Waco Survivors 28 Years Later

From February 28, 1993 – April 19, 1993 the siege of a peaceful religious community called the Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas took place.  The siege was broadcasted, and the media demonized this nonviolent community in the viewer’s eyes for 51 days – until the siege ended in a massive fire and an enormous loss of life.  But the trauma of this massacre has not seized.  The media has continued to demonize the Branch Davidian community for the past 28 years, but the survivors of the Waco Massacre – including David Thibodeau, author of “A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story”, the book that inspired the miniseries from Paramount – have worked tirelessly to get the true story of the siege out to the public. 

                As someone who had not been born at the time of the Waco Massacre, I watched the mini-series last year when it was featured on Netflix knowing nothing about the event beforehand.  After watching the series, I felt as though my heart had been completely shredded, and I was compelled to act.  As an empath, the secondhand pain I experienced while watching the mini-series changed me.  Shortly after this transformative experience, I connected with David Thibodeau and had the honor of interviewing him and discussing Waco as well as current racial injustices and mental health.  Now, months after my interview, I was honored to be invited to the 28th memorial of the Waco Massacre.  My wounded heart was reopened after listening to various survivors including David Thibodeau as he honored the 76 Branch Davidians who died in the final fire – including 22 children – as well as the ATF agents whose lives were lost.

                Numerous survivors attended the memorial and spoke about their experiences during the siege, while also remembering those who died.  Despite the time that has elapsed since the Waco Massacre, the trauma that the survivors have endured for not only those 51 days but for the past 28 years was palpable and left me shaking and in tears.  To many of the survivors, the Branch Davidian community was their family and the pain from the needless loss of life at the massacre lives on each day.  However, many of the survivors, including David Thibodeau, are now dedicated to sharing their stories and shedding light on the lies that the media portrayed about the massacre – and the script that has continued on for 28 years.  The trauma that the survivors and those who lost their lives experienced during the 51-day siege is indescribable, and to be silenced for so many years has only emphasized the pain and invalidated the experiences of those affected.

                There is a saying that goes “time heals everything” but for the Waco trauma survivors, this simply is not true.  Listening to David Thibodeau list off and share stories of each person who lost their lives in the massacre with such strength and grace brought tears to my eyes and brought up the same intense anger that I first experienced last year when watching the mini-series on Waco, and continuing my research of the event and those involved.  For a peaceful religious community to be targeted in such a violent manner, the memories of those 51 days are fresh and the memories of that community and those who lost their lives remain on the hearts of the survivors.  Such severe trauma often debilitates and silences individuals, but for many of the Waco survivors, sharing their stories and fighting for the truth of the massacre to come out gives them power and purpose.  I have become so passionate about this horrible tragedy and deeply empathize with the survivors, but I know that I can never fully understand the amount of pain, anger, and invalidation they have experienced and still experience today.  However, I can share their experiences with you and invite you to learn more about the truth of the Waco Massacre.  I sincerely encourage you to listen to their stories to shed light on the trauma that they have endured and continue to live.  Having PTSD myself, I deeply empathize with the lasting traumatic experiences of those who survived Waco, but I am so in awe of their strength, faith, and how dedicated they are to shed light on not only what happened at Waco, but to also highlight the fear and injustices that religious communities experience across the world. 

I have witnessed myself how the survivors of Waco have transformed their trauma into action, and I am in awe of how something so awful can inspire change and empathy in not only America, but across the world.  Enduring PTSD and the aftereffects of trauma is oftentimes brutal, but the survivors of Waco demonstrate how trauma can be used to ignite action and empathy in a world oftentimes controlled by the media.  I am more than honored to know this community of survivors and to be inspired by them and their faith. 

There is a plethora of information on Waco out there, but David Thibodeau is adamant that only information from the survivors and those who have studied the tragedy extensively be shared.  If you would like to learn more about the Waco Massacre, those who lost their lives, the survivors, and the Branch Davidian’s religion, the following website is the go to place for information created and collected specifically by the survivors:

  • Waco Survivors


The following documentary was also mentioned at the memorial and is a deep analysis of the Waco Massacre, and what we have learned (or not learned) since then:

  • The Waco Branch Davidian Tragedy: What Have We Learned or Not Learned?

What to Know If You Were Also Triggered by the Death of DMX

On April 9, DMX — one of America’s most well-known and successful rappers — died of a heart attack brought on by a drug overdose. DMX’s history of addiction is well-documented, and as a fan of his who also has a history of substance abuse, I found myself rocked to the core by his death. I have found that my past trauma is deeply connected to my substance abuse, and I am often triggered by news of celebrities overdosing or struggling with addiction. However, my feelings intensify when a celebrity I admire passes, and I have found that with DMX’s death, I am having a challenging time functioning.

For as long as I remember, I have felt profoundly connected to certain celebrities so much so that if or when they die, I grieve their deaths in the same way I would a loved one. Because, to me, those celebrities I admire are my loved ones. It is because of this deep connection I felt to DMX that his death has impacted me and sent me into an episode of grieving, while also triggering my depression. I feel like I have lost someone very dear to me, but I also feel like I can’t talk about it to anyone in my life because they don’t understand the connection I feel to DMX. So, if you are also triggered by the death of DMX and are unsure how to handle your grief, I hope that my next few ideas help you to mourn him while caring for yourself in a meaningful way.

