Monica LeSage
“Showing up to face trauma: A survivor’s story of using Somatic Experiencing to gain freedom for mind, body, and soul” — Watch HERE.
3rd Annual TEDxWilmingtonWomen // 30 November 2018

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Meet the Speakers: Monica LeSage for TEDxWilmingtonWomen

I’ve been dreaming of my round, red carpet moment since I saw Simon Sinek explain the Golden Circle in 2010. I didn’t know WHAT my idea worth spreading was then, but I did know my WHY: to help the world, deeply and powerfully; and I knew my HOW:  the TEDx platform.

Knowing my WHY and my HOW, I geeked out on the ideas that other TED and TEDx speakers have spread, looking for my WHAT.  I promoted the surprising truth about motivation, as explained by TED speaker Daniel Pink; and power posed in bathrooms when nervous, as TED alum Amy Cuddy suggested; and joined Brene Brown’s famous crusade to embrace the power of vulnerability by being my “perfectly imperfect” self and inviting others to do the same.

Despite the staggering number of people affected by physical or emotional trauma, no one has spoken about Somatic Experiencing on any TED or TEDx stage, EVER. Identifying this gap revealed my WHAT, since I have been practicing this healing modality for over 600 hours across the last five years, and now help others to use it. It has helped me lower chronic pain, control neurologic irregularities, and regain a sense of self-mastery I lost in the years since the accident.

When I learned that I was invited to speak at TEDxWilmingtonWomen, I screamed, “WHAT?! REALLY?!” I’m overwhelmed again, remembering the moment when I learned I was “in.”… that my WHY, HOW, and WHAT had finally aligned for my round, red carpet moment. I remain in awe, comparing my emergency room experience two weeks ago, to the one a decade ago, because this time I used Somatic Experiencing.

I’m so excited to share more about this process at TEDxWilmingtonWomen in Wilmington, DE, on November 30th, where I have the honor of spreading an idea that can potentially bring relief to millions of people affected by trauma.


the TEDx process: Monica LeSage for TEDxWilmingtonWomen

I’ve heard that it’s common for people to rework their talks in the weeks, and even days, leading up to their event. However, I didn’t think it would happen to me. After all, I’ve been telling my story to different audiences for a few years.  That being said, you can imagine my surprise and dismay as I watched the recording of my first full-length talk and thought to myself, “Oh no. I can’t use this. It’s too sad. Too heavy. And it’s all about me. Not enough about the powerfully transformative process I’m trying to share.” < insert deep sigh >

This was where the structure and support of the TEDxWilimington team came into play. Thankfully, they have a precise assignment list set up that helped make sure I had recorded my first version of the talk early enough that once I realized it had to be scrapped, I had enough time to rework it. So that left me wondering how. I knew the content needed to remain the same, since that core of my message is still the core, “Practice Somatic Experiencing to recover from trauma” but the story aspect needed to be different and so did the timeline I shared it in.

As a trainer in communication, I have seen over and over that what we have in our heads can be difficult to convey to a group.  So I sought input from my “tribe”. They are a group of people that have been a part of my healing and professional journey, especially during this last five years, and they have borne witness to how I have transformed from a person that physically couldn’t make my bed or vacuum, let alone get through a day without tears, to become a person that they can count on when the stuff of their own lives piles up and they need an anchor or a listening ear, who is back to rock climbing and acro yoga in my spare time. (“Spare time” is this cute phrase I use to talk about the time that I am not working, preparing for TEDxWilmingtonWomen, or continuing my healing journey. It seems to be missing lately, except for my jaunt into the Shawangunk mountains for a day of climbing.)

Feedback from my tribe confirmed my belief that the first version was informational, and professional, but heavy. Some suggested a joke to lighten things up, but I was hesitant, due to my topic. But that person planted a seed. Another person reminded me that the process had elements that I use on a daily basis, but hadn’t made it into the 10 minute time slot. She made me ask myself what HAD to be in, and what might have to go, to make it possible to add it in.

In the week I submitted the video,  life presented me with an opportunity to see my full transformation when I needed to visit an ER for an unrelated issue. I was seriously triggered by the visit, since it looked, smelled, and felt like the place that had held so much pain and fear for me from years ago. But this time, as soon as I realized my brain was going into “collapse”, a symptom of trauma that causes the brain to freeze, often resulting in vision changes, difficulty breathing, withdrawal from human connection, and in severe situations even losing the ability to speak, I knew what to do. I used the process to transform the experience and within a few minutes I was breathing calmly and actually giggled, which is a good sign the process is working.

The final piece of help I needed to rework my talk came from a TED talk by Nancy Duarte titled “The Secret Structure of Great Talks”. My final version of the talk will follow the algorithm that she identified was used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and even President Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. She broke it down, explained what it looks like, and now I have put in the other elements that I am sharing.

And I even found the joke that I can use to set the tone of the talk! So my tribe’s input helped me, as did the structure provided by TEDxWilmington, and TED fellows like Nancy Duarte.

Can’t wait to see you in Wilmington DE on November 30th. There is so much to be thankful for in the meantime.


Reflecting: Monica LeSage for TEDxWilmingtonWomen

It. Is. Finished.

Those ancient words have very significant meaning to me. And now that I have accomplished a dream of mine, and it is firmly fixed in the past, I feel I own them as part of my own story and journey. TEDxWilmingtonWomen 2018 is finished.

