The Surviving Spirit Newsletter September 2021
Healing the Mind, Body & Spirit Through the Creative Arts, Education & Advocacy
Hope, Healing & Help for Trauma, Abuse & Mental Health
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars”. Kahlil Gibran
Twenty years ago today at this time of the morning I was getting ready to leave for Ellenville, New York to perform and speak at the Annual New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Inc. [NYAPRS] Conference. I was conducting my last minute routine of checking my two guitar cases-making sure that each one had plenty of guitar picks/tuners/strings, cleaning cloths and spare batteries for the tuners and guitar electronics. I had already conducted this checklist the night before and earlier in the morning, but now it was time to leave and one last “Idiot check” as it was affectionately called in my days as a drummer in a performing rock band. Professional musicians were well aware of the many times a band or a musician had forgotten to bring or left behind at a gig-their snare drum, mixing sound board, guitars, power amplifiers, drum sticks, guitar picks, etc. I left nothing to chance-I had a typed up Checklist on a clipboard to review as well as having checklists in my two guitar cases, gig bags and in the cable crates…hmnn, some might think that is a bit obsessive and overly cautious–but one cannot perform if you are missing part of your equipment.
Just as I was closing the guitar cases, my phone rang. My neighbor’s voice was quite excited and it was difficult to understand what she was saying to me, but I did hear “turn on the TV.” I did and there it was-the smoldering World Trade Tower and soon the second plane hit…
Surreal sounds cliched, but that was what I felt in seeing this take place. And a lot of confusion-what was going to happen to the conference? The news reporters were talking of bridges and highways being shut down and my journey was to take place along the Massachusetts Turnpike into New York state towards the Catskills.
I know I tried calling the folks at NYAPRS and the hotel itself, but I was not getting through to anyone. And then the professional musician part of me kicked into gear and knew that “The show must go on.” I decided that I would travel there and hope for the best-if the conference had been canceled at least I tried to get there. Then the logistics of how to get there-I knew that the planned highway route was not a good choice.
Fortunately I had the experience of performing throughout New England and New York in my drumming days in the 70’s and early 80’s. There were many gigs along the Vermont-New York border and Massachusetts-New York border and I knew of several border crossings via the back roads. So armed with my maps I sent out on the great adventure to Ellenville, NY. From Manchester, NH, I traveled to Keene, NH to Bennington, VT and then towards Troy/Latham NY via Rt. 7.
Most of my remembrances from the long drive to Ellenville are tucked away in the recesses of my brain-but I do recall the feelings of “What the hell has happened? and What else is going to happen?” My stops along the way for gas, bathroom breaks, and to stretch are memorable-the openness and concern from fellow travelers-strangers engaging in dialog of care and confusion. Despite the tragedy-walls of separation and silence between one another came down….I also had lots of time to reflect upon the times I stayed at the Vista Hotel that was tucked between the Twin Towers when I was in the business end of music and the simple act of staring up at them left me awe-struck…and now they along with the hotel were gone.
I arrived six–seven hours later and felt great relief to see that the conference was still taking place-despite the fact that many of the presenters were stuck at an airport and many attendees were unable to get out of new York City or Long Island. Again the memory banks are a bit fuzzy, but I do believe about five hundred folks were able to get there.
Here again was magic taking place-everyone stepping-up to help out-filling the slots where presenters were missing, helping out with all of the needs of putting on a conference now short-staffed, etc…and throughout it all, the never ending conversations and questions of “What just happened and what is going to happen?”
I had been hired to perform and speak about my healing journey for this event-now I was honored to be asked to help run the Open Mic nights and be a part of several workshop presentations due to the shortage of speakers because of the grounded flights and closed off bridges.
Prior to my trip to New York I had shared with some fellow advocates in New Hampshire of presenting at the NYAPRS Conference – one of whom said, “Now you’ll get to see some real advocacy in action.” Truth be told, I’ve seen great advocacy by so many all across this country and elsewhere-but there was a true passion and commitment coming from the folks of NYAPRS and all of those in attendance.