1. Spend some time just listening to his music.

DMX’s music is so important to me, and it is the main way I can feel closest to him. One thing that has helped me find meaning in my grief has been to listen to his music in solitude — whether that means going on a walk or taking some time in my safe place to listen to his music while mourning him. However, sometimes it is unsafe for me to be alone when I am feeling such strong emotions, so I spend time with someone I trust and talk to them about what I am feeling. They may not fully understand what I am going through, but it is nice to have someone to listen.

2. Share your feelings online.

Another thing that has helped me is finding fan groups online where I can connect with others who are affected by DMX’s death. You can find fan groups on Facebook where you can post your feelings and speak with other fans about what you are going through, and, in turn, maybe even make some new friends. I find connection to be so important when I am grieving or triggered and speaking with others who understand is paramount.

3. Be kind to yourself.

I know that when I am triggered and grieving a celebrity’s death, I beat myself up over what I am experiencing and try to push my feelings away — which just makes them more painful as time goes on. Take some time now to be kind to yourself and do some self-care things that you enjoy. Grieving is grieving, no matter who you are mourning, and when you are feeling such strong emotions it’s important to take care of yourself. Some of my favorite self-care things I have done while mourning DMX is taking time to listen to his music, drinking some hot tea, and reading a book that helps me to escape.

The death of DMX is a tragedy, and it makes me feel so angry to know that substance abuse has taken another beautiful soul. While I am in recovery from substance abuse, I am often faced with just how difficult it is to stay clean and watching those I love to get taken away by addiction is absolutely heartbreaking and intensely triggering for me. It feels as though a dark hole has begun to grow within my body as I work through this grief, and I am finding myself mourning the years I lost to addiction as I experience flashbacks and my past pain. While what I’m experiencing feels somehow feel tortuous, it does help me to feel more connected to DMX. I only hope that my story and ideas help you through whatever you may be going through as well.

Originally published at https://themighty.com.

The Recent Khloe Kardashian Situations Shows That Diet Culture Hurts Everyone

Recently, an unretouched photo of Khloe Kardashian was leaked and posted on social media against her consent . The photo depicts Kardashian relaxed, in a leopard print bikini, and without her hair or makeup done. The unretouched photo displays Kardashian in such a natural way that it is almost shocking in comparison to other depictions of her appearance in photos and on television.

Following the unauthorized release of her photo, Kardashian demanded that it be taken down, but the leakage of the photo has already made waves online.

So, what can we learn from this situation with Khloe Kardashian?

Well, for one thing, diet culture and fatphobia , which include the total critiquing of various aspects of one’s bodily image, don’t discriminate against those who profit from the culture, such as the Kardashians.

Khloe herself is the host of the television series “Revenge Body” which focuses on helping individuals alter their appearance as a way of getting “revenge” on those who have done them wrong by “showing them what they are missing.”

In her show, she works with a team of personal trainers and professionals in the beauty industry to assist two people change their bodies in order to gain validity and confidence. The premise of her show itself advocates for diet culture and fatphobia by implying that unless you look a certain way, you have no value. This view is why Kardashian’s leaked photo is such a controversy, because in it she appears without the extensive hair and makeup looks that she advocates for, and her body is displayed unretouched. This derails the Kardashian family’s entire industry as it is so focused on the perception of looking unattainable in such a way that others find themselves wanting the ideal they have constructed, while being unable to achieve such an image without the cleanses, diets, procedures, products, etc., that the family themselves advocate for.

What we can take away from this situation is that diet culture and fatphobia aren’t friends of anyone, whether you are an advocate for them or not. Everyone is affected.

Diet culture and fatphobia have long been a part of our lives, but they have become so ingrained in our collective psyche that they oftentimes become unrecognizable. This is because fatphobia and diet culture have become so acceptable in just about every way that we hardly recognize them as unacceptable anymore. But just because they have become such hallmarks in the way that we view worth and value in relation to our bodies doesn’t mean that they are morally tolerable. Fatphobia harms individuals personally and professionally in such severe yet understated ways that lower a person’s quality of life, their access to opportunities and how they are valued in society and in relationships . In many places, it is still legal to deny an individual a job based on how they look, and individuals who are fat or plus-sized are often paid less than their equal counterparts. Kardashian’s situation itself shows us that you must look a certain way before you are seen positively in the public eye, and the unretouched stigma associated with Kardashian’s leaked photo is a biproduct of the discrimination in the beauty, diet and fitness industries.

While the photo being released against Kardashian’s will is extremely problematic as she has a right to her privacy, it has also given us a glimpse into the Kardashian’s natural life, and has connected us to her in a way that doesn’t make her so unreachable anymore. If more celebrities were to release unretouched photographs of themselves or be more willing to be seen naturally in public, we may begin a revolution that has the ability to take down the beauty and fitness industries as a whole.

