouraged, it will come. But make sure that you try to live those days more than once. Go on two hikes, not just one. Go out to dinner more than once. Do something that you dreamed of weekly or monthly if you can. Just keep dreaming, keep pushing and your days will come.. and you will experience them in a way you never imagined.

How I Found the Courage to Heal on My Detour

Healing takes courage, and sometimes it takes a friend, a therapist, or a book!
How have you made it through each detour of healing and recovery? Where are you now?
This was a book that helped me start…

Well, I’ll start with how I found the book.

My life was out of control. I called a therapist.

She listened to my flustered ramblings, then calmly replied, “You have to tell your story”.

Tell my story?

“Yes, you have to say in words what happened to you.”

I hung up and never talked to her again. She was oversimplifying things. I’m used to “thinking” myself out. I didn’t know why I actually had to verbalize it. What could words do?

I spent a few months pretending everything was okay, but it wasn’t. Then I thought, what the heck, I’ll say it. I tried, but I couldn’t speak.

At that moment, I knew the therapist was right. Until I could use the power of words to express what happened to me, I would not heal.

It took years before I could even articulate an idea of the turmoil that was rattling around inside of me. The confusion, the pain, the anger – the losses. I all kinds of journals, you know, the kind you see at Hallmark with the pretty covers and the inspirational quotes, like a compulsion – believing there would come a time when words would flow through me and guide me back to my self.

And one day, I took one of those journals. I opened it. And I began to write:

“April…Oh I don’t know.
Things are good – I’ve been doing a lot of auditioning, I’m even performing!
And, now that I have an agent, I’m taking the train in to the city for auditions – by myself…’cause I’m a woman now!

It’s great – I’m really getting to know the showbiz crowd and feel like I have mentors in the crazy business – people I really trust. I think…”

Then shortly after that, I had some time to kill before an audition last week so I went to the bookstore. And I was browsing the Healing & Spirituality section – I needed some inspiring poetry to pep me up because I don’t know, I’d been feeling really drained – and thought that maybe that’s just what this business does to you –

I picked up each book unenthusiastically.

“You Can Heal Your Life.”
“The Artist’s Way.”
“The Courage to Heal: For survivors of sexual abuse.”

I almost laughed, put the book back, walked away… and then came back, started to slowly flip through the pages. I sat down, slowly, glued to the pages.

“Sexual Abuse.”

Those were words that belong with plane crashes and gang rapes and armed robberies and dateline specials. In Fairfield, Connecticut, there’s stress for final exams, or a fight with my drama-queen friends.

(I looked around nervously, then continued to read.
“Check all that apply:
I feel dirty, like there’s something wrong with me
Sometimes I think I’m crazy
I feel ashamed
I’m different from other people
If people really knew me, they’d leave
I have a hard time taking care of myself
I don’t deserve to be happy
I’m a failure
I can’t cry anymore
I feel as if my body is separate from the rest of me
I feel numb.”

That’s…my story. Numb. That was the word. The soft b felt tingly on my lips as I swallowed up that word in terrifying secrecy. Numb. That is how I felt. Like my body was physically going through the motions of everyday life, but the me I knew my entire life was not a part of it. It was as though I determined to remain in denial.
When I turned 17, a mentor who I had known for several years transformed into a complete stranger. One night I had come to his studio for a voice lesson. I went into total shock and coped by leaving my body and staying numb when he started to molest me.

By the end of the night, I couldn’t remember a thing that had happened. When I woke up, my voice teacher did not go back to who I thought he was. I stayed numb. For months. And months. Suddenly, all I could feel were my feet pacing back and forth over the endless passing of days.

Out of control. Until I could speak it. And…the therapist was right.

And then I was in a Barnes and Noble somehow holding an impossible book. Courage. Heal.

Nervousness rushed over my body, like I’d just been caught shoplifting. The warmth that filled my cheeks was a peculiar heat I hadn’t felt since I had last laughed, or smiled. Words had the power to pierce through my skin with more potency than my fingernails, now rattling with uncontrollable energy.

So that’s my story. And… I had never actually told anyone before.

Just this book. Because this book told me.

So I guess I healed through stories – literally. Because two stories talked to each other.

Sometimes you need other people’s words until you can fill in your own.

Of course, some people like to fill in their own words for me. They always will. But, finding that book, The Courage to Heal, a decade ago, I found words. That’s all they were. It only became a story once I read them, and wrote out my own. I realized the value of my story once I was able to read it, and ultimately write it for myself.

But finding that book, I found music – more than words. A connection to the world. Everything was possible. I had a story to tell. And with a story, anything could happen. Even the good things…

Has a book ever inspired you on the next steps of your detour? Share it!
And safe, safe travels, Detourists!


I’m Working On It

Most mornings, the moment I open my eyes, I can tell what kind of day I am going to have.

Lately, I have had some bad days.

My Anxiety has been a part of me my entire life. Most of the time, I do not allow her to be my whole life. Lately, she has been trying extra hard to take over. I am exhausted fighting her. She is not making my days easy.

Having Generalized Anxiety Disorder means that my Anxiety doesn’t discriminate. She doesn’t care if I have 37 things to do that day. She doesn’t care if it’s sunny or raining. She doesn’t care if I’m having a good day or a bad day. She fights for my attention, and she is relentless. She stops at nothing. She wins when I lose.

I keep a longgggg list of things that are giving me anxiety. I am worried about my transition into the real world, as a teacher rather than a student. I am worried that I won’t be able to handle adult responsibilities. I am worried about my upcoming travel plans.
These worries are useless. I KNOW I will be able to transition.. I KNOW I will be able to handle adult responsibilities.. But that’s where a Generalized Anxiety Disorder comes in. I cannot control being worried about things that are out of my control (or even sometimes IN my control).

I can’t help it.

But I really wish I could. I really wish I could take the daily/weekly/monthly anxieties away from the world (myself, included). I wish that it was easier for me to ignore this screaming Anxiety. I wish I had an advanced skill-set that allowed me to live peacefully with my Anxiety every day. I don’t.

But, I’m working on it.

The little bean that gets me through my hardest days.

13 Reasons Why Release Tomorrow

Hey everyone-

I want to talk about something that has been super controversial in the Mental Health community: 13 Reasons Why- the Netflix version of the 2007 novelThirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

I have not seen the first season yet, nor have I read the book, but I have heard many different opinions on the release of this Netflix series. I’m wondering what you guys think.

Have you seen it? Do you plan to watch the second season? How do you feel about the way mental illness is portrayed in the series?

I am curious to hear your opinions as I decide whether or not to watch the show.

Twenty Years

October 1997
Age three. My first dance class.
Picture an exceptionally small little girl with all of the worries in the world.
I didn’t know how to accept my feelings. I didn’t know how to process my emotions.

October 2007
Age thirteen. In therapy for eight years. Still learning how to deal with my anxiety. Still learning how to accept that I was living with a mental illness. Still learning to admit to myself that I was living with a mental illness.

October 2017
Age twenty-three. Celebrating twenty years of dance in the studio I love so much.
I have finally learned how to live with my mental illness. I have finally learned how to accept that my Anxiety and my Depression do not define me.

Two weekends ago, I had the honor and privilege of celebrating my 20th year recital- living my life on stage surrounded by the people I love the most. When I look back on my life, there is no possible way for me to do so without thinking about how much dancing has saved me.
Living with a mental illness (or illnesses, in my case) means that I treat every day a little bit differently than someone without a mental illness does. Some days, I have to cancel plans. Some days, I run late. Some days, I’m stuck in bed. Some days, I don’t leave the bathroom. Some days, my emotions get to me, and I cry for no reason.
But, some days are good. Some days, I am excited to take on the day. Some days, I look forward to what the unknown will bring me.

I have worked hard to learn how to live around the type of day I am having. I am still working at it. It’s not an easy process. I am still learning how to live my life despite my crippling anxiety. As I have lived with myself for 24 years, I feel pretty confident knowing how to read my body and my mind, and knowing when I need to fight, and when I need to take flight. Some days, my anxiety gets so bad that I am in flight even before I step out of bed. But other days, other battles are worth the fight.

Dancing is a part of me. I am the best me when I am dancing. My Anxiety and my Depression know they aren’t allowed in the studio. They don’t get to me while I’m dancing. Anxiety has taken so much away from my life- but she will never take dancing from me.

I won’t let her.

2013. 15 years.

You lift me. You make me a better woman.

Thank you for twenty beautiful years of love, dedication, and dance.

My Humiliation is Finally Over

The other day I took my last drug test for probation.

I know it may sound strange to be proud and happy about this, but I am for so many reasons.

When I take a supervised drug test for probation, this is what happens:

I walk into the facility having to use the bathroom SO bad because I’ve been holding it in so I can actually pee when I get there. I have to sit and wait (about 10-15 minutes) for a female to take the test. But why would a female have to take the test? Because this is a supervised test. Aka a complete stranger is going to watch me pee.

Thankfully I’m not “pee-shy” as they call it, which is probably due to me having to use the restroom literally three feet away from someone’s bed when I was incarcerated. But ladies… if you’re on your menstrual cycle you better believe they watch you when you need to practice hygiene for that. Aka this stranger watched me while I changed my tampon. Awkward.

I’ve been on the other side of this situation; the person supervising. It’s awkward for this role as well, but I’m tired of hearing professionals say, “it’s just as awkward for me, as it is for you.” … Ummm… it’s really not. It’s so much more awkward and humiliating for the person taking the test. The person taking the test is not getting paid to do so. The person taking the test does not have to have their privacy invaded. Oh, and the person taking the test doesn’t get reminded of all of the things they did wrong and why they are there in the first place each time doing this. And then they will turn on the water from the faucet as if that’s supposed to work some magic. Yeah, right. And please don’t have a conversation with me while I humiliate myself because I cannot concentrate on carrying on a conversation with you while you stare at me pee and change my tampon… just saying.

I’m also tired of hearing, “but you know the results are going to be negative, so you have nothing to worry about.” Really?

Every time I take a drug test(negative or not), my past comes into my mind like wildfire. A negative test result does not eliminate the humiliation of the process. I wish people would respect that more, especially providers. It’s not that I’m worried about the test results. Is the anxiety of the whole process increased if I know the results will be positive? Absolutely. But whether it’s negative or not, I’m anxious of the thoughts that come creeping into my mind before, during, and after a test. I’m anxious about the humiliation of the whole process. I’m anxious about the judgement, discrimination, and stigma that comes along with the process. There have been several times I have been looked down upon because I was on probation, there to take a test.

The harsh thoughts that my mental health disorders flood into my mind are awful. I try to shut them out (it’s a daily thing), but they’re there and they are NOT always easy to ignore. Sometimes I’m unable to eat or function the best that day (work, school, social life, home life) because the whole process has an aftermath effect. It really didn’t get easier for me as I continued taking them (weekly for 9 months, every four months for three years).

I try to change my perspective into something positive as I usually do, but it’s definitely difficult. The thoughts still come and the emotions still follow. I try to look at the situation with gratitude. I’m thankful that I’m sober. I’m thankful that I’m not in prison. I’m thankful of where I am in life. I also allow it to be a moment of humility. But there is a difference between being humble and being humiliated. 

Quora defines the difference of humility and humiliation:

Humiliation is the act of being humiliated by something or someone, so in a sense, it’s embarrassment or self loathing. Humility is the understanding or will to accept yourself and to not be egotistical or arrogant, not to mention being accepting.”

So I guess it’s a mixture of both for me.

But now, to end on a positive note, I’M DONE TAKING THESE SUPERVISED PEE SESSIONS!!!

I did three freaking years of them and I can finally close that door. I am still on probation, but the next test would have been scheduled when my probation time had already elapsed. I’m looking forward to being able to post about probation being terminated in July. Until then… I’ll be enjoying shutting the door of every bathroom I go into haha.



Hi everyone!

I’m so sorry I’ve basically been missing in action since April 3rd… ack. Well, I have some good excuses for you all! Just kidding, not excuses.

I have been so incredibly busy so, let me share some of the things that have been going on for the past month for me.

The big thing is that in April I began a 6 week training to become a Recovery Support Specialist. Around the same time that this started, I had to complete my distance training to become a SMART Recovery group facilitator.
(I finished the RSS training last week! This week is my graduation. It was a great training, and I learned a lot and shifted my thinking in many ways about the mental health system and how we are affected by it. )
The first week or so of April I was doing about 15 hours a week of RSS training, and trying desperately to finish the SMART training AND commit 20 hours of work to TurningPointCT.org! And, as I shared Willow started walking and I felt crushed by my commitments and all the time I was spending away from her.

Then, there was the infrequent, but very

important commitment I have to the Youth Advisory Board (about 10 or so hours a month for a group geared towards ending youth homelessness).
And, I was asked to speak at a Gala for Child Guidance in Stamford, where I received services as a teenager. Which was exciting and poignant considering the person who helped me there passed away unexpectedly about 2 years ago. (I wrote about it here). But it was also overwhelming, and stressful, and a time commitment considering I had to write and edit my speech and do every other little and big thing involved in a large speaking engagement (buy clothes, practice, scope out venue, freak out). It was my first really big speaking event, where I had to really write out my speech, and not just ‘wing it’.

Then, my brother told me he was leaving his job and apartment in D.C. much faster than we all thought, and that he had about 2 weeks to pack up and find somewhere to go with his dog! This was in the middle of April. So, unexpectedly, Willow and I got on a six hour train ride to Washington D.C. and spent 3 days with him! It was amazing and so much fun.

The end of April was filled with Fresh Check and Wellness Days, a few exciting things having to do with grants, and prep for Mental Health Month! Which, in case you don’t know is May! This past week was my last crazy week, for a while I hope.

On Wednesday I went to UCONN in Stamford to speak in front of a philanthropy group called IMPACT Fairfield County to help Supportive Housing Works (who I do the Youth Advisory Board through) with the final step of a huge grant process, then I went to New Canaan to thank The New Canaan Young Philanthropists, which are an awesome group of young people, for awarding us with a grant! Then, Thursday I took and passed my RSS final exam! Then the rest of the week was committed to prepping for the mental health walk on Saturday and the Gala speech Saturday evening!

And guess what everyone! I made it! I survived this ridiculous marathon of a month and feel so strong and confident and am so proud of myself and Willow for coming through.

I feel so happy and confident, and yesterday, I had the best lazy day ever with Willow. And I am happy to be back at work, with my ‘normal’ commitments, and feel excited for my graduation Wednesday and everything else that is to come in the near future.

Willow and Harry in D.C.

Me, Willow, and our friend Kelley at the Mental Health Walk!

Me at the Gala before giving my speech!

Why is HUMOR a container AND cure-all for Balance, Health and JOY?

How does humor heal trauma?  Here’s a brief…lopsided clip from my keynote at the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor Conference to explain!

Humor is a creative container for un-fun emotions we try to repress in trauma.

Why do we joke about things?

It’s a way to contain it so we can manage it, we become larger than it, It gives us control in a healthy way.


Humor was our container in hospital, and it created a common ground to bring us all together.

How did we all find a way to laugh, even when I was close to death myself, fighting for my own survival?

My brother dated the ICU nurses.

Mom watched Everybody loves Raymond.

We set up bowling games with medicine cups in hallway (we were repurposing, seeing things differently!)


Laughing at yourself can give you the confidence to do things (As soon as I was discharged from the ICU, I joined the cast of a local musical.)

If you can make containers as islands through your “detour,” you can swim through, and back into life.

Humor is the container that transports you across the rocky shore.

So is play, and acting like a kid…or animal!

Animals – instinctive play, there’s humor in that (read the book, Waking the Tiger) they lack self consciousness.

Humor allows us to discharge that energy.

All negative emotions can be let out in a healthy container so they don’t eat away at us.

We can decorate that container as creatively as we want – what does creativity mean to you? It can be many things!

Creativity is just any outlet where we can channel the emotion we feel, share it and transform it

My diagnosis had no container, no formal label.

If we can’t put a label on things we get overwhelmed. It feels beyond our control.

Humor gives us ownership. We don’t feel nervous to not have a professional, official  “label” to know how to handle sickness and uncertainty.

We are brave enough to find our own way if we can laugh at risking and failing.

Some moments you just can’t find humor in the moment and that’s okay.

You use mindfulness to be present.

When I started to think of it as energy I got excited – creative fuel – it’s why the tortured artist gets excited by torture but doesn’t have to stay tortured

What are ways to transform that energy?

Mindfulness: felt sensations, get your head out of it

You can get to that place of nonthinking that allow animals and kids to PLAY.

ONCE WE naturally discharge that energy, we get that load off our chest. We restore homeostasis – that means we feel balance – thanks to humor!

How does humor help you?

Forgiving My Younger Self

Last night, as I was just about to fall asleep, an anxious thought invaded my mind. Then several others came flooding in right after. I tried to ignore them, but they were so strong. Mainly, they were specific memories of times during my active addiction that I completely broke my morals; all for drugs.

I kept reassuring myself by saying, “No, Ally, you weren’t in your right state of mind. You were in a bad place. You aren’t there now. You don’t do that now. Focus on now.”

But depression and anxiety (and for my faith followers: the enemy) doesn’t want you to be reassured. It doesn’t want you to be calm, to let go, to focus on the positive. Instead, more invasive thoughts came in to add onto the pain of the already existing thoughts. Did they keep coming because I was fighting them?

So here’s a breakdown of the thoughts in a dialogue form:

Starter thought: “Do you remember the time you (insert memory of the time I degraded myself)?”

My fighting thought: “No, Ally, you weren’t in your right state of mind. You were in a bad place. You aren’t there now. You don’t do that now. Focus on now.”

Invasive thought #2: “But you still did it. (insert degrading name-calling: whore, stupid) You can’t take that back.”

My fighting thought: *deep breaths* “I did it, I’m not proud of it, I’m still in the dark with that time and I’m not like that anymore.”

Invasive thought #3: “But does your boyfriend know about it? What do you think he would think? Does your mother know about it? What do you think she will think? I’m sure this will come to light eventually and you know everyone will judge you and definitely leave you.”

My fighting thought: *trying to ignore the lump in my throat* “I don’t think he cares much about my past. I think I’ve told him about this time, but now, come to think of it, I don’t know if I have told him. Am I being dishonest? My mom would be disappointed, but she has my back. Jen. Must text my best friend Jen. She will reassure me and comfort me and not judge me.”

Notice how I already started to entertain these invasive thoughts?

Shortly after texting my best friend, the tears came, the guilt came, the shame came. Stupid thoughts, stupid anxiety, and stupid depression had me all in my feelings. The enemy is pretty smart; he knows exactly how to trip me up.

That one dark memory reminder caused me to remember and think about several others. I started beating myself up and feeling awful for things I had done.

And then I realized: I need to forgive that younger me.

So Dear Younger Me,
It’s not your fault. I’m sorry I didn’t protect you better. All of this will be for a reason one day, you’ll see.

A Much Wiser You

So although I may be a little uneasy still about the choices I made when I was younger; under the influence or not, I can’t let them destroy the current choices I have. I can’t change the past. I repeat, I cannot change the past. But I can do something today. I can do something in the future. I can protect that inner child of mine. My guard might be up a little extra until these emotions relax a bit, but that is ok. It is ok for me to have to do some extra breathing. It is ok for me to write out my feelings. It is ok for me to lean onto my best friend. It is ok to remind myself that God has forgiven me.

Is there something you need to forgive your younger self for today?

My Definition

My quest to find mental health and stability has stretched over a period of years and years and years. I have no secret to happiness. I have not yet discovered all there is to know about my mental health.

And I think that’s the point.  

We are each on our own separate journeys that are made up of unique twists and turns. We all have faults. We all make mistakes. But what’s important is that we

push forward.

We keep going. We soldier on.

It was not an easy feat to come to terms with the fact that I live with a mental illness. It was not easy for me to first accept that my brain functioned in a different way than the “normal” teen. And it was not easy for me to accept that I live with my mental illness- my mental illness does not define me and it does not consume me.

That is a tough pill to swallow. (No pun intended. Okay, maybe a little pun intended.)

It is really, really, REALLY hard to accept who you are every single day of your life. I admire those who can and do. I admire those who have worked so hard to bring light to the fact that we are all different, we are all unique, we are all beautiful.

I have spent many days under the covers, not wanting to be a real person because I couldn’t accept who I was. I couldn’t accept that my mental illness was something I needed to learn to live with. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have just been born “normal” – without this looming black cloud that I will never be able to get rid of.

I have come to a point in my life where I have realized that I am a person living with a mental illness. My Anxiety and my Depression do not define me. I am not Olivia, mentally ill. I am not Olivia, anxious. I am not Olivia, depressed.

I am Olivia, dancer.
I am Olivia, cat mom.
I am Olivia, teacher.
I am Olivia, sister, daughter, granddaughter, girlfriend, cousin, friend.

I am so much more than who I thought I was doomed to be because of my mental illnesses.

Today, I encourage you to look at yourself in the mirror, and be kind to you. You deserve kindness and compassion. And you deserve to know this: no one gets to decide your feelings. They are yours. They are real. They are valid.

You are valid.

You are not your mental illness.

What’s a lifeline of creativity for you?

What’s one healing form of creativity? 

Music!  That’s why I write songs, and I’m so excited to share two of the videos of premieres of my original songs, How Dare You (what I wish I could have said to my abuser at 17 years old) and Picture Frame (a love-note and farewell to childhood) at the New York Duplex Cabaret and Piano Bar.  Thanks to Playlight Theatre for organizing the amazing Songwriter’s Showcase!  

These two songs are part of two musicals I’m working on, Passageways, and Leftovers.  Watch the videos of the amazing And my song “Picture Frame,” sung by SHARAE MOULTRIE (A New Brain, Gallery Players) and “How Dare You” sung by MEGHANN REYNOLDS (Show Me A Hero, HBO)

Creative expression as a personal lifeline…

Whenever I could, I have used some inner resource to be healing myself, to be creative.  When it was first found out that I would have to get another colostomy, my parents were trying to break it to me in the calmest way.  I was hunched my double-boiler making chocolate and as soon as they told me, I started crying and screaming hysterically.

Creating chocolate was the best way I knew to express what I was really feeling: Rage, like I wanted to explode – in my chest and legs.  I just wanted to hit something, throw something on the floor a.  I was so furious at the situation and worse: helpless. By creating, I felt like my feelings were being expressed, and  I was able to know what I was feeling – which gave me a sense of empowerment in a powerless situation.

         Creativity in Uncertainty

So how did I survive over four years (besides IV nutrition, which was NOT the same as a huge bowl of ice cream!) without even a tiny ice cube to satiate myself?  I had to be resourceful.  This is what creativity means to me in my favorite quotes:

Art is magical, but it’s not magic. It’s a neurological product, and we can study this neurological product the same way we study other complex processes such as language. — Charles Limb, neuroscientist

Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
— Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle

The goal of life is rapture. Art is the way we experience it. Art is the transforming experience.
— Joseph Campbell

Beginning with audacity is a very great part of the art of painting.
— Winston Churchill

…Only art penetrates what pride, passion, intelligence and habit erect on all sides – the seeming realities of this world. There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we can’t receive. Proust calls these hints our “true impressions.” The true impressions, our persistent intuitions, will, without art, be hidden from us and we will be left with nothing but a ‘terminology for practical ends’ which we falsely call life.
— Saul Bellow, on science and art from his Nobel lecture in 1976

The artist has one function–to affirm and glorify life.
— W. Edward Brown

Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.
— Berthold Brecht

The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been concealed by the answers.
— James Baldwin

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.
— Henry Ward Beecher

That’s all I’ll share for now – but let me know – how is creativity YOUR lifeline?

Well, let’s hope April is filled with Spring flowers, and keep sharing your detours with me!

“April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go.” – Christopher Morley

(Check out more art here)

Safe Travels, Detourists!


Anxiety Chart

Hey everyone!

I came across this blog post about how someone living with anxiety who struggles to explain her anxiety to her peers/family/loved ones. She talks about how frustrating it is and how people don’t seem to understand the actual condition. So she decided to make an “anxiety chart” to help explain her anxiety. I looked at it and thought it was AMAZING and described it PERFECTLY. Here’s the article in case you want to read it: https://themighty.com/2018/03/anxiety-chart-help-other-understand-anxiety/

And here is the anxiety chart (let me know what you think and if you think it can be or is helpful!):

What does a "blip in time" mean to you? How to tell yourself everything passes

How do you tell yourself that everything passes, eventually? Even times are tough?
Sometimes, I try to write a song.
Just recently, I got to perform  an original song Check it out here. Last night, I was lucky enough to perform  an original song to celebrate untold stories of strong, powerfully resilient women.

When I originally wrote “Blip in Time,” as well as a few dozen others, I never thought I’d be performing this song on stage, in public, to celebrate strong women everywhere. Last night, it was to celebrate the amazing legacy of Grace Paley.

i wrote it to get through a very difficult personal time, to uncertainly reassure myself that everything would pass eventually with time. I just had to breathe and take it moment by moment, one day at a time.

It shows that if you can just get through one nanosecond at a time,  be in the moment when you can, you can make it through anything. We just need to keep telling ourselves that!

That is what resilience means to me. Just being here right now one day at a time, and trying your own personal best not to anticipate what may come in the future. 

This song in last night’s performance was to celebrate the legacy of Grace Paley, an amazing Jewish female writer who stood up for what she believed in, and also wrote beautiful poetry and short stories She is certainly an inspiration to me.

Here are my own lyrics – What does a blip in time mean to you?

By Amy Oestreicher

This is a blip, is a blip in time
this cannot last forever
this is a moment, a friend of mine
let it go, swiftly surrender

before you know it, the present’s passed
only a story you’ll tell
the thing about now is it doesn’t last
yet the lessons will do you well

sit under this tree with me
Sit and hold my hand
breathe in what the air is whistling
Grounding with the land

These are the ways, are the ways we heal
When life strikes us from above
The only sensations that are real
Are those who we live for and love

Hold still just a bit more and you will catch
The rays of sun on your skin
The sadness will pass, the pain floats away
The light is meant to breathe in

Float upon these waves with me
drift back to the shore
sometimes what we think we need
is not what we are truly longing for.

this all will pass
though it may seem like a big storm cloud
all that really matters
is that I know I’m here right now…

This is a blip, is a blip I’ll bet
soon to be memories
This is the time that I won’t forget
it will remain with me

I am the future, I am myself
I am what I believe
I have the power to start again
new strands to thread and weave…

this all will pass
if I stand strong
and all will be is my song!

How do you tell yourself what you’re going through right now will pass, eventually?

What does a blip in time mean to you?

Bearing the Bang of the Bells

It was July 2014 and I was being transferred into a new building to be housed in. I was put in the back of a van and driven through the York Correctional Institution’s back roads. This was the first time I was able to see the entire campus and was able to see the difference between the high security and low security sections. I was leaving high security and entering into low security which I was very happy about. Rumor had it that I was able to have my cell door open and I was able to roam around the building for many more hours of the day. Another bonus rumor: I was able to go outside every day.

I arrived at the new building I was to call home and the Correctional Officer looked at me and said, “well, looks like they put you in the building with the drug addicts. So that must mean you are here for drugs and alcohol huh?” I shook my head and walked up a few steps to the brick building. After being let into the building, my senses were igniting. I heard a sound that gave me a sense of comfort immediately; laughter. True, genuine laughter. I saw that the wall had painted letters on it, spelling out, “God is good, all the time”

My heart felt an easiness the second I read that. I knew with every bit of my heart that God was right there with me.

After settling in and meeting the other women, I got the scoop of what this building was all about. It was a program building for women that were incarcerated because of a substance related crime. AKA DUI’s, DWI’s, Possession, Sale, etc. There was structure, schedules, mentors, “friends”, counselors, recovery meetings, and group therapy. This was my first taste of what rehabilitation would be like.

On weekday mornings, the entire building met in a room and we had “morning meeting” which consisted of a meditation, sobriety anniversary recognition’s, announcements, etc. In order to get the room settled and prepared for morning meditation; a counselor would take hold of a black rope string that had two bells on each end and ding them together to make a “calm ringing bell” sound. It would get our attention and when meditation was over, they would ding it again. If we got too rowdy, they would ding the bells together to bring the attention back to the subject.

For 6 months, I would listen to those bells. I hoped that I would never hear that specific bell noise or see their unique design ever again. Not because I didn’t enjoy the program, because I did, but because the constant feeling of being in captivity and confinement lingered over me, despite the good times that I did have in that building. Those bells reminded me of those feelings and all of the pain that came along with incarceration; to my family and to myself.

First semester of college, pursuing a degree in Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counseling, August 2017. I was so excited for my first day of classes. I hadn’t been to school in 7 years and I was happy to be in a place in my life where I had recovery, employment, and kicking The Monkey’s ass.

