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Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll.

Yep. It was the theme of this year’s Mental Health America conference. And for good reason. 

“Why did we choose this theme? Why be so public about complicated, personal, often embarrassing issues? Because fighting in the open has been the mission of MHA since Clifford Beers dared to utter his now famous words: “I must fight in the open.” So we are going to do just that.

These issues are real – across all age groups – and are far from black and white. It is time to take mental health, mental illness and addiction—and all the messy and sometimes uneasy truths that accompany them—out from behind closed doors—and discuss them openly. Together. Even if it makes some uncomfortable. It is that important.”

I couldn’t think of a better way to fight in the open – and it was an honor to present for the second year in a row.

How do you fight in the open for mental health? <Tweet this!>

I had an amazing time presenting Gutless,Grateful and the Power of Songwriting this week at the Mental Health America Conference in Washington D.C.

What’s so great about songwriting?

Mental illness may make us feel as though we’ve lost our voice, our innate ability to trust ourselves, to express ourselves, and make decisions.  Through songwriting, not only can we literally reclaim our voice, we can reshape our identity as we place our thoughts, feelings and sensations into a structured musical form.  Being able to express ourselves through music and lyrics is a way to reframe our narrative, making meaning from difficult events in our lives, and communicating thoughts and emotions which may be too overwhelming for the spoken or written word.  
 
A song creates empathy by bringing others in, allowing them to not only hear our innermost thoughts, but relate their personal struggles to our own.  Songwriting draws us into a universal human story, connecting us to our hearts and to the hearts of others. We can move thoughts from the margins to the center, from chaos to order.  Songwriting creates a safe container for us to come into contact with difficult emotions in a way where we can acknowledge them in a way that doesn’t overwhelm us. In this workshop, we explored how songwriting can transform adversity into creative growth through discussion, hands-on exercises and award-winning performance.  Discover songwriting tools to mold your own experience into music and rhyme.
 
Check out the free songwriting
 
 
Songwriting can help anyone transform their mental health struggles into a creative ally.  All we need to bring is our honesty and presence.  The song does the rest, literally moving us through difficulties in a fluid, lyrical matter.  
 
Check out some of my own original songs here!
 
In this workshop, folks learned  to combine their own life experience with the practical songwriting tools provided in the session to create a structure for their own original song.
 

Can Writing Make Recovery An Adventure?

My book, My Beautiful Detour, is a memoir/self-help and choose-your-own adventure novel, because that is what recovery has been for me – a call to adventure I had to choose to answer. Now, I’m passionate empowering others to do the same – “fighting in the open” through sharing my own personal experiences, providing the public with a comprehensive overview of the psychological and physical impact of trauma, as well as the tremendous GIFTS that can be achieved on the other side. 

I fight stigma through stories. So can you!  We all have a story that needs to be shared.

I have been told how rare it is for a survivor to speak so openly and honestly about their personal traumas, paint such a vivid picture of positivity on the other side of recovery, and also provide such practical, accessible tools which encourage others to do the same.   My goal is to show that we should find our uniqueness not in what has happened to us, which can further victimize, but rather, in what we choose to do with it. We are deserving of feeling any negative, painful, or stigmatized emotion that accompanies our trauma – we just need to find the safe container in which to do so.

What a wonderfully passionate, enthusiastic mix of mental health advocates passionate about creativity, building compassion, and fighting in the open.

Check out some wonderful pictures from the conference here!

What messages do you get from the media about mental health?

Body Reborn Amy Oestreicher 2015

“The Body Reborn” – I did it completely with my fingers and a paper towel. For me, art is therapy. Any kind of creative expression can be our best therapy.

Last year, I presented for MHA’s  theme of their conference : Media, Messaging and 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?
Check out 25 Messages to Melt Stigma and Reclaim Your Power here.

25 Messages to Melt Stigma and Reclaim Your Power (1)

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.

Songwriting was my safe way to express all of these unwieldy emotions. Songwriting literally gave me back my voice!

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You can check out some of the other wonderful speakers here.

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Four Skills to “Fight in the Open”

I got to share once again about the four hardcore resiliency skills I love to blab about so much – because they work!

How else do you survive 27 surgeries?

You can check out my tips for each “hard-core skill” here! (And much more on my blog)

  1. Gratitude (Make an A to Z Gratitude List)
  2. Hope (Lie to yourself…seriously!)
  3. Creativity (Doodle for five minutes, then rip it up – it’s just for you!)
  4. Sharing Your Story (Not ready? Read about someone else’s)

If you try any of these tools, I’d love to hear what it was like for you! Be sure to send me a note, or tweet me @amyoes!  If you look at the hashtag #mhaconf17, you’ll hear all about this amazing conference .I can’t wait for next year!

PowerPoint Recap!

You can view the key points I discussed in the PowerPoint presentation I gave.  Make sure you take a look at the slides –  I didn’t get a chance to go through each one, and there are a TON of great resources here!

What are some other highlights I mentioned? If you click on the hyperlinks, you’ll find some more fun articles and tips.

CREATIVITY is the best container you can find.

In this storytelling workshop, we learned that the best way to find the story within YOU is to think about the “detours” you’ve had in life.

And what’s a detour…? Find out here.

Do you have a DETOUR story you’d like to share?

Find out how to share your DETOUR story on my blog every week for WHY NOT WEDNESDAY.

How I Told My Story: Musical Theatre, Comedy, and “Guts”

Sharing an underestimated approach to healing from PTSD: Healing from trauma happens in the body, through movement, not rational thought. That is why animals in the wild heal faster than humans.  Healing is primal and often unable to be put into words for years.   As a survivor and advocate, my art – INCLUDING SONGWRITING – is a call to action, and empowering others to tell their stories is my life force. 
 
DO YOU FIGHT IN THE OPEN? (Hey, why not?))
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