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My Beautiful Detour

An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful
Amy Oestreicher's picture
by Amy Oestreicher  US United States

December 9, 2019   |    398 reads    |   0 comments

Average: 5 (1 vote)

My Beautiful Detour - Book coverWhat happens when an ordinary teenager has to turn into a warrior just to survive? And can the journey through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder really become an “adventure?”

Amy had ambitious plans for college and a Broadway career, until her stomach exploded the week before her senior prom. Months later, she awoke from a coma to learn that she might never be able to eat or drink again. After 28 surgeries and seven years on IV nutrition, her  digestive system was miraculously reconstructed and her first bite of food awakened her senses to life's ordinary miracles. Yet now, Amy was suddenly faced with memories of being sexually abused by a trusted mentor for months, just before the unexpected rush to the emergency room that fateful Passover night. With determination, imagination, relentless resilience, and an inner “hunger” for life, Amy created a roadmap where none existed. Her journey through life's unthinkable detours is nothing short of miraculous, but the creative path to healing she forged is accessible to anyone.

As a survivor—and “thriver”—of abuse and extensive medical trauma, Amy discovered sources of resilience she didn’t know she had but it turns out we all possess. In this book, she creates a tapestry made from each of each thread of her journey, empowering others to find gratitude in every setback and discover their own infinite inner strength. Amy’s search for “home” proves to be the greatest test of cultivating resilience after near-death, and reclaiming identity after both sexual assault and medical trauma. Amy’s journey is ultimately a celebration of ordinary and extraordinary challenges and miracles.

How can you cope for years without even an ice cube to nourish your thirst for knowledge, or a breadcrumb to fuel your insatiable hunger for life? Amy found many ways, and in this book, she shares her many twists and turns, setbacks and triumphs, obstacles, and ultimately, opportunities. And in between, her humorous adventures from graduating high school in the surgical ICU, breaking out of the hospital to go to the mall, and flourishing as a mixed media artist through the unexpected discovery of a paintbrush during a year-long hospital stay.

In this coming of age story, Amy shares her struggles and discoveries living with both visible and invisible illness, the tremendous gifts to be reaped from trauma, its lessons which have illuminated her path, and how these gifts can be discovered as a unique, yet universal way to navigate any kind of uncertainty.

Author's Note: 

At 32, I may not have a stomach or much of my intestines, but I sure am hungry for life. I've always thought it strange that the only people who wander through the self-help sections are the one who have been through something difficult. After I went through my own traumas, I always felt it was a shame that you actually had to go through something in order to reap the wonderful gifts and discoveries you learn in recovery and discover the strength you never knew you had. I decided I wanted to write a book that would show the blessings and the adventures that come with recovery and the strength you can cultivate from any "detour" in life--no matter how large or small. I wanted my book to be applicable to anyone - because we all deal with uncertainty at times! wanted to share personal stories from my life, not as a laundry list of every ordeal I've had to survive, but as just one example of a life that was planned out--the way we all strive to do--and ended up having many changes of plans and long periods of limbo and uncertainty. Each time, I had to find a way, a creative way, to deal with it.

As I tell people I meet, I don't want people to be inspired by my story, but rather empowered by it. And in this book, not only am I sharing details I haven't shared in any of my plays, articles, and talks--stories of moments when I was very close to losing hope altogether, and times when it wasn't always so easy to remain "Gutless & Grateful", and ways I was able to get through it. And in sharing this, I'm giving clear ideas that anyone can take away to get through any amount of uncertainty in their lives. I've always been an open book, but in putting everything out there in this volume, I hope to spark the conversation for others, who, like me years ago, have so much stored or repressed within them but either feel timid, stigmatized, or ashamed to share it.

Everything became possible once I was willing to intentionally wander from the life I planned and embrace this 'detour' as an opportunity for discovery. This is not the life that I planned for myself--but does anyone's life ever work out exactly how they plan it?

I wrote this book to show that trauma is a blessing in disguise, and in our lifetime, inevitable. How it leads you into the darkness to reemerge with a treasure. How trauma is a natural occurrence in the world, meant to shake up our souls like a kaleidoscope and help us experience the full spectrum of our spirits and harness the indomitable human spirit within us. My story shows the depths that you can sink to, but also how high you can rise above them, and the magical part is that the power is all in yourself.

I've always known my story was unique--that what happened to my body was so unusual that finding a surgeon who could piece together a digestive system for me was nearly impossible. What I discovered later is that the tactics I employed to recover from trauma were both highly original and incredibly effective. The "how" of my recovery, the way I overcame my unimaginable setbacks, has inspired theatregoers, readers, listeners at TEDx talks and conferences, and "Today" show viewers.

But what inspired me to write this book--a volume that is part memoir, part trauma comeback story, part spiritual guidebook, part recovery road map, and part celebration of the irrepressible power of creativity?

As I started to speak and share my story, I was frequently asked "how on earth I made it through." Rather than say something like, "with grit and perseverance," or "by keeping it positive," I wanted to let the world in on the startling secret I learned--that while my experience is extreme, the way I managed to thrive in spite of unbearable odds required only simple skills that I was pushed to discover myself--and that these simple skills are accessible to everyone, that in fact, we already possess them, and when we figure out how to use them, it makes healing seem like child's play, which in a sense, it is.

Am I trying to make healing from trauma into a kind of "choose your own adventure novel?" Yes. Why not? This is not your ordinary trauma recovery/self-help book. It's also not your average comeback story/personal memoir. I created a storyline from my own life that manages to find the fun, excitement, and even thrill in the healing journey. Is it okay to find so many positives in what most people view as a negative? To find humor and lightness in a deadly serious situation? Yep. My book paints a realistic, yet hopeful, and extremely detailed, gripping and poignant picture of a comeback story, and further, a story of following your dream--no matter what.

About The Author

Amy Oestreicher 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... more

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