By Amy Oestreicher
Why is it that, in the darkest of times, we look for the brightest of things? (Literally.)
I’m asking because I’m not sure myself, yet that is exactly what I did on the beach one day — while walking alone with my mother.
That is exactly what I did on the beach that day: the day I told my mother I was sexually abused.
It was April 2005. My voice teacher — who was my trusted mentor and godfather (for two years) — had been molesting me for months, and I had “froze in numbness” to block out that devastating loss in my life.
After months of keeping this secret inside, I could no longer take it. I told my mother that I needed to take walks with her every day to “heal” — although I could not say what from — then one day I could. I did. I told my best friend, and mom, I had been abused.
I cannot express the gravity of that moment. In fact, the moment was so powerful, that I wrote a scene about it. A scene that I later incorporated it into Imprints, my full length drama. (Imprints is a play that covers the overwhelming feelings I felt as I attempted to piece together fragments of trauma after awaking in a surgical ICU. The play goes in and out of past and present – just like my thoughts did — as I was trying to recall what had happened just before a coma changed my world forever. A coma that changed my world just two weeks after this very moment.) But sharing my “secret” changed me.
Of course, it’s never easy to speak about difficult memories. That is why I spent months tormented with anxiety. I felt my throat constrict and my jaw tense every time I tried to speak the words I was petrified of hearing for myself. And as traumatized as I was by my abuse, my mother was traumatized as well, but trauma does that.
Trauma tends to have a ripple effect, leaving marks on survivors and those who love and care about them.
So as difficult for me as it was to put my own abuse in words, it took years for my mother to put her earth-shattering moment into words as well:
Amy and I were walking on the beach in Fairfield, CT. She had taken a month off from school, and I promised that although I didn’t know what she needed to heal from, I would be at her side and help her through. She was so different at this point than she ever was before, her personality was sullen. She was anxious, losing weight, not focused, and clearly in turmoil.
WE had JUST gotten back from Kripalu where we did a mother-daughter retreat/journey dancing. Amy has always been such a beautiful, soulful dancer, but during one of those dance exercises she went into the middle of our circle surrounded by me and many other women. A woman touched me on the arm, and looking into my eyes, said, “look, your daughter is dancing a dance of such deep pain, you have to find out what the source of her anguish is about.” I will never forget these woman’s voice and how it jolted me into reality.
We were walking on the beach in Fairfield when suddenly I looked into her eyes and asked from the deepest part of my soul,” Has B — her mentor, voice teacher, acting teacher and now “”godfather” — ever touched you?
She began speaking as if a plug was pulled out of a dam’s wall. She said “yes,” and began to describe what he did while I went into complete shock and craziness. I started to scream, “No NO, how could he, I trusted him with my precious child, he was a son of a bitch,” etc. etc. etc. I couldn’t stop raging, until my intuitive daughter screamed “Stop, now tell me one thing good because I can’t witness all this negativity right now,” and she insisted I find something positive to say.
My head went numb, and I started to look all around me. Finally, I looked up to the sky. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I noticed that the sky was a shade of deep blue.
And for some reason, I said “The sky is blue, Yes. The sky is BLUE.”
And my precious daughter simply said, “that’s good.”
This memory isn’t easy for either of us to recount. Yet in telling my mom this secret, I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I remember feeling a closeness and safety I hadn’t felt with her before.
Things were going to get better now. We were going to heal, think optimistic thoughts, get therapy, and purge this man from our systems.
Two weeks later, we had a Passover Seder. 48 hours after that, I was in a coma.
I awoke months later and, according to my brother’s journal entries from his days waiting by my bedside in the ICU, the first words I could stammer out were “IT WAS HIM.”
Years later, I wrote a short play based on this powerful moment between my mother and I, appropriately called The Sky is Blue. Using words to express what I had been through was not easy for me. I’m sure it was not easy for my mom to hear these words either. But by exchanging our truths, listening and embracing one another’s stories, we were able to take one frightening step forward together into the future. Together, we can help all survivors and their allies come forward to share their story and heal. We all have the ability to look up towards the sky.
I think back on this moment between mother and daughter often. Our unexpected beach discovery in April 2005 reminds me that in the darkest of times, the sky is always blue.
We always have positivity and gratitude to cling onto when life feels terrible — even when the sky isn’t blue. Because, eventually, it will be.
There’s always a tomorrow. Or the next day – the sky will be blue.
So take a second and look up.
What do you see?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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!”