What is Other Lives?
Our Mission and Vision:
Imagine a trauma-informed world. What does that look like?
It is a world made accessible. A world where coping isn’t a full-time job because of the obstacles thrown in our way. A world where we have the energy to heal.
A trauma-informed world is one where we can spend our resources on living, rather than on simply surviving.
Our mission is to create a trauma-informed world.
Who is Other Lives for?
Other Lives is primarily for trauma survivors, regardless of their diagnosis (or lack of one).
We are a peer-led, peer-centering, and peer-defended community. We believe that survivors are capable of understanding their own needs. As an organization working for the needs of trauma survivors, we believe that the voices of survivors should be the primary focus.
A Word For Loved Ones
Other Lives is also for our friends, family members, partners, and other loved ones.
Your partner, sibling, parent, or friend is in crisis, or they are out of acute crisis and are struggling with life because of what they experienced.
You don't know what to do.
Of course you don't.
At best, our culture teaches us nothing about how to support someone through trauma and its aftermath.
At worst, it teaches us that they are broken, deficient, dramatic, attention-seeking, or in need of immediate hospitalization.
Those of us who have been through the wringer needed appropriate support from you. Some of us got it, and some of us didn't. Some of us were offered it but didn't take it for various reasons.
You may be suffering, and you need to take this suffering somewhere you can actually be supported.
It is awful to see someone you love go through such pain. It is devastating to see them hurt themselves or contemplate ending their own life.
You need care, too, and maybe some perspective from people who have been through it.
The fact that you are here is a good thing. We want you here, and there is a place for you.
We are a peer-support network and advocacy organization that takes a radical approach to addressing the needs of fellow trauma survivors.
We ourselves are trauma survivors. Other Lives is administrated by people who know what it is like to be stripped of their autonomy and then suffer from the deafening silence that occurred afterward. We have experienced the terror of the world feeling unsafe and then experienced that feeling sticking to us long after the danger has passed.
We also learned that the source of our trauma was not just the individual perpetrators. It was our community. It was a culture of shame. It was the silence around our injuries when the power of our perpetrators was protected instead of us. Our shame was not an isolated event. What happened to us happened in context, and eventually our experience woke us up to this.
Other Lives is founded on the belief that individual healing is just one part of the issue. We also need our laws and our culture to change. Because of that:
We are intersectional and feminist.
We recognize and challenge toxic masculinity.
We are anti-racist.
We advocate for the rights of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including non-binary ones.
We support the decriminalization of sex work.
We are friends with intravenous drug users and folks who struggle with addictions. We are not affiliated with twelve step programs, but we are not against them for people who find them helpful.
We are friends with folks who live on the streets.
We are friends with military veterans.
We seek to understand and challenge structural violence.
We seek quality mental health care and equal access.
We seek to model, in our own lives, the change that we needed.
We seek to do better.
You do not have to be radical yourself to participate with us, but we need you to know who we are. We need you to know that Other Lives is just another manifestation of the work we have been doing to heal ourselves and make change for others.
The symbol of Other Lives is an owl at sunrise. It is our night watchman, our protector, and our secret-holder; watching over us while we sleep, finally nearing the end of its shift. One day, the sun will rise and our guardian will be able to sleep.
You are not alone. We believe you.
Our Ongoing Projects:
We have multiple projects in the works.
1) An online forum for peer support and education. The forum is primarily for trauma survivors to talk amongst ourselves, but there are sections that exist specifically for loved ones who want to know how to help. Just as our loved ones need us to survive, we also need you to understand what we are going through and get support for yourselves while you witness our struggle. The forum has been launched, and you can find it at forum.otherlives.org
2) A resource list for trauma survivors, vetted both by experts in the medical community and by actual trauma survivors.
A more ambitious goal is to create a mobile app that lists trauma programs, treatment centers, help lines, emergency shelters, and other advocacy orgs by location, insurance type, exclusion/inclusion criteria, and specialty. The issues that result from our injuries leave some of us struggling with employment, housing, and legal trouble. We want to create the list that many of us have needed in the past and that we still might need in the future. In this unprecedentedly connected world we live in, every single one of us should be able to go online and easily find the nearest source of help, along with practical how-to guides, written by other survivors, about the reality of navigating those bureaucracies when you are least capable of thinking clearly.
3) Continuing to develop the writing and publishing arm of our organization. Our writing can have great power as a tool for advocacy, community-building, and self-therapy.
4) Live-blogging the entire process as two members of our team go through the process of applying for disability.
5) Various other creative projects underway by members of our team which will be announced as they are ready.
Our Most Immediate Project:
In order to more fully explore the differences between surviving and living, Other Lives is funding an experimental project in which our founder, Joseph King, is undertaking a marathon hike during which he will participate in our advocacy campaign from the paths that make up the Eastern Continental Trail.
A Word From Founder Joe King: What "Other Lives" means to me
1) It is the impossible wish to have had a different life and a different history than the one I have had. It is looking back and seeing all of the things that might have been different if I hadn't been traumatized. It is feeling shame when I find myself doing this. It is my insistence that my life would be better and more worth living if those things had never happened and that some people who don't have to deal with CPTSD/PTSD get things that I want- and that they get them because they haven't had to spend so much energy just to stay alive. It is the real possibility that I might have, in fact, done "more" with my life by this point if those things had never happened. It is the unfairness of it all.
2) It is the idea that "real" trauma only happens to other people. It is how I minimized my own experience for decades.
3) It is directed toward the general public as an acknowledgment of what we sometimes are to them: baffling, unnerving, and "other". It is explaining myself to them, but on my terms.
4) It is the distance we feel from the rest of the world and the roles we play for other people so that they won't hurt us again.
5) It is the distance I feel from my own body and from my own life. It is the dissociation and numbing that got stuck in the "always on" position. It is the other lives we had to create within ourselves in order to survive.
6) It is my acknowledgment that, even among survivors, there can be chasms of difference between us in what we've gone through and how we have interpreted it, and that we can be just as "other" to each other.
7) It is the acknowledgment of the similarities among survivors with CPTSD/PTSD, what I refer to as the "terrifying banality" of our symptoms and their etiology. It is the commonalities we find when we speak with or listen to other survivors- commonalities we may react in terror to and flee from, but that we also may find comfort and relief in.
8) It is the horror and grief over the realization that my own abusers and their accomplices were themselves traumatized. It is the awareness that my abuse could have been prevented if they had been able to get help for themselves. It is the feeling of their own pain and the loss of their lives that I mourn too.
9) It is giving myself permission to speak, so that I can ungaslight myself and teach the people around me how to become an accomplice in this instead.
10) It is creating another life for myself from the wreckage of the past, one that honors, but is not defined by, trauma. It is the process of turning away from my wish to have had a different life and toward wanting the life that I have right now. It is the great hope that I may one day have that, and that you may too.