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Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

My Goal

For the past couple of years, one of my biggest goals has been to to step out of my comfort zone and increase my socialization.  Though with social anxiety, I knew it would be a challenge.

After moving out of my hometown last year, I joined the app MeetUp, where you can join different groups and meet up with group members during many different events.  Joining the app was the first step toward my goal, but I didn’t actually build up the courage to go to any events until this year.

Going to Events

One of the groups I joined was for folks in their 20’s and 30’s since I wanted to try to connect with people close in age with me.  The first event I went to with this group was at a brewery.  I didn’t drink, but meeting the other group members and chatting with them was very fun.  The high anxiety I had going in decreased as time went on, as did my social battery.  So after a couple of hours, I bid everyone a farewell and headed home.  I was extremely proud of myself for finally stepping out of my comfort zone despite the anxiety which has been a rock in the road for far too long.

More recently I went to another gathering with the same group, this time at a small bar.  I initially wasn’t going to attend this event since the space is small which means I’d feel quite claustrophobic if there were a lot of people.  Plus, a rule in the group was we had to purchase something since it was a small business.  I am all in on supporting small businesses; my hesitation was about not wanting to drink in public.  I ended up changing my mind, because interacting with people was more important to me.

At this event, I met new people who weren’t at the previous event I attended, and saw some familiar faces.  I tend to be on the quiet side in social settings, especially if it’s new, which was the case here.  Vibing with folks was very enjoyable, and as I opened up more, conversations were nice too.  Some of us also played Cards Against Humanity, which was very fun.  Afterward, some of us went to a Chinese restaurant and then an ice cream shop.


When all was said and done, I was completely drained when I got home.  Regardless, I still enjoyed the day and once again was proud of myself for going to another event.  I am very much looking forward to going to more events in the (hopefully near) future!

Check out my ➡️ previous blog post ⬅️ where I wrote about driving on the highway for the first time.


NAMI: Free Young Adult CT Events!

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Connecticut is holding FREE upcoming CT events and opportunities for those ages 18-29! Take a look at the following flyers for more information!

February 25th, 2025

ct events

Spots are Limited!

Register your spot here!

Location: 997 Farmington Ave, West Hartford, CT, 06107

ALL materials are covered by NAMI!

April 28-30th

It’s okay if you’re unable to go to the event/opportunity in February. Check this out!

ct events

Registration Required!

Contact Val: vlepoutre@namict.org

Who: NAMI invites young adults with leadership qualities and readiness to step into the peer world!

What: There will be workshops, bonfires, fun activities, etc. and brainstorming sessions to “reimagine” the future of NAMI CT and it’s Next Gen programs!

Location: 253 Bushy Hill Rd, Deep River, CT, 06417

All meals and lodging are covered!

Visit NAMI for more CT events, opportunities, and information!

CT Hearing Voices Network Support Groups


The Connecticut Hearing Voices Network (CTHVN) is designed to enhance current opportunities for people who hear voices, see visions or have other unusual sensory perceptions to find and build supportive peer communities through support groups and community education. CTHVN offers free supports groups to those who need a space to discuss their experiences. Use this link or call (860) 952-4050 for more information.

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

Disconnecting for a Connection

What is disconnecting? Is it when you detach with love? Terminating a relationship? Isolating yourself? Unplugging an electrical device? Is it rejection? Not having a bond with something or someone?

Many times, people assume that someone who is disconnected find themselves in a difficult and challenging place to be. This can definitely be true, but what if disconnecting can be healthy and form a different connection?

When I have felt disconnected to the people, places, and things that help me stay sane, I start to get pretty down. I start feeling each of my insecurities creep into my mind and heart to convince me that I either don’t deserve the connection, or that it’s lost because of me.

Being disconnected can be very dangerous for my recovery and overall wellness – mentally and physically – however, it can also be extremely helpful, when used the right way; when I disconnect in order to connect.

One way I do this is by going to the beach and I shut out my thoughts and ground myself by using all of my senses to connect with the beach. I’ll disconnect my phone, my racing thoughts, my rapid heart rate, my loved ones, my responsibilities and allow myself to be vulnerable so I can connect to the calmness that the beach brings me. When I do this often, I’m able to balance the other connections in my life and have the strength to mend the disconnections in my life that I’m unhappy about.

Another way I’ve been disconnecting to connect is by getting to a quiet place, getting on my knees, and closing my eyes to start praying. I’m disconnecting any distraction so that I can build my spiritual connection. When I do this, I’m able to stabilize my emotions and welcome healing.

I’ve also been disconnecting electronics. I have been actually for once turning my phone on complete silence – no vibrate, nothing. When I do this, I’m able to enjoy the moment I’m in and be more in that moment. Sometimes, the moment is simply being alone. Sometimes I disconnect with others because I’m taking time for self-care. I’ve been realizing lately how important self-care really is.

This tool that I’ve learned and put into practice has had amazing benefits:
-the symptoms of my anxiety and ptsd have been more manageable
-I am able to take full advantage of EMDR Therapy
-My self-advocacy skills have increased tremendously
-I feel more empowered
-I feel confident in my ability to say no
-tasks are less pressuring and overwhelming

How will you disconnect to build a connection? What does that look like for you?

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.

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.

Recovery Month Videos

We want to see your videos for Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month! Check out Eliza’s video of why she fights for recovery and post yours here! We will share them on our facebook and twitter (if you want!)

Rest in Peace, Mac Miller

Today the artist Mac Miller passed away. He was 26-years old.
Mac Miller openly suffered from addiction and mental illness- candidly talking about his struggles in interviews and breaking down the walls that create stigma.
He was a talented musician, and impacted many young people with his music and his soul.