As the classroom fills and the professor arrives, I was chatting with the people around me awaiting for class to begin.

And then I heard it.


The. Bells. Were. Back.


You have GOT to be kidding me. These damn bells were back in my life.

And again I heard, DIIIIING.

It was THE EXACT bells, design and all, that was used at YCI.

Immediately I had a flashback of sitting in uncomfortable plastic chairs with the prison uniform of a maroon tshirt and baggy jeans. I could see the sea of women with maroon shirts on and I could hear the keys clanging as the CO’s walked by.

Breathe, Ally. Breathe.

It was a little humorous to hear my classmates enjoy the method of the professor getting our attention and to settle us down. But for me, it wasn’t pleasant.

I’ve had this professor for 4 classes so far and she uses them in each class. Each of her classes are 3 hours long. Dinging, dinging, and more dinging.

As I got to know the professor, I gained an admiration for her and her professional experience. She told the class that she does work at YCI and I immediately wished that I had known her while I was there; she would’ve been a tremendous help for me during that time.

So, during a break, I decided while few of my classmates were in the room, I was going to face my fear of the bells. I picked up the string and banged the bells together. My heart filled with gratitude and my eyes filled with tears. I left the room and went into the restroom to collect myself.

I immediately found a place to lower my head and close my eyes to pray. I thanked God that I was able to bang these bells again, in a completely different mindset and situation in my life. Three years ago I had to bang these bells as in inmate, feeling trapped, ashamed, and discouraged. Now, I was able to bang them and listen to them as a full time college student, feeling brave, empowered, free, and safe. I used this as a moment to reflect and embrace humility. It was a moment that I was able to relieve the anxiety that came with the noise of the bells. Although it still brings me back to YCI sometimes, I’m now able to bear the banging of the bells.

Stages of life

This week I have been thinking a lot about the different stages in my life.

Luz posted something on the forum about changing your expectations of yourself, and reaching goals you may have never thought yourself capable of. She talked about what her life used to look like, and how she once did not believe she was capable of achieving “normalcy”.
That made me think a lot about my past; where I’ve come from, where I’ve gone, where I’m at now. And most importantly, how I got there, and here. What did it take to go through each age and stage of my life? Where did I go (both good and bad) that I never imagined myself going? How did it change me?

Then today something else happened that hurled me years and years into my past.

I met someone- well didn’t meet, more met again. When I introduced myself she instantly remembered me- we were roommates and friends in the hospital together when I was 12.

That was over ten years ago, and the first time (of over 15) I was put in a psychiatric hospital.
At that point in my life, it was one of the most profound experiences I’d ever had. So much happened in those 7 months (it was technically 3 separate stays, but with only a few days of being discharged in between) that shaped and transformed me.

I cannot help but find myself entombed in thoughts and memories. Reminiscing about a time in my life that was both incredibly painful, scary, and difficult; but also comfortable, safe, and sometimes even very happy. These memories are similar to falling in a rose bush. I’m surrounded by beautiful flowers, and covered in wounds. I feel a small light in my stomach, but enclosed within a deep pit full of sadness.

And then I begin to think about what happened after I left the hospital.

From there my life fell apart.
From there my journey with mental illness began; and has not ended since.
And from there I grew and changed in many ways- both good and bad.

From memories of my first hospitalization, come painful memories of all that ensued afterward; essentially my entire family falling apart both separately and together over a period of 5 years.
What each tragedy encompassed.
How it felt, and I don’t just remember the feeling, I experience it.

I am once again a 14 year old girl stuffing 200 pills down her throat.

Then, I am 16 years old, saying “no” to a 24 year old man, who was too high to listen.
I am 17 years old and waking up from a coma after a suicide attempt I don’t remember making, because all the seizures that resulted from it damaged my memory.
Again and again I am experiencing the traumas I left behind years ago.

And it’s like being beaten with a bat.
I cannot catch my breath enough to beg for it to stop.

Where am I in time and how do I find my way back here?

How do I accept all that’s happened and the place I’m at now when all I want to do I reject it and bury my mind in a deep pit of sand?

It’s so strange how things continue to change at such a rapid pace. It’s all the time and we have no say as to whether or not it happens. Against our will we are under a constant transformation that will only cease to exist when we do.

How do I swallow the fact that I once wanted to die?
That many times I tried to kill myself?
That I hurt myself every day for years?
How do I move forward knowing at one time in my life I would cry thinking about how much I hated myself?
And that at one time I was a teenager and watching my life crumble before me; terrified and powerless.

I ask how do I do this because really, it wasn’t that long ago. And really, I’m still the same person.

Except now I have a daughter and life and set of responsibilities that I was never supposed to have.  I was never supposed to be here. I don’t think I ever planned on being 22.
Yet against my own will, transformations occurred. And somehow, without my knowledge or consent, I began to get better.

What about the times that that old, familiar dark place seems most comfortable?

It’s funny how small things can begin large, unmanageable spirals. Like hearing a song, or smelling something vaguely familiar. And how simple things, like writing this blog post can begin to bring me back into realignment- even if it’s without my consent or intent.

I come back to a place of normalcy where I remember that sadness is not safety. And that I’m no longer a child, and no longer without control or power.

And most importantly, I am responsible for a little girl. Who needs me and wants me. And it’s my job to be there for her, and be good to her. And I promise to her, and myself, and the entire universe that I will not fail her and I will always try as hard as I can to be what she needs.

How I Had Thought Heroin Cured My Anxiety

Wake up, pray, deep breathing, wipe sweaty hands, notice how much they are shaking, tell myself I’m good enough, and then attempt to get out of bed.

That’s just one version of part of my daily morning routine, in recovery from a heroin addiction.

Morning routine in active addiction:
Wake up, grab needle, grab heroin, shoot up, and go about my day.

Notice no prayer, no deep breathing needed, no sweaty hands, no shakey hands, no convincing myself of self-worth, and easily able to get out of bed.

Heroin not only helped quiet my anxiety, but it completely eliminated it.

The second I felt anxious, one bit of heroin erased it. No rapid heartbeat, no shakey and sweaty hands, no irrational thoughts and beliefs, no intense amount of fear and panic, no loss or shortness of breath, etc etc etc.

My favorite thing that heroin solved was my thoughts of truly believing that I am worthless and not good enough for everything and everyone (no matter how many times they reassured me of my importance). All of the self-loathing went away.

But when I wasn’t high and just maintaining my habit, those thoughts came stampeding into my head and worked their way down to my heart.

The same heroin that eliminated those thoughts ended up bringing worse thoughts in.

It was no longer “you’re not good enough, you’re a terrible person, you’re ugly, blah blah blah”.. now it was “your family hates you, you ruined their lives, you ruined your own life, you’re a junkie, you look sick, you’ll never get sober, you’ll never have a job, you can’t have a job, you can’t have a family, you can’t get married, no one will love you, etc etc etc”

The worst part is that most of these thoughts were now completely true. I most definitely couldn’t get a job, I ruined my life, I was a junkie, I looked sick, etc… So all those thoughts that used to be gone with a shot of heroin, was now worse, true, and destroying me even more than before.

The thing that I thought was the cure ended up being a poison.

Although it was poison, it did have some purpose, so letting it go was a little bit of a grief process. Now, being in recovery, when those thoughts come, I can’t help but wonder if the poison would be worth it to shut the thoughts and emotions down.

But then I remember that I have found a cure for the poison and the thoughts that works perfectly for me.

That cure is my faith. God, Jesus, prayer, scripture, church, my Christian friends and family, my bible study.

I’ll never forget when those thoughts came creeping in and anxiety was paying a visit for the first time since I no longer had heroin. Man, it was scary. I literally thought, “How am I going to cope with this without heroin?”

2 years and 2 months later, I’m coping with it without heroin.

Prayer helps the most. Grounding exercises help. Squeezing a stress ball helps. Essential oils help. WoodWick candles help. Baths help. Work helps.

I had to accept my anxiety, I had to accept my depression. But acceptance doesn’t mean I like it or want it or will be chained or controlled by it. It means that I simply acknowledge its existence and learn how to function with it.

There are absolutely very difficult days. There are days that I go to work late, that I struggle through homework, that I have a couple of panic attacks before doing what I had to do, that I let the negative thoughts live in my head and travel in my ear for hours, that I have mood swings, that I lash out on the people that love me the most, that I use dry shampoo instead of washing my hair.

But, those tough days end, they pass. Sometimes it’s a prayer that helps them pass. Sometimes it’s my best friend telling me how valid my feelings are and how beautiful I am. Sometimes it’s hearing my mom’s singing and watching one of our shows together. Sometimes it’s hearing my dad say, “sweet dreams honey” at the end of the night. Sometimes it’s my boyfriend saying in a soothing tone that he loves me. And a lot of time, it’s my cat sitting on my chest and purring, begging for attention.

I learned that recovery doesn’t solve or eliminate everything. Being a Christian doesn’t solve or eliminate everything. I have a cross to bear, I have struggles, I have weaknesses, I have defeats. But faith, my sobriety, my loved ones, my passions, my purpose, my dreams.. are what turns these difficulties into beauty and make them bearable.


A Healthy Body

Well guys I’m adding another thing to balance and work on in my life; having a healthy body.

Notice I didn’t put losing weight? So losing weight is definitely my mission, but I’m trying to re-word it so
it doesn’t sound hurtful for me. So instead of “weight loss goal” I’m saying “a healthy body goal”.

I have struggled with my body, my health, and my body image in many different ways.

I once had a healthy body, but ya know what I definitely didn’t have? A healthy mind and a healthy

I used to make the outside look all put together because I didn’t want anyone to know what was going
on on the inside. I didn’t want people to know that I had self esteem issues, was self loathing all of the
time, thought I wasn’t good enough for anyone or anything, had mental health disorders.

So, I would fix up the outside in hopes that it could just cover up the insides. And it worked, until I
completely broke down and continued to hurt so deep inside.

Then I added drugs to the mix of things. As if getting attention from the wrong people, places, and
things weren’t already super high, now I had to be high with hopes that the insides would be fixed and
benefit the outside.

It didn’t; it made everything, inside and out, WAY WORSE.

I became severely underweight and my insides? forget it, they were completely shattered.

So once I got sober, I fixed up my insides and for once in my life, these past two years in recovery have
blessed me with the insides finally being at a point of true healthiness. But because I needed to care for
my inside as my top priority, my outside got neglected. So now I have the inside good and the outside not
so great. I was hating my weight gain.

Besides others making hurtful comments, and I mean VERY HURTFUL COMMENTS, I made the most
hurtful comments to myself. The self-loathing began and it started to get dangerous.

I do anything and everything to protect my recovery and mental wellness. If I sense anything to be a danger, I handle it immediately so I don’t jeopardize my recovery that I worked so hard to have. My body was becoming a danger to my recovery.

So here I am, starting my wellness journey. It’s a little overwhelming and sometimes discouraging because I feel like I’m balancing and maintaining so much already. But, I’m determined. I’m determined to take care of body, improve my wellness, and most importantly; protect my recovery.

I have started my healthy changes and within one week, I’m starting to feel so much better, both physically and mentally!

Guilt, Anxiety, and Fear: Motherhood

When I wake up it starts.

I probably didn’t sleep very well- or maybe I did and I wanted to sleep longer.
I probably got woken up a few times last night to nurse you back to sleep. There were probably a few times you were restless and tossed and turned while you tried to get comfortable.

I remember being woken up over and over again, exhaustion, panic because I know I’m tired and need so much more sleep than I will get. Frustrated because I so desperately want to sleep as peacefully as I imagine you do. Anger because I cannot and anticipation of how exhausted I will feel in the morning.

Fear of never being able to sleep again.

I dread waking up in this place, putting you in daycare, being alive and monotonously going through the day.

Collapsing into a puddle, I break, I lose my patience. I’m not fully awake and not fully human. Maybe I harshly say,
Or angrily beg you to go back to sleep. Or worse, maybe I just lay there, don’t look at you or talk to you, just sit in a heaping puddle of uncomfortable emotions.

When I wake up, probably a little while before you did, a realization comes to me as I see how beautiful and peaceful you are. I realize the impatience that took over me hours earlier.

I’m a terrible mother- a terrible person, in fact.

I lost my patience. I scared you, upset you, and damaged you. An intense wave of sadness covers me and I feel desperate to go backward in time. A pit grows in my stomach as I know I cannot do that and must only go forwards. I want to hold you, I want to cry, I want to be perfect for you and I want to be happy with you always.

Regret, fear, dread, anger, exhaustion, guilt, sadness.
Over and over again, every day.

I wonder what I am doing wrong. There are many, many things I know; many mistakes. I wonder how much they are damaging you, and in what ways.
I want to fix them all- be perfect and wonderful and exactly what you need and want. But when I try to think of my wrong-doings I cannot pinpoint them all.
It’s looking for hay in a haystack- it’s all there and it’s all the same, and it’s all wrong. I can hardly do anything right for you. Maybe I do what I believe is good, but soon I will find it is, in fact, wrong. I have hurt or damaged you in some unknown, and therefore gigantic, way. Worst of all, I cannot take any of it back.

Paralyzed with fear but continuously pushed forward by the current of life.
I’m stuck in a riptide.

But my love for you grows each day. It’s a painful love that fills me simultaneously with joy, and a deep despair and fear.
I wonder about all the things I must prevent. All the possibilities. So much can go wrong. So many scary, seemingly unpreventable things swirling around us in this world. I want to protect you but fear I cannot.

I feel out of control.

But then a beautiful day happens.
You grab my checks with two soft, warm hands and look into my eyes.
Or you crawl to me, laugh, kiss me.
You let me hold you and hug you and you hold me back.
And for a moment, my fears melt away, so that I’m standing in a deep puddle, soaking wet but dripping dry. We stand alone in the dark for a moment, and my brain gives me time to love you in peace.

I realize that these moments can grow. That if I make myself a farmer and equip myself with fertilizer and pesticides and gain the knowledge to grow a garden that we can be happy. I can rake out sadness and anxiety to make room for big, bright, beautiful happiness.

I will call myself a farmer and you will be my seeds, my water, and my sun.

Is social media good for our mental health?

Would you consider the idea that social media is mentally unhealthy? Check out this article that explains 6 reasons why experts believe this to be true:


After reading this article, what are your opinions on the matter?

Comfort Cat

Pete the Cat & Me

Have you ever had a pet or some creature that made you feel as if they were your best support? I have.

I grew up with cats and always loved them. I had cats that played and cuddled and even let me push them around in a stroller I had for a doll.

The two cats I have now, my son and daughter, Pete and Zenny, have a special place in my heart — all because they loved me when I felt as if no one else did.

They don’t judge me and they love me no matter what state I’m in emotionally or physically.

I’ll never forget when I picked up Zenny. I found her online and I fell in love with her picture. When I had arrived at the woman’s house, Zenny was far from the little kitten I saw in the picture – she was MUCH more grown up. I’m not gunna lie, I was a bit disappointed because I wanted a baby kitten, yet here was a cat that was at least two years old. There were big, loud, barking dogs surrounding her and the second I saw the fear of the dogs all over her sweet face, I couldn’t leave her. She was now mine.

We bonded instantly and she couldn’t do anything without me by her side, including eating. She followed me around the apartment and when I would go to the bathroom she would sit outside the door and meow until I opened it.

As perfect as it sounds, we had our troubles, well at least I did. Zenny had been a witness to a terrible time of my life; my heroin use. I would keep her shielded from seeing anything, but she knew. Then I remember when she walked in on me shooting up and I felt terrible. I remember I looked at her and apologized over and over that she had to see that. The second a tear fell, she rubbed against me and loved me no less than she did before.

I remember when I was going through intense withdrawal, she tried to do anything to help me feel better. She definitely helped.
My poor baby girl saw her mom in the worst state, but she still loved me so much. I’ll never forget when she was laying on me the night before I went to prison and I kept apologizing to her over and over and promised her that she would be safe with my mom (her GiGi).


Many of you may be thinking that “it’s just a cat”…. SHE is NOT just a cat. She was my comfort and she treated me better than any human did. When I had to leave her for 9 months my heart broke, but she became so attached to her GiGi which made me feel happy to know that she was more than ok.

Zenny bonded with my mom so much that she sleeps with her every night and doesn’t come near me much. I’m sure she resents me, but GiGi reassures me that she’s forgiven me. It hurts my heart a bit that she lost her bond with me, but I guess it’s another reminder to stay away from drugs so I don’t lose my baby.

Then, Pete came along. I’ll never forget how I was BEGGING my parents for another cat. I begged God for another cat. I begged anyone to get me another cat.

Sure enough, Pete came strolling into our backyard one day and made himself comfortable on the patio furniture. He was an all black cat just like Zenny. He was a stray, but had no idea that he was about to be adopted as my son.

I had just had a relapse and I remember looking at Pete’s sweet eyes and saying to him, “I’m not sure if you’ll like me very much, I’m a drug addict.”

So clearly, I have an insecurity with people liking me, but now I also have it with animals. smh.

Pete ended up becoming my best pal. During my relapse he comforted me and once I got sober, he definitely showed me he was proud of me, especially when he cuddled up against an award I had.

His cuddles at night were everything when I was having a tough night. I’ll never forget one night I was up sobbing. I was about 30 days sober and I felt like a failure. I was overwhelmed with the guilt of hurting the people I loved and I felt so hopeless that I would one day make everything better. I was curled up on the floor with my back to the edge of my bed, head in my arms and covered with tears. I kept asking God, “will it ever get better? Will I ever be ok? Does anyone love me?”. Although I did have people that loved me, the guilt of hurting and disappointing them consumed me and I felt worthless. Then I felt a soft tail brush up against me and Pete stretched his paw out and touched the tears on my cheek. I picked him up and he started licking the tears away. Every single time that I cry, even when I think I’m alone, Pete knows. He senses it. He always comes running to me and he will lay on top of me and paw and kiss my face until I stop crying, or at least relax.

So these animals are not just animals to me. They are therapy. They are my babies. They give me a sense of importance.

My comfort cats.

Snuggles with Pete

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time, there was a girl.
When she was born she was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. She had a brother, a mom, and a dad.
Very quickly the world began to creep through the stone walls surrounding her. The world was dark, and black, and thick. It oozed through the walls and lay heavily on and around her. It weighed her down and made her sad. Sometimes the world was nice and bright, it shone through the windows of the house and melted some of the black goo away. But the black goo was always there, it would never all melt away. Even still, sometimes when the goo was gone it left thick, dark, painful scars. It hurt her a lot, but made her happy, too.
The girls father went away. She was too young to know what it meant to miss someone, so she didn’t. Then another man came to be her dad. He went away too, though. Her mom got sick and sad. Her and her brother built and armor for each other. It was thick and strong, but very dark and heavy. Nobody could get through the armor. That was good sometimes, they thought they were keeping out all the goo of the world. But one day they realized they couldn’t get out, and when they tried to let someone in they had forgotten how to take it off. So their skin grew hard and clung on tightly to the metal around it- soon the armor wasn’t really armor, it was just them.
Inside the armor they were very sad, and angry. And underneath that they were scared. And under that, they were small soft babies who needed love and warmth. But the world was mean. It pushed them over and looked away when they reached out and cried. So they learned not to.
One day they left the stone walls. They fell into the goo. The girls brother swam out, but she was stuck. Her brother tried to tell her how to swim, but she couldn’t hear him; he tried to throw her a rope, but she couldn’t see him. When she looked around, she couldn’t see how he had swam to safety just to help her. The world grew into a monster and whispered in her ear. It told her he left her, he abandoned her. She was alone. He told her that he wasn’t ugly, but all of them were. All the ugly people, and deep down she was hideous too.
So she pushed out the sadness and fear. She nursed her anger and helped it grow big and strong. She climbed on his shoulders and she felt big and strong too. But he sucked the life out of her. He made her smaller and sadder, but from her perch on his shoulder she could not tell.
One day she fell. From the hole in the bottom of the goo, she could finally see where she was. And she knew she didn’t want to be there anymore.
She started to try to climb out, to reach for people to help pull her out. She kept coming close. But she fell many times. She fell hard, and sometimes it was a very long way until she stopped falling. Sometimes she felt so sad in her hole that she took a very long time to pick herself back up.
One day she found out she would have a baby. She was so happy and scared, and very sad because she didn’t want her baby to be born in the goo. She started trying harder and harder to climb out. One day when she was halfway up, the baby was born. She was still in the goo, but she wasn’t stuck. She realized it would take her a very long time to get all the way out, and when she made it, it would still take time to clean the goo off of herself and her baby.
But the baby was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. And the girl wasn’t a girl anymore, she was a young woman. And the armor didn’t stick to her skin so much, in fact some of it fell of on its own. And one day she realized the goo was lighter some days, and that even from the pit the light could come through.
Once Upon A Time There was a warrior. She had a baby who was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. And each day together they fought off the goo of the world, and searched for the light. She knew one day they would find their way out together.
The End

Me and My mom

Me and my brother, Harry

My mom and me

Harry and me in Montana 

Harry, my mom, me

Me and Harry after he graduated Naval Boot Camp (Chicago, IL) 

Me, 8 months pregnant- the night of my baby shower

Willow, 1 day old

Me and Willow, first day home

Willow, 1 week old

This Grand Stage of My Life

2017 broke me into 2,017 pieces.
My faith and my strength were both tested in ways that I could have only imagined.
I moved away from the place I called home for 22 years. I finished Semesters 2 and 3 of Graduate School. I ended an old job and started a new one. My journey continued to unfold.

I struggled with my mental illnesses each and every day.

My 2017 started in a horrific mental state. I was lost and broken from 2016. My days were spent mourning the disintegration of my parents marriage, and with that, the disintegration of our family of four. I could feel the anger welling up in my soul. Anger was pouring out of me in ways that I am not proud to own up to. I was angry at my parents for the decision they made to split. I was angry at my grandparents for not wanting to listen when I wanted to vent about my parents.  I was angry at my sister for being so lax about her decisions.
But mostly, I was angry at myself because I had misplaced guilt. I felt like all of these life-changing events were my fault. Maybe if I’d been a better student, or a better daughter, my parents wouldn’t be so angry with each other all the time. Maybe if I’d been a better sister, Sophia and I wouldn’t have argued so much and in turn, my parents wouldn’t have argued so much.

My parents separation was the best thing that could have happened to our family. In the 12 months that made up 2017, I realized that none of the guilt I had should have existed. There was nothing I could have done. My parents both deserve to be happy. If they couldn’t be happy together, it was only fair that they try to be happy separately.

In the months following our first move, I struggled to be happy with most of the puzzle pieces I am made up of. I was doing the one thing I’d been waiting my whole life to do; teach. But I was coming home every day with a headache, and a heartache. And this consistent voice in my head telling me, “You’re not good enough.” That wasn’t what I signed up for.
And then, in the final days of school, I’d been notified that three of my students listed me as one of their Top 3 Most Influential Teachers. I still can’t think about that without tears welling up in my eyes. I’d spent the entire school year telling myself I wasn’t good enough, when all along, I was changing the lives of these students.

I am good enough. I am a good person. I am a good friend. And I’m a really good teacher.
In 2017, I learned all of that about myself.

2017 broke me, and forced me to rebuild myself into the best version of Olivia this world has ever seen.

In life, there are going to be obstacles that seem impossible to overcome. There will be battles that seem impossible to win. There will be people who seem impossible to impress. None of that is your fault. None of that has to stand in the way of you becoming who you truly are meant to be. Some days, it is hard every day for me to get out of bed and be someone that I am proud of. But it’s not impossible. Because there are days where I am someone that I am proud of. There are a lot of days like that.

May 2018 bring moments in your life that change you for the better. May 2018 bring you mental wellness, good memories, and lots of cats. Go confidently in the path that makes you the happiest. And if you are feeling alone on your journey, don’t forget to call me.

How to cope with your significant other’s depression

Check out this video where Joshua explains what it’s like for him to support his girlfriend through depression and how to cope.


For all of those who are in relationships with someone who has depression and may be struggling to understand and/or know how to help someone out, I hope you find this video helpful. Also, please remember, the best thing you can do is never give up on the person you love because we are trying the best we can.

Here’s How October and Creativity Can Help You on Your Detour Right Now

  “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
-L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Hope all you Detourists are enjoying the transforming  season of Autumn, where every day is another discovery and an ordinary miracle.

Sometimes we all have to take things day by day with hope things will change. Luckily, every falling leaf tells us that.

Through surgeries and other frustrations, nature and creativity have taught me those lessons.

So how did I survive over six years (besides IV nutrition, which was NOT the same as a huge bowl of ice cream!) without even a tiny ice cube to satiate myself? 

Nine Ways to Use Nature and Creativity Right Now

1. Being resourceful – working with what you have

2. Create, create, create. Anything, just do it. Be productive, just by striving to make your mark on this world. 
3. Making an impact or change on your environment, however large, small, internal or external that may be.

4. Refusing to compare your progress and rate of change with anyone or anything else, just going with your gut
Creating ruthlessly, wrecklessly, shamelessly, impulsively, primal – and in that you will find your glory and creativity
5. Working from a force that rises within you so involuntary, not unlike the sparking of a fire
6. Feeling inspiration from external/internal stimuli and not taking the time/thought to question why/when/how it came from
7. Deciding to lead and not follow. Being original without striving for it.
8. Always looking for the bigger picture, whether you can immediately spot it or whether it takes a lifetime to grasp
9. Creativity is the joy, the process, the destination. Not a particular product, goal, status symbol, or requirement.

So with that in mind, Detourists, I hope you use that unexpected winding road for discovery. You can always grab some inspiration from the Detourists who have shared their own stories on Why Not Wednesday, or tell me about a time in your own life where things didn’t go as you expected. Share your story here.

Upcoming Performances

Next up for me, I’ll be performing Gutless and Grateful at the Alliance for Jewish Theatre Conference October 24th in Boston Massachusetts. Check out this awesome conference here.

In the meantime, I’ll be in the studio creating.

Here’s what I’ve been doing in the studio lately…

And starting some new ideas…

You  an always check out the latest on my blog or art gallery.

It’s never too late to start, and October is a beautiful time…


Creativity pushes boundaries – most effectively when it’s unintentional. Enjoy the fall, and try making your own coloring pages – here’s a little idea I came up with.  It’s a great place to start!

Safe Travels Detourists. (What’s #LoveMyDetour?)


Caring About the Environment Helped me Care About Myself: Nature & Mental Health

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

My recovery has been shaped by the trials and triumphs of a life with many detours. 

Nature is the life force that fuels my passion and propels my own mission forward. I’ve always resonated with trees and what provides perspective on how small I am in the world’s bigger picture.

“Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries.”
― Jimmy Carter

At 18, I was forced to ask myself – what is the world’s bigger picture for me? One week before my senior prom, an unexpected blood clot landed me in a coma for months, prompting over three years of being unable to eat or drink. Once 27 surgeries turned my life around, I found solace in what had always given me comfort – nature and spirituality.

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”
― Chris Maser, Forest Primeval: The Natural History of an Ancient Forest

When I came out of my coma, I felt like a newborn child rediscovering the world once again. I remember seeing the sunset for the very first time, when I was first able to crane my neck towards the narrow glazed-over ICU window. I took a breath, and felt those blinding sun rays seep into my lungs, filling me with new life.

Burst from Bark
As I regained health, I discovered that finding physical stability was half of the job. Regaining my soul took more effort, care, time. But thankfully there is always nature to center me. I show this gratitude through what I create. Being a writer is how I can give back to the world that has filled me with vitality once again. When trauma threatens to take everything, I create to honor that in nature, matter is never destroyed, just recreated in a different form, and as artists, it’s our civic duty to engage communities in environmental issues.

Bud-e Talk

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
― Henry David Thoreau, Familiar Letters

I believe that the most effective means of navigating life’s “detours” and finding our place in the world is through creative expression.  We feel heard, gain clarity and can build a community based on compassion. I believe a healthy, vibrant, and thriving community is one in which everyone regularly has the ability to contribute, create, listen and receive. As each individual chooses to create and interact with the space and one another through the arts, they engage in a vital conversation on our relationship to nature, our world, and the obstacles we collectively face.

“The poetry of the earth is never dead.”
― John Keats


How can nature heal you today?

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

See more of my art at www.amyoes.com/galleries and pick up some here.

Five Magic Steps to Turn Creativity Into Happy Mental Wellness

Can You Prove the Art of Happiness?

Yes — you can. If anyone can be an artist, then anyone can be happy.

And yes — you are an artist, too.

How can art make you happy if you’re not good at art? And what does art solve, anyway?