Without feelings of inadequacy and yearning to look a certain way, the profit made by diet culture would plummet and it would begin to lose its power. This could be an essential step in eventually ridding of fatphobia in all aspects of society ; but until then, this conflict with Kardashian at least shows us that there is no safe place in the confines of diet culture and fat .

As someone who was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at an early age, which later evolved into bulimia nervosa , and as someone who now exists in a larger body that has changed numerous times in my life, I am constantly on alert when it comes to diet culture and fatphobia. Each meal and snack are a battle for me, and I frequently feel like I am at war with my body. Somehow my experience with eating disorders seems to be less important in society now than when I was in a smaller body, as though my experience then was more valid than it is now — all because of the way my body has evolved.

The battle inside of my mind is difficult enough to manage on a daily basis but being barraged by diet culture and fatphobia issues in the media and advertising oftentimes makes my fight unbearable. Accepting yourself and your body while battling an eating disorder in a world that would rather see you hate yourself and work to change your perceived “shortcomings” is a constant struggle- especially when my life has been a pattern of seeking “quick fix” after “quick fix” no matter their safety level.

That is why, for me, I certainly enjoy seeing diet culture and fatphobia being challenged by celebrities and those who have influence, whether it is intentional or not, as in the case of Khloe Kardashian. I do not condone what was done to Khloe Kardashian, but I can appreciate the ripple effects it is still having in the media. Kardashian may not know it, but there is no denying that the relaxed image of her behind the diets, exercise, procedures and beauty secrets that she advocates for is a sigh of relief that yes, we are all human.

I only wish that she could see the positive effects of her leaked photograph; but unfortunately, diet culture and fatphobia have taught her, like all of us, that we all should be ashamed of our bodies. But more than anything, what we should take away from this is that we should all work together in challenging diet culture and fatphobia, because diet culture and fatphobia safeguard no one — despite what society may tell you.

Originally published at https://themighty.com.

5 Tips for Comanaging IBS and an Eating Disorder

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dealt with extensive digestion and pain issues and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel constantly sick. This has led to me spending days in bed because I don’t feel well enough to get up. I’ve experienced widespread body pain for many years, which eventually led to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia , but even before my body pain began, I was in and out of doctor’s offices for my digestive issues.

I went to numerous specialists and underwent colonoscopies, endoscopies and biopsies several times, but each test came back with nothing to show. I also found that my being young didn’t work out in my favor, because I was often overlooked and dismissed by the specialists I saw. My symptoms would be minimized, and I would leave thinking that maybe nothing was wrong and that I was just exaggerating or making it up. I felt silenced, which led to many years of me hiding my symptoms and trying to self-medicate with substances that I thought would make me feel better.

Having body pain and digestive issues has always been a lot for me to deal with, but never more than when I was a child. During this time, I developed anorexia nervosa which eventually evolved into bulimia nervosa. Since I was thirteen, I have battled my eating disorder alongside my body pain and digestive issues. Unfortunately, I have found that I often use eating disorder behaviors in response to the pain and discomfort I experience each day. Finally, when I was twenty years old, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) . This gave me a name to put on my pain and discomfort, but I was not offered any treatments or insight on how to manage the condition. Again, I felt silenced and as though I was left to my own devices to manage something that I didn’t fully understand.

April is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, which honestly surprised me when I first heard about it. The fact that there is a month dedicated to this condition, a condition which was minimized by the specialists who diagnosed me, suddenly made me began to feel validated. Maybe what I was experiencing was real and serious. This realization led me to keep looking for a specialist who would finally empathize with me and offer me some sort of reprieve from my symptoms.

Last November, I did finally find a physician who was able to help me. She took my symptoms seriously and even performed surgery on me twice for one of my symptoms- something that no other specialist even bothered to consider. Having someone finally believe me and take what I was experiencing seriously led me to seek out more information on and learn how to manage my condition better. Being able to better manage this condition led me to learn more about how to handle my bulimia nervosa behaviors while having a condition that often led me to want to use certain behaviors to combat the discomfort I experience. It was during this time that I learned that and bulimia nervosa often go hand in hand, and both are conditions that deeply affect the digestive system and can cause numerous problems.

I hope that the following tips help you if you are struggling with or digestive issues and are battling an eating disorder . You are so strong, and just know that I am here to validate your experience and cheer you on! You deserve to live a beautiful life that isn’t often dictated by pain and discomfort or an eating disorder .

So, take my hand, and let us move forward together. It may not be easy, but it is possible.

1. Hot herbal tea with meals, after meals and in between meals is your best friend- get acquainted

Having and recovering from bulimia nervosa , or any eating disorder , is extremely taxing on the body. Your body is relearning how to function properly, while your makes eating difficult. At mealtimes and snacks my stomach begins to ache unbearably, and I struggle with acid reflux just about every hour of everyday — what I eat doesn’t seem to make a difference. However, I have found one thing that makes the digestive process more bearable, and that is hot herbal tea.

2. Make probiotics a part of your daily medicinal routine 3. Use meditation to relax after meals and/or before bed

Try a simple five-minute meditation after one of your meals to see how it affects your symptoms. You might be surprised! There are many short meditations available for free on YouTube .