The tragedy of another young person, lost to addiction is a heavy weight we must carry as a society.
It seems recently, that we are losing celebrities at an alarming rate.
Through tragedy, a platform is opened- in which we can gather together and speak loudly about these things which have been forbidden.

With addiction, suicide, and mental illness ringing loudly in our ears- we must remember those we have lost. And move forward- not in silence, but in strength- with knowledge gained from their lives and their pain- with lessons to speak up and ask questions.
We must commit to caring for each other- no longer is it possible to look away from mental illness and addiction- we are so clearly surrounded by it- so clearly suffering from it, or not, but know people who are. So now, we must rise together to change the conversation and break the stigma which has silenced us for so long.

As for Mac Miller, I hope deeply that his family feels the love and support they need to get through this time- and I hope they feel comfort knowing they have the support of many others who have gone through similar loss. I hope he is at peace and that he rests in peace.

R.I.P Mac Miller

World Breastfeeding Week

This Week is World Breastfeeding Week.

Breastfeeding has been a major part of my life for the last 17 months. Since the day Willow was born, and to this day, I have breastfed her.

Whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason, I have responded to my beautiful child’s wants and needs in the most natural and intuitive way physically possible; by breastfeeding.

This journey has taught me many invaluable lessons about both myself and my relationship with my daughter.
Becoming a mother is a transformation. It’s a journey, and my own transformation is something I have talked about many times on my blog.

Before Willow was born, when asked how I was going to feed her (formula or breastfeeding) I said I would breastfeed, and thinking back I don’t remember why exactly, other than it seemed the only option- at that time primarily for financial reasons.
As I learned more and more about what my journey would entail and about why people breastfeed I began to realize that I was truly making the best decision for both myself and my daughter.

The beginning was hard. It was more than hard.

Willow had a really bad latch. I was tired, depressed, lonely, in an un-supportive and abusive relationship, and essentially alone. Willow wanted to eat over and over again. And for long stretches of time. It seemed as soon as she finished she was hungry all over again.
I was not myself, my body did not belong to me, and I was so so unbelievably exhausted.
I cried a lot.
I fell asleep sitting up at night, holding willow and would wake up terrified but thankful she was still in my arms, nursing.
I left Willow latched even when it hurt (mistake) because I just wanted her to eat and fall asleep.
I made many mistakes, and was confused about so much.

I had so much room to grow and learn but often felt so hopeless and alone, I would just blindly go forward, unknowing of what laid ahead.
But I wasn’t alone.
I joined Facebook groups. I talked to friends of mine who breastfed, or wish they did. People commended me, they validated me, and one person in particular (who was with me from early in my pregnancy, there when my daughter was born, and after) who educated me and supported me consistently and oftentimes when I needed it more than anything else.
And I kept going, even though there were times I felt desperate to stop, perhaps for just a day, or a moment, or a night- to share the vast responsibility of growing, birthing, and feeding this small amazing person who brought me to my knees and changed my life.

Then, incredibly, and like many other aspects of motherhood, it got easier. Not immediately, and not overnight, but slowly and surely and then suddenly. Suddenly, breastfeeding was the easiest part of motherhood.

Suddenly, my confidence in myself and my ability as a woman and a mother was incredibly affirmed and increased. I am amazing, I made it through long enough to reach a place of ease in something I once considered giving up.
I set goals, and wandered through, eyes closed and arms outstretched. Even when I fell into pits, and found my way out. And when giving up was an option I kept going.

I remember, hoping, wishing, to make it, to not give up. Reasoning that I would make it to at least 6 weeks, then at least 3 months.
And then, it was just a part of our life. An amazing, incredible, and valuable part of our life.
Now, at seventeen months strong, I can say with confidence that we are going as long as my daughter finds comfort and need in breastfeeding – even if its years and years from now.
And I will never feel shame for lifting my shirt in public to feed and comfort my child.

And one day, she wont need or want to nurse. But that day is not today, and I hope that it is not tomorrow. But if it is, and when it is, I will be there, holding her hand, and we will forever have the bond that began in my womb and continues to grow every single day.

We stand with you, Demi

I think a lot of you know, early this week Demi was treated for a suspected overdose and brought to a hospital.
Her family has denied that the overdose was caused by heroin.
I have loved Demi Lovato since I was fifteen.
At a time when I stayed up until 5 am on a daily basis, alone, isolated, and battling thoughts and urges that brought me to a place of desperation and fear I found comfort. I realized that Demi Lovato had been struggling with a lot of similar things.
I began to listen to her music, watch videos and felt a sense of companionship by this seemingly happy, funny, and cheerful girl who loved her sister and friends but still continued to fight inner demons, despite how happy she looked.
This was the first time I truly felt like I was not alone.
I wrote her a letter describing what I had been going through, and thanking her for helping me. I drew a picture of her.
I re-read it again and again but never sent it. My shame and fear convinced me it was stupid.
But I never stopped feeling connected by the experience of mental illness and addiction to Demi Lovato. I never stopped listening to her music, watching her videos, and thinking of her and the ways she managed to empathize with me from the other side of the country.

And now, in a time when she is struggling more than she has in recent years, I am here with her.
Perhaps it matters very little, but regardless, I stand with Demi.
I send her love and healing thoughts and hope she knows that she matters so much to so many.

Get, well soon Demi.

How has this affected you guys?

I think, despite the way it may feel, stigma is beginning to slowly melt away. We are speaking more and more openly about mental illness and addiction, thanks to people like Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga, and Logic.
Recent publicized suicides and overdoses make it nearly impossible to turn the other cheek to mental illness and addiction.