Creativity: The Art of Happy

Art and creativity cures a problem that we all share at times — boredom. I’m not just talking about commercial breaks, a meeting at work that never ends, or traffic-light-kind-of-boredom. Creativity is a mind-set, a way of seeing the world. Creativity puts the magic back in life, so not only are we never bored, we are constantly inspired, present, empowered, and — dare I say it — happy.

I’m going to assign you an “art project”. But don’t be scared. The gluesticks and crayons are only required if you want them to be. This project teaches you how to see.

Let me explain with a little story about my younger self…
 As a kid, I always used to complain to my older brother, “I’m bored!” Even when I was little, I was always darting about from activity to activity. My mind was racing and I was antsy with ideas.

His response was always, “Why are you bored?”

I didn’t know.

Then I’ll never forgot what he got me as a birthday present that year. His card was a simple little hand written post-it note that said,

“This is so you’ll never be bored again.”

I opened it, hoping it was some kind of toy or exciting little gadget. But it was just a soft-cover activity book for me to fill out. I had that natural let-down when you get your hopes up and really just get…a book.

No! Not a book!

But then I looked at the cover and it said “Things I Can Be Happy About.” It was a workbook for me to fill in. It was filled with a bunch of blank, numbered lines, broken up into categories like “Outside”, “School”, “Friends”, “Activities” etc. I don’t think I ever filled it out, but I got the idea.

The no-fail cure for boredom…

My brother was trying to teach me my first lesson in gratitude. If you realize what you can be happy about, it’s hard to ever get “bored.” Instead of getting “bored”, he wanted me to get “appreciative.”

A lot of times when we’re bored, we’re just unhappy. And it might just take too much energy to think about what we should be happy about. So I have a little exercise I like to do. I also think it’s a great idea to try with kids, who get tend to tire of things quickly, or might not always remember how much there is to be happy about.

And then on the other end, sometimes kids are the ones who remind us to be happy about the simple things. Kids can be miniature wise-adults, and grown-ups can have the fearless abandon of a child. That’s how we all balance each other out.

In my TEDx Talks, I talked about how creativity saved my life….


But it also made me extremely happy.

Creating excitement…

So with that in mind, this is my exercise for kids, adults, and the kid-adult in all of us.
 Today I invite you to see things differently. All it takes is a little mind-bending. We’re never too old to create fantasies. These are some out-of-the-box ways to view any ordinary, boring moment in life and bring it to a completely new dimension.

When we elevate the everyday, we can’t get bored. We’re struck by every laughing tree, every popping color, every breath of sunrise.

And even better, that whimsical fascination with the world around us might even inspire us to create…and with a project to do or a idea in our heads — how the heck can we get bored???

These are some ideas to view the world differently. Try each one on for size, then share it with someone else!

How to use creativity as a mindset:

1.) See the human face in everything — does that tree trunk remind you of a friend’s face?

2.) Be curious: ask childlike questions about the world around you like what makes the sky blue or the clouds look like that?

3.) Be a poet and describe the world around you in haikus!

4.) Take a walk and only make left turns — a lot of them!

5.) View everything solid as liquid and everything liquid as solid. How does it feel to walk on liquid grass?

I could go on and on with ideas, but go ahead, create some of your own! Do it just for the sake of adding a spark to your day.

Share it with a friend to give them a reason not to ever be bored — I’m sure they’ll fire back with their own ideas!

Art empowers me with the ability to create a ripple of happiness. As a human who can make “art”, I know that I have the power to make this happen every moment, with even the smallest of gestures. Art is how we tell our stories.
 A random act of kindness, a tender word, a brush stroke — whatever works. How will you make your mark on the world?

Start with a scribble…

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright. As the creator of “Gutless & Grateful,” her BroadwayWorld-nominated one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences. To celebrate her own “beautiful detour”, Amy created the #LoveMyDetour campaign, to help others cope in the face of unexpected events. “Detourism” is also the subject of her TEDx and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, available December 2017. She’s contributed to over 70 notable online and print publications, and her story has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, CBS, Cosmopolitan, among others. Learn about her art, music, theatre, advocacy, book, and inspiring story at amyoes.com, or “tweet me at @amyoes!”

Pizza Changed My Life. How Pizza Changed My Life…It’s #NationalCheesePizzaDay!

Pizza Changed My Life.

By Amy Oestreicher  – www.amyoes.com

I’m being serious here.


So, I talk a lot about not being able to eat or drink for six years. I even gave a TEDx Talk about it. 


So let’s just say, I couldn’t be happier to be eating pizza and performing in cheesy plays I’ve written. For a few years, cheese was something I could only dream of inhaling.

I was your typical well-fed Jewish girl, partial to Chinese food and non-alcoholic Shirley Temples. Nowhere in my teenage view could I ever had anticipated a coma right before my senior prom, and months later, being awoken by doctors who solemnly shook their heads and shrugged as they said, “You can’t eat or drink right now. And we don’t know when… or if… you’ll ever be able to again.”

When surgeons miraculously reconstructed my digestive system, food was a thrilling discovery. A lot of people ask what the first thing I ate was. Believe it or not, I brought a little frozen waffle with me to the doctors. A mini one. For some reason, I REALLY wanted to have a frozen waffle. So I had a bite, and then I realized I had to start with baby food.
Oh well. Nothing is as glamorous as it seems.
Have you ever had something in your life that you’ve really looked forward to and then you found out it wasn’t that great? That you realized maybe you overrated a bit?
Well, that actually wasn’t the case with food. Food is NOT overrated one bit!
In fact, perhaps I had underrated it’s potential…

Pizza and me: A life-story

It took a really long time to work up to pizza, and I was terrified. I thought I was going to choke. I was afraid of the texture, the heat of the melted cheese (I’m drooling right now) and the tang of the tomato sauce.
How was I supposed to chew all of that grainy cheesy goodness?
I remember staring at my flimsy paper plate a REALLY long time, and then my friend said, “well why don’t you just eat it already?” (Not the plate, you get the idea.)

So I pick up the piece of pizza and took a bite. And I seriously went crazy. In a good way, of course.
I remember that the first thing I did was take a walk outside and call my brother. I was so giddy and flustered, rambling on,
“Jeff, you never would believe what I just did! I had pizza! No, you don’t get it, like now that I can eat pizza, I can do anything! I can go out to lunch with friends and say, hey, you wanna go out for pizza or something? I can go to a diner and be like, hey I’d like to order pizza! I can call some buddies and be like hey, let’s have a game night and we’ll take in some pizza! I can go on double dates at a pizza joint! I can have a pizza party, heck — I can make my own! Once I can eat pizza — the world is an open door!”
I’m not joking — I really said that. And more, I really believed that.

The Power of Food

It’s hard to understand what food does. It’s more than just keeping you full. It’s a lifeline to the world. It’s social, it’s casual, it makes you feel like a person. It puts a physical sensation into your body that otherwise makes you numb.
Food opens you up to yourself and to the world again.
But I was still on the phone: “Jeff — no serious, you really don’t get it! Like, it’s portable too! So I can just be like, oh, I’m grabbing a slice of pizza on my way out. Or hey, I’d like a slice — or TWO — to go! And I can just eat it and watch a movie, or split a pie with

I had been through the struggles of someone three times my age, but I felt like a baby and everything felt new. I was so scarred and weary, but I was still somehow ready to start out fresh, and ready to heal.
And it started with pizza.
Once I could eat, of course a few surgeries later I couldn’t eat again. That’s the phase of my life when I became obsessed with cooking so I could still have contact with food. And my favorite thing to make was deep dish pizza. Staying connected to food made me feel again — even though it hurt and was terribly difficult. The smell of my pizza cooking in the oven made me cry, and the tears felt like home.
Maybe those tears are what gave me hope that one day, I really would be able to eat again.
Cooking gave me hope. And apparently hope helped, because now I eat way too much pizza, let’s just say.

What’s better than a homemade deep dish pizza? Gratitude. For pizza. With extra cheese.
These days, with me and pizza, it’s love at first bite.

So think about it, take some time for gratitude, and to call your local delivery man. The next time you take a bite of pizza, of cheese, of life, really think about how wonderful it tastes, what doors it opens, and how wonderfully it feels to be alive!
It’s cheesy, but it’s true.


Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD  specialist, artist, author, multidisciplinary educator, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright. Learn more about Amy’s program for colleges here. As creator of Gutless & Grateful, her one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, after it’s NYC Broadway-World nominated debut in 2012, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences. Sign up for her newsletter for weekly Detourist tips and updates on her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour.

I’ll be performing an original monologue..ironically about NOT being able to eat, at Plays and Pizza, a night of short plays at Lucky Jack’s Bar, with special guest Norman Zamcheck on Piano and free pizza after the show. 

Plays and Pizza, a night of short plays at Lucky Jack’s Bar.  
Sept 18th
730 pm
129 Orchard St. Lucky Jacks Bar.
$7.00 PayPal.Me/PlaysandPizza

When Stage Fright, Fear, and Passion Become Your Best Friend: Making a Show

When GUTLESS & GRATEFUL premiered in New York at The Triad in October 2012, everything came to fruition. I stopped comparing myself to others and realized that I had stayed true to myself. I was still the same performer I had always aspired to be, but now I was telling my own story rather than playing an ingénue in GUYS & DOLLS. It took more work, with a rockier path, but I was performing theatre that connected with audiences on an even broader level. Total strangers felt like they knew me and offered me their own stories. For the first time, my story was being told in my own words. It was now no longerAmy Oestreicher, the woman whose stomach exploded, but Amy Oestreicher, the actress, expressing her inspiring tale at The Triad. It felt like springboard for even more opportunity and my bridge to the world.

Of course, there were plenty of naysayers. I hadn’t done a show for years. What did I know about producing my own show in New York? It’s natural when someone tells you you can’t do something to think about it a bit. Many times I believed them. I went to auditions with bags attached to me, attended hot yoga daily while connected to an IV pump, and have gotten many funny looks and some awkward situation that embarrassed and upset me. It’s difficult to ignore what other people think of a career move, or a comment that touches on an insecurity. While creating GUTLESS & GRATEFUL, it was easy to compare myself to former colleagues that were doing theatre, but “bigger” and “better” than I was— on Broadway, on tours, seemingly “breezing through” their career.
But I think the most important (and difficult) thing for me was patience. Telling myself that I will get there— this is my own unique path, and as long as I am still doing what I love, in whatever shape or form, I am staying authentic to my own path. I didn’t let food scare me for all of those years it could have killed me, so how could I get stage fright now?

After I performed, I didn’t realize how people would be affected. Not only did they empathize with my ups and downs, they were laughing with me! I connected to the world, and to my own community again, something I desperately needed and what has always drawn me to theatre in the first place.
My first performance at The Triad brought everything full circle. It was a frightening, bold, vulnerable, and breathtaking experience. In it, I told everything: the pain, the joy, the fury, all with music, drama, and humor, most importantly. I had played “roles” before, but for the first time, I was honestly revealing my own medical and emotional struggles for hundreds of strangers every night. It was a risk to lay my soul bare, but the reward was in how my own vulnerability caused others to become vulnerable and moved by my own struggles.
Just before opening night, as my mother helped me get into my red dress, she looked at me, like she looked at her “old daughter” getting dressed for a middle school musical. She slipped my red dress over a new body, battered, bruised, covered in scars, bags and medical tape. But my earrings were sparkling, my eyes were stained with eyeliner—not tears—and now I had tape for my body mic, in addition to my ostomy bag. I was not defeated. This could be a new start.
I walked out on stage, sat at my desk in the downstage right corner that we had so carefully marked down with tape. I was more nervous than I could ever remember and could hardly breathe. The lights were dark, but I could see the glasses of audience members in a packed house. Who was here? As the lights began to brighten, I could recognize friends, family, all waiting to hear me sing…

“Deep breaths, deep breaths Amy…”

The crowd was quiet. Jerold, on the piano to my left, started the intro we had rehearsed a trillion times. The band started to play, my brother behind me, and I felt support in a theatre from literally all sides. Here I was, with one chance to prove something, to sing. To make sure my body mic was on…
The intro stopped, and I looked up at the audience to sing, “I’ve an unrest inside me.”

And, boy, did I have an unrest.

From my journal at that time:

October 19: Yay! It went better than I ever could have expected!
October 21: My show is sold out! Heaven! They had to add seats!
October 25: I don’t want this show to end at The Triad. Must get this produced after. So I spend 6 hours sending emails to producers, and I even got a few responses!
October 26: Amazing finish! House was filled, and the general manager said he’d love for me to do an extended run one day! Maybe after surgery. But the biggest surprise of the night: William Finn showed up. I was shocked! On the way home, parents kept saying what a positive experience this all was. I’m so glad. Think of how many people I touched through this!

This wasn’t the path I planned for myself, but does anyone’s life ever work out exactly how they plan it?

My stomach exploded. My world changed in an instant. My life took a detour as all lives do.

So, I made the best of it, and now I have my detour to thank for all the gifts in my life. As actors, we tell stories constantly. I first told mine over six years ago and continue to do so, not only to myself, but to complete strangers and New York Theatregoers. Every time I “perform” what happened to me, I find myself somehow transformed in the process. Theatre has the power to change lives, both for those directly involved and those who watch. Theatre teaches us we’re capable of anything, and usually tells us this at times we need it most.
After my show, people would come up to me and tell me how inspired they had been by my story. They would almost apologize, as if ashamed that their own problems could possibly compare. This always struck me odd because I believe that suffering is relative. Although my situation was extreme, I experienced universal feelings that everyone goes through in life, whether it’s a surgery, a break-up, or a broken heart. Whatever the story, it is ours and uniquely ours and we all have to get it out there. Through telling our stories, we realize that we are not alone. We feel connected by a shared experience, and this experience strengthens us just enough to keep getting through life’s experiences day after day!
This realization I had that we all need to tell our stories inspired me to start leading workshops about the healing power of our stories to organizations, schools, and under-served communities.

This unexpected route has shown me that when life throws you in a different direction…



…you’ll be okay.

There might even be applause. 🙂

Learn more about Gutless and Grateful at www.amyoes.com/gutless. Now that it’s back-to-school season, I also do the show for schools and colleges!  Check out “Mental HEALth Mindset: www.amyoes.com/student-mental-health and send me a note!

The Most Clever Way to Find Hope on a Down Day is….

It can be hard to keep going, even when life seems good.  The little things can still be hard. What do I try to do?

Sometimes, I go through old journal entries and seek out key themes that helped me find joy in circumstances that were not ideal:

1.) Make your own rules.

Two rules I always used to try to follow:

Pray for someone every day

Don’t move until you see a miracle, wait for a miracle.

2.) Take a new risk daily.

Every day I am going to find one thing that I’ve never done before, one risk I have taken that makes that day stand out. As you expand your consciousness of kindness, you create a more spiritual life.

3.) Relax into the messy un-plans.

Life is messy, and everything does not have to be incorporated into a schedule – then I’ll never have room for the unexpected beauties to pop up!  Live frugally on surprise

4.) Enjoy the Beautiful Day

The sunlight makes the leaves shimmer gold, and it doesn’t even matter that they are all on the ground and the trees are naked – they look splendid anyway!  They cover the pavement and cast a trail down, around corners, leading to uncharted territories, to other, even  more beautiful horizons.  This must be a good sign of how today will be – I can easily think anxious thoughts today, but I don’t feel like that in this moment.

Instead, I will follow the trail of leaves, picking up one by one, using that as a metaphor for how I am to be in an individual moment and not think forwards or backwards, just enveloping myself inside the beauty of each star-shaped leaf.  I will not be in my head today – it’ a great day to be outdoors!

5.) Break Down Walls

Fear builds walls to block the light.

6.) Know Your Daydreams

I know my daydreams are real and can really come into existence for me, on the other side of this.  The other side of the mountain. I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.

When you’re walking and a butterfly flutters up to you, how can you not feel the Spring soak you in warm, loving light? You see the butterfly flutter his wings, almost dancing along. Butterflies show us that true joy is within the dance of life.

7.) Persistence Sets You Free.

.  It is NOT impossible to give up. It is possible to gain FREEDOM.

8.) Just live and see how good it feels.

It feels good to be alive…

I found one of my old entries that gave me a new idea for finding hope:

“I love life. And I want more of it!!!!  Finally I have come to the point where living has become more important  than hiding away.  Because I let myself have that opportunity – I pushed myself to be scared because deep inside I knew there was nothing to be scared of!  And I like life in the light, once I overcame this fear.  It was so fun leading myself through my visualization in the actual woods, following the trail of leaves and telling the story of the hidden demons that lurk about in the eyes of the trees.  And the park was so gorgeous with the blaring circle of sun setting behind gigantic tall trees, and the moon already appearing at the other end of the sky, waiting in its dressing room for its showtime.  I wrote this visualization down and shared it with my mom – it feels so good to give back!”

Where can you find hope today?
Safe travels, Detourists!


What Can Theatre Can Tell Us About Mental Health & Humanity Today?

“Welcome to the greatest adventure of your life!”
That’s how I began my second TEDx Talk this year. And it’s basically a talk about healing from trauma through story. Many stories, but really, just one.

Think about some of the greatest stories you’ve heard – maybe it’s a Star Wars movie, perhaps a Harry Potter book, or a chapter in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology. Think about the patterns you observe around you every day. And think about how those patterns we experience, and the stories we hear guide us every day – whether we know it or not.
Rick Dildine, artistic and executive director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, who will soon join Alabama Shakespeare Festival as Artistic Director, shared the power he finds in storytelling through theatre.
“I make theatre to ask, ‘What is my purpose here? Why am I in this world? It’s an opportunity to get closer to that truth.’”
So what are some of the first questions he asks when approaching a play?
“What is the truth of this story? What do I know about this from my own experience? What is universal?”
It’s that universal story that theatre tells so well – a story of the hero’s journey – and a story that saved my own life.
In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the archetypal hero’s journey as an adventure we all undertake in our lifetime.
In Campbell’s words:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
My second TEDx Talk was all about heroes, stories and the two best places to find them: in theatre, and in ourselves.
Storytelling, since the beginning of time, has driven change, created movements, and empowered those who never knew they had a story to tell. As an artist, creating stories is my way to uncover the certainty and significance from chaos and unsteadiness. After surviving a decade of trauma, I discovered this storytelling “survival strategy” as a lifeline, roadmap and anchor to myself. To cope with 27 surgeries and six years unable to eat or drink, I locked myself in my room and journaled thousands of pages, using Joseph Campbell’s archetypal hero’s journey to create a structure for my life that had lost all structure entirely. Not only did stories help my own personal transformation, they helped me reintegrate into society once I myself had transformed.
And the power of one story – one universal narrative is not only what guided me through trauma, but what is producing theatre that is changing lives from coast to coast…and beyond.
Christopher Ashley, artistic director at La Jolla Playhouse, and director of Broadway’s Come From Away, discovered how a story all the way in Newfoundland could resonate with New Yorkers.
How did he first get attracted to this story?
“I was in New York during 9/11 and had all of these strong, unresolved feelings at that time, and my associate director at La Jolla came to my office and said, ‘There’s a script you have to read, and I think it’s really gonna matter to you.’ There was something immediate about the script that struck me – something about that moment of kindness and generosity that felt like a necessary story to tell at this exact moment. We are living in a moment of such division and friction between people.
The stories of Newfoundland of that week, where people were so stranded, and how thoroughly people took care of them. There were different religions, backgrounds, and nothing else mattered, except that this person was hungry, and this person needed protection. There was generosity, compassion, it felt very much about community, and very much like how New Yorkers took care of each other at that time. The “New York” edge was off, and it was about humanity.”
Dildine finds the humanity of a story through family. “I’ve always loved intimate family dramas. What does it mean to be a human? A true moment of humanity for me, is where the prince has to sit through his father’s death in Henry the Fourth. To have a loved one pass on in our lives…that is something we all will inevitably experience.”
Humanity – for me, that is what theatre is about – finding the essence of humanity. THAT’s how we fight stigma – by showing how very much we ALL have in common!

To be continued….

“Those who suffer from mental illness are stronger than you think. We must fight to go work, care for our families, be there for our friends, and act ‘normal’ while battling unimaginable pain.”

“It’s so common, it could be anyone. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it. And that makes everything worse.”

See my TEDx Talks at www.amyoes.com/tedx and tell me what YOU think!

Why this month is the best time to jumpstart your mental health with creativity

Happy August! With September around the corner, I havev a great idea for your end-of-summer detours:

In my most recent TEDx Talk (watch it here!) I talked about how to become the hero of your own story through four “hard-core skills to resilience.” My favorite? Creativity of course. So find those back-to-school sales and buy yourself some Crayola’s –
that’s all you need…and a pair of kid-eyes to see things differently.
Need help? Check out my Huffington Post article with some great takeaways.

But just for my newsletter Detourists, here are some of my favorite, and super-basic ways to finding the creative spark to turn any obstacle into a hero’s adventure…

1.) Literally make a worry box/bubble/bag/container.
It’s amazing what a physical symbol can do in your life. Find something – even pebbles, to represent each worry, and allow your creative side to be messy and unpredictable, once the extra thoughts are put away. If you really need to think about them, just open the box at another time.

2.) Daydream
STOP. Say hello to one of your super-hero five senses and let it take you on a ride. Stare at clouds. Smell a cinnamon clove. Allow your mind to wander into a land that may not make sense…yet. Then doodle it. See where it goes.

3.) Take a walk
You’l find plenty of tactile objects and sensations to launch your daydream, plus, I find just physically moving helps generate those creative juices. (I know I’m crazy, but since I think best when I’m walking around, I’m currently finishing my book, My Beautiful Detour, walking around texting into my Google Doc app!
And if you get outside, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to…

4.) People watch
Make up back stories for the people you’re watching. They don’t have to know about it, so allow yourself to be as outlandish as you’ll let yourself. Then offer them a quiet smile as you pass. Maybe you’ll pass the creative spark onto them!

I’m sharing a dozen more easy ideas for August in my blog this week, so make sure you check it out!


I’ve been doing this art-making myself lately to work on my new play, Trust/Remembered:

Yep, I’m devising a new theatre piece through live art-making on stage – a new multimedia project based on my latest TEDx Talk – exploring healing from trauma as a warrior’s adventure through the archetypal hero’s journey:
Check out a behind-the-scenes peek at the process here: https://youtu.be/LobqH6GiTH4

What am I discussing as I paint?  Why painting is so therapeutic for anyone struggling with anxiety, or feelings they’re not sure how to express yet.  I explain it in my article with some helpful inspiration here: It’s Okay to Freeze.

Remember, you can just start with a doodle…and you’ll find the hero in yourself.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, Make sure you thank the heroes in your own lives!

Safe, silly travels, Detourists!


“Being a hero means ignoring how silly you feel.”
― Diana Wynne Jones,

How Does Trauma Make You a Hero? (Really!)

My 2nd TEDx Talk is officially live! It’s about transforming trauma – or any adversity – into a warrior’s adventure through creativity, story, wonder, and a bit of the archetypal hero’s journey.

On February 25th, 2017, I gave my 2nd TEDx Talk on how I healed from trauma, through turning myself into Tigerlilly, the warrior, using my “Four Hard Core Skills to Resilience” that I created from my roadmap….the archetypal hero’s journey.

Creativity was a mindset that literally saved my life. REMEMBER…we’re all artists at heart!



I would love to hear from you.
What does creativity mean to you?
Is there a story you’ve read as a child that’s always stayed with you?
After watching my talk, what step are you in on the hero’s journey?
How can you use that pattern to tell you where you need to go next in your life?

I gave this TEDx Talk for VCU’s theme of PATTERNS. Is there a pattern that has guided you? What’s your favorite pattern?

Oh, and what’s one pattern we all have in our lives?


Through sharing our stories, we become empowered, inspired and more comfortable with our life circumstances, as well as with who we are. Telling our stories helps us process it – just like you learn something better yourself when you have to teach someone else. Through our shared experience, we gain confidence and become travel-partners on our detours.  And traveling is always less scary when we’re not alone.

City Dream

Even if you’re not ready to share your story, read a book. Hear the stories of others –courageous, adventure stories!  We learn by example, so when that difficult detour surprises you, you’ll be able to pull those heroic stories out of your back pocket and follow your own hero’s journey.

Watch my first TEDx Talk on Detours here. HTTPS://amyoes.com/TEDx

I’d love to hear from you all on the patterns in your own life – and the stories you’ve heard that stick with you today.

Remember – everyone has a story worth sharing. Even if for now, it’s one that’s been told to us.

They’re your secret weapon!

Don’t believe me? Watch the talk !

Safe travels, Detourists!

A Teaser for my Never-Before-Seen 2nd TEDx Talk

A Teaser for My 2nd Never-Before-Seen TEDx Talk!

For those of us that LOVE Joseph Campbell and the archetypal hero’s journey (where is it NOT?) I wanted to share an exciting update — I gave my second TEDx Talk last February at VCU, and it’s taken a few months, but I finally found out that the talk is going to be live next week! In the meantime, they gave me the first three minutes that I wanted to share. I’ll share the rest when it’s up on the TEDx site. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts…the rest of the talk might go in a bit of an unexpected direction — so stay tuned — enjoy…and “Welcome to the Greatest Adventure of Your Life!”



TigerLilly (makes more sense when you see the rest of the talk)

What excites me the most is getting to use a bit more of my art in this talk as well too 🙂 www.amyoes.com/galleries

Hope you enjoy and remember that we all have stories — it’s SHARING them that changes us, our perspective, our world, and everyone around us. So read/tell/listen/google some stories!

Stay tuned…

See my first TEDx Talk here.

Some extra notes…

Everyone loves a good story.  Is there a book or poem you’ve read that has always stuck with you?  A certain metaphor from a whimsical children’s story that resonated with you as a child?  I remember always loving the book Harold and the Purple Crayon.  I loved the idea of a little child being able to create his own world.  It made me feel like I could too.
That’s the beauty of a metaphor: Through a larger vision, we can relate with our own unique stories.
That is also the power of storytelling.  Everyone’s story is different.  But we all can relate to emotions.  If you’re human, you’ve felt sadness.  You’ve felt hunger, pain, joy, loss, .
If you’re a human on this earth, you’ve felt life.  Look all around you, and you’ll see life growing, dying, changing and regenerating daily.

So keep traveling Detourists – there is always a chance for a new start…and to be a hero!

Hang in there 🙂

Dealing with Physical "Detours" and How to Cope

This post is about the physical “detours” we all may encounter. When are bodies don’t work like we want them to…how do we mentally cope?

I have an ostomy.

When I first got my ostomy, I felt very alone. I felt self-conscious of the smell and sound, and sometimes I longed for my old body.

When I couldn’t take self-loathing anymore, I decided to make friends with it. I reached out. I inquired about support groups in my area and realized there are many people like me. I realized my ostomy is a beautiful thing and has enabled me to do all the things I’ve been able to accomplish over the years. It is my uniqueness.

These are 10 things I would have liked to tell myself when I first had an ostomy  — 10 things I didn’t know but eventually learned, which I am so grateful for today:

1. What it was.

I had no idea what an ostomy was before I had one. But I have a confession: I didn’t realize exactly what it was until a year later! Coming out of multiple surgeries, I had so many bags and new anatomical surprises to think about that a little pink bulge on my belly seemed to be the least of my problems!

I’ve learned things in the past 10 years that have shocked, scared and relieved me, such as: You can’t actually feel your stoma — no nerve endings! I’ve had three ostomies and four ileostomies over the years. I didn’t realize how different they were. Once I learned about the differences and functions of each, I was better able to take care of them.

2. What my limits were.

When I saw that I’d have to live life with a bag stuck to my side, I assumed I’d be “fragile” for the rest of my life. But believe it or not, there are so many active ostomates out there! Swimming, karate, ballet, yoga — I’ve done everything I did before my ostomy and more.

3. There are so many strong ostomates.

I was privileged to be the Eastern regional recipient of the Great Comebacksaward and meet five other amazing ostomates doing incredible things. There is a huge, supportive ostomy community. Check out this determined runnerall of these famous heroes who had inflammatory bowel disease, and did you know Great Comebacks was founded by a former NFL linebacker

4. Ostomates excel at innovation and inventiveness.

It turned out I was able to do all those things I thought I couldn’t — but that didn’t mean it was easy. Some of the best things in life take work, and that makes you appreciate it even more. Let’s just say that plastic wrap, Pepto-Bismol, waterproof tape and wetsuits have become good friends of mine. The beautiful music video for the song “Renegades” by X Ambassadors features an incredible man who just happens to also be blind. He says it best: “It’s not a matter of enjoying it more or less, it’s about enjoying it differently.”

5. How amazing my body is.

I have a new respect for my body and the way it can function now.

6. Judgment hurts, but fear hurts more.

Stay informed and know the facts.  The more I actually understood how an ostomy worked, the more I realized how wonderful it was. After that, I took it as my responsibility to educate others. Instead of wondering if I was being “judged” by others, I took it as a privilege to inform them.