4. Practice mindful movement- this one can be tricky when over-exercising is an eating disorder behavior, so please proceed with caution

Exercising is something that is often used as a behavior in individuals with eating disorders, but one big part of recovery is reconnecting to movement and moving your body out of love instead of hate.

5. Be mindful when you eat — check in with your body and note how different foods affect your IBS

It can take a long time to be at peace with movement again, so please skip over this tip if it is a trigger for you.

It has taken me a long time to be at peace with exercise, but I am still improving my relationship with it. Mindful movement was such a foreign concept to me when I began my eating disorder recovery, but I now find joy in it because I feel like I am giving a gift to my body through it. Movement has been shown to improve symptoms as well, and I have found that going for a walk helps to ease my symptoms and clears my mind when I am struggling with eating disorder thoughts and/or behaviors alongside symptoms. If you are comfortable, try doing a short walk each day, and think grateful thoughts about your body as you do so.

Just like with mindful movement, being mindful of the food you eat can be tricky to navigate if you have an eating disorder . I know that sometimes when I focus too much on my food I struggle with restriction. But with , there may be certain foods that do contribute to your symptoms and eating less of the food or removing it from your diet can help you to feel better. One clever way to be mindful of how the food you are eating is making you feel is keeping a food journal. Write down how your symptoms are after eating diverse kinds of foods and adjust your diet accordingly. However, it is possible that keeping a food journal may be triggering for you, at which point I would advise you to stop the practice. Just try to be mindful when you are eating and make a mental note if you begin to feel symptomatic after eating certain foods. Try not to judge what you are eating. Just try to connect to your body and learn how to become aware of how certain foods affect your symptoms.

Having irritable bowel syndrome ( ) and an eating disorder sometimes feels like a double edge sword. I have found that both of my illnesses seem to be intertwined, and having absolutely affects my ability to pursue and maintain recovery.

However, while recovery is rocky, it is possible, and you can learn how to positively manage your through mindfulness and the other ideas that I shared with you.

You do not deserve to experience the discomfort that IBS causes , and I admire you for the oftentimes invisible fight you fight each day while having an eating disorder and .

Keep fighting, you are worth it!

Originally published at https://themighty.com.

Why Calling Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder Manipulative is Harmful

As a professional in the mental health field, who also has Borderline Personality Disorder, I am frequently faced with the stigma surrounding the disorder, and I see firsthand how it affects those with BPD, their access to treatment, and their self-image.  Borderline Personality Disorder is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses, and this has a lot to do with the lack of education mental health professionals receive on the disorder.  For example, when I was getting my master’s degree, we only learned about Borderline Personality Disorder for one week out of my entire education, and it was taught alongside several other personality disorders.  It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder myself that I began to dive deep into researching the disorder so that I could understand it, and myself, further.  Before I was diagnosed, my main source of information on BPD came from the professionals around me, and the majority of what I was told about individuals with BPD is that they were “manipulative” and “violent”.  I was even told that many professionals refused to work with individuals who had BPD because they considered them “abusive” and “untreatable”.  I was even guilty of stereotyping individuals with BPD due to what I had heard from my peers, and I can honestly admit that I became afraid of those with the disorder because of the negative information I absorbed. 

                But what many people don’t realize is that oftentimes, the actions of those with Borderline Personality Disorder stem from the pain that comes from feeling such strong emotions.  I am often haunted by my past actions, because I fear that they were perceived as me being manipulative when in actuality I was in such a painful emotional state that I didn’t have the ability to think rationally through my actions.  One of the hallmarks of Borderline Personality Disorder is a fear of abandonment, and this, personally, has been a trigger for me for many years.  Oftentimes when individuals with BPD feel as though we are being abandoned, we will go to great lengths to try and ensure that we don’t end up feeling alone.  These actions are often perceived by others as us being manipulative, but our actions are really a desperate attempt to escape feelings that are so strong that they become physically and mentally torturous. 

                By calling individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder manipulative, you are discrediting our experiences and villainizing a mental illness which leads to stigmatization and allows for individuals to fall through the cracks of the mental health system.  This villainization leads to providers refusing to work with individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder and greatly minimizes accessibility to care.  Only when we understand the behaviors of those with Borderline Personality Disorder for what they are – reactions to crippling emotional pain – can we build empathy, understanding, and increase recovery through further access to diagnosis and care.   

Why Hyperfixation Feels Like a Toxic Part of My Mental Health Struggle

                Hyperfixation, commonly associated with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – and autism, is an occurrence when an individual becomes fully engrossed with something, may it be a hobby, movie, book, person, etc.  Often, this hyperfixation affects the rest of the person’s life as they have a challenging time focusing on anything other than their fixation, including work, school, self-care, and relationships.  While hyperfixation is associated with ADHD and autism, it is also present in various mental illnesses, and as someone with mental illness, I often experience hyperfixation and would like to share my story with you.