Despite how much our demons try to convince us of our isolation- we can never forget, we are not alone

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?



I have been stressed.
Not every day, and not all the time.
If my stress were a rock, I would be small but very dense and very heavy.
Small, rigid, bumpy, sharp, molten lava.
Bouncing around in my pocket all the time.
Some days it feels so heavy that my hips hurt and my gait is off.
Some days I forget it’s there until I bump my leg against something and the rock digs it’s raged corner into my thigh.
And then I feel like falling over.
But I can’t- and so then I become sad- no, angry.
Hot and heavy, scared and tired. My chest gets tight and my breath becomes hot and thick. So that it weighs down my chest, and constricts my lungs.
I feel suddenly as though I am drowning.

And then I lose it.

Maybe for a moment, because someone needs something from me.
But how dare they need me, don’t they know there is molten lava in my pocket?
Of course, they don’t know, it’s too small to see.
Although, maybe they notice it ripping a hole in my pants, and they ask me if I’m ok, with a certain sincerity that rips my heart from my chest and makes my knees heavy. And then I just want to cry.
And then it becomes an ocean.
An ocean with huge waves and I’m stuck in quicksand being pummeled by huge gusts of cold, salty water.
And my eyes are red and burning, and I cannot see.
My lungs are full of salt and water, so I cannot breathe.
My mouth is full of sand and seaweed, so I have no words to say.
And I’m too scared to figure out how to move.
So like a deer in headlights, I let myself get hit by a car.
And I see it coming but cannot move or speak.

I am alone in a crowd.

A crowd of people who feel the same way as me.
But its all a big secret, and so together we all feel alone.
Then one day I find a word- or all the words. And I find someone to tell.
Maybe they are the right person; they give me goggles, so I can see through the waves. And give me a snorkel, so I can breathe. They show me my feet and tell me how to pull myself from the thick, sticky sand.
And they cannot stay with me the whole time, but maybe they can sit with me on the shore while I catch my breath.
And then the sun can begin to rise, and the mist may clear and life begins to feel ok again.

But it always seems to cycle.

And soon again, I’m drowning.
Or maybe not always, but often enough that my knees are bruised and my elbows are scraped from falling again and again.
But I feel ok for just long enough to catch my breath.
And one day, I hope, I will have my goggles and snorkel with me always- and I won’t need someone to bring it to me. My legs will be strong enough to carry my small, heavy rock. My thigh will be calloused enough so that when my molten lava hits it, I do not fall over.
Until then, I feel happy to know there are lifeguards on the shore, and that some days my rock sits quietly in my pocket and I’m able to forget that it’s there.

And there are other things that make me feel strong and steady and very happy.

Like Willow.
And I’m not always perfect, and sometimes she throws my rock in my face and I melt into the ground and grow into a monster. And when the rock shrinks back into my pocket I feel so sad and guilty.
But I can hug her and say sorry.
She always seems to forgive me for being imperfect. And I’m learning how to forgive myself.
She seems to feed me a steady stream of light and love, which gives me strength and makes me feel safe and happy.

And I tell myself again and again,
“I will be ok, I will be ok”.

Willow Moon, my sun my moon  and my stars.

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!


Rest In Peace, Kate Spade

The fashion designer and creator of the brand Kate Spade, Katherine Brosnahan (aka Kate Spade), was found in her apartment on Tuesday after committing suicide.

She left behind her 13 year old daughter and husband, and many many fans who looked up to her accessible, pretty, and classic handbags, accessories and clothes. Since the 90’s Kate Spades beautiful, simple handbags have been known to almost everyone with even a remote interest in fashion. In middle school, Alexander McQueen (RIP) and W Magazine introduced me into the beautiful, fascinating and almost space-like (very pretty, very far away, and very hard to get to) world of high fashion, modeling, and women’s wear. Since then, my love for fashion grew- I coddled my fashion magazines like they were priceless heirlooms, woke up at 3 am to watch fashion week on my computer, live from various European countries, and maintained my first blog- a tumblr for high fashion and editorial photography- as though it were a full time job. When I was 15, Alexander McQueen committed suicide, and I cried as though he was a close friend.
Now, a young single mother, I have very little time to pursue personal interests and passions (fashion and drawing in particular) however, the news of Kate Spade’s suicide brings me to a place of sadness for many reasons. Though Kate sold her empire years ago, she provided the framework for a brand that would flow through the lives of so many people, and inspire many to love fashion. On a personal level, I am touched by the impact she had on me as a teenager, her handbags and accessories where some of the few designer pieces that brought the sparkling and elevated world of fashion close to my finger-tips. On another level, as a survivor of many very serious suicide attempts, including a attempted hanging when I was 12, I am touched and heartbroken by the silent suffering she endured. I feel so very sad for her that her pain was so immense that suicide seemed a relief to her and her family. I know that feeling well, and I know the feeling of regret, fear and happiness. I wish so much that we could speak more openly about suicide, before tragedy strikes rather than after.

Rest in Peace, Kate.

And to her family and many loved ones, a random girl in Connecticut was touched by Kate for many years, and found peace and happiness in her empire, even throughout her own depression and pain.

When the Mask Comes Off

Check out this awesome video that gives insight into the perspective of mental illness according to youth in the United States.

“When the Mask Comes Off is a video documentary featuring young people from New Mexico discussing their experiences of living with mental illness. We hear stories of struggle on their journey from misperception and alienation toward self-acceptance and healing. The documentary comes with adaptable discussion guides for use in communities and schools.”

Find the video here.

