The inspirational survivor comes to campus to as part of Mercy College’s Student Success Series, free and open to the general public on March 3rd, 2-3pm.
On Tuesday March 3rd, from 2 to 3pm, the ACCESSibility, Health & Wellness, and School of Social and Behavioral Sciences departments will be bringing PTSD survivor and disability advocate Amy Oestreicher to Mercy College’s Dobbs Ferry campus. Amy is a PTSD Specialist, Audie award-nominated playwright, performer, and multidisciplinary creator. Amy overcame a decade of trauma to become a sought-after trauma-informed teaching artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, international keynote speaker, RAINN representative, and health advocate. She has given three TEDx Talks on transforming trauma through creativity, and holds the record for the only woman to gives TEDx Talks for three consecutive years, reaching nearly 15K views. Her story has appeared on NBC’s Today, CBS, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen Magazine, The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, and MSNBC, among others and she’s contributed to over 80 print and online publications. A singer, librettist, and visual mixed media artist, she dedicates her work to celebrating everyday miracles, untold stories, and the detours in life that can spark connection and transform communities.
As a survivor—and ‘thriver’—of sexual abuse, nearly 30 surgeries, coma, organ failure, seven years unable to eat or drink, and the PTSD that comes from a decade of trauma, starting from her senior year of high school, Amy discovered sources of resilience she didn’t know she had but it turns out we all possess. Doctors called Amy a “surgical disaster,” but after twenty-eight operations and years without a drop of liquid or morsel of food, Amy’s digestive system was miraculously reconstructed and she began healing from her visible and invisible traumas. Amy will share hard-won insight on the restorative power of creativity to forge a roadmap where none existed, calling this her “beautiful detour.”
Now, Oestreicher, a self-proclaimed “Detourist” will be taking a “beautiful detour” to Dobbs Ferry to discuss her recently published her memoir, “My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful.” as part of Mercy College’s Student Success Series.
Finding the gifts of a traumatic experience, Amy founded the #LoveMyDetour movement, a campaign inspiring people to flourish because of, rather than in spite of challenges, and the movement has reached “Detourists” nationwide, even part of the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military. Amy has toured her autobiographical musical, Gutless & Grateful, to over 200 venues since 2012 as a mental health and sexual assault education program for colleges, conferences and organizations. She’s a NSVRC representative, and in-demand speaker on topics relating to mental health, sexual abuse, resilience, PTSD and women’s issues.
“Nobody expects a detour to happen in life. It’s what happens when we think we have things planned and all figured out, and then we’re thrown a curve ball. For a long time, my detour felt like a dead-end. After 28 surgeries and six years unable to eat or drink, I didn’t know where my life was going, anymore. As my stitches healed, one-by-one, my thoughts seemed to unravel day-by-day. My detour took me to a very scary place, into a new body and a new mind, troubled by PTSD. Not only had I woken up in a new body, I now had a mind troubled with anxious thoughts, associations and memories. The detour I traveled was a very rough path. Although it became worth it, for a while I didn’t want to keep going. I lamented why my path had gone this way, and, plagued with anxiety and hopelessness, I wanted to give up.”
Amy strives to give others hope. “When you don’t know where you’re going, it’s stressful and anxiety-provoking. College, especially, can be a breeding ground for stress – a turning point in our lives where we’re independent, perhaps for the first time. Doors become open to us that we never even knew existed. We realize we have the power to make choices, which can be equal parts empowering and frightening. When I was going through my traumas, the biggest thing I needed to know was that I wasn’t alone. I wanted to reach out to a friend, a mentor, or a community of people, just to listen, to show understanding and compassion.”
Sharing means everything to Amy. “I share to give courage and a sense of belonging to people who are struggling with all kinds of mental health or physical challenges, but also to help build a campus that gives everyone the kind of awareness and generosity of spirit that makes that world a better place. If we all share our “detours,” we see that our detours are not detours at all. Every road leads somewhere – we just need to hang in long enough to catch the flowers along the way. The more we share our detours, the more we realize we’re not alone.” Amy is most excited about opening the channel of communication on campus as the key to helping others with mental health obstacles. “I started college at 25, after my coma, and realized how important it is for students to create their own resiliency toolbox to deal with stress and navigate the many detours that arise on campus. We need to all start sharing our stories, destigmatizing these struggles and speaking up. If we can bridge that gap of communication, we can all be part of creating a more compassionate community. It can start right here.”
Amy is looking forward to sharing her book and story of resilience at the March 3rd event, free and open to the general public. “My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful,” shares the story of her beautiful detour, empowering others to find gratitude in every setback and discover their own infinite inner strength. Amy’s journey is ultimately a celebration of ordinary and extraordinary challenges and miracles.
Open to the Mercy College community and to the general public. Book signing to follow.
March 3, 2020
Lecture Hall, Main Hall
Dobbs Ferry Campus
555 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522