                If you aren’t familiar with me or my writing, my name is Ashley Nestler, MSW and I have been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Quiet Borderline Personality Disorder, Fibromyalgia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and multiple eating disorders.  I have struggled with my mental health since I was twelve years old, but I was only diagnosed and started receiving help in 2019.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized what hyperfixation was and was able to put a name to something that has controlled my life for many, many years.  Hyperfixation, for those who don’t experience it, may seem like a passion that a person has for something, but for me, it is so much more than that.  When I am experiencing hyperfixation, I seldom have the ability to focus on anything else in my life, and – for me – this fixation often feels toxic.

                When I was younger, I would experience hyperfixation with television shows, books, and characters, so much so that I would often find myself imagining that the characters I was fixated on were physically with me and I would have conversations with them.  If I came across someone else who liked this particular show, book, or character I would experience immense jealousy and restlessness, while trying to prove that I knew more about the show, book, or character than the other person.  Possessiveness was a big part of my hyperfixation, and I would find myself so immersed in my fixation that I often forgot to do things that I needed to do – such as chores, schoolwork, or maintain friendships – because my mind was so preoccupied.  Growing up, I experienced my fixations as a comfort because I felt that they were always there for me; but now, I find that they often disrupt my life. 

                While I still find myself fixating on different shows or series, I now tend to fixate on actors from those shows or series as well.  I become so entranced with an actor that I will spend hours upon hours watching YouTube videos of them or looking them up online, and they even take over my dreams and the majority of my thoughts.  Experiencing these fixations now is frustrating for me because it feels as though I am stuck inside of my mind watching myself obsess over an actor and I want to break the fixation, but I feel trapped.  Oftentimes the fixation will last for a few weeks before my mind moves onto someone else, but I feel like I don’t have a say in when the fixation will end, or how long it will go on for.  The feelings that I feel for these actors during my period of fixation I liken to being in love.  My emotions for the actor become so strong that they take over my life, and I am often unable to attend to my work or any of my responsibilities. 

I feel like the majority of my life has been lost due to these periods of hyperfixation, and as I have grown older, I am often struck with grief over what I perceive as lost time.  I have seen my friends and those that I have grown up with moving on with their lives – getting married and having kids – while I feel like I am still stuck in my hyperfixations and the control that they have over my life and my time.  They have disrupted my personal relationships and my work, and while my hyperfixations were once a comfort to me, I am often angry at them and at myself for feeling so out of control.  To me, hyperfixations don’t feel like a passion or something that is an element in my life, they feel like an all controlling force, and I am still learning how to navigate my life around them.

                If you experience hyperfixations – whether you perceive them as positive or negative – please know that you are not alone!  Also, please feel free to share your personal story with me.  I would love to hear how hyperfixations have impacted your life!

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Interview with Waco Survivor David Thibodeau

his week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Waco survivor and humanitarian, David Thibodeau! We discussed all things Waco, Black Lives Matter, social justice, and equality. David’s story and his humanitarian work are very inspiring, and I hope that you enjoy our interview as much as I did!

To listen to the full interview, visit: https://anchor.fm/releasingthephoenix/episodes/Interview-with-Humanitarian-and-Waco-Survivor-David-Thibodeau-ef65hn

To learn more about David and the truth about the Waco siege, visit: www.wacosurvivors.com

Interview with Waco Survivor and Humanitarian David Thibodeau

Ashley Nestler: Hi David! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Why don’t you introduce yourself for those who may not know you.

David Thibodeau: Hi, my name is David Thibodeau. I guess that’s a good place to start. They just recently released a six-part series on Netflix that was originally released a few years ago, actually under the Paramount Network and it’s entitled Waco. It’s a series about the Waco siege in 1993 at Mount Carmel that resulted in a fire and numerous deaths. The series is from a survivor’s perspective (my perspective) and from the perspective of one of the FBI negotiators who was there in 1993. The series revolves around a guy named David Koresh and some of his followers — the people who were with him at the time that the building burned after the 51-day siege. I’m one of the survivors of the siege, and I was in the building for the entire siege 51 days. I’m one of the nine fire survivors that came out on April 19th, 1993. So, I’m a witness to every single thing that happened from inside of the building.

AN: Wow, I just can’t imagine what you had to go through during those 51 days, and that only nine survivors came out. Are you still in contact with the other survivors?

DT: Sure. I’m still in contact with many of them, but not all of them. Some of them have moved out of the country, and people are scattered pretty much throughout the world. Also, I want to add that I there were more than nine people that survived the siege. There were 23 of us that came out during the 51 days, including some older women, and quite a few of the children. It just wasn’t until the fire when there were only nine of us that came out. So. I think altogether 35 or 36 people survived.

AN: Oh okay, that makes sense. With everything that you have been through, what are your feelings about the George Floyd protests, police brutality, and the movements that have erupted in recent years, such as the Me Too movement?

DT: Well, I’ve been following Black Lives Matter, honestly, before Black Lives Matter. To me, the destruction of indigenous peoples throughout the world by the forces that be is despicable. I’ve followed events that have happened in the course of the history of the world all the way to America and us taking over this country and basically destroying the American Indians and destroying their way of life for our own greed. My dad is a history teacher, so I’m no slouch when it comes to history. History has always been a thing for me and understanding it is paramount. I’ve always related more to the underdog and I have a deep relation with the American Indian movement and the American Indians in general. I always have.

