Spring Semester 2018

Standard

It was a looooooong semester!!

Staff Development program at Mt. St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston, NY. ### Mt. St. Mary’s is part of the Western New York Catholic Health System, so there were Sisters in attendance. ### I’m well aware that Religious work at the hospital doing a variety of jobs. I *should have known* that there would be Religious in attendance … and yet … I didn’t even consider it. ***Sigh*** At various times during my presentation, I repeat off color words that were spoken to me :/ Awkward :/ But the Sisters took it all in stride, as did the entirety of the staff 🙂 I was happy to have everyone from administrators to nurses (still in their surgical scrubs!) in attendance, as well as reps from Neighborhood Legal Services in Buffalo and UB School of Social Work.

IMG_20180227_173719_166.jpg

Working with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Victims Assistance Unit inside the Niagara County jail, women’s facility. Half peer mentoring, half book club, the program involves an advocate and I going in and chatting with the women about tackling life after surviving domestic violence.

20180323_085737

I had a podium for this one 🙂 Woohoo!! I love it when I’m not just thrown into a room with a bunch of people, kinda just hangin’ out up there … notes in hand :/ Seriously, though, it was a small but important event and I was honored to be asked to speak.

IMG_20180408_084756_154

Making the paper (or two) is always interesting, because you can never be sure how the photos will turn out. I’ve been doing this long enough now that I feel comfortable speaking up if I’m unsure or uncomfortable with how a shot is being composed. When I asked veteran photographer Jim Neiss if he *really* thought that someone who wrote a book about being a victim should be standing in what looks like a power position while everyone else is sitting (including the Sheriff… which made me even MORE uncomfortable), he looked at me with a totally straight face and said, “I get the feeling you’re no shrinking flower… ” and continued to compose the shot. Well! *blush* Of course he was spot on, and the picture looked great 🙂 Thanks, Jim!

 

On Saturday, April 7, I spoke at the “Dress for What’s Next” event at the University at Buffalo School of Law. This free, all day event for survivors of domestic violence was put on by an all-volunteer team of UB Law School students. Daycare and lunch were provided for women and their children and there was even a therapy dog on site 🖤 Meditation and self-defense classes were offered, support and referral information was provided and there was even an opportunity for the ladies to do a little “gently used” clothes shopping👗👠👜 Impressive from beginning to end and I was absolutely honored to be asked to be a part of it!

IMG_20180411_095352_016

“Purple is our color”

IMG_20180411_095352_020.jpg

Clothes Closet. Women could “shop” for business ans casual clothes. This is an incredibly important opportunity, as there are times that women lee an unsafe home with only the clothes on their backs. It’s also a fantastic way for them to access nearly new business attire. They will look great and feel confident when they venture out into the job market!

IMG_20180411_095352_019

Beautifully decorated for the ladies luncheon!

20180411_085238

Explaining the years of nonsense and difficulties I went through AFTER my divorce.

IMG_20180411_095352_036

Talking about the GIANT microwave I was gifted from a dear friend when I rented my first apartment after my divorce.

IMG_20180604_173842_923

“Leaving Dorian” is used as required text by the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy at Niagara University. Just like with any college level course, once the students read the book, I go in and spend a couple of hours answering their questions and fielding comments.

20180604_142328

I was happy to be invited to stay and watch the recruits of the 68th Police Academy run through some DV role play.

20180604_142334

Yes, it was “pretend”, but it was still unnerving to watch.

20180604_145347

The ladies of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Victim’s Assistance Unit were fantastic in acting out real life scenarios that the recruits will definitely be facing once they’re sworn and out in the field.

20180604_145602

There were points that I could feel myself wanting to cry. Silly, right? Nope, not when you’re sitting there and you realize what these recruits are actually signing up for.

IMG_20180604_204609_277

After watching those two hours of role play, I have an entirely different perspective on the unique position that officers are in every day. I will never forget this group. 

20180607_200151.png

I submitted it as an op-ed but ended up with a feature spot. Nice!

Spent a lengthy lunch hour talking DV and related topics with attorneys and advocates. These ladies (and one gentleman) had great questions and were a lot of fun to work with.

April is my anniversary month; eighteen years ago in April, I escaped my abusive husband. Spending the day in Hamburg (the town that I ran away to) delivering Dating Abuse Awareness classes to 9/10 grade and college credit Health classes at Hamburg High School was amazing. A full circle moment for me, to be sure!

