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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)

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.


So I came across this article, “How Nature Helps Me Stay Grounded in Moments of Anxiety”, which I think was really interesting. The writer pointed out a coping skill for anxiety which I think is pretty clever, easy and really helpful… Its just a great way to master your focus. You can see the link below and a description of the technique:

How Nature Helps Me Stay Grounded in Moments of Anxiety

“One of the coping methods I have learned is called grounding. It involves looking around and identifying five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This technique gets me out of my own head, so to speak, and it pulls me back into my surroundings. I am required to get in touch with my own senses and realize I’m still here. That reconnection with my senses, my surroundings and myself has sometimes been enough to stave off a panic attack.”

Four Ways to Use Nature to Overcome Your Fear of Detours

The world of nature is filled with “detours.” The best part about being a “Detourist” is taking an unexpected detour in life, and catching the unexpected beauty along the way.

Four Ways to Intrude on Nature:

Eat Outside: You don’t need fancy picnic baskets or a farm to table meal – just move away from the kitchen table, pack up some dips, roasted vegetables and festive salads, and sit in the backyard or a neighborhood park.

Get Active Outside: You don’t need to go on a camping trick, or seek out the steepest mountain biking trails.  Take a nature walk.  If there’s some spring in your step, take a little jog – or, i you’re completely uninhibited like me, hear a song in your heart and dance on the beach! I promise that no one is staring at your as much as you think they are!

Create Outside:  All it takes it a notebook and crayons – even one little pencil! Check out these seen simple ways to get in touch with your creative side – all of this can be done outside!

Breathe Outside: That’s right. Nature can naturally improve your health.  Breathe in Mother Nature, and instantly feel more relaxed and refreshed.  You can even think affirmations to yourself as you breathe in and out.

How have you intruded on nature today?

Using nature is a powerful tool to overcome fear.  Being in nature can give us perspective and remind us not to always get worried about the little things!

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

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

Remember – it’s the twists, turns and difficulties in your path that can transform you and your journey.  Those fears, hardships and detours are what makes you human and…YOU.

That’s why we share our stories.  We share our “detours” instead of running from them.  We share to cheer each other on in our journeys. We share to encourage our fellow Detourists to reach that beautiful clearing – perhaps a different one than they planned for themselves, but perhaps an even more beautiful sight to see.

Get out in nature, and you’ll be surprised at what you can discover!  Tag your travels with #LoveMyDetour!

Get Lost! Rediscover Yourself in Nature

There are plenty of detours in nature. And better yet, nature is great for your mental health! Being In nature combats depression, boosts your Well-Being, and is a great way to continually rediscover who you are. I learned that as I literally learned who I was again…

Apple of Mine

I’ve always loved nature—ever since I was a little girl. My nature walks were my time to daydream and collect little treasures along the way. I’d often come home with pockets full of acorns, mulch, flowers I picked off neighbors’ lawns, pebbles, and a bit of dirt. My fantasies were vivid, and the world felt so alive around me—the trees had faces, the sun had a song, and even as a kid I knew I was living in a world of miracles. Nature was how I continually rediscovered myself—every day, the world felt new.


I grew up happy, healthy and confident with who I was. But my life took an unexpected turn when, two weeks after I turned 18, I fell into a coma for months due to a sudden blood clot. When I awoke, I was told I no longer had a stomach and couldn’t eat or drink. It was not known when (or if) I would ever again.

Waking in the unfamiliar world of the ICU (full of beeping machines, nurses and IV pumps) was earth-shattering. Discovering medical appliances all over my immobile and foreign body, feeling as though I woke up as someone else, and not knowing when I would leave this alternate universe was frightening and overwhelming. But what I want to share with you are the blessings that came from starting anew.

A detour in life is easier to travel...

As I became more and more alert, I slowly rediscovered the world that I had been away from for so long, and it felt like every smell, every sight and every interaction was being experienced for the first time. As my family sat by my bedside, I noticed things about their demeanor and our dynamics that I had never taken time to see before. I realized that the quiet, intimate moments can speak volumes. In a way, being snatched from the hustle and bustle of everyday life provided an opportunity to connect more deeply with my loved ones. We had been given the precious gifts of quiet time and no distractions. Things I hadn’t noticed before—my mother’s smile, a friend’s laughter, the love and support all around me—now evoked feelings of profound gratitude.

The beauty of a near-death experience is you realize the things that matter in life. However, I wouldn’t say that falling into a coma is necessary to realize this! Every day is an opportunity to remember the things that make us feel grateful. Once my hands were able to write again, I would make a list from A to Z of what I was grateful for. Even on some of my hardest days, I found that by the time I got to “Z”, there were at least a few things to smile at and be thankful for.

Soon my alphabetical list turned from “Almost walked, Better heart rate, Coughed less” to “Awesome walk outside, Best afternoon ever, Cheerful spirits today.” It was amazing to see each day slowly improve and to feel myself gradually claiming ownership of my world again. Bit by bit, I started to feel myself materialize back into the girl I knew before my coma, but equipped with a deeper wisdom and a vivacious new desire to discover the world.


As my spirits lifted, I got better from the inside out, hungrier than ever to re-experience the world. Eventually, I didn’t need to be plugged into as many machines, so my family started taking me on high-speed ride, racing through the halls of Columbia Hospital in my wheelchair. We’d explore all of the hidden nooks and crannies of every floor, though I’m sure we weren’t supposed to be in half the places we went to! Finally, one day, we found a beautiful spot outside where I got to enjoy my first breath of fresh air in months. I remember seeing the sunset for the first time since the coma… I felt like a child being born all over again. Even the mundane became glorious—seeing people having lunch outside, the roaring of traffic, birds overhead—and the more I saw the more I wanted to be a part of it.


Now, here I am, a decade later. I’m healthy, grateful, and part of the world again. It’s the wonderful world I knew before as a nature-loving, happy-go-lucky teen, yet there’s a little spark that lies behind every sunset, every friend, and every routine experience. I admit that I still get caught up in the rush of everyday life, when it’s easy to take things for granted, but I always try to remember what it felt like to breathe in that sunset in that rusty old wheelchair. When I do, the overwhelming sense of gratitude floods my senses again.

How would you live your days as if each experience was being felt for the first time?

Start today…

Subscribe for updates on Amy’s upcoming book, “My Beautiful Detour.” Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, speaker for RAINN, writer for The Huffington Post, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright, eagerly sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, performance, art and speaking. All artwork was created by Amy on her detour.  Catch her touring Gutless & Grateful, her one woman musical, to theatres, colleges, conferences and organizations nationwide.   Learn about her mental health advocacy programs for students and follow her on twitter @amyoes.

Find out how to get involved with #LoveMyDetour, and give your support here. Learn more about creating compassion through our detours at amyoes.com.