I think being a part of Waco is something that was a massacre as well. As far as I was concerned, it was a massacre for religious beliefs more than anything else. There are several different avenues of thought that I have on that one, if we’re going to get deeper into Waco, but you know, my story and the story of the survivors is the one that has not been told because it has not been allowed to be told the FBI. Basically, you know the old saying the Victors always rewrite the history. Or, as I should say, write the history. The protests now with George Floyd, and the George Floyd case as a whole is probably one of the only cases in modern history where that’s not happening. I think that technology has helped to document the truth and allowed people to fight the system, which is amazing.

A lot of things have changed in recent years for the better. Women’s rights are becoming more prevalent and women are having the bravery to speak up, especially if they’re being abused. A lot of women have been scared for years and years and years to say anything because they knew how they were going to be treated. And just to have that kind of bravery. It’s such an inspiration to see how this generation has led. I’m very happy about it, but at the same time, there’s going to be a lot of issues that take place right now. I’m worried that this could end in more violence because people are mad enough and want our society to change, but I am hopeful that positive change will come of it.

AN: What are your thoughts on how protesters have been treated by law enforcement throughout the George Floyd case?

DT: This is a heavy one as well. People are looking the cops directly in the eye, standing on the front lines with no weapons looking at them — a bunch of armed people with weapons, shields, and batons — and the people are screaming in their faces. That doesn’t happen often. That’s something that’s been building for a long, long time. So, we’re going to have to see how the American authorities handle all of this. I have to say that I’m pretty nervous about that.

AN: Do you see this time as a time of deep trouble in our country?

DT: Well, scripturally, every prophet talks about the time of trouble that’ll come at the end of the days, right before the kingdom of God is to be set up or they talk about this time of trouble being worse than any other time of trouble since the beginning of time. However, I don’t often get into scripture with people due to the sensitive nature of it. I talk, you know, like a real person, because I am a real person. The Bible at one time in my life was paramount. I spent a lot of time studying it, but I live in the real world.

But the problem with people asking if we are in a time of trouble is that if there was ever a time of trouble, it probably should have been World War II or, or if you want to think about it from a scriptural standpoint, it was probably during the time when the Romans went into Jerusalem and ransacked it and took it over. I’m pretty sure all the Jews at that period of time thought that their Messiah was going to come and save them.

Every generation thinks that they’re living in the end days, so I don’t like to be one of those people that says this is it, because nobody truly knows. Scripture says that no man knows. So, I just think it’s very interesting. I hope that it doesn’t happen now, but I know there’s definitely some things going to change in this country. There’s just no doubt about it. Something has to change because people are just so fed up, as they should be!

AN: Have these current events been bringing up your memories of the Waco siege?

DT: Yes, absolutely, because at Mount Carmel, we were all people of light. You know, a third of the people in Mount Carmel were black and most people don’t even know that. They wanted to be teachers of the scripture and they met David and they learned more from him in one night than they had in their many years of studying at their seminary schools. They ended up leaving their schools to come study with David. So, you know, I heard that story over and over and over again. But the point is, a third of the people that died at Mount Carmel were black. Where was the ACLU then? Where was anyone to be found to help us?

You know, I was raised with National Public Radio, PBS, and I thought the intellectual sows, as I like to call them, would want to know the truth about the Waco siege when it happened. But nobody wanted to hear the truth. The media just talked about how we were a bunch of religious nuts with guns, which was absolutely crushing. That was the attitude from the intellectual side that blew my mind. The fact that when I came out, I wanted to talk about my experience, and people who I admired wouldn’t hear it.

It’s shameful is what it is. People accepted what the media told them about us and moved on. They didn’t bother to talk about the infrared video at the back of the building at Mount Carmel where there were shooters, literally fully automatic weapon fire, right next to the tank shooting into the back of the building as people were trying to escape. They didn’t talk about any of that.

AN: I know that you have said that many of the documentaries out there on Waco don’t represent the truth as you know it. What documentaries on Waco do you recommend for people who want to learn more?

DT: There are so many documentaries out there that I’ve seen over the years, but there’s really only two decent ones. The first one is Waco: The Rules of Engagement, and the follow up, Waco: A New Revelation. Those two are phenomenal.

(You can purchase both documentaries on David’s website: www.wacosurvivors.com)

AN: How did you go about publishing your book back in the 1990s? Was it self-published?

DT: No, actually, in Los Angeles I found a literary agent, but my book was turned down by 23 different publishers before it was finally accepted. At the time, only a few people were even interested in the book or my story, and I eventually slowed down with my work of getting the truth about Waco out because I felt like no one cared. But I didn’t expect any of this to happen with the series and how people are talking about Waco again! It baffles me, but I am glad people are finally listening.

AN: Have you struggled with your mental health since the Waco siege?

DT: I taught, I gave lectures and talks all over the country for a while after Waco, but again, it was only the radical right elements that wanted to even hear what I had to say. So even that was frustrating. But the point came where I saw the infrared video for the first time when they were filming The Rules of Engagement.