Public Presentation!

Standard

Though I’ve done public presentations before, this will be my first in the Niagara Region! Please join me for this free event. Q & A and book signing to follow – bring your copy of Leaving Dorian or purchase a paperback copy at the event! ($20 – cash only, please)

 

Videos/Educational

Standard

20171121_083705

Miss Representation: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See  A Documentary Film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Tough Guise: Violence, Media & The Crisis in Masculinity  with Jackson Katz

Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture  featuring Jackson Katz

The Mask You Live In: Is American Masculinity Harming Our Boys, Men & Society at Large?  A Film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Biography: Linda Dynel

Standard

After trying her hand at writing everything from newspaper articles to novels for more than a decade, in 2013 Linda Dynel decided that it was time to pen a story that was closer to her heart; the story of the day that she left her abusive husband. After hearing time and again from publishing houses and agents that it was “…a great read, but I don’t know who I’d sell it to…” Ms. Dynel took the leap and published it herself as an ebook in February of 2014. Within months the feedback pouring in convinced her that a paperback copy of Leaving Dorian had to be made available if it was going to reach its intended audience, that being victims and survivors of domestic violence as well as students and educators.

From Connie Little, Executive Director of Turning Point DV Services of Prestonburg, KY:  “Leaving Dorian takes you through a personal journey of intimate partner violence and the enormous psychological tension preceding physical abuse. The book illustrates the re-victimization many women endure, and the strength of the human spirit to overcome. This is a must-read and should be on the required reading list for all DV advocates. I’m recommending it to the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence for their required book list for certification.”

A little more than four years after its initial publication, Leaving Dorian has been widely read by DV help center coordinators and directors and is used as training tool for staff as well as a support text with clients. Leaving Dorian has also found a home in post-secondary education; it’s being used as both supplemental and required texts by professors at St. John Fisher College, Niagara University, The University at Buffalo, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Hilbert College, Western Michigan University, Siena College, Sam Houston University and Loyola University at New Orleans in both graduate and undergraduate Psychology, Criminal Justice, Family Counseling and Sociology courses, as well as with the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy. It was also recently listed as a ‘Recommended Read’ on domesticshelters dot org.

In addition to working with college students, Linda spends much of her time presenting workshops and lectures on her experience with domestic violence to agencies and groups in the community. She is also member of The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Speakers Bureau and has worked with the Niagara County Sheriff Victim’s Assistance Unit, providing a DV Peer Mentoring Program in the women’s jail facility.

The Zonta Club of Niagara Falls, NY, chose Leaving Dorian as the cornerstone of their 2015 DV Initiative, “Zonta Says NO – 16 Days of Activism” and distributed copies of Leaving Dorian to local women’s shelters, DV help centers, high schools, churches and libraries. Ms. Dynel was also honored to be asked to participate in “The Clothesline Project” at St John Fisher College and “Take Back the Night” at Niagara University and is the recipient of the YWCA of Niagara’s 2016 Entrepreneur Award and the Zonta Club of Niagara Falls 2016 Woman of Distinction Award.

Her first novel, “Sunrise and the Seven One Six”, was released in February of 2015. Ms. Dynel lives in Lockport, New York, with her husband and children.

For seminar information and available booking dates, please contact: ellabardpressinc@gmail.com

Photo by http://www.rjdunnphoto.com

Provider Reviews on Leaving Dorian

Standard

Are you a service provider, help center director, program coordinator or shelter director and would like your review of Leaving Dorian included here? Would you like to let other DV professionals know how you’re utilizing Leaving Dorian with your clients, their extended families, within the community or as a training tool with your staff? Email me at ellabardpressinc@gmail.com and I’ll include your thoughts below!

I dedicated two full days to reading and absorbing the life of a woman living with domestic violence. This story takes you from beginning to end of the thoughts and actions of what our women face on a daily basis. I urge anyone working in the DV field to have this book for your clients. A real woman’s perspective on every emotion that our ladies are experiencing. Thank you, Linda, for sharing your story. You are a testament to our ladies who often feel there’s no way out.” -Delena Trent, Executive Director of The Caring Place, Lebanon, KY

Leaving Dorian takes you through a personal journey of intimate partner violence and the enormous psychological tension preceding physical abuse. The book also illustrates the re-victimization many women endure, and the strength of the human spirit to overcome. This is a must-read and should be on the required reading list for all DV advocates.” -Connie Little, Executive Director of Turning Point DV Services, Prestonsburg, KY

(Note: Leaving Dorian is now on Turning Point’s reading list and Mrs. Little is recommending it to the Kentucky Coalition Against DV for their required book list for certification.)