7. Everything is connected.

Take care of your full self: emotional, spiritual, mental and physical. If you’re stressed, you might be bloated or feel pain or discomfort. Remember to take deep breaths in difficult times.

8. The people who love you, love you.

If you’re just getting comfortable with your ostomy, remember that your support system loves you for who you are. You are more than your ostomy. Reach out when you feel alone and never forget how loved you are.

9. Eat fresh.

You are what you eat, so eat whole and nourishing foods. Your ostomy will thank you, and so will you!

10. Life can go on.

Throughout these seven years, I’ve been strong, determined and willing to do whatever it took to stay alive. I’ve dealt with tubes, bags, poles, you name it. And if this ostomy is all that I’m left with after everything, then I am truly grateful. More than that, I thank my ostomy for enabling me to live life to the fullest, to my fullest. I call it my Harry Potter thunderbolt scar: a symbol of strength, courage, individuality and life.

There are a few things I didn’t know before my ostomy. But what I look forward to most is everything left to learn. Thank you, ostomy, for making the world a wide open door once again.

Do you want to share your story on my blog?  Find out more here.

Amy works directly with survivors of sexual assault and those healing from PTSD. Learn more about her college mental health program and sexual assault prevention initiative on her site, www.amyoes.com. All artwork was created by Amy in her own healing process.

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking.

Her original, full-length drama, Imprints, premiered at the NYC Producer’s Club in May 2016, exploring how trauma affects the family as well as the individual. “Detourism” is the subject of her TEDx and upcoming book, “My Beautiful Detour,” available December 2017.

She’s contributed to over 70 notable online and print publications, and her story has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, CBS, and Cosmopolitan, among others. Learn more at amyoes.com. Watch Amy’s TEDx Talk: A Detour is Not a Dead End here: Amy’s TEDx Talk: Detour

Why we all need to express our diversity – but how do we fight its stigma?

As a Detourist, I’ve encountered a lot of mental health stigma. I’ve gone from theatre kid, to actress, to traumatized, to comatose, to survivor, to playwright, to person in less than 30 years. Creativity not only saved my life, it became my life force, anchor to myself, and road map where there was none. Creativity is the best way to say anything we’re feeling. And that’s the best way to fight mental health stigma.

Theatre was the one place I felt I could say anything. Theatre has always been my first love and felt like natural medium to tell my story. I had experienced years of setbacks, triumphs and frustrations in isolation. I didn’t appreciate the full scope of what I had undergone, and the impact it would have on others, until I was able to perform it, and bring secrets to light for the first time. “Gutless & Grateful” was a musical about my near-death experience, but it was also the first opportunity I had to ever speak out loud, “I was sexually abused.” In the act of telling, I set myself free. As a performer, I long to connect with my community and share a message that will inspire others – that is the power of theatre. Helping yourself is a reward in one respect, but to know that your own struggles can heal others is transformative and uplifting.

Giving my story a dramatic arc was a way to reframe my own narrative, and find the meaning in what I had been through: nearly 30 surgeries, six years unable to eat and drink, and perhaps a little mention that I had been sexually abused by my voice teacher shortly before my stomach exploded my senior year of high school.

I wasn’t sure how sexual abuse fit into my story yet.

Perhaps it was because I hadn’t figured out what being a survivor of sexual abuse meant to me at all.

Sexual assault is a big burden to carry as a secret – and none of the news stories were talking about anything other than my total gastrectomy and organ failure. In fact, my abuser was still teaching. (He still is.) Where did this experience fit into my narrative?

I learned that the memories I was still struggling with would not be solved by a musical comedy. In my “gutsy” life-story theatrical debut, I was joyously overwhelmed by rave reviews from New York theatre critics.

But there was one line from an otherwise great review that stuck with me:

“Although there is, of course, a connection between mind and body, it was somewhat hard to swallow that the source of her illness could be blamed on being raped, which was implied at the beginning.”

Really? Hard to swallow?

Now I was getting stigma from critics? If theatre wasn’t safe, what was?

Could I fight stigma through theatre?

After “Gutless,” I was determined as a playwright to create a play to show that recovery from trauma is raw, messy, and rarely a straight line…or “easy to swallow.” I went on to create plays, musicals, scenes and snippets that I felt society needed to hear. I learned that there are physical scars from trauma, and then there are scars we can’t see.

As both a survivor and an emerging female playwright, it’s been an ongoing battle to reclaim my voice and tell my own story. And recently, I realized I wasn’t alone.

Other artists were facing stigma in mental health, diversity, and the freedom to be who we are, where we are, as we are.

What would you do if a publisher rejected your manuscript because of lesbian and transgender themes? What if you were told these themes were not commercial — or not appropriate for young people? Back in 2008, with the world economy hovering on the brink of collapse, a group of women playwrights were forced to confront these questions.

The International Center for Women Playwrights hosts a longstanding email discussion group with over 300 subscribers. Long before artists could network on Facebook and Twitter, ICWP formed an active, spirited online community of multicultural writers. Founded in 1988, ICWP’s mission was to support and promote women playwrights around the world and advocate for gender equity in theater. Women from many countries (and a few like-minded men) shared knowledge, support, encouragement — and daily rants about the challenges of working in a male-dominated profession. Women of color, lesbians, gender nonconforming persons, disabled women, women of all ages and ethnicities gathered with stories to tell. Mostly, they saw little on the contemporary stage that reflected their own experiences.

It was not unusual to hear stories of intolerance. But, this time, a powerful, articulate lesbian writer stood up demanding action. While nobody could deny the discrimination she had experienced — or the danger it posed to LGBT youth — nobody could agree on an appropriate response. Boycott the publisher? Protest on a wider scale? Or just take the high-road, and submit manuscripts elsewhere? The typically supportive email list erupted into a flame war. Lawyers were consulted. Several key members left the group, including the activist playwright who raised the question. What emerged from the ashes was a renewed commitment to change, when members were finally able to rally around an idea for positive action.

Williams volunteered to edit a book of short scenes for 2-3 actors, suitable for audition pieces or student acting class work. The thematic focus of the book would be “diverse voices” — drama about characters from under-represented minorities, and the challenges these individuals face. As simple as this idea seemed, the publication of ICWP’s Scenes from a Diverse World supports gender equity in theater, and opens up new worlds for theater students.

After reading all about William’s collection, I was brought back to learning for the first time, that a collection of my own work, including an extremely “open” monologue, “I’m Living Life With Open Wounds,” would be published and performed by college students for an academic thesis on Disability, and incorporated into a high school textbook for a unit on empathy through theatre. If every human, from of every background, affiliation and identity can feel proud to speak truths which society needs to hear, then we can access theatre’s truth ability change lives, to bring marginalized voices to the center, and to create a society built on inclusion, generosity of spirit, and positive change.

How are YOU sharing your unique role in our diverse world?

(Perhaps a monologue can get you started.)

Oestreicher is a proud member of ICWP, multidisciplinary teaching artist, TEDx speaker, PTSD Specialist, author, actress and playwright. See more mixed media artwork, learn about her plays, or catch her touring Gutless & Grateful, her one-woman autobiographical musical.

Can a Story Make a Woman Leader?

This has definitely been a year of milestones for me.

In the past year, I’ve…

…turned thirty years old, graduated college, gotten married and divorced, tried eel sushi for the first time, written a full-length musical, become a published playwright, toured my one-woman show to nine new states, given two TEDx Talks, and even though I’ve  been relentlessly searching for medical answers, I’m driven to keep my hunger for life alive, even as a “surgical work in progress.”

My relationship with my body has not been an easy journey. After 27 surgeries, the road has been rocky, and it’s not over yet.

There are certain things I don’t have control over, like finding a surgeon that can somehow fix every medical concern in the book.

But there are certain things I CAN control…

…and no, I’m not talking about the trite affirmation, “I can’t control circumstances but I can control my reaction to it.” Because it’s okay to get upset, angry, and to experience other reactions to frustrating circumstances. We’re only human, and we can’t be “Gutless and Grateful” all the time.

BUT, we CAN control what we choose to do with that reaction.

What do I mean by that?

When I feel angry, hurt, fearful, frustrated, or any emotion that’s hard to sit with, I try to turn it into a force for good.  I take that energy and turn it into something creative.

So, for instance, when I feel alone or powerless to change my medical circumstances, I’ll write a song:

I can create art…

I’ll share my story…

And I’ll remember that I’m not alone.

All of these resources empower me as a woman leader. These are resources I’m thrilled to be sharing with other student leaders , so they can help their own campuses and communities.

I never thought I would get to college, after a decade of medical trauma. The April of my senior year, I had just gotten my college acceptance letters, and in April 25th, 2005, I fell into a coma.

I’ll spare you the details, but watch my TEDx Talk for the story!

 I finally got to college, and I realize that I could be a woman leader, an inspiration to others.   I realized that it was never too late to do anything. That’s why I am so excited to be leading a storytelling workshop for other college women leaders just like myself  on June 2nd!  My proposal was selected as one of approximately 40 workshops that will be presented at this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) to be held at the University of Maryland, College Park from May 31 to June 3.Because I realized in order to find meaning from own journey, that there is nothing more powerful and being able to share your story, and blaze a path for others to follow.

What Is the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders?

The AAUW National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) is the premier conference for students to hone their leadership skills, make lifelong connections, and get ready to shape the world!

For more than 30 years, NCCWSL has provided a transformative experience for the next generation of leaders. Past attendees have gone on to lead nonprofits, innovate the corporate world, create disruptive technologies, and more — all while paying it forward for women and girls. Nearly 900 college and university women and campus professionals from all across the United States and from around the world in redefining leadership for all women.

 I can’t wait to meet other feisty, fearless women leaders and changemakers – I’ve been touring a college leadership program around the country for the past six years, all while still being in college myself! 

Turning adversity into a non-profit venture and social outreach program made me realize it’s was too late to do anything, whether it be going to college, or changing the world. 

If I can turn an obstacle into a way to inspire others, it fuels hope that it’s never too late for my medical circumstances to change. In the meantime, the only thing in our control is the ability to tell our story and become strong women leaders for others. 

So I hope to see you at the conference, and if you’re there, stop by my storytelling workshop!. Truly nothing more powerful than the power of a story!

“Storytelling for Leadership: Resiliency Skills to Turn Your Passion into Action”  will be sponsored by Brandeis International Business School.

Storytelling for Leadership:  Resiliency Skills to Turn Your Passion into Action

Workshops Session IV
June 2, 2–3:15 p.m.

Thurgood Marshall
Presenter: Amy Oestreicher, Founder, Gutless and Grateful at Hampshire College (@AmyOes)
Learning objective: leadership development
Level: beginner

Can your story make a difference? Storytelling, since the beginning of time, has driven change, created movements, and launched careers. By utilizing classic storytelling techniques, you’ll work to reframe your personal narrative, effortlessly creating compelling meaning that motivates those around you and connects your competencies to your confidence. Learn to stand out from the pack and move into the leadership role you deserve. Think your story’s not worth sharing? By the end of this session, you’ll be surprised!

See more at https://www.nccwsl.org/about/workshops/ and learn about my college mental health, leadership and sexual assault prevention programs at www.amyoes.com/student-mental-health.


What is an “integrative approach” to wellness?

As a speaker, survivor and lifelover, I have a personal mission to…“inspire people to make a commitment to healthy living, turning hopes and intentions into the highest enjoyment of life.”

SO imagine how excited I was to present three wellness-inspired programs at a luxury spa with this exact vision!

Canyon Ranch is the world’s recognized leader in healthy living and luxury spa vacations, with destination spa resorts that have received countless awards and accolades for an innovative approach to health and fitness, and for the serene, relaxing and inspiring spa environments.

OK. So what does a spa have to do with mental health???

Taking care of yourself! Release the emotions by talking to a friend, therapist or life coach, exercising, drinking plenty of water, walking in nature or volunteering. Start a gratitude journal. Relax and watch a TV show. Smell a flower! What makes YOU feel good?

It was a great weekend, speaking (and performing!) on wellness, creativity, and joy — three of my favorite topics!

I also gave away some of my favorite creative secrets to building resilience

Canyon Ranch was an ideal spot for immersive performance… I got to perform excerpts of Gutless and Grateful in their beautiful library!

To say that the natural scenery that surrounds the beautiful Lenox location is breathtaking is one thing…but the art this was so thoughftully placed everywhere was exquisite, inspiring, and calming.

SO what turns a luxury spa into a total wellness Mecca?
Canyon Ranch has everything covered…

Fitness & Movement

Nutrition & Food

Health & Healing

Mind & Spirit

Spa & Beauty

How can you incorporate a bit of each of these into your own life?
Want a bit more creativity in your life?

Thanks Canyon Ranch! This was truly the only wellness I needed this weekend!

Amy Oestreicher is touring “Gutless & Grateful,” her Broadway World-nominated one-woman autobiographical musical, to theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness to schools, hospitals, and international conferences. Learn about her art, music, theatre, advocacy, book, and inspiring story at or “tweet me at @amyoes!”

How do you make a breakthrough when your detour gets dark

The biggest ground rule on a detour is to know that although your “detour” is a path unlike anyone else’s, EVERYONE has some path in their life veer off in an unexpected route. Every day – all around us!
So when life doesn’t go as you expect…reach out. Tell a friend how your feeling. And… have nine other tips that have helped me:

Can terrible events lead to remarkable and dramatic breakthroughs?
There IS an upside of hardship – but you’ll never know it if you don’t keep going. Keep traveling that detour until you find that upside.

How can you make sure you get there?

In my experience, I’ve found nine ideas that help me reach the “upside of trauma.”

My NineTips

  1. Surround yourself with people who support you.
  2. Have something to look forward to and something to strive for.
  3. Focus on the, bright future ahead to get through difficult times
  4. Believe your story can change the world.
  5. Keep moving forward. Plan ahead but be prepared to adapt, keep moving forward no matter what.
  6. Remember that you’re larger than your circumstances
  7. Focus on what you can do, not cant.
  8. Let yourself feel bad feelings but remember what you can do.

Number Nine happens to be my favorite…

9: Expressing our traumas through art:

Sometimes it’s tough to just come and and talk about difficult times. It’s hard to open up.  But we NEED to.  Why keep those memories locked up inside?  When we keep things in, we become numb.

But how to start?  That’s what ART is for.  Creativity is the best medicine!

community art

I learned the power of community art this weekend in an Art Workshop.  We each had to draw our version of “trauma” and then arrange our drawings in a way that spoke to us.  It was amazing how although our traumas were all different, our drawings of “trauma” were so similar.

I didn’t have to share exactly what happened to me, but I felt heard.  Have you experienced this feeling before?  Get some friends together and create.  It could be healing in more ways than you know.

If you could draw your detour, what would it look like?

Tears for Tomorrow

Detour Art Exercise: Think of one thing you can’t put into words.  One thing that you’d LOVE to tell someone…but can’t yet.

Draw it instead.

So today, make some art.  Star a doodle, buy a coloring book, or make a collage out of magazine images.

You might just find the upside of trauma through what you create.

So what exactly is the upside of trauma?


Mommy Cant Fix This

Mommy Can’t Fix This (Mixed Media Gallery)

By sharing the stories of what has happened in our lives, we feel heard, supported, and connected.

Detourists should not travel alone.  We all have something to learn from each other’s journey.

detour definition

Learn what a Detourist is here, (you’re a Detourist, you just don’t know it yet) and share your story here. YOU never know who YOU may help.

There is an upside of trauma.  You just have to get through those rough detours to see those flowers along the path.  That’s the upside.  Don’t give up.  Keep going.  

And one day…


You’ll find that flower!!!

I #LoveMyDetour.  Now tell me why you love yours.


That’s the upside of trauma.  What’s your upside?

All artwork was created by Amy on her detour.  Help her bring PTSD Awareness to the stage by supporting her work on patreon.com/amyo and watch her TEDx talk on her website at amyoes.com/tedx. Learn about hermental health advocacy programs for students, and find out how to take part in the#LoveMyDetour movement, and learn about her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour at www.amyoes.com.

Take Back the Night for Mental Health

Published on amyoes.com

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu

I’m flying back to New York today after an amazing week in Tucson Arizona. I was there to take back the night.

And so were people all around the world.

What is Take Back the Night?

“TBTN’s history spans over half a century. Decades ago in Europe, women from many countries met together as a tribunal council to discuss women’s safety when walking down public streets.  In 1981, The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centers declared the third Friday of September to be the designated date for Take Back The Night® marches nationwide.”

You can watch my keynote speech here.

I was asked to be the keynote speaker at TBTN in Arizona. I’m still shaking from the power of a community united in solidarity.After hearing so many incredibly heartbreaking and resilient stories shared in the Survivor Speakout, I came away knowing that survivors are the strongest people in the world.

“Since the 1970s in the United States, TBTN has focused on eliminating sexual and domestic violence in all forms. Thousands of colleges, domestic violence shelters, and rape crisis centers have held events all over the country.

TBTN creates safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives. Women across the world are taking back their voices by speaking out against these crimes, but there is much to be accomplished in the fight to end sexual violence.

The march is far from over.”

After this amazing, night, I got to perform Gutless & Grateful, my one-woman autobiographical musical, at Pima Community College , 8pm on April 13th,  part of a great double-header, thanks to the Esperanza Dance Company!

Esperanza Dance Project 

 “Art is a wound  turned to light.”
– Georges Braque

Take Back The Night Events occur in over 30 countries worldwide. Over 600 campuses and communities have held Take Back The Night Events to date. We have reached over 30 million people with our message, our support and our commitment to ending sexual violence.

To honor sexual assault awareness month, I wanted to share several articles I’ve written about my own story, ways to heal, and ways to help spread community awareness.

  1. It’s Okay to Freeze: Healing from Sexual Assault (Huffington Post)

Explaining the “freeze” in PTSD, and working through undeserved shame.

2. Healing From Numbness (Sammiches & Psych Meds)

Working through feelings is difficult after sexual assault, but it is the only way forward and back into our lives.

3. Music Therapy and Sexual Abuse

How writing songs was a powerful way to reclaim my “voice” after being so betrayed.

5. To the man who molested me when I turned 17 (Role Reboot)

Why, although I never spoke my abuser’s name, I will not let him be my “secret.”

6. Five Ways Everyone Can Participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month

How every individual can be an agent of change, not just in April, but in every conversation, question, action and mindset.

7. What to Say (and Not to Say) to a Survivor of Sexual Assault

One of the most important things we can do is know how to best support a survivor.

8. PTSD: The Illness I Couldn’t See (Huffington Post)

“PTSD. I had never heard those letters put together before. I knew what “trauma” was, but I didn’t know it could cause so much internal dis-ease and dis-order — illness that I couldn’t see.”

9. Discovering “The Courage To Heal” (Original Monologue)

How one book was able to change the course of my recovery.

Did one of my essays especially ring out to you? Send me a note. I’d love to know.

Gutless, Grateful, and Sharing my Story

I’m also touring with my own Sexual Assault Prevention program, as well as my show, Gutless and Grateful, which combines Broadway theatre with sexual assault awareness and mental health advocacy, in order to empower survivors of assault and to create a more compassionate, open community.

It’s been amazing to be able to integrate doing what I love with not only what I’ve been through, but what I’ve learned, in order to share how we can make awareness and prevention possible for all.

 Remember…with creativity, you can eventually express ANYTHING.  

and once you can express it…

You can transform it.

Here’s a picture from the beautiful venue in Tucson.  More to come!

Next up, Gutless & Grateful at Clark University April 21st!  And if you’re interested in a new project…check out a premiere staged reading of FIBERS, April 22nd, 8pm at Hampshire College!

The Power of Our Stories

This week, tell a story. Read a story. Listen to the stories around you. Reach out.

The day I reached out, I found connection, acceptance, forgiveness, and my self.  And I love who I found.Until I was able to tell my story, at first for myself, and ultimately, to others, I was not able to fully heal.

Wishing you an amazing month with enough empowered awareness to last all year long.

You can become an advocate and make prevention possible in your community.  Check the NSVRC’s Media Kit for Sexual Assault Prevention for more resources.

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”
― William Faulkner

Do you want to share your story on my blog?  Find out more here.

Amy works directly with survivors of sexual assault and those healing from PTSD. Learn more about her college mental health program and sexual assault prevention initiative on her site, www.amyoes.com. All artwork was created by Amy in her own healing process.

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking.

Her original, full-length drama, Imprints, premiered at the NYC Producer’s Club in May 2016, exploring how trauma affects the family as well as the individual. “Detourism” is the subject of her TEDx and upcoming book, “My Beautiful Detour,” available December 2017.

She’s contributed to over 70 notable online and print publications, and her story has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, CBS, and Cosmopolitan, among others. Learn more at amyoes.comWatch Amy’s TEDx Talk: A Detour is Not a Dead End here: Amy’s TEDx Talk: Detour

Minority Mental Health Month

In awareness of National Minority Mental Health Month (April) I want to point out some stats:

According to the National Institute of Mental Illness the adults most likely to use mental health services in the past year (17.1%) were in the group reporting two or more races. This group was followed by white adults (16.6%), American Indian or Alaska Native adults (15.6%), followed by black (8.6), Hispanic (7.3) and Asian (4.9%) adults.

Culture plays a crucial role in treatment and ‘way of life’. Personally, I understand that mental health treatnment for many immigrants is often times an unattainable luxury, especially for those suffering from depression or anxiety.

Gays, lesbian and transgender youth are at a high risk of mental illness due to homophobia and internal conflicts.

It is without questioning that these groups are among some of the most vulnerable to mental illness. The question therefore is, what can we do to better help individuals from minority groups. What can we do as organizers, providers and individually?

NAMI gives us some careful instructions as to how we can assist different minority groups. I chose three very important ones, listed below:

Education – For both patients and providers. Providers who are trained in cultural copmpetence are better able to administer treatment in a respectful and relatable way. At the same time research shows that patients who are educated about treatment and understand their treatment are better able to manage their diagnosis.

Safe space – And this one is especially important for minority youth. Safe spaces are obviously necessary. One of the reasons why I was able to transition through treatment was because I knew that I had a safe space to vent and a community of supportive peers. If you are alone or feel threatened by your immediate environment [whether you are gay, bi or transgender] having people around whoa re relatable can be of tremendous benefit.

Legal Status – Sometime the fear of deportation prevents many people from seeking help. But I am grateful to live a state that looks out for the immigrant community, esp those that are undocumented or uninsured. Institutions such as the International Institute of Coonecticut provides viable ways for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and the NAMI has opened its doors to immigrant groups, especially youth so they can access treatment.

To Learn more about hopw we can reach out to and help minority groups, I encourage you to follow this link: http://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Diverse-Communities/Latino-Mental-Health

Mental Health Monday

Every day needs to be a mental health awareness day, but Mondays seem to be one of the days to focus on mental health the most. Maybe it’s because many people start the work week on Mondays, or the work email is avoided until Monday and everything is piling up?
Whether your weekend events didn’t go as planned, or you didn’t have time to catch up on sleep…it’s still important to reflect on mental health.

Today, I am sitting at my desk and reflecting on “What did I even do this weekend?” Yesterday, I cleaned my house for the majority of the day and although I desperately wanted to go outside and take my dog to the park, I couldn’t bring myself to step outside. Sometimes my depression and anxiety stop me from leaving the house and taking a shower is an accomplishment. It was a beautiful day outside yesterday and I wish I took advantage of that…oh well!

Saturday, I planned to split the day cleaning and then go out with my family, but I ended up sleeping in until 11:30am. Wow…I haven’t done that since high school! Maybe my body was telling me something? Instead of beating myself up for an unproductive weekend, I can at least give myself a chance to breathe and realize I really needed to stay in and take care of myself.

Monday is one of my longer work days, covering 12+ hours, but I make the most of it and remind myself, “Okay, this can either be the start to a great work week or it can be terrible…so let’s make the most of it!”

So, what are you doing to reflect and be prepared for the week?
I listen to great music, bring my logic puzzle book with me when I need a minute away from my checking emails, phone calls, etc. and go for a walk to force myself to take a lunch break, and breathe!

Mental Health Monday img

How to Play a Positive Role in Sexual Assault Awareness Month

I grew up believing that my entire life would be dedicated to the performing arts. Now, I’m also a survivor and “thriver” of sexual abuse, 27 surgeries, coma, organ failure, and the PTSD that comes from ten years of trauma — or what I now call my “beautiful detour.”

At 17, I was sexually abused by a voice coach who had become a mentor, a friend, my family. At 18, years old, a blood clot caused my body to go into septic shock. I was in a coma for six months, and after a total gastrectomy, I was unable to eat or drink a drop of water for six of the past ten years. After 27 surgeries, I was miraculously reconnected with the intestines I had left. To persevere through those tumultuous years took great inner and outer strength — strength I didn’t know I was capable of until I was tested.


I learned that the human spirit feeds off of hope, and hope is fuel we can cultivate ourselves. Ultimately, I learned that with resourcefulness, creativity, and unwavering curiosity, we can transform any adversity into personal growth and a resilience that is uniquely ours.

Everything became possible once I was willing to intentionally wander from the life I planned and embrace this “detour” as an opportunity for discovery. This is not the life that I planned for myself — but does anyone’s life ever work out exactly how they plan it?

The Stifling Problem

Sexual assault is a serious problem in our society, and one of the most important things we can do is know how to best support a survivor.

You can be an active part of lowering this statistic by knowing what to say to someone who has been assaulted.

Why is it hard for survivors to report an assault?

First, it’s best to understand why sexual assault is so infrequently reported. As asurvivor myself, I experienced each of these barriers:

· We don’t know how to speak it.

Survivors of sexual assault might not have the words or vocabulary to report that they’ve been violated. It took me years before I could even begin to articulate the turmoil that was rattling inside of me. It was terrifying for me to actually verbalize the fact that had been betrayed by someone I really trusted.

We don’t know who to tell.

It can be very difficult to find someone we feel comfortable enough sharing this with, especially if we haven’t fully processed it for ourselves.

We’re scared we won’t be believed.

We fear that when we finally do work up the courage to tell someone, we wont be taken seriously.

The Dangers of Not Speaking

Holding this secret in can slowly shift to victim blaming. We think, “If I hadn’t been there, or worn this outfit, or been with this person had done [insert here], I wouldn’t have been assaulted.”

Yet, in reality, the only person that can actually prevent the rape is the rapist themselves. But for most of us, it’s easier or us to got through that mental checklist of things we “could have” prevented, because we can rationalize, “If I hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have spoken to this person.” It’s how we try to come to terms with what happened. What results is a damaging self-blame that we don’t deserve.

Undeserved Shame

If a survivor of sexual assault is already saying these things to themselves, imagine how hard it is for them to actually speak out. When we keep this in, it turns to shame.

The shame survivors feel is a tremendous barrier to reporting.

How can you help someone overcome their barriers to reporting?

Create a safe place for that reporting to happen, with an open heart. It took years for me to feel comfortable sharing my own story, but knowing how imperative this was for my own healing process inspires me to help others do the same.

At a very vulnerable time, learn how to best support a survivor:

What to say to someone who tells you they have been assaulted:

I believe you.

You are safe.

I’m sorry this happened to you.

I’m so glad you are telling me this.

This is not your fault.

· Whatever reaction you are having is normal. You are not going crazy.

Things will never be the same, but things will be better. (Be compassionately realistic.When these acts happen, they become part of us, and how we heal depends on the support systems we have.)

I am here to support you through this.

Just as important is knowing what not to say:

Why or how could someone do this to you?

Then they’ll start to wonder what they could have done to “make that happen.”

I understand.

Even if you empathize, or are a survivor yourself, respect that you will never now what it is actually like for the survivor and their own individual experience.

It could have been worse. You’re lucky that something more awful didn’t happen.

If you hadn’t been ____, maybe this would not have happened.

It’s not your fault, but, maybe you shouldn’t have___.

You’re going to be fine.

It’s not fine right now. People need to feel the pain and difficulty of their experience. It will get better, but they need to find safe ways to be whatever they are feeling right now.

Try not to get so worked up.

A survivor has every right and reason to feel what they are feeling right now. Let them know that.

Helping Break the Silence

Most importantly, listen to the survivor. Let them say however little or much as they need to. Follow up with them if you can. And know that you have have made a tremendous impact on someone’s recovery.

So many gifts came out of this. I discovered painting in hospitals and flourished as a mixed media artist with solo art shows, merchandise and creativity workshops. I wrote a one-woman musical about my life, Gutless & Grateful, which I’ve performed in theatres across the country for three years and now take it to college campuses, conferences and support groups as a mental health awareness and sexual assault prevention program. After never having a boyfriend in my life, I tried online dating, got married, did a TEDx Talk about it, and then, when suddenly faced with divorce, I realized strength I never knew I had. And I finally started college…at 25 years old.