I gotta tell you, it affected me in such a deep way. They gave me a copy of it to show people, and I was giving talks at this point that was in front of an audience four or 500 people. And I was showing the infrared for the first time. And I was showing where the fully automatic weapon fire was. I just lost it in front of the audience, and I knew that I was not in control of my anger. At that point, I had always been controlled in front of an audience. And, so, when that had happened, I said, okay, I can’t talk about this publicly anymore. Something is happening to me, and I don’t know what it is. And you know, that had to do with the anger. A lot of that was PTSD, but this was before anyone knew what PTSD was. This was back in the nineties, early nineties. I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew I was a very angry individual, and I experienced periods of what I call a darkness but what others might call depression. But my anger has been the biggest challenge.

AN: Where can people go to learn more about Waco, your book, and the documentaries you mentioned?

DT: I have a website called www.wacosurvivors.com that includes various FBI transcripts between David Karesh and the FBI during the siege. I also sell my book and the documentaries I recommend, as well as the Waco series, and I autograph everything. The website is the best destination if you want to learn more about the truth of what happened at Waco.

To learn more about Waco and purchase a signed copy of David’s book, visit: www.wacosurvivors.com

Interview: What Body Positivity Icon Lindley Ashline Wants You to Know About Your Self-Image

Recently, I had the pleasure to meet and work with a wonderful lady named Lindley Ashline who is the body-positive icon of my dreams. She is the owner and creator of The Body Love Box (a body-positive, LGBTQIA+ friendly and racially diverse subscription box) as well as a photographer who helps women feel secure and beautiful in their bodies. Please enjoy my interview with her below, and be sure to stay up to date with her on social media!

About Lindley

Lindley Ashline (pronounced LIN-lee, she/her) creates artwork that celebrates the unique value of bodies that fall outside conventional “beauty” standards. Lindley is also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and The Body Love Box. She lives outside Seattle with her husband and two feline overlords.

1. I absolutely love the fact that you use photography as a liberating force to celebrate larger bodies. What made you decide to start a photography business with this mission?

I’d been involved in the fat acceptance movement (of which the body positivity movement is an offshoot) since around 2007, and a nature photographer since 2002. So when I started pursuing portrait photography seriously in 2015, I knew that I wanted to serve people in larger bodies. Fat folks were (and are) drastically underserved in the photography market and face the same levels of prejudice and stigma when looking for a photographer as we do in all other aspects of life. Most photographers have no idea how to work with or pose larger bodies and don’t provide a safe and comfortable environment for fat people. I’ve even heard of wedding photographers turning down clients due to their body size.

While I was training in preparation to open my own photography business, a very fat friend had an experience in which she agreed to model and be photographed in a very vulnerable way by a photographer who then didn’t even publish any of her photographs or include them in his portfolio, leaving her feeling used and neglected. Hearing my friend talk about that experience really solidified my desire to provide a completely safe, judgment-free, celebratory space for people in all kinds of marginalized bodies to get in front of a camera. It also illustrated why the overall experience is so important in making people who don’t often see images of people with bodies like theirs feel supported, so I built my sessions based on that.

Depending on where each person is on their body acceptance journeys, seeing themselves in images can range from a challenging to a jubilant experience, and I’m so happy and proud to be the photographer who gets to facilitate that journey for so many people.

2. You are also the creator of The Body Love Box, a subscription that I think is so important for the body love and fat-positive movement. Did your work as a photographer influence your passion about supporting other fat positive artists through your box?

It did. As a small business owner in a body that experiences a lot of stigma, I know what it’s like to struggle with both the universal travails of running a small business and the weight of marginalization on top. It’s been such a fun opportunity to support a whole bunch of artists, crafters and small business owners who are fat, people of color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It can be a really, really big deal for an artist to get an order for 50 or 100 of their items! And because I don’t haggle or ask small businesses for items for free or at cut rates (unlike most subscription boxes, which run on free or heavily-discounted items), but pay a reasonable wholesale rate, each artist gets a real living wage for their work.

3. What inspired you to create The Body Love Box?

For years, I’d been collecting body-positive items (like little art prints, buttons and stickers) to give my photography clients. When subscription boxes became really popular, I did some research and realized that no one was offering a fat-positive subscription. And though I’m no longer offering monthly subscriptions, the original idea evolved into what’s now the Body Love Shop, which is fast becoming a central shopping location for body-positive, fat-positive and HAES products and artwork, both as individual items and as part of Body Love Boxes.

4. Do you ever feature your photography in The Body Love Box?

I do! Two of my fine art photographic prints — “Unicorn Summer” and “The Wind on My Skin” — have been included in Body Love Boxes. They’re now available for purchase individually in the shop.

5. What are your thoughts about the “Health at Every Size” approach?

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Health at Every Size, or HAES, changed my life. Those of us who live in fat bodies are told constantly, explicitly and implicitly, in a thousand different ways every day that our bodies are aberrations. They’re inherently unhealthy. They’re gross. They’re noncompliant. They’re a visible symbol of our sinful, gluttonous and lazy natures.

Spending a few years in the fat acceptance community gave me the confidence to reject many of these messages and beliefs, but medical shame was so hard to shake. From the university health center doctor who told me (without asking about my eating habits or family history) that I would have diabetes within 10 years unless I lost half my body weight, to the doctor who later prescribed me a medication off-label to try to make me lose weight (and lied to me about it), I’d been told by too many authority figures that my body was bad.