Now here it is twenty years later and I am forever humble and and grateful to still be a part of the NYPARS family when they hold their annual conference-it is indeed my longest running gig hosting the Open Mic Nights and so darn thankful. A twenty year gig is a rare event for any musician and speaker. I’ve also had the good fortune to present and co-present workshops on healing trauma, The Silence of Suicide and trauma informed peer support over the years. I have given to this event, but have gained back so much more from all that I have learned and witnessed by my presence at these forums. For me, it is about a community, it is a gathering of the tribes, the many who are downtrodden, maligned, blamed, shamed and shunned and yet…here in these conference halls are the constant reminders and examples of Hope, Healing, Kindness, Advocacy and Caring taking place. For me it is going back to the high school or the family reunion that one wants to be a part of. My advocacy and trauma-informed knowledge is always strengthened when I am at the NYAPRS Conference- I listen, I learn and I listen to learn.
A shout out of Thank You! to all at NYAPRS and everyone I have met over the past twenty years at these healing conventions of the tribes.
Take care, Michael
The 2021 NYAPRS Annual Conference is again going virtual this year. September 21, 23, 28, and 30.
Mission Statement – NYAPRS is a change agent dedicated to improving services, public policies and social conditions for people with mental health, substance use and trauma-related challenges, by promoting health, wellness and recovery, with full community inclusion, so that all may achieve maximum potential in communities of choice.
Vision Statement – NYAPRS envisions a world where all people enjoy rights and opportunities to achieve our maximum potential – a world where access to resources, freedom of movement and civil liberties are guaranteed and dignity and social justice are promoted for everyone. We work to help create a world where all, including those of us with mental health, substance use and trauma-related challenges are seen as more than our challenges and are recognized for our gifts and cultural identities that we can bring to our communities.
1] There will be days by – S.C. Lourie
1a] Goddess Woman Butterfly Human by SC Lourie
2] When Depression Wears a Smile, Even Psychiatrists Like Me Can Be Deceived by Rebecca Lawrence
2a] I thought mental illness meant I’d never be a doctor. Now I’m a consultant psychiatrist by Rebecca Lawrence
2b] Befrienders Worldwide – Emotional support to prevent suicide worldwide
3] Why we need a broad a definition of trauma that includes emotional injury by Robyn E. Brickel
4] Rehabilitation Through the Arts – RTA
4a] A formerly incarcerated artist’s Brief But Spectacular take on rehabilitation through art – PBS Newshour – YouTube
4b] Unlocked – The Power of Arts in Prison – Watch the Film
4c] People in Solitary Confinement and Volunteers Team Up to Garden, Imagine a World Without Prisons
5] This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Declutter Your Home by Kelsey Clark
6] When work and stress collide, a break might be the answer by Katie Hawkins-Gaar
7] This advocate says justice system is our failure to imagine anything besides punishment by Jorge Antonio Renaud – PBS NewsHour video
7a] LatinoJustice PRLDEF – Champions of Civil and Human Rights
8] All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction and Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal by Jim Anders
9] Paul G. Quinnett Lived Experience Writing Competition 2021
9b] Suicide Attempt Survivors – American Association of Suicidology
Live Through This: A national series of portraits of attempt survivors, by division member Dese’Rae
Michael Skinner – Live Through This
10] Brussels doctors prescribe museum visits to treat Covid-19 stress by Catherine Hickley
11] SESAME Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation
12] A new ‘leash’ on life: Government program will train dogs for veterans with PTSD by By Patrick Martin
“Shout out to everyone who is trying right now.
Trying to do the right thing. Trying to stay open. Trying to hold on. Trying to let go. Trying to find their flow. Trying to stay afloat. Trying to meet each new day. Trying to find their balance. Trying to love themselves. Trying new things and new ways.
I see you. I’m there too. We’re in this together.” – S.C. Lourie