Downloaded Leaving Dorian and read it in two days. EXCELLENT book and I highly recommend it to anyone!” -Heather Frost, Domestic Violence Program Manager, ACCORD, Belmont, NY

20180522_090559

Gerard Place, February 2, 2016

Standard

Presented “Beyond Leaving Dorian: A Discussion on Domestic Violence” to the women of Gerard Place, a transitional housing shelter for battered/recovering women and their children.

gp3

Domestic violence isn’t a feeling, it’s a fact; talking statistics and mortality rates from domesticabuseshelter dot org

gp1

Many women attended, though only a few agreed to be photographed. The stigma and shame attached to being a victim of DV is part of what keeps women from stepping forward and asking for help. I was happy to allow each woman her privacy, depending on her individual comfort level. Each and every woman in that room has my utmost respect and I was grateful to each for choosing to attend.

gp7

Plenty of good questions, some of which I’d never been asked before. These ladies came prepared!

gp9

The woman of Gerard Place are provided day care services so that they can attend presentations like mine as well as educational/employment/vocational training, life skills classes and counseling.

gpkaitlinprice

Kaitlin Price, Case Manager & Life Skills Coordinator, who put our afternoon together. Bright, organized and always ready with a smile, Kaitlin’s positive attitude is infectious.

gplogo

Gerard Place first opened its doors in 2000, the culmination of the work of 12 congregations of Women Religious in the Diocese of Buffalo who created and sponsored the agency on the grounds of the former St. Gerard Parish. Located in the heart of one of Buffalo’s poorest communities (the Bailey-Delevan neighborhood, where the unemployment rate is a staggering 55% among those aged 19-39 and 40% of children live below the poverty line) Gerard Place has assisted hundreds of families by giving them the tools that they need to help themselves and break the poverty cycle.

In 2009, the Junior League of Buffalo/Buffalo News Education Building was opened, providing GED and computer classes, job readiness training, like skills support and health and nutrition education to both families in residence at Gerard Place as well as the community at large.  In any given year, nearly 40 different collaborative partners utilize the facility and share their expertise with those in need. Four years later, in 2013, agency leadership announced a campaign to renovate the former St. Gerard Parish Hall building and turn it into a multi-purpose community center.  The result of this ambitious project will be a vocational training program (coordinated by partner Allied Health), a gymnasium, an expanded computer lab and day care center, an additional wing of classrooms and an industrial kitchen.

Residents are not given a “hand out,” they are earning a “hand up.”

Please visit   http://www.gerardplace.org   for information on the many fundraising opportunities that you can take part in to support Gerard Place.

**Information on Gerard Place was excerpted from their website.

 

 

 

Family & Children’s Services of Niagara, January 21, 2016

Standard

Presented “Beyond Leaving Dorian: A Discussion on Domestic Violence” to staff and advocates from Family & Children’s Services of Niagara, Legal Aid, Niagara County Sheriff Department, YWCA of Lockport, Dr. Dana Radatz from Niagara University and NU interns.

FACS5

Seeing the group from this perspective really doesn’t do them justice. They look incredibly average; they could be your next-door neighbor or your co-worker. And they have vague, vanilla sounding job titles like “Child Advocate” and “Coordinator”. What you can’t see are their capes; the “S” on their chests are invisible. These dedicated women and men are truly some of the super-heroes of our community.

FACSSTAFF3

Larissa, Advocacy Coordinator (in black) kept everything running smoothly.

FACSSTAFF4

Nellie (in teal) with the YWCA of Lockport.

FACS1

Talking about how quickly Leaving Dorian had to be taken from ebook to paperback – two months from the initial publication date!

Excerpted from the Family & Children’s Services website:

“2015 marked the 120th anniversary of Family & Children’s Service of Niagara. Founded in 1895, Family & Children’s Service of Niagara has met the ever-changing needs of our community for more than a century by providing the residents of the Niagara region with a wide range of community and social work services. Over the years our name has changed and our services have been modified to meet the needs of the community in the 21st century, but our work of helping people help themselves has remained. Thousands of children, adults and families have turned to the agency for compassionate, affordable and professional help to meet their needs. Family & Children’s Service is truly a family service agency providing a mosaic of inter-related services for the benefit of the entire family from infants to adults.”