My Best Self

As part of my journey toward mental wellness and stability, I have suffered through many of these times- feeling like I am not good enough, not being happy in my own skin, not even wanting to look at myself in the mirror.

I have not been feeling like my best self.

And when I’m not feeling like my best self, it’s really easy to start going down a path of terrible thoughts, spinning out of control. Once those thoughts start spinning, it’s really hard to think anything else.

When you live with a mental illness, not every day is going to be great. Not every day is even going to be good. Some days just suck. It is hard to find the motivation to complete mundane tasks.  It is hard to get out of bed.

It is hard to be me.

It is hard to be you.

I think it’s very difficult to be cognizant of the battles that everyone fights, whether they be on the inside of their heads or on the outside of their heads. Living with a mental illness doesn’t make this battle any easier. In fact, it makes it harder. Not only are you in constant Fight or Flight mode with every decision, every move you make- you are also fighting the battles that occur outside of your brain.

Each day, I wake up and for that brief five seconds, my brain forgets that she has to fight. She is not worried. She is not scared. She is not running. She is at peace.

I wish that I could extend those five seconds just a little bit longer every day. Because if I get to a point where my brain feels like she is safe and she doesn’t have to fight, maybe she will decide she likes herself. Maybe if she decides she likes herself, she’ll like me, too.

For now, I can count on my brain to like me when I am dancing. She loves me when I’m dancing. She is free when I’m dancing.

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?

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!


Today, I Was Triggered

Today I was triggered.

It happened early in the day. I woke up tired, so tired. But I was happy, I was ok.
I looked out of my bedroom window. My small bedroom inside of a shelter, where I sleep alone with my daughter.
It wasn’t raining, just wet, it was dim and the air looked wet. It looked so comfortable.
I blinked, not a normal quick blink, the type that lasts years and years and sends images of memories running through your head. I was in Redding, waking up for school, living with my mom and my brother.
And for a moment, without quite realizing it, I became sad, so sad.
My eyes got heavy, and my mind became wet with thoughts and feelings.

Then, in the shower, with soap all over my body, the water pressure slowed gradually until nothing came out. I stood there for a few moments, trying to wash the soap off myself with the final, cold drips falling from the pipes.
Willow smiled up at me and reached to be picked up.

While we were getting ready Willow began to cry. She whined, and reached, and yelled a few times. She wanted something, but I didn’t know what it was.
I made a conscious effort to keep hold of my patience and not become upset with her. We both just felt a lot and needed a moment.
So we sat in bed, half dressed, and read a few books and had some quiet time.
By the time we were ready, we both felt a little better.

Then, leaving a few minutes later than I intended, I stepped outside.
Again, I was triggered.

The air was filled with a smell and a feeling and a look that filled me with a feeling of memory.
Someone came from behind me and hit me in the back with a bag of feelings and thoughts and half-memories.


The memories weren’t whole; they were feelings that were happy and sad, and thoughts that were too fuzzy to really be thoughts. No actual memories came. It was a feeling of memory.
As I walked, I felt somber.
I was also really content. The air smelled so good, and I felt very mindful. I enjoyed the foggy air, and I felt calm and able to observe everything around me.

Suddenly, I would feel sad, or have an intense longing for something, although I wasn’t sure what for exactly.
I would look at a building, one I see every day, and it was as if I had just noticed it was there. Suddenly, I would be clubbed with this feeling of memory.
I saw the water through the buildings and felt a strong urge to wander.
I felt no urgency or sense of time, almost as if I had been suspended into my own universe, within the outside world but separated by a strong sense of awareness.
Or something like that.

As I continued to walk, I thought about how I felt, I wrote about it in my head.
My contentedness grew into a subtle happiness. I felt so calm.

The wind blew my hair over my eyes and nose. The smell of shampoo filled my nostrils.

Again this wave hit me.
No actual memories.
But the bodily sensation of being somewhere I wasn’t.
The nostalgia.
A vague mixture of happiness and sadness.
And many thoughts I couldn’t quite place or identify.

Today I was triggered.
And I’ve never quite handled it so well, and I’m so glad I was.

Spring is almost here! To celebrate, here is Willow destroying nature. (P.S. I do not pick flowers or disturb nature, someone gave this to us)

Uncomfortable, For Now.

**I posted this blog on March 23rd, and accidentally deleted it while editing** Repost**
March 23rd, 2018

I hate where I live.

Yesterday, as a group, we were told that we would be on lockdown. For three weeks. Three weeks trapped in the house, being punished for the actions of the other women I live with.
I feel angry, so incredibly angry.
And I want to scream and be juvenile; I feel the strong urge to act out, show them how stupid and senseless this is.
But I am trying so very hard to resist this urge.
I am reminding myself that what is most important, is my daughter, and her wellbeing. I am going to remind myself that she will not realize how unhappy I am unless I show her. But I am struggling.

I live in a shelter, and I am constantly being judged based on the assumption that I have wound up here by some wrong-doing I have committed.
In reality, I came here as a result of domestic violence.

I lived in my own apartment, paid my bills, and had a savings account.
And then my relationship changed. Or maybe it didn’t really change, maybe I just woke up one day.
My awakening happened so gradually that I rejected each sign that I should leave.
And when I tried to look at it, it was only for a moment.

Slowly, the savings account disappeared. My belongings were taken or broken. I was convinced that my friends and family were horrible and no good for me. And I was no good, too.
I was promiscuous, crazy, a druggie. I flirted with everyone I spoke with. Said too much, was so embarrassing and stupid. Dramatic. I was so lucky to be loved by him and would never be loved by anyone else. I was so hard to love, I wasn’t too likeable. He was special for putting up with me.
And sometimes, I was a good mom, I tried my best, even though I was usually still bad. I was good company sometimes.
I believed it all, and never questioned it.