I was not able to fully appreciate the beauty of my detours until I was able to share them. As a performer, all I’ve wanted to do was give back to the world. But now I have an even greater gift to give: a story to tell.

But first…I had to learn how to speak it.

Everyone has a place in sexual assault prevention. According to RAINN, an average of 68% of assaults in the last five years were not reported. Together, we can help all survivors come forward to share their story and heal.

Amy works directly with survivors of sexual assault and those healing from PTSD. Learn more about her college mental health program and sexual assault prevention initiative on her site, www.amyoes.com. All artwork was created by Amy in her own healing process.

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking.

Her original, full-length drama, Imprints, premiered at the NYC Producer’s Club in May 2016, exploring how trauma affects the family as well as the individual. “Detourism” is the subject of her TEDx and upcoming book, “My Beautiful Detour,” available December 2017.

Here’s why you should do something to scare yourself today…and how.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

What is your biggest fear?

I have quite a few fears.  They range from pretty silly ones – I’m scared of the dark…

…And then sometimes I’m scared to face feelings that are not too fun to experience.

Anger. grief. loss. frustration…the list continues…

So just avoid it…right?

Think again.

What happens when we avoid negative emotions brought up from a past experience…


We become disconnected and withdrawn

We narrow our range of existence and lose contact with friends

We try to control our world to stay “emotionally safe”, and then outside world becomes dangerous, further alienating us.

How do we move through a negative emotion or event?

  • We take steps to reengage with the world – which means starting to take baby steps back into those thoughts and feelings.  Then, the healing starts.
  • Healing happens when we trust.  People can recover, move on and endure if they have ONE person they can attach to and connect with on emotional level.

How to move through it:

Remember, you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re tested.  There’s no way of knowing until you decide you’re going to take that leap.  Did a negative emotion or thought scare the living daylights out of you?  Are you run by that emotion, run by fear?

Let that fear transform who YOU are.  Let that fear be your compass on your beautiful detour.Fear is a valuable tool in a Detourist’s resiliency toolbox.

Watch my TEDx Talk on how I transformed my fear into more fuel to travel all of my very scary “detours…”

Remember – it’s the twists, turns and difficulties in your path that can transform you and your journey.  Those fears, hardships and detours are what makes you human and…YOU.

That’s why we share our stories.  We share our “detours” instead of running from them.  We share to cheer each other on in our journeys. We share to encourage our fellow Detourists to reach that beautiful clearing – perhaps a different one than they planned for themselves, but perhaps an even more beautiful sight to see.

How you can help another Detourist today:

Do you have a friend who you think needs way more credit than they give themselves?  It’s OK to ask someone you care about, “Are you struggling with negative thoughts?  Is there anything you just want to talk about?” Or give them some helpful resources.

Think about that quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. What’s one thing you can do today that scares you?

What support do you need to do that?

Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.”
― C. JoyBell C.

Check out more inspiration on my blog at amyoes.com and my program for students, Mental Health Mindset!

Musical Mental Health: Why songwriting will guide your detour (and how!)


What’s your favorite song?

Music has always been a powerful resource for me. As a kid, I was always writing songs in my head, daydreaming about producing my own musical with original songs. But songwriting proved to be instrumental in helping me discover my own voice again after my life took a dramatic turn.

When I was a child, the arts were my passion and identity. Later, when my traumas occurred, they became my lifeline. I grew up all my life in theatre. For me, singing and acting were ways I could connect with the world around me. When I took a deep, grounded breath from my gut, I sang what my heart longed to express. I found comfort in the words of my favorite composers. I read scripts like they were novels. I would play with my playbills from various shows I had seen like they were my Barbie dolls. Through theatre, I had a place in this world. I could make believe by inserting myself into characters from every era, situation and mindset, while still expressing my own individuality. Theatre was my language I could access to truly know who I was, no matter what was going on in my life, and I was singing, dancing, acting and creating from the time I could talk. I lived my life believing I would carve a beautiful career out for myself in the world of musical theatre, be on Broadway, and conquer the world.

But fast forward through a decade of trauma…

Then… therapy was based in the world of theatre, art, writing, dance, music, and whatever else I could use to express myself appropriately. The arts were a way for me to communicate whatever felt too painful and overwhelming to put into words. They also helped me process what I was feeling. Most importantly, they served as a medium where I could still engage with my community, reach out to others, and make a difference in this world utilizing my passion. Arts were my way of connecting with the world, sharing my story, and spreading my message that hope, strength, and beauty can be found in whatever life brings you. To find myself again after so many medical interventions, I painted, I danced, I wrote, I sang – but it was the act of writing and putting those words to music – to sing them from my gut – that allowed me to accept my body again – a body vastly different from the one I grew up in. Songwriting was my therapy, and within a month, I had written over thirty songs.

“Hospital Song”, is the song I wrote to the body that I woke up to. It was how I showed appreciation and gratitude for the foreign skin I was in – how I came to find comfort in my body once again and show compassion for all that it had been through. I composed this song as a lullaby to myself. I thought of the old ballad “Someone’s Waiting For You” and thought of the message that I needed to comfort myself with. I was always told I needed to show love for the wounded part of me, even when I wanted to ignore it altogether. I tried to look at the weaker part of me as a girl who needed my love and support. The healthy, vital part of me needed to be there…for ALL of me. To compose this song, I sang to Wounded Amy as I would sing a lullaby to a child, afraid of the dark.

I’ll be sharing a few more songs in the weeks to come.  In the meantime, turn on the radio and sing.  Or get out a notepad and jot down some phrases, ideas, or hum a bit to yourself.  Any way you can express yourself is one step closer to navigating your very beautiful, very YOU detour!

Safe travels, Detourists, and KEEP SINGING!


You can check out more of my original songs here, and watch my TEDx Talk about how music played a huge role in my own recovery at www.amyoes.com/tedx!

What’s your personal anthem? Write your own mental health anthem!

Songs can be the best anchor,road map, and compass for an mental health issue we might be facing.

What is Your Anthem? And can a song empower women worldwide?

As a born and bred musical theatre ham…I love singing. And I’d say I have a few “personal” anthems.”

Me singing at the Metropolitan Room — come see my show there March 26th! https://amyoes.com/metroom

What is YOUR anthem?

I wrote this song in honor of WomenArts SWAN Song Contest. They’re looking for “inspiring songs that can be sung at SWAN Day events and at other community gatherings.”

So, I thought about what empowering women means to me. It means reclaiming my voice — our voices, the voices of women around the world.

Here’s what I came up with:

This is Our Voice

Listen here:


Definitely not polished…but you can also see part of my songwriting process and hear me play it here!


Here are the lyrics:

View the lyrics as a PDF here.

Silence bellows through the halls
Moon is still hung in the sky
Shadows casting on the walls
There’s a weight I can’t deny
I’m waking up for one more day
Circling through another round
Am I gonna make my way
Through the skin that keeps me down
You look
You don’t hear me
Do you know

I am a force
Misguided outside the light
Finding a word
Some echo to steer me right
These words can’t shake
These walls to break
Like the seed of my soul
It’s the sound of the choice
That my name is our voice
Now you know

I am a woman
I am a stone
I am a vessel
I’m the compass towards a home
I am a female
Thick as a flame
If a sounding
That’s astounding
I sing
This is my name

Madness spills into the room
Stare me down with laser eyes
Breathing in the angry fumes
Breathing out my stifled cries
This is my force
Silent but not for long
Finding the words
A heartbeat that stirs a song
A beat that drives
A million lives
From the seeds of our souls
And our claim/we claim
All the sounds of our voices
This is our name

We are the women
We are the stones
We are the vessels
We’re the journey
Back to home
We are the story
And we tell it
Bold as flame
Of the choice to
Give a voice to
A booming sound
The sound
This is our name.

Now you know
Now you know
Now you know
Now you know

We are the women
We are the stones
We are the vessels
We’re the journey
Back to home
We are the story
And we tell it
Bold as flame
Of the choice to
Give a voice to
A booming sound
The sound
This is our name.

What do you think? Is this your anthem?

  • SWAN Day unites women around the world.
  • SWAN Day celebrates the diversity of women’s creativity and builds cultural bridges.
  • SWAN Day helps women artists build support networks that sustain them all year.
  • SWAN Day teaches women artists that they have tremendous power when they work together and help each other.

See more of my art at amyoes.com/galleries

I wrote this song because after a decade of trauma, I’ve worked relentlessly, passionately, and fearlessly to reclaim my voice. I hope in singing this song, it will help you find yours, and ours.

Female Empowerment Anthem #SWANday! This Is Our Voice Help spread music & healing! #sing[click to tweet]

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright. As the creator of “Gutless & Grateful,” her BroadwayWorld-nominated one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences. To celebrate her own “beautiful detour”, Amy created the #LoveMyDetour campaign, to help others cope in the face of unexpected events. “ Learn about her art, music, theatre, advocacy, book, and inspiring story at amyoes.com, or “tweet me at @amyoes!”

5 Quotes on Patterns to Guide You Through Any Detour

I’m thrilled to be giving another TEDx Talk…this Saturday!


February 25, 2017

“Trends, reoccurring events and circumstances. These are common ways we see patterns. Patterns are the laws of nature and life that present themselves in all disciplines of life – from the smallest microorganism to macrocosm. They manage the systems by which our universe operates. While patterns aren’t always apparent, they are continuous and autonomous.” – TEDx VCU

Our theme explores the various ways patterns present themselves and their significance in our daily existence. TEDxVCU will present ideas that:

● define and clarify the existence of patterns
● identify occurrences that establish patterns
● identify occurrences that alter the course of patterns

What’s in a pattern?

Have you noticed yourself going around in patterns lately?

I’ve been thinking a lot about patterns this week…after all, I’m giving another TEDx Talk next Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth University…and their theme is PATTERNS!

Patterns Make Life Beautiful

What can make life so wonderfully delicious – a spectacle for the senses – is when we start to notice the world around us in new ways.  Creativity is all about seeing things differently.  

So go, find your joy – create and make your own patterns!  Here’s a free creativity e-book if you need help getting started!

Five Best Quotes About Patterns

In honor of the theme, I’m sharing my top five favorite quotes about patterns.

“Pay attention to the intricate patterns of your existence that you take for granted.”
― Doug Dillon

“It is easy to surround yourself with people who think in the same ways, believe the same ideas, and live life in similar patterns. Many communities are made up of the same kind of people to the extent that we intentionally have to seek people whose stories are completely different from ours.”
― Holly Sprink,

“Sometimes we get stuck in patterns or reoccurring themes in our lives that require a shocking epiphany to give us the opportunity to see new possibilities and notice the obstacles that keep us from moving on.”
― Kat Lahr,

“Sometimes you can grow more in a shorter amount of time with the right company than years of soul-searching alone, or by living the same patterns you’ve lived for your entire life.”
― A.J. Darkholme

“The patterns we perceive are determined by the stories we want to believe.”
― John Verndon

What patterns do you see in the world around you? Sometimes, patterns can help us change things about ourselves. In the movie “Groundhod Day,” Bill Murray realized that he was living the same day over and over again – then, he came up with ways to fix the things that went wrong before.

Patterns help us improve our lives. They balance our perspective, and they add to its beauty.  They give us order and stability.

And they help us navigate DETOURS – which I spoke about last year at TEDx.

Find the beauty in the patterns

“Pay attention to the intricate patterns of your existence that you take for granted.”
― Doug Dillon

I’m working my way through February bit by bit, breath by breath.  I’ve got quite a big day at the end of the month, and lots of little excitements along the way.  And of course, every day can be an adventure 🙂

This week…notice the little patterns in life you take for granted.  What do you see?

Even a detour can be a pattern…

What do patterns mean to you?  What’s one pattern in your life right at this moment?


Recovery University- Course for Emerging Adults

Recovery University
Upcoming Course For Emerging Adults
This course is open to persons aged 18-29.
Apply before 5:00 pm on Friday, February 24th
Offered at a discount rate of $50

Recovery University is an 80-hour advanced training and certification program for persons with mental health histories. Upon successful completion of the course and the certification exam, graduates will be state certified as Recovery Support Specialists, Peer Delivered Services.

Many behavioral healthcare and mental health orgs and agencies, including the Connecticut DMHAS, have or are likely to be offering positions for Recovery Support Specialists. Many, if not most, of these job openings require that candidates be certified graduates of the Recovery University program. Here is a list potential employment opportunities: http://www.mindlink.org/jobs_ct.html#rss-jobs-ct

Parsons Government Center
City of Milford
70 W. River Street
Milford, CT 06460

Start Date: March 6, 2017
(Class dates: 3/6, 3/8, 3/13, 3/15, 3/20, 3/22, 3/27, and 3/29)
End Date: March 29, 2017
Certification Exam: Monday, April 3, 2017
Class Times: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm

To apply online please visit here: http://www.mindlink.org/recovery_university_schedule.html

Recovery Playlist: 10 Songs to Keep You on Track

Some of these songs are unconventional recovery songs, particularly the first three. But people listen to whatever song gets them up and going. Whether recovery from substance abuse or health challenges, I believe in you, these songs send very powerful messages. Listen; hear what people are saying.

1. Labrinth – Beneath Your Beautiful ft. Emeli Sandé

“My boy loved this song miss you so much rip taylon xx…’ Dawn. 

2. P!nk – Try

“Wow. I love this song… Very powerful.”

3. Back To Black “Fifty Shades Darker”. Cover by Beyonce Knowles. While I personally love Amy, I couldn’t stop playing this version recently done by Beyonce.


4. Eminem – Beautiful Pain (Music Video) ft. Sia

“I love this. Been there. Wow he really hits home with his lyrics.” Robin

5. Eminem – Beautiful Pain (Music Video) ft. Sia – I have written many poems while listening to this song. I have walked in the cold listening to this song. I have cried listening to this song. Perhaps Eminem’s greatest!


On average, I think I listen to this song 14 times each week (that’s 7 days per week, at least twice each day) – my new favorite song. I still think Macklemore is one of the most underrated artist.

7. Macklemore – Otherside Ft. Fences (Official Music Video)

“I love this song i cry when i hear it” Ana

8. Staind – It’s Been Awhile (Video)

“crazy how walking away is harder than standing still!” Eby

9. Train – Drops of Jupiter (Official Video)

“Omg……why am I crying????”

10. James Blunt – Same Mistake (video)

“I absolutely love your voice !!!” Cheryl

Life is a Job – And Here’s Why That’s Awesome.

Tell Me a Story

Sometimes all it takes is a good book to get you thinking a bit differently.

One of my favorite books to get through hard times? The Upside of Trauma, by Jim Rendon.

Life's Little Detours: 50 Lessons to Find and Hold Onto Happiness

Another book that has helped me is Life’s Little Detours – I’ve written many times before about my own “Beautiful Detour” – if life had gone on the path we had planned for ourselves, wouldn’t we have missed the flowers along the way?

Fantasy Walk

So understandably, seeing this title stopped me in my tracks!

One last book I’d like to share with you is Embracing Uncertainty – a book that made the phrase Feel the fear and do it anyway a household phrase – well at least in MY household!

My life was the epitome of uncertainty for years.  Think about it.  I lost my stomach, doctors didn’t know when or IF I’d ever be able to eat or drink again.  *Non-stomach growling here* I had to make it from day to day just believing that some kind of miracle could happen.

Sometimes life is a job.  You don’t always feel like going to work – even if you love what you do.  Sometimes you’re just tired.  But you’ve got to show up.  You know why you applied in the first place.  And doing what you love can be so rewarding.

So today, LIVE what you love.  It’s a job.  And it won’t always be the funnest thing in the world – but you’ll get your paycheck sooner or later.

What are some books that have changed your life?  Definitely send me a comment – I need some good reads!

Forest Romance

I’m just now starting to work on a book of my own.  It will have my crazy story in it, but only to enhance my message – I want to show how we all deserve to share our stories, and not only do we deserve to, it is our right.  It’s how we heal, how we feel, and how we connect with ourselves and to each other.

That is what creativity means to me – telling, sharing, writing, art-ing, dancing, breathing, living, going to work at YOURLIFE Inc.

So put on your work clothes and show up!  IT’s a job.  And jobs can be oh so rewarding 🙂  Remember – it’ll be casual Friday before ya know it!

I started creating inchies years ago as a way to do small little artworks when I didn’t want to commit to a huge canvas and soon it became an obsession.


I made some inchies today just for fun.


Now that I’m selling so many inchies, I don’t always feel like making them.


But that’s okay.  Sometimes you don’t have to always feel “inspired” to do your job.  Maybe just by showing up, you’ll get there.  If you act healthy, you’ll feel healthy.  Sometimes you gotta fake it till ya make it – that goes for work, creativity AND life.

That’s why, even when I was in the hospital recovering from surgery…I still found a way to make art.

I don’t like the idea of “waiting” for things to get better.  We spend enough time waiting for traffic lights to change.

When life gets tough, think about the why behind YOU.  What drives you to get up every morning?

Sometimes you don’t know how something will work out.  Sometimes you don’t know why you’re creating in the first place.

But if it makes you happy…you don’t need the why.  THAT’s your why,

Have you read a book that has helped you see differently?  Sometimes we just need to read the words of others to tell us something we’ve known all along.


Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light. –Vera Nazarian

Get Physical for Mental Health…with ART!

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

― Shel Silverstein

Why not start February with a quote from one of my favorite children’s book authors?

February is a time of transition.  But, we don’t have to wait for a groundhog to tell us whether we’re getting a few more weeks of winter or not. 

Positive Thinking may not always be easy when it’s still looking bleak outside…

But thankfully, that’s what art is for.

Not sure where to start with art? Start small. Make an INCHIE.

What’s an INCHIE?  Literally a collage that was 1 in tall and 1 inch wide – little miniature thumbnail sketches of how I felt.

I made hundreds when stuck at Yale hospital for months. I love creating inchie art, and in dire medical circumstances, this was the best way to express my uneasiness in the midst of uncertainty.

Each individual inchie expressed a fear, worry or concern I had about my future.

 I called this “Can’t Distract” because I was unable to take my thoughts away from this anxiety.  Rather than deny these thoughts, I made art from them.  Suddenly, they became less scary.  Art made your fears and concerns visual so you can begin to deal with them.

Art makes you comfortable with uncertainty

Just like the uncertainty of Yale hospital I could use my art as a metaphor for the best mindset to have: getting creative with uncertainty.

The pieces I had the most fun creating are the ones that I have no expectations for.  Like life!

 This started by some random shredding and gluing of newspapers, magazines,  coupons, plastic wrap, gum wrappers, and whatever else I was about to throw out.  Then, I spent hours just painting layers and layers of paint, trying to obscure some of the printed text.  Eventually, this face emerged.

 For me, this symbolized the process of finding myself – hard to find at first, but with each and every layer, applied tediously and determinedly with meticulousness and great care, my a face eventually surfaced.

So yes, art is definitely a way to warm up your February…

To get my morning started, I always need to wake up to something physical.  It can be a walk, yoga…but you know what?  Art is a great way to get physical too!  And use all of your senses to create color, light and hope.

Because there is always hope, Detourists!

You’re Not Alone on Your Detour

We all have detours in life, and they are easier to get through when we share them.  Remember to use #LoveMyDetour and show the world that a Detour is Not a Dead End.

And learn how to share your own detour here!  If you want to share anything at all about any detour in your life, I would love to hear – we’re stronger together!

That’s all for this week, Detourists.  I’m off to do some last minute rehearsing…I’ve got a show to do this Sunday! (And it involves NO football)

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”
― William Faulkner

This is the only way to make JOY up to you – and it’s super-easy.

“Happiness is a butterfly, which once pursued is always beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne


How do you keep your resolutions on a life detour?

If you haven’t, it’s okay. Go easy on yourself.  My resolution was to relax – I haven’t done much of that yet!  February is around the corner, and if you haven’t been keeping your New Year’s resolutions, simplify the rest of your year with one of my favorite mantras:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch your words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Think about the past month. The first month of 2017.  Did you create any habits?  Break any?  If you’ like to learn a bit more about being mindful, check out my post on being in the moment – it’s easier than you think.

How do you be in the moment? See things with new eyes…

Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul. —W. Somerset Maugham

One of the coolest things about being a human is that we get to make choices. It can also be one of the scariest things.  In each moment, we have a choice to make our day whatever we want it to be.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but we truly do. if you’re having a bad day, you can make a choice.  Maybe your choice is to grab a cup of coffee.  Maybe your choice is to run into a corner where no one can hear you and screen.  Choices can be really simple.

Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. It’s hard being human…because sometimes there seem like way too many choices to choose from! (…like the amazing food spread!)

But sometimes, the most empowering thing is to just know we DO have a choice. There is always something we can do to make any moment more pleasant.

Remember – freedom is a verb.

Medically, I still have my ups and downs – and on my blog, I try to share as much of that as I can, because things are always easier when you can talk about it. 

But at even the darkest of times, I try to remind myself that joy can be up to me. Check this out!

My super-secret joy formula is…(by the way, I have tons more of this in my upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour)


I – I create the quality of my life with my ongoing thoughts.

T – The choice of joy or the opposite is mine.

S – See, hear, and feel the way joyful people see, hear, and feel.

U – Unjoy is created by negative T.W.A: thoughts, words, and actions.

P – Perspective makes me happy or unhappy.

T – Talk to yourself the way you would if you were a master of joy.

O – Oneness of humanity gives me many opportunities for kindness.

M – My unconditional joy & love creates a magnificent life.

E – Every moment of joy is stored in my awesome brain and I can access those moments whenever I choose.


It’s my drive to find joy wherever I can that has gotten me this far, I believe.

And it can get you there too.

Safe Travel, Detourists!


(Interested in seeing Gutless & Grateful in New York, or a few other states this year?  Check out where I’ll be!)

Drug Dreams

Often in recovery and sobriety, addicts experience something called a “drug dream”. It’s a dream that involves using, being high, and/or getting the drug. I’ve experienced many different versions of these dreams and often wake up in a panic, wondering if it had really happened or not. I remember one time it took me over an hour to figure out if I had relapsed or not and my anxiety was intense. After I’ve realized that it was only a dream, the feeling of relief would take over me. The gratitude of realizing that it was in fact “only a dream” would keep me humble in my recovery, too.

Although I would be relieved that it was a dream, I sometimes would be feeling “off” throughout the next day or two. The scene of the dream replays in my mind over and over. Unfortunately, drug dreams also can cause urges to get high and be a huge trigger. I’m grateful that when I first experienced a drug dream, I had a ton of resources to help me get through it. My best coping mechanism is prayer. I would hit my knees and pray for God to remove the unwelcomed desire. Sometimes I would struggle throughout the day and maybe not be as cheery as I normally am, but I didn’t use which was the most important thing. After praying, I would call someone in my support network and be honest about the dream and how it was making me feel. That honesty would be a great help because I was avoiding suppressing the emotions that the dream made me feel.

I recently had a drug dream, but this time the dream went different. It wasn’t me getting high. Instead, I was in the city that I used to get my drugs from and I ran into an old dealer. Even after telling the dealer how my life is different now and that I no longer use, he placed a few bags of heroin in my hand discreetly and said to me, “Here, take these. Just in case you change your mind.”

I held the bags in my hand and walked away. I put them in my pocket as I walked down the busy street. The Monkey came to me in my dream and was trying to convince me to get high. I battled with The Monkey and was refusing to get high, but I kept the bags in my pocket. I started to think that maybe just one time I can use.

Then my dream went a direction a drug dream rarely ever goes. I gained some courage and grabbed the bags out of my pocket and walked over to the closest storm drain. With so much anger, I threw the bags down the drain and walked away. I was so mad at myself that I kept the bags for the short amount of time that I did. I woke up shortly after destroying the bags.

I couldn’t believe that even in a dream, I resisted the temptation of getting high and ultimately didn’t use. I was so relieved when I woke up and I felt empowered. I felt a sense of confidence in my recovery because I could remain sober, even in that state of mind.

That dream made me reflect on my progress of recovery. I was so thankful to God for staying so faithful to His promises and always being there for me. I’m still in shock that I fought the temptation in my dream.

Combining Technology and Mental Health

I wasn’t too sure which category to put this information about, so I chose Best & Worst because research is my passion and this study is one of the best ideas ever (okay, maybe that was a little biased)!

This morning, a woman who coordinates the radio show for my company told me about this amazing man named Adam Gazzaley who works for UCSF.
This man has created a new way to help people with PTSD, ADHD, and other disorders by rewiring their brain through technology.
You can listen to their interview here:

Let me explain:

They use a virtual reality video game device to help with memory tasks as well as connect it to a cap worn on the participant’s head to transmit the mapping signals in someone’s brain (if you’ve ever had an EEG, it is just like that). This means, it can teach the game where the brain needs the most help in rewiring and the game adjusts to the participant’s needs.

The best part about this study is that it is an alternative to medication, can reduce the use of pain medication for those with back pain, and so much more!

My Fiance has experienced significant trauma in his early childhood, which has impaired his memory and brain functioning tremendously (focus is the main struggle). He just registered for the study in hope it will help him and contribute to their research.

We hope this opportunity will help other young adults as well – so check it out! This will most likely be the new “prescription” for many people in our generation needing alternative ways to handle their mental health.


Theatre is the Best Mental Health Teacher

As people, we all have stories.  And as actors, we tell stories constantly.  I first told mine over five years ago.  Not only to myself, but to complete strangers and New York theatregoers.   Fresh out of my 27th surgery, I performed words from journal entries I wrote years ago as a way to pass the time between the endless series of medical interventions.  Every time I “perform” what happened to me, I find myself somehow transformed in the process.

Theatre has the power to change lives, both for those directly involved and those who watch. Theatre teaches us we’re capable of anything – and usually tells us this at times we need it most. And that’s why theatre is the best mental health resource I can think of.

10 Ways Theatre Proves We’re Capable of Anything

  1. Wishing we were someone else is okay sometimes – It plants a seed for what we can ultimately become, if we keep wishing.
  2. When others believe in you, you feel capable of anything.
  3. Getting to learn about other people’s stories is inspiring and empowering.  It makes us realize what we can be capable of.
  4. You are capable of making an impact on even those who have impacted you.  Don’t get intimidated by those you admire.  You just may have something to teach them!
  5. When others believe in you, you feel capable of anything.
  6. Don’t be afraid to speak up, be aggressive or to ask for what you ned..  You are capable of making an impact, so flaunt what you’ve got and know you’re capable of being amazing!
  7. My show talks about my life, but it’s not a show about me.  It’s about us, our stories, keeping hope alive, and staying healthy in our minds as well as our bodies.  That’s why I couldn’t be prouder to be able to help others.
  8. You’re always capable of making a comeback.  Just come back.
  9. It’s okay to take a break, but don’t give up.  You’re capable of a second wind that lasts.
  10. Think no one can relate to your problems?   No matter how “unique” your detour is, you’re not alone.

Performing theatre showed me what I’m capable of, but more importantly, that we are all capable of understanding each other.  That’s how theatre creates empathy, fights stigma, and creates a world based on compassion.

Now get out there, see a show, do a dance, and make your mark on this world.


Amy will be performing Gutless & Grateful, her one woman musical on February 5th and March 26th in NYC at the Metropolitan Room. If you’d like to perform Gutless & Grateful as a student, send a playwright inquiry. Learn about her mental health & leadership programs for students, and find out how to take part in the #LoveMyDetour movement, fighting stigma with stories

Five Steps to Transforming This January Into the Greatest 2017

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Happy New Year! (Are you ready?)


As we approach the first month of 2017,  I wish you  joy, health, community and deep breaths of gratitude – you’re here, you’re awesome and you’ve made it this far!

Creativity is a mindset... (3)

So what now?  Check out my some past posts I’ve done on manifesting joy.  But to get your started…

Five Experiences to Welcome in 2017.

1.) Practice Compassion.

Do a random act of kindness today by wishing Happy New Year to one Facebook Friend you wouldn’t regularly chat with.  Tell someone in your life how grateful you are for them that you might not go out of your way to thank.

Here, My Heart

Need some help understanding compassion? This TED Talk by Krista Tippet explains it beautifully!  You can also read a piece I wrote for her On Being blog about finding faith in the ICU.  Or heck, watch my TEDx Talk – the best way we can find compassion for others is knowing that we’re ALL traveling detours together. 

2.) Start a vision board.

Dreams Incomplete

This was my first vision board. You can see some others I’ve created and some tips here.