These services include, but are not limited to:

  • Domestic Violence Services, including Passage House Emergency Shelter
  • Parent Empowerment Program
  • Healthy Families Program
  • Youth Services, including Casey House (runaway & homeless youth shelter) and The CRIB Maternity Group Home (for pregnant and parenting teens)
  • Mental Health Counseling for adults and children

24/7 DV Hotline: 716-299-0909      *****      24/7 Runaway Youth Hotline: 716-285-7125

 

Project Runway December, 2015

projectrunway

Staff of Project Runway (…a drug and alcohol-free pathway for young women) and related departments at Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital gathered to be a part of the seminar, “Beyond Leaving Dorian: A Discussion on Domestic Violence”. A big thank you to Sarah Obot, Community Outreach Coordinator with Project Runway for inviting me and for organizing this gathering of such intelligent, kind, highly motivated women!

 

Understanding Samantha

Standard

Screenshot_2015-05-20-08-45-20~2Samantha is eighteen years old and is from a small, rural town in Upstate New York. She’s currently studying English and Psychology at a private college on the East Coast. I’d initially asked for her input on the piece about eating disorders that I wrote for The Buffalo News as she is a recovering bulimic, but when word count and the eventual slant of the article restricted what I could include, I ended up being forced to shelve her thoughts. After re-reading them, I decided that they were too important not to share.

There are a few key elements that are important to take note of before continuing on. Samantha’s earliest memory of feeling inadequate in her own skin happened when she was just eight years old; it was only a few months after that she started purging. By the time she was thirteen she was purging after every meal “no matter how small”, restricting food and exercising obsessively even though she had already been to inpatient treatment for “suicidal thoughts and major depressive episodes” and was seeing a therapist every other week. At fifteen she was admitted to inpatient treatment again for “depression and substance abuse”. Samantha notes that, “Although neither inpatient experience was because of my (eating) disorder, working through the roots of my self-hatred and distorted perception helped me to enter periods of recovery.”

Periods is a key word, here, as recovery is an ongoing process. The feeling of being unable to control one’s life or surroundings is a typical trigger for those plagued by eating disorders, and Samantha is no different. She points to the loss of her father and “the chaos that followed” in her very early teen years as a trigger to a relapse, though now simply managing the day to day stressors of her health, relationships and family life can sometimes be enough to shake her resolve. Samantha still sees an on-campus therapist during the school year.

The initial question that I posed to Samantha was this: Tell me three things you wish people knew about eating disorders/people with ED. The following was her response:

“Three Things I Wish People Understood:

1. My eating disorder is not about beauty, and it hasn’t been for a very long time. I was eight years old when I started feeling like my body was something disgusting and shameful, and I purged for the first time when I was nine. For the first year or two, I would do it when I felt fat or ugly, but since then it has evolved into being about control and punishment. I relapse when my life or health is in a place that feels uncertain, and I feel the need to have power over some aspect of my life.

2. Telling me that I’m beautiful does absolutely nothing as far as making me feel better. When I’m having a hard day, in the middle of a relapse period, or experiencing dysmorphia, I don’t care if anyone else thinks that my body is perfect or that I look good because it isn’t about anyone else. (This one is kind of an offshoot of 1, but it’s major enough that I feel like it’s deserving of its own point.)

3. I hate my disorder. I don’t glorify it, and I do not believe that anyone should try to emulate the mindset or behaviors associated with it. I’ve had people tell me that they wish they had the self-control/ability to do the things I’ve done and it makes me sad and sick because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

As far as treatment goes, all of my inpatient was for depression, but a lot of my outpatient therapy has been focused on working through my disorder. The most successful has been dialectical behavioral therapy, which helped me to work on changing behaviors while I worked through the roots of my disorder.”

Now it’s time for full disclosure: Samantha is my niece. I love her as I loved her father (my brother); completely and without reserve. We are similar in so many ways: We are both “closet redheads”, we both have dimples, we’re both writers (but to be fair, our family of origin’s last name is “Bardwell”, so… no surprise there!) and we both suffer with eating disorders. Some of it is environmental and some of it is genetic but none of it is good, helpful, normal or fair. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to provide her a solution, even at the expense of finding one of my own.