He handed me a mask, and I taped it to my face without any thought. At some point, I forgot it was just a mask.
Then I realized I was unhappy, and as I realized one thing was off, it all suddenly came slamming down in front of me.

And then something scary happened.
It wasn’t the first time.
But it pushed me out, I had been looking for a good excuse to leave anyways, but this was a reason to run.
And so I did.

I looked back a lot at first.
And now, months later, I feel happy. I’m feel proud. I am beginning to feel like myself again.
I still see him, talk to him, I still think of him as my friend, sometimes I think maybe I love him. Sometimes I hate him, so much. But things feel weirdly normal, and I am ok.

I cannot wait to leave this place, this dark angry place. This shelter is hard to be at.
But I remember that nothing lasts forever.

I remember staying up late at night, crying, laying next my sleeping baby because I felt so trapped. And I wanted to escape, and get out but I didn’t know how and I didn’t even know if I had the right to feel that way. And then, slowly but suddenly, I did. I set my intention, and I left. And I know that nothing lasts forever, and that is especially true for things that are painful and uncomfortable.

Life is not supposed to be good always.

And it is not bad always, and it won’t be. One day soon, Willow and I will wake up in our own bed, in our own home and we will be happy and comfortable and at peace.

(My beautiful Bear a few months ago around Christmas)

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?

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.

Trying to be perfect in an imperfect world

I am a perfectionist.


Many people may believe that perfectionism is a good quality to have. Yet those who live with unrealistic standards and crippling anxiety understand the plight of someone who sets standards they cannot possibly reach, and the sorrow of the continuous failure and disappointment they must deal with when they believe everything must always be perfect. This is what it feels like to be a perfectionist…

When I was a little girl, I had so many ideas about what my life was supposed to be like. I thought everything had to be perfect; especially me. I had a carefully arranged and thoroughly thought out plan of what perfect was. When things deviated from that, I fell apart.
As I got older, it became harder and harder to live up to the expectations I had created for myself. People rarely lived up to my ideals. Slowly, this began to break me.
It was strange, the way I fell apart; in many ways, my demise was self-created. Yet, even with a sense of recognition, I could not stop myself. It was a cycle that I had made with my own two hands, stepped in willingly, but could not find the strength to jump out of. My brain had begun to betray me at a young age and has not stopped since.

I remember being in Elementary school, and deciding quite concretely what it took to be ‘successful’, which was synonymous with being ‘good enough’.

I had to get good grades, which meant I had to get all A’s because being good enough wasn’t good enough and in order to succeed, I had to be the best. When I graduated High School with my perfect grades, I had to go to college. But not just college; I had to go to Harvard. I had to follow the expectations I had set, and thrive within the pressure cooker I had built around myself. If I faltered in even small ways, it was a massive, unforgivable failure on my part. And worse than failure was being a disappointment, which was, by all means, the absolute worst thing I could do.

Unfortunately, the world did not follow the standards I expected it to, and I felt powerless to change it. I could not stop my mom from dropping me off to school late every single day, yet I still cried like a baby and yelled that I would never go to college if I couldn’t get to second grade on time. People would put things back in the ‘wrong’ place, and I would crumble. I, like everyone in the world, would lose control constantly. Yet, unlike the rest of my peers, I seemed unable to swallow this and move forward without first falling to the floor in a puddle of tears, or hitting my head against a wall, or screaming and screaming until my little lungs cracked and burned.
As I got older, I began to reason that if things were imperfect, out of my control, or lower than my standards, that rather than accepting the loss of control and disappointment, I would willingly fail. Willingly handing over my power was easier than having it fall from my grip, despite my efforts.

Now, I am no longer a little girl.

I still struggle with the expectation of perfection I unconsciously set for myself. Yet, consciously I fight the notion and try to set new standards.
If I ever spoke to Willow the way I used to speak to myself, my heart would shatter into a million pieces. If she ever spoke to or thought of herself in the way I used to think of myself, I don’t believe I could carry the sadness that would veil my heart. So instead of teaching her to love herself, I will learn how to love myself. She will watch her mom be kind and forgiving to herself, see how she accepts the ebbs and flows of life, and witness her open her palms to the universe to receive what is handed to her. And with time, she too will do the same.


My mom and me in my Great Aunts’ house in Jacksonville, FL.


Me, in my favorite hat


My anxiety due to the high standards I constantly set for myself peaked in my freshman year of High School


My beautiful daughter, who is and will always be perfect simply for being herself

What’s your dream job?

What is your dream job? Remember in elementary school when someone asked what you wanted to be and nothing held you back? Lawyer, astronaut, president, doctor, princess, firefighter; anything seemed possible at that time in our lives.
All throughout middle school and the beginning of high school, I used to dream about being a pediatric oncologist. Then, I slowly but surely stopped believing in myself. I convinced myself that that was not possible. I told myself I wasn’t smart enough, didn’t have enough time or money for school, wasn’t good at school, etc.
So, what is you REAL dream job? Is it still your goal? If not, why?
What’s holding you back from reaching your dreams?

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.

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

Raising the Barre Since 1997

Anxiety has taken many things from me.
She has taken my sanity, my comfort.
She has robbed me of experiences.
Anxiety screams at me constantly. She is louder than the voice inside my head.

There is one thing in the world that settles her.
As soon as I slide my feet into one of three pairs of shoes, she knows her time is up.

She can’t get to me when I am dancing.