A vision board is just a visual manifestation of whatever you want for yourself this year.  You can paint it, cut out pictures from magazines and just tape them together, draw it, make a cartoon, a collage – really anything goes.  This help you visualize what you long for, what your goals are, and where you see yourself in 2017.  Sometimes it helps to have that image literally in front of you to look at, as a visual reminder to help you work from the outside in.

3.) Do an easy, three-step meditation.

Break Free Amy Oestreicher

This will help you focus your 2017 intentions on your vision board.

Step one: Focus on your breath, don’t change it, but notice it.  If it were a color, what would it be?

Step Two: Notice any sensations that accompany your breath.  What do you physically feel in your body?

Step Three: notice the rhythm, texture, temperature of your breath. How does your breath resonate in your body?

4.) Eat something spectacular.

Or bake it!

Do you need an excuse to bring out your inner foodie?  Think about the very first nourishment you’ll give your body in 2016 – this is a big deal!  Remember, you are what you eat.  So think about what you’d like to be this year, and then think about what food would really make your body smile from the inside out.

P.S. Food can help us cope with anything…did you know when I couldn’t eat, I started a chocolate business just so I could play with candy?

Check out some of my “just for fun” art

5.) Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.


You know me with my gratitude.  But why not?  When we know what we’re grateful for, we know what we’re about.  We bring out the best in ourselves, in our world, and in each other.  Go on, practice your ABC’s…Letter that piece of paper from A to Z and think something from 2015 you’re grateful for for each letter.

Grateful List

Stare at that list and relish how much good there already is in your life.


Now look at your vision board and savor how much more you have to strive for and look forward to.

It is a wonder to be alive on this earth. Any year, day, time, place moment.

You are here.  And that is why you are incredible.  Never forget it, even when times are tough.  No one, no detour, no nothing can ever take away how very capable you are.


I hope that 2017 is filled with so many detours, twists and turns in your life, you get completely lost, completely sidetracked, lose yourself unexpectedly and find yourself on that beautiful, twisty turny journey.  Remember  – you’re a DETOURIST.  You got this!

Remember, there are a whole bunch of Detourists traveling along with you – and you can share your journey too!

Safe, beautiful New Year travels, Detourists!  

me in studio

I’ll be in my studio…


Amy, your Detourist Field Guide

Oh, and if you need more inspiration, check out my blog!

Could I Understand My PTSD Through Writing a Play About it?

The Definition of “Flicker”:

to move unsteadily. To burn or shine fitfully with a fluctuating light. Fluctuating between two worlds.

My Definition of “Flicker”:

Or, as a psychic once told my mother as I lay in a coma, “She’s deciding which way she wants to go.”

And, as my mother retorted, “Well, she doesn’t have a choice.” (Psychic is then “escorted” out of the Pediatric ICU.)

“Fight, my warrior, fight,” were the words my mother determinedly whispered to me throughout the months of my coma. Only she knew the real burn I was battling to save myself from: a secret that threatened to extinguish my inner fire, long before my external world, as I knew it, spontaneously combusted overnight.


So, how does a fitful movement of light, a smoldering glow, a molested teenager, a comatose nomad, or a paralyzed family learn to be more than a flash in the dark once they’ve been burned?

After trauma, can we ever be more than a flicker in the dark?

 I’d call myself a flicker that “fluctuated fitfully” to find myself. And Flickers and a Firestarter is a story that “fluctuated fitfully” to find itself.  It’s a full-length, fully-lived play I wrote that fluctuated to find itself too.  Together, we flickered, tossed and turned, wracking our brains figuring out how to reclaim life from the crushed, icy wastelands of trauma.

I  wrote a show about it all, Gutless & Grateful.  In putting together the arc of a 70-minute musical, I was coming to terms with the “detoured” framework of my life.  Giving my story a dramatic arc was a way to reframe my own narrative, and find the meaning in what I had been through: nearly 30 surgeries, six years unable to eat and drink, and perhaps a little mention that I had been sexually abused by my voice teacher shortly before my stomach exploded my senior year of high school. 

I wasn’t sure how sexual abuse fit into my story yet.

Perhaps it was because I hadn’t figured out what being a survivor of sexual abuse meant to me at all.

Did Sexual Assault “Fit” In My Story?

Sexual assault is a big burden to carry as a secret – and none of the news stories were talking about anything other than my total gastrectomy and organ failure. In fact, my abuser was still teaching. (He still is.) Where did this experience fit into my narrative?

I learned that the memories I was still struggling with would not be solved by a musical comedy.  In my “gutsy” life-story theatrical debut, I was joyously overwhelmed by rave reviews from New York theatre critics.

But there was one line from an otherwise great review that stuck with me:

 “Although there is, of course, a connection between mind and body, it was somewhat hard to swallow that the source of her illness could be blamed on being raped, which was implied at the beginning.”

Really?  Hard to swallow?

Did Critics Prove Me Wrong?

I was hurt, upset, and perhaps a bit insecure. Maybe she was right. How could I have the nerve to connect sexual abuse to my stomach exploding months later?  Re-reading this line on my phone before my final performance, I started to question what I was never really sure about in the first place. Was she making jest on the theory that even doctors were leaning towards? When people heard about my crazy story, the first question they always asked was, “So what made your stomach explode?”  I didn’t know – I wasn’t the doctor.  But the more I researched on the science of stress, the more I was pulled to investigate this further. And the more research I did, the more startled I was by what I found.

Searching For a Mind-Body Connection

The only thing that connected molestation, secrets, hurt, pain, stomach ache, blood clot, and a coma was…me –my own soul, my own mind, my own emotions.  Remembering how the energy in my body felt at each stage, perhaps my instincts were right.

Could Anxiety Lead to a Coma?

After all, the anxiety I felt in my core that made it hard to focus in high school, and the knotting in my chest had to be more than just mind games. There had to be some science to this.  Or at least, as a playwright, it was my duty to illustrate what appeared so clear to me.

When I was betrayed by someone whom I really trusted, I froze.  I literally don’t remember thinking anything.  My abuser himself called me a “space-cadet.”  As I sang for him the next week in lessons, he said, “Amy, it looks like your inspiration has run dry.” Why couldn’t I act with the same gusto in my songs?   I froze to protect myself from frantic, tumultuous feelings that were suddenly tormenting me every waking second. I turned off my emotional radar and turned my heart to ice, to preserve it.  I even remember suddenly feeling physically cold all of the time.

The Evolution of Numbness

When you undergo any kind of trauma, it causes a disturbance in emotions that once came so naturally at a time.  My body stopped breathing the same way it used to – a big knot of tension evolved in my chest and remained there like a cocoon.  My thoughts became corrupted – I couldn’t think in my naturally poetic way.  Suddenly my world became rigidly controlled by numbers and mechanical, compulsive thinking. I couldn’t deal with everyday life. I was too busy hiding my soul in a dark corner so to shield it from the hurt I felt.  Without your soul, you are only half a person, a machine who is constantly running from reality.  I put up a daze like four safe walls that protected me from being consciously present in the abuse, and when the abuse ended, my daze remained.  I lived in a world separate from everyone else. 

How Can You Go From Feeling to Frozen Overnight?

I froze after abuse and froze again months later, waking up in an ICU. So how could I finally connect those two parts of me once and for all? The frozen warrior I had been when my voice teacher abused me. The frozen warrior I had to become when suddenly bound to IV machines for nourishment? How could I take those two ice-cold states of numbness I felt and break through them once and for all?

Could I Ever Make Something of This…and Myself?

Would I ever become more than just a flicker?

What’s a flicker? “To move about or behave in an agitated aimless manner.” A temporary growth of activity, and then, to die.  A flicker is a flash, a flurry. It’s a light source that flares up, just to subside.  A flicker doesn’t usually turn into anything.  It’s an almost imperceptible sign of something, and then back to darkness.  Yet a flicker saturates the air with a lingering heat. Even in the darkness, something has changed. 

What’s a flame?  A flame is a passionate burst of fire.  And a fire is…well, a fire is heat. A fire is our life force.  A fire is what happens when our hearts are ignited with breath, with feelings, with secrets, with all the pain and pleasure of life.

I didn’t survive all of this crap to stay numb. I survived to flicker. And then ignite.

I believe we are all meant to be flames – not numb, frozen states of matter, and not a gaseous puff of past that has gone up in smoke.  We are meant to flicker – to fail and win – to feel hurt and love –  to dance fitfully between the light and the dark.  Only when we fluctuate between both worlds do we truly know how to start a fire.  And that is how I could use what I’ve learned from both the world of light and dark to create theatre: the ultimate eruption.

Trauma burns us.  It burns with painful memories and lessons that perhaps we weren’t ready to learn.

But a burn can rise from ashes, into flames, into fire, into LIFE. 

Trauma frigidly freezes us from the warmth of the human race.

Theatre warmly brings us back.

Trauma makes us forget our inner power.

Theatre makes us tell truths to an audience and to yourself.

Theatre sets us on fire, from a flicker to a flame. 

And rediscovering my inner fire was exactly what I needed all along, to “crush” through my icy numbness, to unpack my secrets in storage, and to transform my traumatic imprints into a FIERY warrior’s thunderbolt scar.

Proving a Coma Through Theatre?

I’ve always sensed that the fire in my belly – the stomach ache that turned into a coma hours later – had been caused by seeds planted from a betrayal months prior.  But I couldn’t find the words. I couldn’t find the story.


Whether my “medical theory” is true or not, I needed to make that connection for myself, and theatre helped me get there. Through theatre. we learn lessons about ourselves that we seem to have known all along.  But now they become a fierce part of our identity, and a gift we can give to the world.

And that’s the power of  theatre.

We feel heard even if we’re saying nothing at all.

As creators and audience members interact with the space, we engage in a vital conversation we didn’t even know we had needed.

Theatre sets us on fire.   I was burnt 18 years old. I froze. I thawed. I burnt out.  I struggled to flicker between the innocent world  I once knew and the uncertain world ahead of me.  In that flickering, I discovered my flame, my hunger, my passion. I reignited my aliveness. I found what made me light up again.  I found me.

Trauma made me Flicker.  Theatre made me a Firestarter.

You can help make Amy’s full-length drama, Flicker and a Firestarter, a reality by making any pledge at patreon.com/amyo. While developing “Flicker,” Amy is also touring “Gutless & Grateful,” her BroadwayWorld-nominated one-woman autobiographical musical, to theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness to schools, hospitals, and international conferences. All artwork is self-taught from Amy’s “beautiful detour.” “Detourism” is also the subject of her TEDx Talk and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, available December 2017. She’s contributed to over 70 notable online and print publications, and her story has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, CBS, Cosmopolitan, among others. Learn about her art, music, theatre, advocacy, book, and inspiring story atamyoes.com, or “tweet me at @amyoes!”

These are the only Hope Hacks you need. Seriously, and they’re this simple.

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, 
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…” 
― Alfred Tennyson

Hey Detourists! I HOPE you’re enjoying the last few weeks of 2017.

The Importance of Hope

HOPE is a strong word.  In one of my favorite posts, Hard Core Survival Skills You Can’t Live Without,I discuss my “four hard core survival skills.” This is basically my recipe for resilience.  

One of those skills is essential in making it from day to day:  HOPE.



Hope is a job.  It has to be actively created in difficult times, and it may be very hard to find.  Sometimes, we need to lie to ourselves to create hope. It’s a fabrication, a willing suspension of disbelief, and a willingness to trust in something that isn’t there.  As hard as this may be sometimes, without hope, we have nothing to hang onto. 

Girl with Red Flower

And if we don’t hang on, how will we ever know if things can get better?  This week, create hope yourself.

Here’s my HOPE HACK for the week:  

Make creating hope a fun challenge…

Did you know that Green Egs and Ham by Dr. Suess was created as the result of a bet? Seuss’ editor challenged the author to write a book with 50 or fewer words used over and over again. That is how Sam-I-Am came to be! 

Your Challenge: This week, be like Dr. Suess. Give yourself a time limit, or a restriction like a word count. And create something. Sometimes, limits are what we need to thrive. You can always download my free e-book of creativity exercises for that.

A Limit for Hope?

Limits and deadlines work! According to a study by MIT Sloan School of Management and INSEAD Business School, setting self-determined deadlines for completing a project improves task performance and decreases procrastination. Simply give yourself a set amount of time to finish a task. Sometimes, HOPE takes a bit of pressure to be created!

There are times for limits, and there are times for no limits

HOPE HACK #2: Another way to create hope is the look to the world of nature – a world of limitless, endless inspiration. You can discover some of my favorite ways to find hope in nature here, and also check out my post How to Lose Your Limits, Discover Magic and Love Your Detour.

Finding Hope When You Need it Most

When  trauma left me dead inside, I turned to the world around me to find the life in it to bring life into myself. Open your eyes and look around you. Hope lives in the most uncanny places.

Now, here’s the dictionary definition of hope: 

  1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
    “he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information”
    When Something Feels Right 6 x 6 IMG_0499

Hope means creating something when it’s not there. It may not be real, substantiated, material fact or proof, but it’s the tangible fuel that keeps us going from one day to the next.

HOPE HACK #3: Blogging/Reading/Writing/WORDS!

Blogging: Starting my own blog opened a world of entdless inspiration. Even just journaling your thoughts helps!

Reading: How about a kid’s book? “The Soul Bird” is a wonderful children’s classic by Michal Snunit that has always kept me in touch with the awe-filled wonder that I love about being a kid. Is there a certain story that struck you deeply at a young age, that you always remember? I would love to hear some other suggestions!
“Not Just for Kids: The artsy, soul-filled motivation you need today. “https://amyoes.com/2016/10/24/kid-motivation/ Please share for anyone who needs a pick me up!

Journaling: If you’ve had a stressful month, art journaling is a proven, easy and inspiring way to find yourself again – the less of an artist you are, the better! Here’s the trick to getting started, and how it saved my life after trauma – https://amyoes.com/2016/11/04/fall-into-art-journaling-2/

What do you need to hope for this week?

Book Updates and Hope

chasing blue hope

Sometimes, it’s hard to have hope at all.  In an old journal, I found a passage of how hope enabled me to survive:

A few surgeries later doctors told me once again, to just stop eating and drinking altogether. That’s the phase of my life when I became obsessed with cooking. so I could still have contact with food. When I couldn’t eat, my favorite thing to make was deep dish pizza. Staying connected to food made me feel again – even though it hurt and was terribly difficult. The smell of my pizza cooking in the oven made me cry, and the tears felt like home.

Maybe those tears are what gave me hope that one day, I really would be able to eat again.

Cooking gave me hope that one day, food would once again be part of my life.”


Sometimes hope can produce beautiful treasures. Back when I couldn’t eat (for one of the many times), I would spend my mornings cooking and the afternoons locked in my art room to pass the time. Let’s just say there were many edible and paintable creations from all of those years!!!


HOPE HACK #20000: Here’s a fun way to cultivate hope: LAUGH!  Check out my post: If Humor is the Best Medicine, Here’s Why You’ll Love Being Certified in it

Theatre Creates Hope Too!


Writing my one-woman musical Gutless & Grateful gave me hope through hard times. Thetare can be the biggest  a lifeline in transforming trauma

Why? Because sometimes it helps when we hear the stories of others. They give us footprints to follow. 

The best Hope Hack of All

Here’s the secret: sometimes, we find the most hope when we hear someone else’s story.  Today, think about any “detour” in your life.  Think of ONE person that you met, just because of that detour.


Today, thank that person, who you never would have met, had your path been straightforward and simple.

Have a great weekend and happy, bumpy travels, Detourists!  


The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.” 
― Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

Musicians Left the Stage and Opened Up About Mental Health

Sometimes the greatest inspiration comes from the most unlikely places and I have to say much power to our musicians who have come forward this year to openly talk and express themselves about their recovery from mental illness. Earlier last week Lady Gaga broke the news about her struggle with PTSD while visiting the Ali Forney Center, and as we always see, with much stigma and ignorance, not everyone fully embraced her. None other than Piers Morgan tried to shame her on social media for what he called, and I quote his exact words, a “vain-glorious nonsense”. I was a bit surprised that someone, who I guess should have been as informed as Piers Morgan, would take such a stance, especially on this matter. I was happy nonetheless that Lady Gaga has agreed to do an interview with him, so thats something to look forward to. I was also happy that Gaga expressed herself in the right way when Mr. Morgan came out at her. She is a true inspiration and a very strong and brave lady.
And regardless of how we feel or don’t feel about Kanye, we have to show him some sympathy and respect for his journey. And names like Cudi, Zayne, Selena all taught us something this year, and much love to Jill Krajewski for this article: “The Year Musicians Left the Stage for the Timeline and Opened Up About Mental Health.” It basically sums up all the breakthroughs in music this year: https://noisey.vice.com/en_ca/article/the-year-musicians-left-the-stage-for-the-timeline-and-opened-up-about-mental-health.

Here’s Why Humor Really IS The Best Medicine

“Laughter is the best medicine.”

How many of us have heard this saying and lump it in the same category of “proven science” as “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down?”

Go ahead, laugh at it. It’s good for you!


It’s true. Laughing is actually good for your health. It creates connection, it stirs us from the inside out, it even strengthens your immune system.  When we look for the laughter in life – whether it’s laughing at a movie, giggling with a friend, or chuckling at ourselves, we can actually put ourselves on the path to improved health, joy, and even purpose. 

There are plenty of articles you can google to learn about the health benefits of laughter.  A good belly laugh can replenish us emotionally,psychologically, spiritually, and yes, even physically by boosting immunity, combatting stress, and alleviating chronic pain.

I’ll leave you to do the research.  You can search the internet, or you can become your own research subject. Laugh and see what happens.

Laughter and Me: A (pretty funny) Story of Survival


Over ten years ago, I had no choice but to become my own research subject.  When a coma literally changed my world overnight just after I had received my college acceptance letters, I woke up in a strange, scary new world.  I chose to laugh at fear, because the true terror of my situation – a situation that was completely out of my control, as doctors fought to save my life – was too overwhelming to worry over.  In a situation that I could do nothing to help, humor was all I had.  Humor was my way of finding joy in the cards I was dealt.  Once I chose to laugh at my fear, I became larger than it.  When I became larger than my fear, I was instantly empowered with a newfound sense of identity.  

2012-11-21 12.23.43

How did I find humor stuck in the surgical ICU for nearly a year? Oh, to plenty of ways. My brothers and I made up songs.  We set up plastic cups in the unit hallways to go “bowling.”  We broke out of the unit on thrilling wheelchair “rollercoaster rides.” I also caused a few other antics, which I share in my TEDx Talk.

The Super-Secret Humor Helpers…


But it wasn’t just me who was laughing. Often, it takes others to put a smile on your face in difficult circumstances.  And when I was stuck at Columbia Presybterian, I was greeted nearly every day by crazy mimes, clowns playing ukeleles, and friendly hospital staff making lightness where they could.  I’ve always wanted to find those people who brightened such dark times and personally thank them.
The Biggest helper of all…

I think the biggest way I can thank the people that came into my life “just for laughs” is to remember that there is always a spin I can put on a situation to make me smile. A deep laugh from your belly is one of the best feelings in the world. It can forms amazing connections. It creates a friendly vibe in the room. Who knows – it could make you feel a lot better. Not sure?


There’s only one way to find out…

Just kidding. Seriously.


Amy will be presenting at this year’s Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor 27th Annual Conference, The Holiday Inn Orlando, located in the Walt Disney World® Resort,
All artwork created by Amy “just playin’ around” in her art studio.  Catch Amy touring her award-winning one-woman musical,Gutless & Grateful, to theatres, colleges, conferences and organizations nationwide, and in NYC this year.  You can also watch her TEDx Talk, , and learn about her mixed media art, speaking, and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour at www.amyoes.com.

Transgender Awareness Month and True Colors

Here are some events coming up that might interest you if you are in the Hartford or Fairfield County area:

Transgender Day of Remembrance: This honors the lives of our transgender brothers and sisters who have been lost to murder or suicide. 2016 has especially been a very tragic year, with record numbers of transgender victims of murder. This is a must for me, but of course if you are interested in going to the event, it will be held at Triangle Community Center (618 West Ave, Norwalk) this Sunday, November 20th. You will need to RSVP so feel free to do so here: http://www.ctpridecenter.org/tdor_2016.

Also, in Hartford, True Colors will be having a very important community discussion about advocating for yourself and others, in the new regime. The event is on Rainbow Friday, November 25th. RSVP to Melissa@ourtruecolors.org or join the the group any Friday night for free activities at 30 Arbor Street, Suite 201A, Hartford, CT beginning at 6:30.

Healthy Habits to Kickstart a Great November

What’s a habit?

a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
“this can develop into a bad habit”

What’s a “healthy” habit?

A behavior that is beneficial to one’s physical or mental health, often linked to a high level of discipline and self-control. This might include regular exercise, or a balanced diet.

So what are “Detourist” healthy habits?
I have four of them, and I can’t wait to share them with you…

I try to do something creative every day. Creativity and gratitude not only saved my life, they gave me a new perspective on living a HEALTHY life.

Bored and surfing the internet? Find some inspirational quotes to surround yourself with.  Quotes are great “road signs” to help keep your detour on track!


Inspirational quotes are great reminders too.  They remind us what’s important in life. They remind us to be aware.  They remind us to be mindful.

Not STUCK in our minds…

I try to find moments of mindfulness every day. – that’s a VERY powerful healthy habit!
These are key ideas to my “four hard core skills” that are great attitudes for success.

Healthy recipes make up a huge component of physical health. But what about mental health?

I’ve got a great recipe for you – a Recipe for the most healthy habit at all:  Being Resilient.
We can navigate any detour in life through creating our own Recipe for Resilience.

Here are the four secret ingredients.  Ready?
·     The Power of Stories: Sharing our story is healthy, as is learning our stories for ourselves, and allowing ourselves to be affected by the stories of others.
·     Gratitude: We can cultivate hope through gratitude. Through simple exercises and habits, including the discipline or a daily gratitude list, we become grounded in who we are, once we know what our values are and what we stand for.  Once anchored in ourselves, we can begin to access our inner-trust and compass to navigate our detours.
·     Creativity: Once we become grounded in who we are through gratitude, we can use creativity to center ourselves and propel us forward. Through creativity, we are able to be with our experiences and emotions that may be too painful, frightening or overwhelming for words, as well as experiences that have yet to be acknowledged.  So start with a doodle!
·     Hope: Hope can start out as a “lie” we tell ourselves – or as one occupational therapist told me, “therapeutic lying.” Cultivating hope can be hard work, intentional fabrication, or willing suspension of disbelief – but it is our active duty. Give yourself a reason to be hopeful – even if you have to make it up for now.

What are your healthy habits? What’s in YOUR recipe for resilience?


A habit is something you do every day.  So find one small thing you can do -share a story, make a gratitude list, doodle on a napkin, or find one thing to hope for.  And keep it up!

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright. As the creator of  “Gutless & Grateful,” her BroadwayWorld-nominated one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness  and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences.    To celebrate her own “beautiful detour”, Amy created the #LoveMyDetour campaign, to help others cope in the face of unexpected events.  “Detourism” is also the subject of her TEDx and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, available December 2017.  She’s contributed to over 70 notable online and print publications, and her story has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, CBS, Cosmopolitan, among others.    Learn about her art, music, theatre, advocacy, book, and inspiring story at amyoes.com, or “tweet me at @amyoes!”

What do you do with your "limitations?"

Do you feel like you have a certain “limitation?” Maybe it’s a mental or physical limitation that you feel holds you back from school, work, friends, or life in general?

Yes, I do need to make some adjustments to live in the real world. You could even call some of those adjustments “limitations.” I believe that you don’t need to find the “meaning” from every hardship in life, but you

Everyone has “limits” – whatever they are. But we’re not limited people. We’re people with limits. People who lead full, enriching lives, and go on to have wonderful, rewarding experiences in school, work and life. For a long time, I wanted to just be “normal.” But not anymore. I look at all my surgical scars as my warrior scars, and we all have scars, some visible, some not. And wouldn’t you rather stand out?

I have to admit that there are times I just don’t want to put up with my circumstances anymore, let alone maintain an entire business But then I think about what I love doing in life and the reward of giving back through doing what I love – how it allows me to feel connected and a part of the moving, flowing real world – something that I longed for or years coming out of my coma. And I wouldn’t give that up for the world. Yes, I do need to make some adjustments to live in the real world. You could even call some of those adjustments “limitations.” I believe that you don’t need to find the “meaning” from every hardship in life, but you do need to find ways to work with that hardship so it doesn’t run your life. I do find that getting out there, into the world and finding ways to live what you love, ultimately is worth it – at all costs. I’ve done more in the 4 years since this disability than most people do in their entire lifetimes – use the adversity as momentum!

Yes, I do need to make some adjustments to live in the real world. You could even call some of those adjustments “limitations.” I believe that you don’t need to find the “meaning” from every hardship in life, but you

Having been affected by illness, dissociation, disability and chronic conditions, my mission with Gutless & Grateful is to provide hope, help and resources, starting a vital conversation for communities on trauma’s extensive impact, as well as the tremendous gifts that can be reaped.

Gutless & Grateful
To persevere through those tumultuous years took great inner and outer strength – strength I didn’t know I was capable of until I was tested.
I learned that the human spirit feeds off of hope, and hope is fuel we can cultivate ourselves. Ultimately, I learned that with resourcefulness, creativity, and unwavering curiosity, we can transform any adversity into personal growth and a resilience that is uniquely ours.
An empowered approach to wellness means knowing your needs well enough to speak up for them. Feeling different from everyone else – like you’ve got limitations no one else has to cope with? Love your limits so you can lose them.
Take care of your unique needs in order to celebrate them.

How will you celebrate your limits today?

All artwork was created by Amy to take care of her own mental health. Learn about her mental health advocacy programs, her art giveaways for students, and find out how to speak up for mental health with the #LoveMyDetour movement at amyoes.com
Follow Amy Oestreicher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/amyoes

What do you do with your "limitations?"

Do you feel like you have a certain “limitation?”  Maybe it’s a mental or physical limitation that you feel holds you back from school, work, friends, or life in general?

Yes, I do need to make some adjustments to live in the real world. You could even call some of those adjustments “limitations.” I believe that you don’t need to find the “meaning” from every hardship in life, but you

Everyone has “limits” – whatever they are. But we’re not limited people. We’re people with limits. People who lead full, enriching lives, and go on to have wonderful, rewarding experiences in school, work and life. For a long time, I wanted to just be “normal.” But not anymore.  I look at all my surgical scars as my warrior scars, and we all have scars, some visible, some not. And wouldn’t you rather stand out?

I have to admit that there are times I just don’t want to put up with my circumstances anymore, let alone maintain an entire business But then I think about what I love doing in life and the reward of giving back through doing what I love – how it allows me to feel connected and a part of the moving, flowing real world – something that I longed for or years coming out of my coma. And I wouldn’t give that up for the world. Yes, I do need to make some adjustments to live in the real world. You could even call some of those adjustments “limitations.” I believe that you don’t need to find the “meaning” from every hardship in life, but you do need to find ways to work with that hardship so it doesn’t run your life. I do find that getting out there, into the world and finding ways to live what you love, ultimately is worth it – at all costs. I’ve done more in the 4 years since this disability than most people do in their entire lifetimes – use the adversity as momentum!


Having been affected by illness, dissociation, disability and chronic conditions, my mission with Gutless & Grateful is to provide hope, help and resources, starting a vital conversation for communities on trauma’s extensive impact, as well as the tremendous gifts that can be reaped.


  To persevere through those tumultuous years took great inner and outer strength – strength I didn’t know I was capable of until I was tested.

I learned that the human spirit feeds off of hope, and hope is fuel we can cultivate ourselves.  Ultimately, I learned that with resourcefulness, creativity, and unwavering curiosity, we can transform any adversity into personal growth and a resilience that is uniquely ours.
An empowered approach to wellness means knowing your needs well enough to speak up for them.  Feeling different from everyone else – like you’ve got limitations no one else has to cope with?  Love your limits so you can lose them.
Take care of your unique needs in order to celebrate them.
How will you celebrate your limits today?

All artwork was created by Amy to take care of her own mental health. Learn about her mental health advocacyprograms, her art giveawaysfor students, and find out how to speak up for mental health with the #LoveMyDetour movement.


So I came across this article, “How Nature Helps Me Stay Grounded in Moments of Anxiety”, which I think was really interesting. The writer pointed out a coping skill for anxiety which I think is pretty clever, easy and really helpful… Its just a great way to master your focus. You can see the link below and a description of the technique:

How Nature Helps Me Stay Grounded in Moments of Anxiety

“One of the coping methods I have learned is called grounding. It involves looking around and identifying five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This technique gets me out of my own head, so to speak, and it pulls me back into my surroundings. I am required to get in touch with my own senses and realize I’m still here. That reconnection with my senses, my surroundings and myself has sometimes been enough to stave off a panic attack.”