Everyone has a “Samantha” in their life; someone they love completely and without reserve. It’s never wrong to sit a loved one down and ask (gently and without judgment) if they’re in need of help. The stigma of seeking mental health counseling lessens every time a person speaks up and admits that they’re having an issue and believes that they might need therapeutic intervention. If your “Samantha” had a broken arm, you wouldn’t think twice about seeking medical help for her. A broken heart and spirit should be no different.

Don’t Hesitate To Seek Help For An Eating Disorder

Standard

Screenshot_2015-05-12-08-48-44~2The following originally appeared in The May 3 Sunday Viewpoints Section of The Buffalo News:

In July of 2001 my husband took me to the emergency room. I’d been sick for over two weeks, but that particular Saturday morning I was almost too weak to get out of bed. After getting a brief once over from the attending physician and being sent home with little more than a shrug and a prescription, I went straight back to bed. When my husband brought me the medication, I scanned the packaging for all of the warnings and indications. I never ate anything before I read all of the ingredients and nutritional facts, and that included medicine. As soon as I noticed the little yellow label I handed it back to my husband who was standing by with a glass of water.

“I can’t take this,” I said.

“Why not?” he asked, confused.

“Because it has to be taken with food.”

I’d been too weak that morning to weigh myself. Without that number to be my guide for the day, I hadn’t been able to make a food plan. Without a food plan, I couldn’t eat. When my husband insisted that I take the medicine, I resisted. I could hear our children playing in the other room and I could see the strain written all over his face and it was at that moment that I realized for the first time that I might have a problem. I very reluctantly agreed to eat a piece of toast and take the medicine.

Because I was well past my teen years, the possibility that I might have an eating disorder never crossed my mind; I thought I was just really good at dieting. I’d been heavy all of my life, but after leaving an abusive marriage I’d gained real control over not only my life but also my weight. The more weight I lost the more positive the people around me seemed to be; the world was a nicer place to live in once I was thin. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line my wires got crossed. I started attributing every good feeling and every positive experience to being thin, though the feeling of being in control was becoming increasingly harder to achieve. I’d become dependent on the numbers on my bathroom scale to tell me what kind of day I was going to have. The numbers dictated what I would eat and what I would wear. Slowly, those numbers started to define me as a person. They interfered with where I would go and who I would see. They crept into the bedroom at night and dictated my relationship with my husband. But even dealing with all of that, it still didn’t occur to me that I might have an eating disorder, not until that afternoon when I was forced to decide how badly I wanted to feel well again.

The key to navigating the complex issue of eating disorders is the important distinction that they’re not really about food at all. Eating disorders are simply an unhealthy way to cope with emotional problems, the manifestation of which is starvation, binging/purging and over-exercising. I accidentally fell into the habit of using food restriction as a tool to feel in control of my life, which made room for my self-worth to get wrapped up in the resulting weight loss, though starvation didn’t help to fix the many other issues that I was dealing with. Looking back, I wish I’d sought professional help in order to speed my recovery. If I’d gotten help for the eating disorder, every other stress point in my life could have been addressed, as well. Unfortunately, deeply held biases kept me from seeking mental health counseling. I’d been raised to believe that seeking psychological help meant that you were emotionally weak. Now I know that nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s also untrue that only teenage girls are at risk for developing eating disorders. Though 95% of the 24 million people who suffer are women ages 12 – 25, (according to anad.org) the remaining 5% (roughly 1.2 million people) are women over the age of 25, adolescent boys and men. Eating disorders can happen to anyone, and menopause can be just as stressful as adolescence. With the changes that occur in our homes and in our bodies around middle age, women need to be extra kind to themselves in regards to weight maintenance and good mental health during the menopausal years.

Today, I’m at a very healthy weight and the urge to restrict my food intake isn’t nearly as strong as it used to be. I’ve built safety mechanisms into my emotional cache in an effort to stop myself from accidentally slipping back into the negative thought processes that lead to the eating disorder in the first place. Do I believe that I’ll ever be “cured”? No. But am I willing to talk about my concerns when life gets crazy and things seem out of control, even though what I really want to do is restrict my food intake? Yes. Stress is inevitable, but how I choose to handle it doesn’t have to be. I know that every day I have a choice to make. Today I woke up and decided, once again, that I’m more than the numbers on my scale. Recovery is a journey, but now I’m absolutely sure that I’m worth the effort.