I have been many, many things in the last twenty years. I’ve taken on different roles. I’ve played many parts. My weight has fluctuated. My face has changed. I have grown in so many different ways.
Three things in my life have been constant.


And dancing.

My favorite me is who I get to be when I am dancing. I am fearless. I am safe. I am free.
I am any personality I want to be. I am anything I want people to feel when they watch me perform.
I can feel the music move through my soul. My world is whole when my body is in a rhythm.

The hour and a half I get to spend in the studio on Wednesday nights is the only hour and a half of peace I get all week.
Peace of mind.
Peace and quiet.
The speakers could be shaking because of the volume of the music, and it is still the quietest my brain will be all week.

This peace wouldn’t be possible without the support of the greatest group of women in the entire world. Wednesday at 6:30, you are my entire heart. It’s been 8 years, and every week is better than the last. You make me a better dancer, and a better person. You push me to move, create, inspire. Each of you holds a place in my heart, and your love gets me through my darkest hours.

My mental illnesses have constantly let me down, disappointed me, hurt me, and stopped me from living my best life for the last twenty years, but that’s okay. Because at least dance has never given up on me.

This too shall pass

Yesterday Willow turned 8 months old.
It’s hard to believe I have been a mom for almost a year.
Part of me feels as though I have been doing this for nearly a decade. Another half of me feels as though it was only a few weeks ago that I was holding my newborn daughter.

I remember when my daughter was born. Not as vividly as I thought I would recall it; I imagined years later, remembering the color hair tie I wore and the exact emotions I felt as my screaming, naked baby was placed on my chest.
But I remember it.

I remember saying,
“Fuck, fuck, fuck”
in pain- in front of my boyfriends mom, who never heard me swear before. I wanted to apologize, but was too shocked by the pain of labor to actually do it. I remember as I got closer to pushing, the strength of my instincts. I was too focused to doubt myself, so like a dancer preforming a routine I knew by heart, I followed my body’s commands. I went from bed, to ball, to shower, to toilet in a matter of minutes. I groaned, I leaned, I ignored all the noises and people around me. I went inside myself and flowed through the motions of labor.

Then I remember fear.
While I sat up in bed, with my knees by my cheeks, I felt terrified.
The pain I was feeling was more intense and unavoidable than anything I had ever experienced in my life. I knew, that even though I was feeling a pain more intense than I had ever experienced, I could not stop. I could not back out, nor did I want to.
I remember telling my amazing midwife,
“I can’t do this, I can’t do this”
She was calm, confident, and fearless when she told me,
“Yes you can. You’re safe. You’re doing an amazing job”.
Being told I was safe was exactly what I need to hear. I was terrified of the pain I was feeling. It was so intense it felt as though it could kill me. With eyes closed and arms out, I had been flung into a foreign place. I could not see where I was, nor did I know where to go; but I had to find my way through.
I let go of my fear and hesitancy as I listened to my body and ignored my brain. I continued pushing through a level of pain that I’ve never felt before, and through that experienced a new, greater level of pain. I pushed and pushed , with eyes closed tight running forward, I continued, unsure but faithful.
Then a nurse told me that I could reach down and feel my babies head if I wanted to. I put my hand between my legs and and felt my daughters hair.
With new determination, I was sure of what I was doing.
Suddenly, as quickly as it began, it was over.
As my midwife held up my daughter at all I could say was,
“Oh my God, oh my God”.

I had done it. I looked my fear, doubts, and hesitation in its eyes, and continued forward with open willingness.
Giving birth filled me with an ecstasy and pride I had never experienced.
I had known going in to the hospital that millions of women before me had accomplished childbirth. I knew I wanted to have a natural birth. I knew that one way or another, I would have my daughter.
Regardless of this knowledge, of my attempted preparation, I was filled with intense doubt and fear.

I learned, from giving birth many things about myself.

I learned the power of intentions; and that I can do anything I set my mind to.
I learned that discomfort and pain won’t kill you- despite your fears it may. That if you can harness the strength to sit with it- to go through it, not around- that it will end.
I learned about love- real love- and that I had never experienced it before meeting my daughter.
And I finally began to understand the importance of loving myself.

I hope that I will continue to love myself more each day. That I will learn that I want to change for myself, because I love myself; not just because I want to be a good mom.
And I hope that one day soon- I will be the woman I want my daughter to be.
And the woman I want to be.

For now, I will sit with the discomfort of not being in the place I wish I were in.
I will sit with the discomfort of living in a shelter, being employed part time and very poor, and of not having a degree.
I will sit with the discomfort of being a work in progress.

I will continue to move forward, through the pain and sadness of not having the life I want for my daughter, not yet.
I will go through this pain- and during that time learn a great deal more about myself and my life.

And one day soon, Willow and I will be ok.

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?)


