What is Other Lives?
Mission: 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.)
Other Lives is also for our friends, family members, partners, and loved ones. If you belong to this group, please allow me to address you directly for a moment:
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.
Our culture teaches us- at best- 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.
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.
The owl is our nightwatchman. One day, one day, the sun will rise and our owl's shift will finally end.