Completing my TEDx ”Round, Red Carpet Moment” is a huge accomplishment and I am equally thrilled I had the opportunity, as I am thrilled it is finished. As one of the speakers, I got to meet so many WONDERFUL people that I never would have met if I hadn’t done this. And I got to hear from many people in person, as well as those who saw the live-stream of the event, that they were inspired and experienced thought-provoking ideas. I got to challenge myself to step up my own trauma recovery to an all new high, to be able to manage the challenges, deadlines, and standing up in front of 3 cameras to talk about something with very deep meaning for me. I received a lot from the experience. And I am grateful.

Regarding the event, I was so impressed with members of the volunteer tribe that helped make this a reality. I was struck by how composed Elissa Ben-Eli remained, despite the pressures of being a first-time producer of a TEDxWilmington event, and making an event a reality with only 2 weeks notice that TED had given the green light. She kept a smile on her face and kept the best interests of the speakers top of mind throughout the 2 day event. She demonstrated this even when I needed to add a slide the day of the event, and instead of concerning herself with the stress that might bring HER in the midst of the live-stream, she was concerned it might throw me off as speaker. And she trusted me when I let her know that the slide was mission critical, and she worked with Evan, who has more experience as a producer, to get it in. She and Evan were very impactful in so many ways!

The tribe’s photographer, Alessandra Nicole, is a person with a tremendous background in living bravely and facing adversity with grace, as well as a person with huge heart, who happens to also be a great photographer and visual storyteller. She also demonstrated her helpfulness throughout the days I was there, even helping me get from the speaker dinner to my hotel, since I didn’t have a car.

Jake Voohees also played a huge role in making the event what it was for me and others. He offered encouragement consistently offered balanced constructive feedback to the speakers during our dress rehearsal. And he managed to do that with a smile on his face, and new responsibilities out on stage. He gave my introduction, and demonstrated that he clearly understood the effort I had put into my talk preparation, as well as my journey as a person recovering from trauma that wants to help the world do the same, incorporating Somatic Experiencing into their journey to recover from or prepare for traumatic situations. Jake saw my vision and helped me get it the point that it was on November 30th. I cannot give enough credit to the impact Jake has had on the trajectory of my life through who he is, and how he employs that on behalf of this tribe of volunteers.

And don’t let their titles fool you, every tribe member does so much more than their titles imply- Alessandra, Elissa, Evan, and Jake- they were called on to give speaker feedback during our dress rehearsal, right alongside the folks who make their living coaching speakers. These folks played a significant role in making the event all it was,.

As for the speakers, I cannot say enough good things about them. I drove to the event sitting on a red bath mat that reminded me of my vision of success I was embarking on, and heard a speaker talk about how vision boards change lives. I’m living proof Karen’s message was spot on. (pun intended) I saw men like Dominick and Frankie, who were willing to show their feelings so deeply, in ways that men often do not, and call men and women alike to live powerful lives full of feeling and bravery and art. I saw women overcoming debilitating illness to find healing and health in alternative ways and suggesting how we can advocate for ourselves with our doctors. Women with a vision for the future of our young ladies, wanting to impact them as leaders from a young age. Women who want to provide structure for how we can stand up and say so, when we have been spoken to in an exclusionary way, or if we have been the one to speak out of turn. We heard wisdom on how to divorce “happily ever after” through mindfulness. How to turn your passion into your health and wellness. EVERY SINGLE SPEAKER and speaker coach (like Angela Jo Maneri, Geoffrey Berwind, Laura Harrison, and Tucker Stine) imparted their knowledge, passion, feedback and ideas to me. And an idea is a gift as much as feedback is. Getting to hear all the speakers and feedback given to them on dress rehearsal day, and then many talks on the day of the event, I had the blessing of hearing many twice. Because of them, I learned about the ways to tell stories of family members before they are gone, to consider giving up eating meat for the benefit of the planet AND the animals. To tell everyone I meet that YOU MATTER.

Like many things, the hardest things are often the most rewarding, despite the bumps and hurdles. And that is how I sum up my TEDxWilmingtonWomen 2018 experience. It was one of the hardest things I have done, and it was so rewarding.

And though the event itself is done, the relationships that were forged through the heat of pressure and deep desire to make an impact, will continue to make an impact on me. And once the talks are live on YouTube, they will continue to make an impact on many…hopefully countless others. And ideas will spread, which is the point of all of this.

C’est fini. For today.

Watch Monica LeSage’s TEDx talk HERE.

TEDxWilmingtonWomen 2018, Photograph by Alessandra Nicole

Monica started a career in leadership and talent development after a life-altering motor vehicle accident caused her to leave behind a successful career in biotechnology sales. Facing moderate-severe pain daily for 11 years, she has devoted much of her spare time to regaining vitality through play, learning to sit, and relentlessly exploring treatments or therapies that may help. Through a unique version of trauma therapy called Somatic Experiencing, she now rock climbs again, plays guitar, and has recently started doing acrobatic partner yoga. She is integrating these experiences with her experiences as a leadership trainer and has created a workshop to help others learn to prevent trauma, or to heal trauma/pain to live fully again. READ MORE

3rd Annual TEDxWilmingtonWomen: Showing Up // 30 November 2018
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