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Living Luminously: Interview with Lora DeVore

Lora DeVore’s story is one of not only seeking the light but shining it on others. Subjected to abuse and sex trafficking as a child, DeVore survived only to be illegally institutionalized as a young adult, which she escaped with the help of one determined nurse who worked tirelessly for her release. Now an educator and mental health professional, DeVore works at Prairie Care in Minneapolis, and with the Center for Mind-Body Medicine out of Washington D.C. to help other survivors heal from the trauma that holds them captive. Her autobiography, Darkness Was My Candle: An Odyssey of Survival and Grace, details her incredible journey of moving beyond pain into a place of healing. In sharing her story, DeVore hopes to inspire others to believe in the power of compassion, love, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Your new book, “Darkness Was My Candle,” details the trauma that you endured as a child and young adult. What was the process of writing this memoir-like for you? It was kind of a serendipitous journey; I actually did not set out to write the book that was being published. At the time I started, I was doing research for a mentor of mine, Deena Metzger. We were going to be taking a trip for a book that she was writing, which was related to some experiments that had been done during the Cold War. As I was doing research for her, I came across the name of Elgin State Hospital, where I had been committed when I was 18 years old. I was horrified to find out that they had been conducting research on patients. It became clear that I needed to write about that experience and others, which was a difficult concept to wrestle with. This has been an ongoing process that has grown and stretched me in unimaginable, wonderful, and at times, challenging ways. What did your journey of healing look like? I was in therapy for many years, back when practitioners were just beginning to talk about and understand trauma; we didn’t truly know the best ways to work through it. Therapy was grueling, and it was deep. As trauma resides in the body, I eventually addressed that with different kinds of bodywork, acupuncture, and energy work. I also realized that I need to work through all the false beliefs that formed from trauma, some of which were still residing in me. This realization came to me while I was working with inner-city youth, helping them decipher which beliefs kept them imprisoned versus which were freeing. Our beliefs literally form a reality that becomes our life; when we're traumatized, we end up forming negative beliefs about ourselves. I realized I needed to do the exact exercise I'd created for them with myself, which took me deep into how I still wrestled with self-esteem and how many years I had let this double life. I was a well-respected professional, storyteller, and teacher, yet I still hid my past. I had to really spend some time with that and look at the fact that, we really are not what happened to us; it takes work and persistence, but we can change our destiny. Where does the title of your book come from? For years I have had the sense that I've grown the most in times of darkness; I didn't always understand that, and I would rail against it. Someone eventually told me that as humans, we go through periods of expansion and contraction. During contraction, we feel like there's nothing going on, except for this heaviness and darkness. In reality, it is fertile darkness, just like in the spring before plants come up; there's something growing, we just can't see it until it finally blooms. That was a part of where the title came from. I also drew inspiration from the Rumi quote, “...what hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.”

What do you want readers to take away from your book? Even though there's some dark history in the book, I want readers to be inspired; to feel like no matter what the circumstances, healing fully as possible. Additionally, we're going through a period in history in which everything that's been hidden is being revealed, both on a collective and a personal level, I disclosed some things in the book surrounding the dark history of psychiatry, including the pharmaceutical research that was done on me and millions of others, and how it led to being illegally committed to a state hospital when I didn't belong there. The woman who saved my life, Dr. Sydney Krampitz, did so and risked her career because it was the right thing to do. My book is full of stories of people, who I call “angels wearing the face of compassion and human skin,” who repeatedly showed up throughout my life. It doesn't cost us anything to be kind and compassionate to others, and it's desperately needed during these times. A small act of kindness can change the course of an individual’s day or in some cases their life.