• Gray Butler

My Healing Tools: A Lesson in Radical Vulnerability And Poetry as a Healing Practice

"It's okay, everyone's survival, looks a little bit like death sometimes" - Andrea Gibson, Angels of the Get Through

Trigger Warning: Violent language, and Childhood Sexual Assault

In creating these narratives, and providing resources, I also believe there to be something radically healing in vulnerability. And as a move towards feminist praxis, I intend to break down the top down notions that I or any person producing knowledge ,will provide information about the best ways to heal from a disembodied stance. I can only speak from my experience, and the ways in which my knowledge is informed by prevalent relationships to power and as a person who has taken one of many paths towards healing. I also think it is a lot to ask of other people to delve into themselves, and pull out their most visceral and painful memories, to face those fears without having a sort of community.

And while the medium of a blog does not offer the same merit as a face to face interaction, or a group healing workshop, I can offer my radical vulnerability, I can say that this has been my experience. I can lay before the words captured real time as I began (and continue to be on) this journey. I can put forth the work that has come out of this, and open up the space to whoever may find it useful.  So below is a collection of select journal entries, and poems from various points during my intensive couple of months through trauma specific healing practices. All of which took place in a short period of time (I would not recommend the exact route that I went but it has its pros and cons).

First Journal Entry:

“Today I finally got a physical journal, maybe there’s something cathartic about actually writing everything down. I’ve been using people as substitutes for journals because I want them to validate me. Journals feel so lonely, so empty like my shame will lie here and there will be no one to comfort me, because I don’t like myself very much How much I hate myself sometimes still scares me, sometimes I feel so hopeless and scared and sad. Like my chest is collapsing, like the world is ending, like I’m afraid to admit just how sad and toxic I am because that will mean that I deserve to be alone, or won’t deserve to have people in my life”

A note about Trauma

"I have a right to reclaim my trauma narrative I am not a victim, I am a survivor, but a part of not being a victim is owning your trauma, of naming it, challenging the damage it caused and letting most of it go. No one can tell me what I faced wasn’t abuse. I haven’t been listening to too many white folks, I’m not too sensitive, I’m not spoiled, I’m not fragile, these lies will no longer take root in my heart, I cast them out now. They are lies that tear me down, to avoid accountability, insidious tricks of the tongue, trauma’s vessel, abuse’s MO. Abuse is so insidious that abusers get into your head, making it your fault, but I, I am an adult. I will not act like a child when threatened like my family does, but I will not shun my inner child. I’m going to honor her, nurture love and protect her. I will not let them hurt her anymore. I’m so sorry I let them hurt her for so long. I replicated their abuse onto her, I carried their dirty work, but no more. I refuse to be gaslit. Fucking try me bitch. I am forged out of fire, resistance, heartbreak, resourcefulness and determination.”

About my Abuser

"Now onto other things, I want to fucking violently murder the sick fuck that calls himself my dad. I can’t believe he did all of that. The sick twisted bastard stole everything from me, even my own fucking mother. My mom ended up with PTSD because of him. He fucking caused my triggers...My mom didn’t single-handedly crush my spirit, HE DID...that sick vile motherfucker can rot in hell like the sick fuck he is."

Letter to My Childhood Self

"Dear Sidney

I know you are young and confused and scared. But I want you to know you are loved, and you are deserving of love. You don’t owe anyone anything. Your family may make you feel like you are spoiled but you’re not. I love you, I will hold you, I will rub your back, let you cry, I will never leave your side. I am so proud of you, I am so impressed with you. You are becoming such a wonderful person. I know you are confused, you deserve love and kindness, you deserve love. How you feel is real. I know you’re crying. It’s okay sweetie. Your mom loves you, she wants to listen to you, she is delighted that you exist. You mean the world to her. You are brilliant, you are a pleasure to be around. You are so brilliant, the world isn’t ready for you yet but you will change the world. You are good and precious”


I hope that these entries have shed light onto the various visceral experiences involved with trauma healing, the capacity for growth and have opened up a space for radical vulnerability

Poetry as A Healing Practice:

“I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean - in order  to cover a desperate wish for imagination without insight.

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.” -- Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

Poetry has always provided an outlet for me to process my emotions before I ever began to think of myself as a survivor or begun working through my trauma. I was in 6th grade when I wrote my first poem, for my middle school slam poetry contest. I wrote my poem about my father, a topic I would revisit 7 years later, with greater depth an emotional connection. In college I’d participate in slam poetry contests, and get out my rage and frustration, hell I even came out as queer in poem.  

So when I began my intensive trauma work, it comes as no surprise to me that I also concurrently created a lot of poetry.  Poetry served as a place for me to not have to make sense, for words to flow onto a page and articulate the intangible. It was a medium I could access most easily, it cost me nothing extra to pick up a pen and write.Poetry also provided me a bite-sized medium to share my experience. I could perform my poems in slam, reach an audience to sympathize and engage with.  I didn’t have to make sense to anyone but myself yet it impacted many who listened. Poetry became a healing practice both in its creation and act of recitation. So below I have a couple of the my favorite poems I wrote during my trauma processing:


Taking Up Space

Letter To My Father Pt 2

Works Cited:

Lorde, Audre. Zami; sister outsider; undersong. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1993.

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