When I first encountered the HAES framework, I was pretty skeptical. Sure, my body is inherently worthy, but it’s also fat, and that just can’t be healthy, right? But I’m a person who likes numbers and evidence, and HAES immediately challenged me: If weight loss is the only way to be healthy, why doesn’t it work? Why do so many weight loss attempts fail? Why doesn’t a single method of losing weight work in the long term?

Like most of us, my beliefs about health and body size had been gleaned from a lifetime of news articles, advertisements, salespeople, and just-so stories. Turns out? None of those sources was actually based on science. We just don’t have a way to make fat people thin in the long term, and in fact, weight cycling — losing and gaining as we go from one diet to another — may actually be worse for us health-wise than just staying the same size.

So if I couldn’t make myself thin, how could I possibly be healthy? That’s where HAES really stepped up. The HAES approach says that no matter what kind of body we live in, we can pursue healthy behaviors without pursuing weight loss that’s doomed to fail. Following the HAES and intuitive eating philosophies have both helped me work toward body acceptance and improved my health in many different ways.

6. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that is often connected to larger women, and those affected by PCOS are often stigmatized (myself included). How do you think we can increase awareness about PCOS and end stigmatization?

It’s incredibly important that we, as a culture, acknowledge that, like type 2 diabetes, PCOS isn’t a punishment for your body size or your food intake. Both smaller- and larger-bodied people have PCOS, diabetes, heart conditions and every other illness humans experience. There are no diseases that only affect fat people.

Today, PCOS awareness seems to suffer from both a lack of awareness and too much awareness. People in relatively small bodies often have trouble accessing diagnosis and treatment, since PCOS has been labeled a fat woman’s issue. And as a fat woman, let me tell you that now every doctor who’s heard of PCOS wants to diagnose me with it, purely due to my body size, despite my complete lack of PCOS symptoms.

Ending the stigma associated with PCOS is going to require that we dismantle diet culture because as long as we believe that we can reliably make larger bodies smaller (we can’t) and that body size is an indicator of health (it isn’t), we’ll continue to see weight stigma deprive both large and small people of proper PCOS care.

There’s a fabulous article at Wear Your Voice Mag that goes deeper into the issues caused by adding diet culture to discussions of and beliefs around PCOS.

7. What is your advice for larger women who are looking to increase their self-confidence?

There are many different ways you can increase your confidence, but for me, one of the most important was to change my “media diet:” the images and messages we take in over time.

Take a few days and just observe what media sources you take in, and how you feel about your body and other bodies after being exposed to each one.

  • How does Instagram make you feel after scrolling for a while?
  • How about Facebook?
  • How about the magazines at the checkout stand?
  • How about the magazines that arrive at your home?
  • How about the ads on the bus or subway?
  • How about TV shows? TV advertisements?
  • How about the radio?

You’re allowed to consume whatever you want, in any amounts you want! I am definitely not saying you need to cut yourself off from the world. Just be aware for a few days of what you’re taking in, how it makes you feel about your own body, and how it makes you feel about other bodies — positive or negative.

Then, start adding in some sources that talk about bodies positively, and sources that feature bodies that look like yours. Just seeing bodies that look like ours can make a tremendous difference in what we see as normal and good.

8. Our country is heavily focused on diet culture and the “battle of the bulge” (a term that I find highly insulting). How do you think that we can fight the stigma surrounding individuals in larger bodies in a culture that is so focused on dieting and body weight?

This is such a complicated topic! How do we change an entire culture? How do we stop oppression? It can seem really overwhelming.

But the good news is that this kind of sea change is really made up of a million small choices, and we can make some of those choices — and changes — ourselves.

Changing the way that you personally see bodies, your own and others’, makes a big difference. I’m also talking on Instagram every Monday about concrete actions you can take to change culture and end weight stigma.

9. How do you see the fat-positive movement growing in 2020?

This is an interesting question, because in many ways the body positive movement, which was built on (and occasionally takes unfair advantage of the work done by) the fat acceptance movement, claims most of the media and social media attention these days.

One of the ways I see real fat acceptance growing is in the revitalization of NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, which has existed for over 50 years and was one of the original forces working to end weight stigma and promote rights for fat folks. I’m seeing some really exciting internal work at NAAFA to involve younger members, redo the website, make the work that’s already been done more accessible and available to use, and get new projects rolling.

NAAFA’s long history, media contacts and ability to advocate with governments for fat rights are incredibly valuable. Membership is open, so check out their site to get involved.

10. What are some wise words that you can give women who are struggling with their self-image?

Wherever you’re at today, that’s OK! If you can’t stand to look in a mirror, that’s OK. If you can’t imagine what body love or acceptance look like, that’s OK too. Body positivity can seem like just another impossible goal that’s put in front of us, but you know what? If you can look towards feeling neutral about your body, that’s a great place to be, too, and it’s way more achievable for many people.

Keep up with Lindley here:

Body Liberation Photos:

Body Love Box & Shop:

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