Forgiving myself for Willow

Hi everybody- I hope you’re all having a good week! Willow and I have been really busy- I’ve started leaving her in daycare a few days a week to work a few hours at turning point, and life is continuing to race past me at an extraordinary rate! Thankfully, Willow seems to be enjoying daycare a lot more than she did a few months ago. She’s also starting to move a lot! She’s pulling herself up really well, taking small steps while I hold her hands, and looking like she might crawl after all! I also attended a meeting on ending youth homelessness yesterday, and told my story.
So, it’s safe to say I’ve been really busy, but doing well!
So why do I feel so anxious?
Before I became a mother, I felt anxious constantly. It was like a dull hum in the back of my mind that followed me everywhere. Some days I was better at ignoring it than others. I couldn’t always pinpoint what my anxiety was about, and when people would ask,
“what’s wrong?”
a wave a nausea would come over me- because I often had no clue what I was anxious about. This would set off an avalanche of thoughts.
“Why am I anxious? I must be anxious for a reason… if I forget what I’m anxious about I’m forgetting something important! Am I anxious about nothing? Why would I be anxious about nothing? What’s wrong with me? Will this go away- will I feel like this forever? *Cue panic about feeling uncomfortable for the rest of my life and never being able to escape my thoughts…”
I used to tell people I could feel anxious over a doorknob or lightbulb.
Now, my anxiety feels different. It feels more important, heavier. At times I think maybe it’s not really anxiety, because I’m worrying about something that matters; I’m worrying about my daughter. Many times I can reach out and grab my thoughts and identify what it is I’m worrying about. Although sometimes it feels stupid when I think about it, or I’ll try to put it into words and get confused. But is it really anxiety if I know what I’m worried about and it really matters? These are rhetorical questions. I know it’s really anxiety. I know it’s really not very different than the anxiety I felt as a teenager. The difference is, now I worry for two (kind of like when I was pregnant I ate for two).
I constantly question if I’m being a good mother, am I screwing Willow up? Wasting her potential or brain by using my cell phone in front of her or not having enough toys for her? Am I allowing her to be free? What am I modeling for her? What is she watching that she will pick up on- are these good things? I have a constant barrage of thoughts overwhelming me throughout the day- the dull hum is more like a headache that never goes away.
But then I see my daughter fake laugh to get a reaction, or pull herself up on a toy, I hear her get into a screaming match with someone, or lay with her on my chest and close my eyes. I see her funny, beautiful personality, or look into her kind eyes. I watch her play with another baby at the shelter. She does something independent, but looks back at me for approval. A swell of hot, red love fills my heart and overflows into my chest. I feel like I’m floating, I’m so happy that I’m sad (if that makes sense). I love this beautiful girl so much it hurts. And she loves me. I feel happy and at peace in these moments. I see the beautiful life I created- this beautiful little girl that is becoming an amazing little person. I created her, carried her, I gave birth to her, and now I feed her- my body is so powerful and strong- I am powerful and strong. And I give myself the credit I deserve. I feel happy.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that people weren’t kidding when they warned me how fast time goes by; how quickly babies grow into toddlers and continue from there. Although I can allow myself to panic, trying to beat a clock I will always be running behind, I instead try to be still and watch.
I know several years from now, I will look back and hoped I had soaked this time in more, enjoyed it more and worried less. So when I catch myself ruminating about my baby’s growth spurts, development, or well being, I try to encourage myself to give my brain a warm hug. Remind myself that this time is so special, and give myself permission to enjoy it.
So today, as I lay in bed with my 7 month old sleeping on my chest, writing this post on my iPhone and thinking about how busy I will be in an hour, I instead chose to close my eyes for a moment, hug my daughter, and set my intention for the day.
Today I will catch myself in worry, I will take time to watch my daughter play, and join in with her. I will enjoy these small moments, and free my mind of the expectations I place upon it. Today I will be still. I will be a mom, and if that’s all I’m able to do, it will be a good day and I will have succeeded. If at the end of the day I still have bags of laundry to fold in my closet, a to-do list to complete, and phone calls to make- I will forgive myself. Because one day, my daughter will need to forgive herself, and I hope to be the person who teaches her how.

"This is from me to you. This is the truth."

I reflect sometimes on how to identify myself. I wish there was one word I could maintain as my title, but truthfully, there are at least 50 words that come to my mind as my identifying features. I am up front about myself upon meeting people. I think the humans of the world are entitled to knowing what they are getting themselves into by letting me into their lives.
I have struggled for a long time with my own self-worth and purpose- most of my 23 years. I am a constant work in progress. I have good days, and then bad days, and then a few more good days, and then a few more bad days. My entirety is made up of many pieces that I am proud to own.
Identify me as a woman. Identify me as a daughter, a sister. Identify me as a warm-hearted spirit. Identify me as a fiery personality (that’s how my mom sees me). Identify me as a dancer. Identify me as a teacher. Identify me as a cat-mom. Identify me as a Hufflepuff. Identify me as a feminist. Identify me as a student. Identify me as a writer. Identify me as the girl dancing in her car as you pass me on the highway. Identify me as a tea-drinker. Identify me as a “follower of cats on Instagram”. Identify me as a hard worker. Identify me as the number-one-grandchild (that’s how I see myself). Identify me as someone who posts way too much information on Twitter. Identify me as someone who owns way too many mugs. Identify me as a crafter. Identify me as a giant hairless cat that can’t fend for herself (that’s how my cat sees me). Identify me as a reader. Identify me as someone you can trust. Identify me as someone who lives with a mental illness.
But don’t just identify me as one thing. I am made up of them all. All of those pieces add to my ever-growing puzzle.

Click on Sunny to read my story! 

