I am so excited to feature the nationally-recognized Shari Botwin, LCSW, who specializes in counseling survivors of all types of trauma. She has given expert testimony on breaking stories related to trauma, such as the Marjorie Stoneman shooting, Bill Cosby trial and Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. She also wrote the expert epilogue in my novella, The Survivors Club and since then, we continue to stay in touch and support one another! On Thursday, May 7 at 2 pm, she is hosting a webinar with Kristen Feden, the former assistant Cosby prosecutor, and Lisa Kane Brown, a child advocate/attorney for sexual assault survivors and their loved ones. Gain access to the event link by emailing Shari directly at sharilcsw [at] comcast.net. Here she talks about her private practice's mission, her personal history with mental health and how she is supporting her community during COVID.
Name: Shari Botwin, LCSW Author of Thriving After Trauma: Stories of Living and Healing (Rowman & Littlefield, November 2019) City/State: Cherry Hill, NJ Tell me about your business and why you started it/what your mission is.
I started my private practice in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, about two years after I graduated with my Masters in Social Work. Immediately after I received my graduate degree, I worked in a well known residential setting, counseling women recovering from eating disorders. I wanted to go into my own practice, so I could also work with men and women who had experienced different types of trauma. From the onset of my work with others and in my own history of surviving childhood abuse, I wanted to help people develop healthy connections. I have met hundreds of men and women who have pushed away and tried to numb their pain and grief. I believe it was in forming a caring relationship with my therapist, colleagues and family by choice that has made the person I am today! I want to share the hope and freedom that comes with healing connections. Tell me about your personal experience with mental health. Can be lately during the COVID-19 pandemic or overall throughout your life.
I was diagnosed with major depression and PTSD at age 30. I believe I suffered from these conditions beginning in my early adolescence. My first suicide attempt happened right after I turned fourteen years old. At the time no one asked me if I was safe. I was told, "You are just doing this for attention." I lived the first two decades in my life with an immediate family member who sexually abused me. Memories of my abuse came flooding back months after I moved out of my parents house. For years I sat with my therapist multiple times a week trying to come to terms with and digest a multitude of horrific experiences. It was not until I gave birth to my son, nine years ago, that I realized I am much more than an abuse survivor. While I struggle everyday with different memories, flashbacks and feelings about my childhood abuse, my PTSD and depression are much more manageable. During COVID, I have grappled with feelings of abandonment and isolation. But I am able to recognize where those feelings are coming from and then I work to do the opposite. When I start to get hit with flashbacks or unresolved grief, I write, play with my kiddo, hop on my Peloton, call friends and do yoga. I also have gone on NBC National News three times during the pandemic to try and help others cope with the insanity of being quarantined and to stay healthy.
Any projects or initiatives you are launching (or have already launched) to support the health of yourself or others?
I am conducting a variety of Zoom and online support groups, specifically for PTSD thrivers and their loved ones. The message I continue to emphasize is that if we keep finding ways to express our thoughts and feelings, we can get through this. I have been working on reaching out, as well, when I get depressed or feel alone. I am reminding myself and others of all the things we can do to feel in control at a time when everything feels out of control. I had a couple of events that were put on hold due to COVID, but I look forward to rescheduling them and getting back into a normal way of living.
What have you learned about yourself/community/life in general since the lockdown and COVID pandemic?
I have learned that the power of community can really make the difference when we are experiencing something traumatic. What I love about our world is how we are all finding ways to speak and be heard. The countless stories of people taking steps to help or get support inspires me. Most people who have been abused, or who have survived an incomprehensible life event report feeling like,"No one will ever understand what it's like to be me."As we go through the pandemic, the voices of all the first responders, COVID survivors, loved ones, journalists, teachers and the general public prove to me we are such a resilient group of human beings.
Learn more about Shari Botwin at sharibotwin.com. Click here to purchase Shari's new book, Thriving After Trauma, and use discount code RLFANDF30 for thirty percent off the hardcover and ebook. Follow her on Instagram @warriorbotwin, Facebook @sharilcsw, Linkedin and Twitter @shari_botwin.