The Greatest

The Aussie woman behind the platinum blonde wig has quite a story and although many people know about her success in the music industry, many don’t know her recovery story as well. If you haven’t guessed who am referring to already, I am talking about Sia Furler or as most people know her as just “Sia.”

In her early years of fame, Sia showed her face to the public and performed independently as well as with the band Zero 7. She didn’t become extremely popular in the US until her powerful album debuted in 2014 called 100 Forms of Fear. However, Sia wrote many pop songs for artists such as for Rihanna (Diamonds), Flo Rida (Wild Ones), and many collaborations with artists such as David Guetta (Titanium). So we have heard her music and her voice for a long time, but why have we not seen more of her til recently?
Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Sia struggled with balancing her mental health with the fame. She was so stressed and overwhelmed, she unfortunately developed an addiction to prescription pills and alcohol which made her spiral into a deep depression. On top of losing her boyfriend in a horrific accident in 2010, Sia started isolating herself. At one point, she was so depressed and was planning to end her life until a friend reached out to her to seek treatment.

Since then, Sia has committed to being sober and maintaining her mental wellness by keeping her face hidden from the media while still writing music for other artists and singing some of her own. She introduced a new genre of music “mystery” to world and proves how popular her music can be and how talented she is even if her back is to the audience. (Check out her interview and wonderful appearance in Carpool Karaoke with James Corden!)
Carpool Karaoke

I have the privilege to see her (or most of her) in concert at Mohegan Sun tomorrow 10/26! She has been such an inspiration to me and has helped me through some of the toughest moments in my life, as well as some of the best moments too. She has also incorporated a lot of dance in her videos and guest stars wearing the famous wig (Heidi Klum, Maddie Ziegler, Shia Labeouf, etc). which makes her music more entertaining and interesting.
Sia with Maddie

Do you have a favorite song by her? Is there another artist in recovery that you feel has inspired you?

"Coming Out" About Mental Illness

The first step to Recovery is acknowledging that something is wrong. But what if you are too ashamed, scared or proud to acknowledge that something is wrong? This is when things can go awry, especially when it comes to mental illness, for which the results of denial can be very serious (even fatal). And with the stigma which still surrounds mental illness, it can make this issue especially difficult to accept.

Thankfully, there is a movement underway to decrease the stigma which surrounds mental illness. While public awareness on mental health issues has been happening for years as the subject of film, literature and drama, more recently it has been the subject of entertainment news and pop culture as more and more celebrities (many of them young) are “coming out” about their experiences with mental illness. Among those who are open about their lived experience (or that of a loved one) include: Demi Lovato, Wentworth Miller, Kristen Bell, Glenn Close, Alanis Morrisette, Roseanne Barr, among others.

As a queer person, I understand the sense of power that come from this sort of acknowledgment of an intrinsic part of oneself, and the relief that comes with it as well. And there is power in having positive role models with whom you can identify, especially in such a deeply personal way as mental illness. Furthermore, to be able to see examples of people surviving and thriving, as opposed to expiring (as is the case with many high profile individuals with mental illness) gives young people not only something to take solace in, but to take pride in. Like with being gay, it is a feature of who we are and how we tick – nothing to be ashamed of but rather part of who we are. With mental illness, there are certain treatments which may be needed to help someone live a stable life, but there’s nothing wrong with that either – again, it’s just comes with the package.

As mental health advocates, we need to be creating safe spaces for people to reveal what can be deeply personal aspects of their being. Part of this comes from applauding those who have the courage to share. I am so glad to see more and more people opening up about their struggles with mental illness and am hopeful about what this holds for the future.

Having issues w/ mental health services reimbursement from insurance?

Calling all advocates! If you have private health insurance, have you had problems getting your insurance company to reimburse for mental health services?

Senator Chris Murphy is planning a press event on the issue of mental health parity, which is part of the mental health bill he’s trying to get passed at the federal level. He wants to have a consumer at the event who could speak about their personal issues in accessing care because of barriers from an insurance company.

The press event will likely be the last week of October or soon thereafter and will probably take place in Hartford.

If you have a story to tell (it should be based on recent experiences with private insurance, not state insurance) and would be willing to talk to the press, please contact Daniela Giordano of NAMI who is collecting names & contact info of people who might want to talk at the event. Her email is publicpolicy@namict.org or you can call (860) 882-0236 , ext. 30.

How to Dance Your Way Through Detours – Literally.

Before you read this…do a little happy dance!

Together We Can Reach Stars IMG_0407

Okay.  Now:  I want to share a video that made me cry, love, fear, learn, grow, smile and dance.

Sometimes, the best way to move through a struggle we may be experiencing is to literally move THROUGH it.  Physically moving our bodies is therapeutic.  It raises our endorphins, and gets our thinking gears to step to the sidelines for a bit – which is sometimes, exactly what we need to feel better.  There can be far more potent mediums that words to express ourselves – like dance.


Bill T. Jones: Still / Here with Bill Moyers from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Bill T. Jones, “an irreplaceable dance treasure” has created over 140 works for his own company, and for cdance companies all over the world.  This amazing documentary from 1997 is the making of the dance-theater piece, Still/Here, was the subject of a 1997 documentary by Bill Moyers and David Grubin.

“At workshops around the country, people facing life-threatening illnesses are asked to remember the highs and lows of their lives, and even imagine their own deaths. They then transform their feelings into expressive movement, which Jones incorporates into the dance performed later in the program. Jones demonstrates for Moyers the movements of his own life story — his first encounter with white people, confusion over his sexuality, his partner Arnie Zane’s untimely death from AIDS, and Jones’s own HIV status.”  Learn more here.


This documentary was both incredibly moving and  hard for me to watch – not in a bad way, it just made me feel…deeply!  After my coma, I used dance to get back in touch with my body after my 27 surgeries.  When I put on music, I’d start feeling each note filter through my body, and suddenly it felt as though something bigger than myself was flowing through me, granting me a new life force and vitality.  I felt energy, bounciness, rhythm and flexibility where I didn’t even know I had any!


I’ve been using dance to heal for a very long time.  In February 2005, my mother and I took a mother-daughter dance workshop after I had been molested and had, at that time, been holding in that secret for months.

Healing Through Dance

I remember getting so lost in the music , like that was my escape where I could get away from everything, yet be centered in what really mattered.  Years later, my mother told me that a woman came up to her at that 2005 workshop and said, “Please watch your daughter dance.  if you look closely, She is really struggling with a very big issue and she is calling out for help – find out why she is suffering,”

A Call – or Dance – For Help

Mommy Cant Fix This

My mom didn’t think anything of that woman’s ominous observation at the time.  it gave me goosebumps to hear that now, because it’s true, I was trying to dance out this big red ball of fire I was feeling in my gut, that I was too scared to talk about or think about myself.  But through dance, I was subconsciously screaming out the enormous secret I was withholding.

Dancing Back to My Body

After I was discharged from the hospital, I used dance and creativity as my therapy when I was too frustrated or overwhelmed to try to express my situation in words.

If you only have a minute for the Bill T Jones documentary, go to the 20 minute point.  A blonde, beautiful, soul-filled woman is dancing her “story”, and everything she’s saying as she passionately moves about – that’s exactly how I felt as I danced through my illness.  It was a way I could come to terms with it, to befriend it, to meet it half-way.  I literally danced through my fear.

Dance Can Change the World…

…or at least the way we view it. Dancing can give us a whole new perception of ourselves and how we view obstacles. It’s a way of feeling united with a force much greater and much wiser than ourselves – the power to move.

me with dancing girl

Why do you love dance?

What does dance mean to you? Do you dance to celebrate joy, to lift you out of the dumps, to celebrate, to flirt, to find, to connect? What’s a song that you can’t help but move your body to?

I’m obsessed with tap-dancing. It’s just an awesome excuse to stomp around :

Ready to dance? What’s your favorite song…?

If you had to dance your “detour” – what would it look like? If you don’t know where to start…watch Bill T. Jones. I dare you not to be inspired!

Endorse Amy’s nomination by WEGO Health for a Health Activist Hero Award until October 21st at amyoes.com/health-activist.

Amy is currently touring with her one-woman musical, Gutless & Grateful to theatres, schools, healthcare communities and more. For information on keynote presentations, workshops and signature talkbacks, (and specialized versions for corporations, college campuses, survivors, healthcare professionals, and artists) visit amyoes.com. Amy also offers private coaching to help others navigate their own beautiful detours, and subscribe for free excerpts of her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, and download a free creativity e-book.

Follow Amy Oestreicher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/amyoes

October – Depression and Mental Health Screening Month

Hey everyone,

As we keep heading into Fall and now are in October, the days get shorter, and everything seems to slowly fade until Spring again. This time of transition in nature is a timely reminder for us to check in with ourselves, and others.

October is Depression and Mental Health Screening Month. There are resources available to help you cope with whatever you are dealing with. Check out the link below for a screening tool that can help you make an informed decision.


As always, we are here if you have any questions or need support! – Michael

October Can Be Your Turning Point.

I’ve been going through the thousand of journal entries I’ve recorded over the years. In my TEDx Talk, I spoke about locking myself in my room for 16 hours a day to journal non-stop, as my way of coping with being unable to have a bite of food or one sip of water for several years.


Even though I am – thankfully – not in that same, awful position, a decade later, I find myself still resonating with what I wrote at a time of severe medical crises. Although we do hope to change with every year, there are some feelings that we do hope will stay constant within us.

Like the yearning to always change and to better ourselves.

So here’s part of my journal from this time of year…a few years ago during my medical crises.

A new month. New beginning. Fresh start. A change. A change in mood. From October to November. Transition. The beauty is in the changes. Just like the autumn leaves. This year I vow to change along with the world…

What is scary and uncomfortable is how you make progress, how you change.

The beauty is in the changes. Change is life. I am life. I am part of nature.

Life is – at its basest level: is water, earth, air, fire, and spirit. Everything else does not exist. Everything else is fear. Fear takes you out of the moment.

The only purpose of life is to reap joy from every moment.

And – every time I face a fear I gain strength, courage, and confidence in doing so.

Today is the first day of October – is this a sign? I try to see everything as a sign. I try to find the miracles in everything…a new month – a time for change within me and around me.

October is more of a solitary, mysterious, soul-searching month in all of its eerily haunting charm, ghosts goblins and black cats, changing leaves, dark purple nights, full moons, howling winds, apples and pumpkins smiling with missing teeth on front porches – a time when the trees are alive with eyes, each speaking to your soul as you walk among them alone, where leaves scurry and scatter around the pavement, making a dry crackling sound – it is a very introspective month, enchanting and dark, but very “in yourself” in order to transform and come out again.

October is meant to be scary. Scary things that are hard and uncomfortable lead to progress. And the beauty is in the changes. October is full of changes too!

Embrace the changes today – that is what I am trying to tell myself – I long to be beautiful and the beauty is in the changes. When I was walking outside the other day in the cool and crisp autumn wind, it felt so good and nostalgic, so healthy and exciting inside of me and outside of me.

There is nothing that I lack – I am complete and whole. This is my life situation right now, which is the present, and nothing exists outside of it. I am free of suffering for now. Don’t think about what I’m not doing today. Think, instead, of what I am doing.

Count my blessings instead of fear.

I’ve created some favorite October affirmations:

Count your blessings instead of problems
Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry
The beauty is in the changes
Don’t be afraid of you own truth
I am larger than my deepest fear
Face the feel until it passes
The only way past it is through it
Progress is only from doing what is scary and uncomfortable
If you don’t do what is scary and uncertain, you’ll be stuck
Go out on a limb, that is where the fruit is
Take a risk, there is nothing to be scared of
Don’t be afraid of what is on the other side – for god is already there
One moment at a time like each individual leaf – be in the NOW
I am not alone, my spirit is in the world around me
I am part of nature.
I am part of the world, so part of nature, and nature is beautiful, nature is humbling – it is humbling to see how small the leaves look as the pass the huge towering trees – imagine if you’ve never seen a tree before!
I’ve realized how truly breathtaking nature is.

Because in nature, everything is beautiful, and since I am part of nature, that means Iam beautiful too, and so right there, I the dog park, it made sense to want to nourish myself, because the earth is naturally well-nourished by god and I want to thrive like nature does in the beautiful season of Autumn.

What will October be like? I eagerly await the changes. It’s true – without change, life would really be boring. The beauty and the excitement are in the changes! I wonder when the leaves will fall completely.

I am moving along with the season. I, and also my family (I can feel) are changing along with the world. We are celebrating with the seasons.

In years past I spent it in my room afraid of the world, numbing out to get through the had night, or I was in the hospital with shingles, or crying for the life I feared I would never get back.

But, this October, I put my foot down and sat dammit, I am living my life and I don’t care what anyone has to say about it.


Because I deserve it!
Remember, you deserve life. You deserve change. Thanks, October for reminding us!
This was an excerpt from my upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour. If you want more free excerpts, and lots of stuff I literally couldn’t fit into the book, sign up for exclusive fun super-secret stuff! (Including more of my art!)

Mental Health Messages In The World Around You: Where’s Your Voice?

Published on amyoes.com

Messages and the Media – Ideas Worth Spreading?


TEDx is all about “ideas worth spreading.”  My TEDx idea stemmed from discoveries I made from the world around me as I healed from a decade of traumatic medical “detours,” as well as the pain and anguish of processing my sexual abuse.  In a world with no roadmap, we need to anchor each of ourselves in our own idea “worth spreading” – in our own truth.  But it can be pretty difficult to spread our own idea when constantly combatted by the ideas that scream much louder from that same world around us.  Even worse, sometimes the outside “noise” is so loud that we can’t even allow ourselves the “dream-space” to find those “revelations worth discovering” and “ideas worth spreading” above all of the messages from the media.

Think about it.  Every day, how many headlines do you encounter?  How many commercials are you exposed to?  What’s playing on the radio right now?

When the Media gives you messages, fight back with even better ones.

We read so many articles about the “benefits of being in the moment,” mindfulness, or meditation.  The great thing about truly being in the moment, is that you’re truly in your SELF too. When anchored in who YOU really are, messages from the world around us can inform us, but they don’t have to influence us.

What messages do you get from the media about mental health?  What do you see on TV, hear on the news, listen to on the radio, see on posters, billboards, and read in magazines that tell you to think, act or look a certain way?

I’ve thought a lot about this in my own life.


Soaking Up Messages: Are You a Sponge?

Every day, whether we like it or not, we are walking, breathing, talking, living sponges, soaking up messages from everywhere.

However, this is not a post about the negative messages we get from the media. 

This is not a post about how society makes us feel like we’re not good enough, smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough.

Unfortunately, those messages will always be there, whether we like it or not.  We’ll always be blasted with perceptions of how we should act, there will always be some message that threatens to perpetuate stigma, and there will always be individuals who make assumptions, no matter how much awareness we spread.

So then why should we advocate for mental health?

I fight in the open for mental health to speak my truth, and hope that with my story, I might be able to affect one person and cause a chain reaction.


.As advocates, that’s all we can do, right? Help spread mental health awareness to others?

Wrong. There is one more thing we can do.  The MOST important thing, actually:

No matter what message we hear, we must take care of ourselves.

I struggle with symptoms of PTSD. (You can read more about that here.)

When we struggle with

fiery red anxiety,

or a relentless addiction,

any kind of physical or

mental health obstacle…

…or justlife in general, we need to find ways to become…

anchored in the moment.

How do we get in the moment? 

If we’re truly in the moment, nothing can break us.  We have ourselves – the most powerful tool of all.

I would like to share 25 thoughts that help me love myself enough to stay in the moment.

25 Affirmations To Remind You How Powerful You Are

  1. Heroism is hanging on one minute longer.
  2. I can do this.
  3.  I can handle whatever today brings me – being outside, spontaneous, following my heart, keeping track of when my mind takes over and learning to let go, release, trust.
  4. Each day passes.
  5. What I don’t get done today I can still get done tomorrow.
  6. Changing the routine is good.
  7. Interacting with people leaves a spark in my chest.
  8. It is beautiful outside today – follow my heart
  9. Treat today like it’s endless and there is no conception of time.
  10. Feel free to express any feelings – they are my way out of this.
  11. Evaluate any feelings of “fear.”
  12. Adversity makes us stronger if we push through it.
  13. This is the only way through it – it’s either one discomfort or the other – progressive pain or habitual pain which will keep you stuck.
  14. My heart never wants to stay numb
  15. Focus on being inside of  moments rather than doing – hang on to the moment, commit to it full-force and full body.
  16. Don’t already have one foot out the door…sit into it. 
  17. It’s not dangerous to relax into each moment – you wont drown.
  18. Where will you go, what’s the worst that can happen?
  19. The only thing to fear is staying the same. 
  20. Everyday is a new beginning.
  21. Live life for me, not for production or for anyone else
  22. If I find myself jumping off the path because my mind scares me, just gently escort myself back to my heart’s path – don’t freak out.
  23. Process matters more than goals right now.
  24. Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to understand ourselves.  (Carl Jung)

Remember, IN THE MOMENT, we’re invincible.

25 Messages to Melt Stigma and Reclaim Your Power

We can overcome everything when we just ARE.

IN the moment, we realize how beautiful we really are.  Beauty is true power.

And stigma can’t hold a candle to that.

Copy of My name is Amy

We get many different messages daily from the media.  But…only you can determine what messages will influence you.  So get in that moment and decide for yourself.  Speak the message that’s truthful to YOU.

…What message are YOU sending into the world today?

(Here’s mine!)

All artwork was created by Amy on her detour. Learn about her speaking, or catch her touring Gutless & Grateful, her one woman musical, to theatres, colleges, conferences and organizations nationwide.   Learn about hermental health advocacy programs for students, and find out how to take part in the#LoveMyDetour movement, and learn about her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour at www.amyoes.com.

The Messiest Way to Mental Health…

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I just don’t feel like myself anymore?”

I’ve felt like that at times too. There are certain days where I feel like I’ve lost that spark in me. I feel numb, hazy, like I don’t know who I am…or where I am. I feel like I’ve lost my “fire.”


How do we keep our inner fire alive?

I realized that there are two things that help me: an ability to appreciate the positives in our life – and a commitment to action.

How do we start doing this? Every day, it’s important to ask and answer these questions: ‘What’s good in my life?’ and ‘What needs to be done?’

What you focus on in life is what you get.

And if you concentrate on how bad, wrong or inadequate you THINK you are, if you concentrate on what you can’t do and how there’s not enough time in which to do it, isn’t that what you get every time?


But…when you think about how powerful you are, and when you think about what you have left to contribute, and when you think about the difference you can make on this planet, you feel that fire within you and know that you are capable of anything.

It’s not what happens to you; it’s what you do about it.

We do so many things to squash our emotions. So many people have a hard time feeling anything at all. Art is a great way to check in, and better yet, no art experience is required – or wanted at all!

Being an artist just means starting with “beginner’s mind…”


Here are some exercises to get you started. All you need is a blank piece of paper.
Don’t Think. Just “Art”

Interpret the world “push”, draw it.
Pour your breath, and any worries into a cup of hot tea. What would a birds eye view of your cup look like?
Draw the ugliest scribble you can manage. Make it so ugly it hurts to look.
Paint your morning intention
Interpret a poem, put yourself in its landscape
Doodle to music
Draw the smell of bread baking. (Yum!)
Learn about a country, paint my stay there, write as if I’m there
Draw in a different language. Draw characters from a language you don’t know.
Find your way home. Draw a map.
Look at the world as a puzzle you determine the meaning of. Draw one puzzle in that piece.
Draw comic strip with two stick figures going on an awkward date.
Doodle an entire page with red crayon until there’s no blank space left.
Make 34 random dots with marker on a piece of paper and then take a pencil to connect every dot. Color in the spaces between, or whatever shapes you can find.
Trace the first thing you take out of your junk drawer.
What’s the point?
Don’t think about that. Allow yourself the surprise of not knowing. Get lost in fun, purposeless, whimsical expression.
The Takeaway?
Anytime I choose a thought that gets my emotions expressed it supports my aliveness.
How is YOUR fire feeling today? Express it.

Art is intuition at play. So just go with it.
Start with art. It’ll get you somewhere.
Or, it will just be a beautiful detour…

Download a free creativity e-book at amyoes.com/create!

An Evening with Kevin Breel

Join us for an Evening with Kevin Breel on Monday, September 19th at 7:00pm.
This is a great opportunity to hear Kevin speak out about mental health.
He will speak about his own experience with mental illness and recovery.

Sudler Hall
100 Wall Street, New Haven, CT

Detours Are a Crash Course in Improv: How to "Travel" Like an "Artist"

Art-ing through life

How art taught me to live

We’ve all encountered things in our lives that have gone in a different direction than we had hoped or at least anticipated.  It’s what makes us human – living at the mercy of whatever life throws us.

But that’s the art of life – the improvisation.  That’s where we get to be creative, work with what we’ve got, and sometimes, we end up being pleasantly surprised by what amounts.

I’ve found that “sometimes” can be “all the time” in three ways: (in my opinion…)

1.) We can choose to view the “hiccip” in a certain light, seeing the glass as “half-full”

2.) We can just follow that detoured path and patiently wait, holding onto the idea that things will improve, hoping that eventually the “bigger picture” will come to light. This reminds me of a favorite quote I heard, “everything will be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end”

3.) If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  We can just shrug off what we had anticipated, laugh it off, go with the flow, and surrender to the uncertainty which is neither good nor bad – just be with it and experience what is rather than what should be.  (i.e. “Man plans, god laughs”)

This is what my paintbrush teaches me day after day.  I love the feeling of moving around a big glob of paint on a fresh linen canvas and having no idea what to expect.  Sometimes I feel like creating very exact detail…and sometimes I just want to throw some colors around on an empty space.

Painting is just a great exercise for learning how to live.  Or at least, it’s a lesson I need to learn myself day after day.  To have the courage to just start from somewhere – anywhere, to not judge it, and to just keep going – even if you don’t like how it is turning out.

Sometimes you have an image in mind, and you start with that idea.  And sometimes you even stay with that initial idea for a bit.

But when the paint smears, or you blotch something up, or your sleeves get on the paint and smear the nice clean line you just painted – it’s a little frustrating.  But then you just learn to go with it.

And with a bit of patience, and the determination to eventually see it to completion, you’ll get there.

And then sometimes, you start off painting, and you’re on a roll, you feel the adrenaline of creativity jolting through you like a fluid wash of watercolors, and then – HALT – painter’s block.  You have no clue what comes next.

Or you keep painting and painting, determined to rectify the deviant path your paintbrush took, and the more you prod away at it, the worse the painting feels to you.

Then, it takes the greatest discipline in the world to step away and come back another day.

As a “Detourist”, remember – you an always come back to it another day.  When life gets hard, just take a time out for self care.  Take a deep breath.  It’s okay to sit on the sidelines for a moment.   You can always get back on.  Just don’t forget that you can!

Safe travels, Detourists, and remember to take a breather every now and then!


The Prevalence of Violence and Mental Illness Among LGBT Youth

A recent study by the federal government’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that LGBT Youth on average are more vulnerable to mental illness and violence. Surveys are not 100% accurate but the reality that lies behind these numbers are not surprising.

According to the data, more than 40 percent of these students reported that they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent had made attempts to do so in the year before they took the survey. It also shows that LGBT youth are using drugs at a larger rate than their straight peers.

Moreover, the report also implies that in schools and public spaces there is a deafening silence surrounding adolescent sexuality and gay-related victimization that acts as a barrier, preventing these youth from accessing treatment or getting help. Some cases may go untreated and in other cases there is a misunderstanding of the circumstances of mental illness among LGBT youth.

These numbers are basic indicators of some of the everyday events that ensues in the life of an LGBT youth. Being bullied, abused and assaulted at a young age; figuring out your identity; coming to the reality that you have to live with who you are; having to come out to family and friends; coming out and not being accepted; being kicked out of your home; going homeless; the uphill battle to finding a community; finding support and getting to a safe space.

Quite frankly, as a youth there are a plethora of challenges that comes with growing up but its even harder figuring out your sexuality and your identity. You find yourself in an abyss of misery, trying to figure out your place in society and legitimizing who you are.

Social norms have a way of dictating that you are not normal, you have to fight to get married, to get an education and to simply be recognized with basic human rights. And on the far side, as a youth growing up LGBT, you are looking at this as a test that you don’t want to face or at least a reality that you hope will change. But, in your own world, in your home, there is just no sympathy, no guidance and no set path that will help you to live through the daunting effects of trauma and irrecoverable rejection.

One important message from the report comes from the University of Pittsburgh school of Medicine, Dr. Miller, she said that self acceptance can begin at home. What if home was the place to have healthy relationships with relatives and where LGBT youth are able to talk about their sexuality and identity? And what if school was just another place to make friends and make the most of your academic experience without intimidation or fear. What if they didn’t have to come out?

Poor mental health is not human culture and it is definitely not LGBT culture – its the reality forced upon many to believe that they cannot seek help because they should be afraid to speak about who they are or what they are going through. Its the stigma that implies that you are weak or soft if you fall victim to mental illness. And its the reality that manifest itself in societies where LGBT youth are deprived of their basic human rights and dignity.

LGBT youth are vulnerable, they are at risk of violence and victimization, they are homeless, they are suicidal… this is not meant to be a distraction, these heartbreaking numbers are a call for Help!

Detourist Book of the Week: How do you find the "upside" of a detour?

What have you been reading lately?

Sometimes the best books can be unexpected discoveries.  Have you ever strolled through the bookstore and had something catch your eye – possibly taking your thoughts on a….detour?
The biggest ground rule on a detour is to know that although your “detour” is a path unlike anyone else’s, EVERYONE has some path in their life veer off in an unexpected route.  Every day – all around us!

Sometimes, a book helps me remember that.  

I’ve just started an amazing book, The Upside of Trauma.

The author, Jim Rendon is the grandchild of a holocaust survivor, as am I.

Grandparents 16 x 20 IMG_0497

I made artwork this in honor of feeling my grandparent’s presence with me wherever I go. My grandmother reminds me of resilience in the face of extreme difficulty.  She, to me, is an amazing example of someone who thrived after trauma.  She embodied the “upside.”

The book, The Upside of Trauma, is about Post Traumatic Growth – something I think I’m living proof of as well!


But how can terrible events lead to remarkable and dramatic breakthroughs?

That’s what this book seeks to answer. There IS an upside of trauma – but you’ll never know it if you don’t keep going.  Keep traveling that detour until you find that upside.

How can you make sure you get there?

In my experience, I’ve found nine ideas  that help me reach the “upside of trauma.”

My NineTips

  1. Surround yourself with people who support you.
  2. Have something to look forward to and something to strive for.
  3. Focus on the, bright future ahead to get through difficult times
  4. Believe your story can change the world.
  5. Keep moving forward. Plan ahead but be prepared to adapt, keep moving forward no matter what.
  6. Remember that you’re larger than your circumstances
  7. Focus on what you can do, not cant.
  8. Let yourself feel bad feelings but remember what you can do.

Number Nine happens to be my favorite…

Expressing our traumas through art:

Sometimes it’s tough to just come and and talk about difficult times. It’s hard to open up.  But we NEED to.  Why keep those memories locked up inside?  When we keep things in, we become numb.

But how to start?  That’s what ART is for.  Creativity is the best medicine!

community art

I learned the power of community art this weekend in an Art Workshop.  We each had to draw our version of “trauma” and then arrange our drawings in a way that spoke to us.  It was amazing how although our traumas were all different, our drawings of “trauma” were so similar.

I didn’t have to share exactly what happened to me, but I felt heard.  Have you experienced this feeling before?  Get some friends together and create.  It could be healing in more ways than you know.

If you could draw your detour, what would it look like?

Tears for Tomorrow

Detour Art Exercise: Think of one thing you can’t put into words.  One thing that you’d LOVE to tell someone…but can’t yet.

Draw it instead.

So today, make some art.  Star a doodle, buy a coloring book, or make a collage out of magazine images.

You might just find the upside of trauma through what you create.

So what exactly is the upside of trauma?


Mommy Cant Fix This

Mommy Can’t Fix This (Mixed Media Gallery)

By sharing the stories of what has happened in our lives, we feel heard, supported, and connected.

Detourists should not travel alone.  We all have something to learn from each other’s journey.

detour definition

Learn what a Detourist is here, (you’re a Detourist, you just don’t know it yet) and share your story here. YOU never know who YOU may help.

There is an upside of trauma.  You just have to get through those rough detours to see those flowers along the path.  That’s the upside.  Don’t give up.  Keep going.  

And one day…


You’ll find that flower!!!

I #LoveMyDetour.  Now tell me why you love yours.