To the Moon and back

My name is Eliza, I am 22 years old and have a 7-month-old daughter, named Willow.
My life is certainly different in almost every way than I had once imagined it might be. Struggling with mental illness throughout high school, my focus was blurred and my vision of myself and the world seemed an abysmal tomb of hopeless sorrow and pain. After a very proud graduation, 6 years in the making, I thought I had begun to creep from the shadows and began to feel ‘normal’. This feeling of normalcy was a great relief, although it was short lived. I soon found myself overwhelmed with a full-time schedule at college and work, coupled with a life that continued to rush past me at speeds I could not keep up with, despite my efforts. I turned inward, and reached for drugs, alcohol, and self harm to give me relief from life, which seemed to berate and beat me until I was left laying in the dirt, begging for mercy. A deep sadness and resentment towards the world and everyone in it filled my being. Finally, I could no longer stand it and sought help. After 45 days of detox and rehab, I emerged, beaten and wary- but grateful for both my life and sobriety.
Soon after coming home, I met someone, and quickly rushed into a relationship. We officially started dating in April of 2016. By July 6th, 2016 I was 7 weeks pregnant. Feeling I could not face the thought of abortion, I decided I would have my baby. Looking back, its a decision I made quickly, and without brutal honesty with either myself or my boyfriend. Nonetheless, I committed, and though many urged me to terminate my pregnancy, I continued to move forward- sure I was making the right decision. Nine months later, on February 26th, I gave birth to a beautiful, 8 pound 6 oz, girl, Willow Moon. After less than five minutes of crying, she laid silently on my chest and took in the world for hours.
Five months later, my relationship with her dad had been crumbling for what felt like years. How long it actually took, I don’t remember, all I remember are the feelings. Sadness and anger. Suddenly, I was forced to decide to leave or stay in a situation were I feared for our safety at times, and our happiness constantly. Willow Moon and I took what we could, and left quickly. We now live together in less than 100 square feet at a shelter for pregnant women and mothers. And battling life together, we try to be brave and learn what we can from each other. This is our journey to the Moon and back.

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

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?


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!)

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

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.

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 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.

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 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?

Untitled design (15)


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.

I Got Rid of All My Demons

To listen to a black artist sing about depression is a little thrilling.

To hear a black artist speak about mental illness, about eradicating stigma and encouraging men, especially black men to disavow the age-old belief that they are somehow immune to mental illness, is groundbreaking.

Lyrics can reveal pain, sorrow, frustration and depression in a very artful way and here is a rapper who is fearless and bold enough to bring out the trauma that is intertwined in his thoughts and feelings through his music.

Vic Mensa, was on medications while he was dealing with his own deep darkness. He talks about the shortfalls of drugs and prescribed drugs but the natural healing of being honest and forthright about your struggles.

In acknowledgement of men’s health month, I encourage you to watch this interview.

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.

"Pull Yourself Together": Sinead Occonor

How common is PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder)?

Statistics show that 7.7 million Americans age 18 and older have PTSD.

And people who have experienced previous traumatic events run a higher risk of developing PTSD.

One of the most familiar effects of PTSD is that it can create very vicious cycles between victims and their families.

Thing is, people with PTSD often become distrustful of their family; there might be a break down in communication and they may loose closeness with each other.
Family members may just happen to have respond in the wrong way and that could make relationships worse.

What I’ve learnt from this Irish Singer, Sinead Occonor is that PTSD is not something that you can always deal with on your own. She went missing last week and when she was found it was reported that she had attempted suicide.

She opened up about her struggle with PTSD and the relationship that she has had with her family. She blamed them for the trauma they had caused her which eventually lead her to migrate to the US.

It makes one wonder, how could a talented artist with such comforting vocals end up needing the same comfort she has shown to the world for years.

Nonetheless, Occonor had a very controversial past including feuding with Prince, Ripping up a picture of the Pope, attacking Miley Cyrus for how she had represented women in the media.

But no one, really knew her for her struggle with metal illness and when news broke that she was missing, there was a round of negative attacks against her and another round even after she admitted to her suicidal past. It only goes to show how cold the world can be.

In a sense, people felt she needed to ‘pull herself together’ but it really shows how little we really know about mental illness or how little we care to know.

There is just that one moment when you need support instead of being attacked. “Pull yourself together” is simply said but mental illness, often times is a very complex issue.


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.

Straight Parents, Gay Children

March is LGBT Health Month and since lately I have been talking to a number of people about mental health and physical health, especially among LGBT folks.
An interesting topic that came up is not so much about the struggles we face due to sexual/gender identity but the struggle our parents face.

Some of us may be aware of the frustration of being gay; of coming out to parents, but many might not have thought deeply about how parents cope or not cope.
Sometimes religious teachings make it hard for them; sometimes societal pressure makes it hard for them but what thought process do you think they go through when coming to terms with the reality that one of their child may be gay or transgender?

Why should they have to deal with something, of which they have no first-hand experience? This is a legitimate question where were are not necessarily dismissing the pain of being ‘rejected’ but actually acknowledging the remorse from ‘rejecting’…

To some extent, we could match the first few years of coming out ‘to ourselves’, to those first years of coming out ‘to our parents’… what was it like for us? What was it like for them?

For instance, I may not be able to fully grasp the mental process of a parent that sees his/her child come out in a deeply homophobic society.
Sometimes parents share their own insecurities, at other times they just don’t want to deal with it…

Their inability to cope may play out in anger or rejection… but how do we know when they are being protective and actually do care or just willfully destructive?

There are some parents who cannot cope with the idea that his/her child may be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender; who may not know how to respond and who should be able to get help. PFLAG is a national organization that offers peer support for families and friends of LGBTQ individuals with regional chapter meetings in Norwalk and Hartford.

Real Monsters

Hey everyone!

I came across a really cool page by an artist Toby Allen, who came up with designs featuring manifestations of mental health labels. I think they are very creative and eye catching. I Found myself really paying attention to detail with a few of them. (The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Had broken shards of glass, representing a mirror or even shattered reality?!)

Allen was quoted saying:
“The project originated from imagining my own anxieties as monsters and finding it to be a cathartic and healing process to draw them, It made them feel weaker and I was able to look at my own anxiety in a comical way. I wanted to expand upon this idea and draw other representations of mental illnesses that could help people in the same way it helped me.”

Definitely check it out!