That’s the upside of trauma.  What’s your upside?

All artwork was created by Amy on her detour.  Help her bring PTSD Awareness to the stage by supporting her work on patreon.com/amyo and watch her TEDx talk on her website at amyoes.com/tedx. Learn about hermental health advocacy programs for students, and find out how to take part in the#LoveMyDetour movement, and learn about her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour at www.amyoes.com.

Why You Need to Share Your Story…Now!

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”  – Philip Pullman

Shopping lists, to-do lists, , packing lists – lists are an easy way for busy people to retain information.  Of all places, I found myself making the most lists in the hospital.  And of all kinds of lists – after a surgery that went terribly wrong – I found myself creating a gratitude list.

This was one of many lists I created every night in the hospital.  I’d make myself think of something I was grateful for from A to Z, even when I hated my circumstances.  By rummaging through my angry and frustrated thoughts, eventually, some positivity submerged.  By the time I reached “Z”, my life had not changed dramatically, but my thoughts had.

You don’t need a set of fancy paints to create art, you don’t need a picture-perfect life to find every day gratitude, and you certainly don’t need a fancy hardcover journal to start a grateful list.  Take a blank page, letter it A to Z from beginning to end, and just start.  It doesn’t have to make sense.  Some words can be a bit of a stretch.  It’s even okay to get away with “x-citement” or “quanberry juice.”  It’s just to get your head in a different place.

And sometimes, when your head’s in a different place…

Your body will be too.


Where’s the most outlandish place you can find gratitude today?

In the hospital, I made daily gratitude lists when there wasn’t much to immediately be grateful for.  But finding gratitude was a way to make “sense” of my story.  If I were grateful for things happening, it could fit into my life. I could own what happened to me and make something from it.  These grateful lists were my life story being spelled out night after night.

This taught me a valuable lesson:  Stories make us stronger. Stories make us think differently.  And there is strength in thinking, seeing and doing things differently.

Everyone loves a good story.  Is there a book or poem you’ve read that has always stuck with you?  A certain metaphor from a whimsical children’s story that resonated with you as a child?  I remember always loving the book Harold and the Purple Crayon.  I loved the idea of a little child being able to create his own world.  It made me feel like I could too.

Tell Me a Story

That’s the beauty of a metaphor: through a larger vision, we can relate with our own unique stories.

That is also the power of storytelling.  Everyone’s story is different.  But we all can relate to emotions.  If you’re human, you’ve felt sadness.  You’ve felt hunger, pain, joy, loss, .


If you’re a human on this earth, you’ve felt life.  Look all around you, and you’ll see life growing, dying, changing and regenerating daily.

And THAT is something we can all be grateful for, right?  That even though we’re dealing with difficult times, we are not alone.  We never have been.

Through sharing our stories, we become empowered, inspired and more comfortable with our life circumstances, as well as with who we are. Telling our stories helps us process it — just like you learn something better yourself when you have to teach someone else. Through our shared experience, we gain confidence and become travel-partners on our detours.  And traveling is always less scary when we’re not alone.

My story, your story, our stories – they’re all the same.  The specifics are not the importance in the end.  What’s important is that we keep telling them.


Just hearing someone else’s story makes us feel the same pain or joy that they have experience.  It’s sharing them that makes us stronger.


That’s how we know we’re not alone.


You have a story too.


Our stories make us stronger.  So today – tell yours.

Screenshot 2016-06-10 01.16.21

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking.  As the creator of the Gutless & Grateful, her one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness  and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences.  Her original, full-length drama, Imprints, premiered at the NYC Producer’s Club in May 2016, exploring how trauma affects the family as well as the individual.  To celebrate her own “beautiful detour”, Amy created the #LoveMyDetour campaign, to help others cope in the face of unexpected events.  “Detourism” is also the subject of her TEDx and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, available December 2017.  As Eastern Regional Recipient of Convatec’s Great Comebacks Award, she’s contributed to over 70 notable online and print publications, and her story has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, CBS, Cosmopolitan, among others.    Learn more: amyoes.com and support her work at patreon.com./amyo.

Four Ways to Use Nature to Overcome Your Fear of Detours

The world of nature is filled with “detours.” The best part about being a “Detourist” is taking an unexpected detour in life, and catching the unexpected beauty along the way.

Four Ways to Intrude on Nature:

Eat Outside: You don’t need fancy picnic baskets or a farm to table meal – just move away from the kitchen table, pack up some dips, roasted vegetables and festive salads, and sit in the backyard or a neighborhood park.

Get Active Outside: You don’t need to go on a camping trick, or seek out the steepest mountain biking trails.  Take a nature walk.  If there’s some spring in your step, take a little jog – or, i you’re completely uninhibited like me, hear a song in your heart and dance on the beach! I promise that no one is staring at your as much as you think they are!

Create Outside:  All it takes it a notebook and crayons – even one little pencil! Check out these seen simple ways to get in touch with your creative side – all of this can be done outside!

Breathe Outside: That’s right. Nature can naturally improve your health.  Breathe in Mother Nature, and instantly feel more relaxed and refreshed.  You can even think affirmations to yourself as you breathe in and out.

How have you intruded on nature today?

Using nature is a powerful tool to overcome fear.  Being in nature can give us perspective and remind us not to always get worried about the little things!

Let that fear transform who YOU are.  Let that fear be your compass on your beautiful detour.Fear is a valuable tool in a Detourist’s resiliency toolbox.

Watch my TEDx Talk on how I transformed my fear into more fuel to travel all of my very scary “detours…”

Remember – it’s the twists, turns and difficulties in your path that can transform you and your journey.  Those fears, hardships and detours are what makes you human and…YOU.

That’s why we share our stories.  We share our “detours” instead of running from them.  We share to cheer each other on in our journeys. We share to encourage our fellow Detourists to reach that beautiful clearing – perhaps a different one than they planned for themselves, but perhaps an even more beautiful sight to see.

Get out in nature, and you’ll be surprised at what you can discover!  Tag your travels with #LoveMyDetour!

Why Dreams are the Best Mental Health Tool

Everyone knows that getting a good night’s sleep is key to living a health, balanced life. But what about getting a good night’s dream?


Dreams are survival skills. They give us something to hope for, something to strive for, and something to wake up with, to keep in our heads and hold in our hearts.

If we choose to see dreams as the proactive forces that guide us to our true aliveness, dreams become a powerful tool. Here are five ways that dreams make us feel the most awake.

1) Dreams give us vision. Our dreams can take us from chaos to clarity, and eventually to concept. Keep a dream journal to start understanding the language of your unconscious.

2) Dreams can bring direction to our detours. We’ve all had things in life that haven’t worked out as we planned — a breakup, a breakdown, a loss, a setback — Dreams help us find the beauty in “not knowing” by bringing images and sensations into our awareness that we might not be able to grasp onto ourselves, when trying to navigate our detoured route. Dreams have the power turn our “detours” in life into everyday blessings.


3) Dreams give us faith that healing is possible. They show us the potential of the human spirit.

4) Dreams fuel the fierce drive to bring our passion into the world. Dreams come from our innermost desires. They tell us not necessarily how we’ll get there, but why we need to get there. Once we have the “why”, the “how” will work itself out. All we need is that fierce conviction that can only come from dreams to act as our compass. Don’t tell yourself that a dream is too crazy or outlandish to happen.

Hey – it took me years to learn how to walk again after 27 debilitating surgeries, and now I’m tap-dancing about it in a one-woman musical about my life – dream on, Detourist, dream on!

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5) Dreams remind us who we are. Our dreams are the seeds that God plans for us, where our intuition whispers to us, and where we can find an anchor to our place in the world — even if we are “displaced” from it. In our dreams, we can find our way back home. After almost losing my own life, my dreams are now my safe place, where I can mingle with myself, replenishing my trust in life whenever circumstances may make me afraid. Dreams dreamed me back into life.

Tonight, go to bed early and get some rest. You’ll invigorate your body, rejuvenate your mind, and your spirit will be oh so happy.

And that’s the best formula for great mental health!


Safe travels Detourists!


Oh….and sweet, sweet dreams!


All artwork was created by Amy on her detour. Learn about her speaking, or catch her touring Gutless & Grateful, her one woman musical, to theatres, colleges, conferences and organizations nationwide.   Learn about hermental health advocacy programs for students, and find out how to take part in the#LoveMyDetour movement, and learn about her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour at www.amyoes.com and catch her one-woman musical in New York City in August 6th, 2016.

Creative Coping Skills to Get Grounded in Change

It’s hard to keep up hope on a detour.  Maintaining an empowered approach to Mental Health all the time can be difficult, and I often personally struggle with symptoms of PTSD.  These are some reminders I give myself that often help me:

 1.) Try to see the good in circumstances

It wasn’t easy, but when stuck in hospitals throughout 27 traumatic surgeries, I kept a gratitude list so I could remember that there was still good in my life.  It helped me see things differently.  What is the opportunity in your obstacle?

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” 
― Martha Washington

So how do you find the positive when your pain – physical or emotional – screams louder than an 1980’s stereo?

2.) Practice self-care.

“Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let’s start with a grateful list form A to Z.   You don’t have to start with A.  Find any letter you can think of.  Breakfast! (My favorite B-word!) Just make sure to take the list along and fill it out before the day is through!

3.) Ground yourself. When negative thoughts or painful emotions are speaking louder than anything else around you, it’s hard to be present.  Instantly, I go right into my head – I’m worrying, self-consious and slipping slowly into pity-party mode.  Help!  I’m sucked into my mind!

Learn how to stay present.  Here are some more tips:

4.) Say an affirmation. Gooogle “affirmations” yourself “I choose to live in the present.”

5.) Breathe. It sounds easy, I know.  But you’d be surprised how often you stop breathe when you start overthinking.  Breathe deeply – it’s calming and healthy!  You can read more about the amazing benefits of deep breathing here.  Need some practice?  Breathe along (sounds crazy, I know)with this Youtube guided meditation by Eckhart Tolle TV, and when you’re ready to lie down, learn how opening up your back can open the pathway to breathing…and presence!

5.) Awareness Without Judgement. Notice every physical sensation in your body.  Have a chat with what I like to call my Five Superheros:  Taste, Touch, Sight, Sound, Smell.  Think I’m crazy?  I call them my superheros because they save me in the nick of time when I’m about to get lost in anxious thoughts.  When I start worrying or pitying myself, I call on these rockstars before I can think one more thought.

6.) Quick!  At this very second, name the first thing you…




Taste (it can be air!)_______



Your five senses help you stay grounded, no matter what. I’d love to hear some of your  tips on how to get grounded in change.

Don’t get stressed – get grounded.  Even when life takes a detour, you can always stay grounded in YOU.

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking.
As the creator of the Gutless & Grateful, her one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness  and Broadway Theatre for college campuses. To celebrate her own “beautiful detour”, Amy created the #LoveMyDetour campaign, to help others thrive through difficulties.  Learn more: amyoes.com.

Get Lost! Rediscover Yourself in Nature

There are plenty of detours in nature. And better yet, nature is great for your mental health! Being In nature combats depression, boosts your Well-Being, and is a great way to continually rediscover who you are. I learned that as I literally learned who I was again…

Apple of Mine

I’ve always loved nature—ever since I was a little girl. My nature walks were my time to daydream and collect little treasures along the way. I’d often come home with pockets full of acorns, mulch, flowers I picked off neighbors’ lawns, pebbles, and a bit of dirt. My fantasies were vivid, and the world felt so alive around me—the trees had faces, the sun had a song, and even as a kid I knew I was living in a world of miracles. Nature was how I continually rediscovered myself—every day, the world felt new.


I grew up happy, healthy and confident with who I was. But my life took an unexpected turn when, two weeks after I turned 18, I fell into a coma for months due to a sudden blood clot. When I awoke, I was told I no longer had a stomach and couldn’t eat or drink. It was not known when (or if) I would ever again.

Waking in the unfamiliar world of the ICU (full of beeping machines, nurses and IV pumps) was earth-shattering. Discovering medical appliances all over my immobile and foreign body, feeling as though I woke up as someone else, and not knowing when I would leave this alternate universe was frightening and overwhelming. But what I want to share with you are the blessings that came from starting anew.

A detour in life is easier to travel...

As I became more and more alert, I slowly rediscovered the world that I had been away from for so long, and it felt like every smell, every sight and every interaction was being experienced for the first time. As my family sat by my bedside, I noticed things about their demeanor and our dynamics that I had never taken time to see before. I realized that the quiet, intimate moments can speak volumes. In a way, being snatched from the hustle and bustle of everyday life provided an opportunity to connect more deeply with my loved ones. We had been given the precious gifts of quiet time and no distractions. Things I hadn’t noticed before—my mother’s smile, a friend’s laughter, the love and support all around me—now evoked feelings of profound gratitude.

The beauty of a near-death experience is you realize the things that matter in life. However, I wouldn’t say that falling into a coma is necessary to realize this! Every day is an opportunity to remember the things that make us feel grateful. Once my hands were able to write again, I would make a list from A to Z of what I was grateful for. Even on some of my hardest days, I found that by the time I got to “Z”, there were at least a few things to smile at and be thankful for.

Soon my alphabetical list turned from “Almost walked, Better heart rate, Coughed less” to “Awesome walk outside, Best afternoon ever, Cheerful spirits today.” It was amazing to see each day slowly improve and to feel myself gradually claiming ownership of my world again. Bit by bit, I started to feel myself materialize back into the girl I knew before my coma, but equipped with a deeper wisdom and a vivacious new desire to discover the world.


As my spirits lifted, I got better from the inside out, hungrier than ever to re-experience the world. Eventually, I didn’t need to be plugged into as many machines, so my family started taking me on high-speed ride, racing through the halls of Columbia Hospital in my wheelchair. We’d explore all of the hidden nooks and crannies of every floor, though I’m sure we weren’t supposed to be in half the places we went to! Finally, one day, we found a beautiful spot outside where I got to enjoy my first breath of fresh air in months. I remember seeing the sunset for the first time since the coma… I felt like a child being born all over again. Even the mundane became glorious—seeing people having lunch outside, the roaring of traffic, birds overhead—and the more I saw the more I wanted to be a part of it.


Now, here I am, a decade later. I’m healthy, grateful, and part of the world again. It’s the wonderful world I knew before as a nature-loving, happy-go-lucky teen, yet there’s a little spark that lies behind every sunset, every friend, and every routine experience. I admit that I still get caught up in the rush of everyday life, when it’s easy to take things for granted, but I always try to remember what it felt like to breathe in that sunset in that rusty old wheelchair. When I do, the overwhelming sense of gratitude floods my senses again.

How would you live your days as if each experience was being felt for the first time?

Start today…

Subscribe for updates on Amy’s upcoming book, “My Beautiful Detour.” Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, speaker for RAINN, writer for The Huffington Post, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright, eagerly sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, performance, art and speaking. All artwork was created by Amy on her detour.  Catch her touring Gutless & Grateful, her one woman musical, to theatres, colleges, conferences and organizations nationwide.   Learn about her mental health advocacy programs for students and follow her on twitter @amyoes.

Find out how to get involved with #LoveMyDetour, and give your support here. Learn more about creating compassion through our detours at amyoes.com.

My latest book I have been reading…

Hey, everyone!

I wanted to see if anyone has read some great (or even crappy) books lately. I recently picked up a book by Brene Brown, a researcher, and author on shame and resilience. Her book, The gifts of Imperfection delves into ways to bounce back from setbacks.

It is a pretty light read, and I had some good insights from it. As part of my bedtime ritual, I always grab a book and read when I have some quiet time. (Note to self: do not scroll Facebook before bed. Social media is like Pringles, Once you pop, you can’t stop!

Check out the link on Amazon for more info:

PS. Fun Fact: The book I hated reading most was “Lord of the Flies.” I was in 9th grade, and all I remember is reading about obnoxious boys running on an island “hunger games style” trying to hurt each other! :0

Why My TEDx Talk Was Glitch: Loving Our Detours, Our Glitches

27 surgeries, it’s been a very long, detoured journey, and it still isn’t over yet.

But what makes the journey meaningful, and ultimately rewarding, is the ability to share, and know that you can possibly help someone through their own “detours.” Something I’ve learned over time, is that a Detour is Not a Dead End – which was the title of my first TEDx Talk!  I gave my TEDx Talk this April, and finally…it’s out!

Giving the talk was a thrilling experience.  Even being such a shameless musical theatre ham that I am, this was the most nervous I’ve ever been.  Actually, I didn’t realize how nervous I was until I was done…and I started basically hyperventilating!

In fact, the theme of this year’s TEDx at Syracuse University happens to be…Glitch.

Check out my talk here:


What would you define as a “glitch?”

Here’s one dictionary definition:

Glitch: suffer a sudden malfunction or irregularity.
Glitch a minor problem that causes a temporary setback

I think the better question is, who hasn’t had a glitch in life?


I’d define a “glitch” as a detour – you know, something in life that doesn’t go as you expect.  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.


I’m excited about the “Glitch” theme for this year’s TEDx.  What is life without the imperfections, the “malfunctions” and “irregularities” in life to keep us on our toes and pushing us to learn, change, adapt and grow?

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We all experience “glitches” in life.  Here are five reasons why “GLITCH” might be the best TEDx theme ever.


When we spot an “imperfection,” we’re forced to pause and give it more careful thought.  We’re challenged to work on something that we might have glossed over or might have easily overlooked.  Glitches demand attention, a different approach, a new way ofproblem-solving.


In a world of sameness and uniformity, it’s the mistakes that are our uniqueness.  Our “flaws” allow us to stand out.  A glitch is individuality – a mistake that’s unmistakably you.


What glitches and detours force us to do is explore new opportunities. When we can’t go in the direction we anticipated, we’ve got to switch gears and adapt. We have to resource inner strengths that we never knew we were capable of accessing. When we achieve the “unthinkable”, we discover who we really are.


Think of a favorite adventure movie.  Every good plot has an unexpected twist of events.  If life went exactly as you planned, where would the excitement be? The best stories the ones with surprising “glitches” and turns.  Glitches lead to discovery, epiphanies happy accidents.  Did you know that potato chips were invented by a glitch?


We all have things in life that don’t go as we expect. We all make mistakes and experience “failure.” The more we share our “glitches”, the more we realize we’re not alone – and there is strength built in community. The world of “glitches” is a world of uniqueness, empathy, compassion and change.

Bonus reason?  Glitch is a pretty fun word to say.



Glitches allow us to welcome the unexpected change in our “thought-out” life and see what opportunities may arise.

I’m living proof that a glitch can lead to unexpected blessings. If I took away all of the setbacks, hurdles, frustrations and glitches, I wouldn’t be who I am today…giving aTEDx Talk on glitches.

Glitches are most certainly happy, liberating and open-ended discoveries.

A “glitch” is not a dead end.

We just have to keep going long enough to reach a clearing to find the artistic nooks and crannies along that happy accident.

When you feel like you’ve made a glitch, you may not know what to do next, but that’s okay.  Sometimes the best thing is to show up and follow through.

Some glitches don’t go away.  Even with wounds that still haven’t healed – and that’s not a metaphor – I’m still on the road.  That road –uncertain, honestly, terrifying at times – can lead to the most beautiful flowers you’ll ever find.

Every little twist and turn has made me who I am.  And I like who I am.

There is nothing so dangerous about a glitch.  Relax!  Glitches can turn into flashes of insight, making room for new discoveries to flow in. Love is what we are.  Fear is what we learn.  Now, learn to love your glitches, and see where that takes you.

So don’t be afraid … Follow life’s glitches and enjoy the flowers along the way



 All artwork was created by Amy. Learn about her mental health advocacy programs for students, and find out how to take part in the #LoveMyDetour movement, striving to create compassion through stories.

Part Two: The Only Four Mental Health Mindsets You Need

This is part two of my four-part series:  

The Four Hardcore Survival Skills You Can’t Live Without Are Simpler Than You Think

We’ve talked about Gratitude as Skill #1, and now, I’d like to introduce you to Number Three…

2.) Creativity

Through creativity, we can create a safe container to be present with our experiences that we may still coming to terms with.  Creative expression engages us in a conversation with emotions that may be too painful, frightening or overwhelming for words.

me in studio

You certainly don’t need to be an artist to make art – you just need an open heart and a mind willing to take a backseat.  You can paint, sing, write, doodle, and it doesn’t have to be good.  Don’t think about what you are trying to express or what your “art” is supposed to mean.  Creativity allows us to interact with another part of our consciousness – and the more we get to know ourselves, all of ourselves, the stronger of an identity we build.  A strong sense of identity is the greatest compass on a “detour.”

Don’t know where to start?



  1.  Close your eyes, take a breath, and take a mindful stroll outside (preferably as nature-like as possible)!
  2. Find the first image that excites you. How does it make you feel? What kind of music do you hear in your head? If that image were a dance, what would be its song?
  3. Grab a piece of paper and crayons. (There’s nothing like a box of old-school crayolas!)
  4. Put on the song that your image was “dancing to.”
  5. Start to draw to the music – just one continuous line. Don’t think. Just hear the music and draw.
  6. When you hear the music louder than your thoughts, forget all the rules and fill in the whole page.
  7. Write a letter on the back and send it to someone you love…or better yet, to yourself!

7 Simple Steps To Find Your Creative SideOn my blog, I suggest a few different ways you can start seeing the world differently – turning your thoughts upside down is the best starting point to create.

Art is more than a hobby. Art and creativity cure a problem that we all share at times – boredom. I’m not just talking about commercial breaks, a meeting at work that never ends, or traffic lights. Creativity is a mind-set, a way of seeing the world.Creativity puts the magic back in life, so not only are we never bored, we are constantly inspired, present, empowered, and – dare I say it – happy.


So that’s it for my second installment of essential mental health skills.


  1. Gratitude (Make an A to Z Gratitude List)
  2. Hope (Lie to yourself…seriously!)
  3. Well, you’ll have to wait for the next post!

In the meantime, keep traveling that beautiful detour!

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.

Safe travels!

— Amy, the Detourist

All artwork was created by Amy on her detour. Learn about her speaking, or catch her touring Gutless & Grateful, her one woman musical, to theatres, colleges, conferences and organizations nationwide.   Learn about hermental health advocacy programs for students, and find out how to take part in the#LoveMyDetour movement, and learn about her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour at www.amyoes.com.

Recovery Community Open Mic

Hey everyone! Check out this KOOL Open Mic event on June 24th in Bridgeport, CT.

Its a free event hosted by CCAR, BRCC and YAF at the Bridgeport Recovery Community Center. Please the see flyer below.
This is an opportunity for all young adults in recovery to express themselves and their perspectives through music, poetry, spoken, you name it!

The event is open to ALL… bring family and friends and get ready for a sober afternoon.

What It Is Like To Have A Mental Illness

“For some recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life despite disability.”

“Daily Life as a College Student” blogger, Kelly recently she shared her story on Odyssey, which is a platform for millennials to share their voices on topical issues that impacts them.
“People with mental illness should feel like they can get the help they need and not be judged for it…”
READ HERE: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/what-it-is-like-to-have-mental-illness


4 Hard Core Detourist Survival Skills to Get Through ANYTHING – Part 1

Who knew that mental health first aid was as simple an inspirational wall hanging?

Survival – Simplified.

Surviving – and “thriving” – through any setback, obstacle or ”detour” in life can be that simple.  I learned that from over ten years of “detours” in and out of hospitals, where every road sign said “uncertain path ahead.”

detour paint

Now I like to share what helped me through my stressful traumas with others, because whether it’s surgery, traffic, a disappointment or…well, anything that you don’t expect – life can sure be stressful.


The latest stop on my “detour” will be the Mental Health America Conference next month!

Hardcore Survival Skills

After my show, I like to talk about the four “hardcore” survival skills that helped me through this huge detour in my life.  They were not quick fix solutions, a treatment plan, talking to a stranger in a tiny room, or a prescription from one of my many doctors. These were skills I learned as I went. I call it “self-service therapy.”


To put yourself in my shoes, I was discharged from the hospital because I was medically stable after a plethora of emergency stomach surgeries, but I was missing one tiny little thing… a stomach.

So doctors sent me home, asked me to check in periodically, and when my wounds had healed enough from the previous handful of surgeries, they’d try to reconstruct my digestive system.

Creating a Survival Strategy

Look at this like any other unexpected “detour” in life – and believe me, this was very unexpected at 18 years old!But so is a flat tire, a lost job, a breakup, or a breakdown. We all need to learn how to cope with things in life we don’t expect.

chasing blue hope

I like to share the four essential “hard core” survival skills that honestly saved my life.

Four Simple Words

These four words might be easily confused with inspirational wall hangings you see in home decor stores, or whimsical words in bubble letters on the cover of gifted journals you’ll find at the bookstore.

But that’s what makes these “survival skills” so great – they are basic, long-term mindsets that anyone can foster.  Which means we are all capable of surviving and “thriving” through any detour in life!

I’ll only be sharing the first “hard core skill” with you today.  Stay tuned for the rest in this four part series!

Four Survival Skills for Any Detour in Life

1.) Gratitude

When you know what you’re grateful for, you know what you’re about.  Try keeping a daily gratitude list. When you see what’s makes you feel grateful, you’ll see what is important to you, and in turn, what your values are.    Your values act like arrows telling you what direction you need to take on your detour. When you know what your values are, you know what moves you – literally.

The reason why we have trouble knowing where to go on a detour, is that detour shakes up everything we thought we knew. We lose our trust in our world and in our selves.  Make a gratitude list as a daily practice, and you’ll see your value start to emerge.  Once anchored in your values, you’ll know intuitively which way to go on your detour. 

So that’s #1. What do you think the other three might be…?


Comment here – but definitely stay tuned!  You can follow my adventures on my blog at amyoes.com, or tweet me @amyoes!

And remember – there are a ton of amazing “hard core” survival resources at Turning Point CT!

Safe Travels!

The Detourist

How to turn a "Detour" Into Your "Turning Point" – Detourist Mental Health Tips

You’re on a road, and you have to make an unexpected turn. Sounds like life, right?

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

How can things ever get better?

I feel so alone.

These thoughts raced through my head for years.


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

What’s a detour?

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. It’s a mouthful, I know. That was my detour. I thought in just a few months, my path would lead right to college.

The most important thing I learned about a detour? You can still live a happy, healthy fulfilling life. I even got to college — at 25!

But the great part about a “detour?” You get to travel a route you never would have expected. The road may be tough, long, winding and seemingly out of the way, but what I finally realized is that it’s the twists and turns in life that ultimately make us who we are. Now that I’m in my third year of college, I’ve realized that physical and mental health issues are things we all think about, even if we don’t label what we experience as an “illness.” 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.

I turned my detour into the best trip ever.

My advice as a “Detourist?”

  1. Show up.
  2. Trust that you are capable.
  3. Be curious to see where the detour may lead.

Here’s the bonus step: Find great resources.

TurningPointCT is literally there to guide you down your detour and to help you find that turning pint where you can inally find that “flower” on your detour.  You can hear the stories of others, find questions to answers you may have about mental health, get some practical wellness tips and tools, and even take a self-assessment.

Remember, every “detour” can be a big, bold, beautiful Turning Point.


We all have detours in our lives, and we become empowered when we trust that we can travel those detours and come out OK — and 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.”

Detours can lead to new, unexpected and amazing opportunities. What will you find on your detour today?

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking.
As the creator of the Gutless & Grateful, her one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness  and Broadway Theatre for college campuses. All was created by Amy to take care of her own mental health. Learn about her mental health advocacy programs, her art  for students, and find out how to take part in the #LoveMyDetour movement, striving to create compassion through stories.

Mental Health… A Family Affair

I wanted to share a moving article I found on a father’s journey with his son in the mental health system. It is a powerful story and a reminder to keep going!



Novels that help

Does anyone else have a book or books that have significantly helped them at some point in their lives? I know mine is (surprise, surprise) The Catcher in the Rye. Aside from studying it twice in high school, I remember reading this book several times from the ages of 13 (right about the time when I started in therapy) until now. It became almost like a checkpoint in my recovery, each time I read the book it was a reminder of how far I’d come since the last time I’d read it, and there was something about the way I will always be changing and growing as a person, yet Holden and the rest of the characters would always remain the same that was very comforting and reassuring to me.
I’d love to hear other peoples’ favorite books!

Suicide Prevention Mental Health FIlms! "Breaking Taboo"

We are a non profit working hard on our film series “Breaking Taboo” to break the taboo against Mental Health & Suicide Prevention. We are trying to reach as many people and get as much support as possible in our mission to Save as many lives as possible! Please like* our facebook: www.facebook.com/BreakingTaboo and support us if you can: www.breakingtaboofilm.com and indiegogo campaign: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/breaking-taboo/x/12237851

Thank you!!!