A letter to the All-Options community from Center Director, Shelly Dodson
Dear All-Options supporters and friends,
It is with a profound mix of gratitude and sadness that I share with you that I am moving on from my position as Center Director at All-Options after 12 years of amazing, challenging, impactful, bold, radical compassion in action through our direct services and social change strategies. For those that know me, this news is probably surprising as I’ve made jokes over the years about never leaving this organization that I have in many ways grown up alongside. Twelve years is a long relationship with anyone or any organization. So why leave now you ask?
While it’s been kept relatively under wraps, I experienced a concussion back in June of 2018 trying to duck under a felled tree while hiking with my woof partner in crime, Ami. What I didn’t know at that moment was that everything I thought I knew about myself and my life was about to change dramatically. Most people don’t realize that a concussion is more than just a knock to the head – it can bring out a whole host of complex disorders that can severely impact you physically and emotionally for weeks, months, or what is looking like for me, years.
What started out as a “moderate” concussion – moderate meaning no brain bleed – turned into extreme depression, intense anxiety, panic, hypomania, challenges in emotional regulation, cognitive disabilities, and memory loss. It left me unable to work for three months, and has continued to be challenging since my return at the end of September. It’s also been a very lonely and isolating experience. People either don’t understand the severity of this experience, or don’t want to know because mental illness is hard and scary. There’s no easy fix and that is hard for people. The only way to get through it is to do it, which sounds so much easier when you say it to other people. Luckily, I have an amazing mom, a wonderful husband, and friend-family who really showed up for me this summer and fall. Without them, I might not have made it.
I’ve been fighting back since that day in June to find myself. What I have finally come to realize is that I am not the person that I used to be. Nor will I ever be that Shelly again. This has changed me to my core and challenged more than I ever thought I was capable of withstanding. One day I hope that I can look back and say that I’m stronger for having been able to break out of this complex, too often silenced, and stigmatized condition that has turned my life, relationships, and work-life upside down and inside out.
Needless to say, my concussion and connected complications have taken an extreme toll on me. While it was a very difficult decision – as you all know I love All-Options with my whole heart and soul – right now, I need to focus solely on my health and healing. And so, my last day will be this Friday, February 15th. I am staying in Bloomington and will still be connected to the fight for reproductive justice after I’ve left the organization. It will just be in a different role and capacity.
The Talkline was my first love and I so keenly remember my volunteer training back in March of 2007 – how coming to what was then Backline, now All-Options, felt like coming home. It was the perfect fit for what I didn’t know I was missing in my heart and soul. Being able to hold precious space for callers all across the country was life-changing for me. I felt like I was the lucky one to be taking calls, more than the callers being lucky to find someone who was genuine, compassionate, and judgment-free. Because it is home to me, I know it’s someplace that I can always come back to.
While the Talkline felt like coming home, the All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) was that vision made into reality. The Center, as we call it, is better than everything and anything we could have hoped for. Supporting people through ALL their pregnancy options and experiences. Having a thriving abortion fund in Indiana, one of the most hostile conservative red states, is nothing short of a miracle. And I’ll always remember that first summer in 2015 as we started to be known as “the diaper place.” Being the Center Director for the first 3 ½ years is an awe-inspiring, life-changing experience that only comes along once in a lifetime. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been at the helm guiding the ship through treacherous Hoosier waters.
I am so incredibly proud of everything that has been accomplished here in Indiana. Frankly, it’s taken a village and what sometimes felt like sheer grit to keep the organization afloat over the years. Parker Dockray, All-Options Executive Director, and I were partners in crime as the only part-time “staffers” plus full-time job having people from 2010-2015. It really took a lot out of us and I know we had our doubts that we’d ever succeed, but because we were just too stubborn to give up, that’s why All-Options is here today. And now you too are part of the history-making of this organization. Everyone’s role fits in just the right spot and is essential – no matter if you are a volunteer answering calls on the national Talkline, driving someone to their abortion appointment, making a call or visiting your legislator(s) about the next awful anti-family or anti-abortion bill, a monthly donor that helps sustain us so we can do the work, rockstar ally, an amazing staff member, or bodacious board member.
All-Options is on the precipice of so many amazing things — from suing the state of Indiana, to diving into organizing and mobilizing, to treating Hoosiers with the dignity and compassionate that is so sorely lacking in our state through our program work, to building a thriving volunteer and intern program, to answering more calls every year on the Talkline, and to going virtual with all the things including our professional and talkline trainings. The work we are doing is bold, necessary, and ready to turn compassion into action in the Hoosier state and beyond.
Although I am leaving my position with All-Options, I will continue to fight for reproductive freedom in Indiana so that every Hoosier who is faced with a pregnancy or parenting decision receives access to all of the care and support options available, without judgment or shame. We, as Hoosiers, should be able to decide our own futures, including when, whether, and how we build our families. That is the future I will continue to fight for, shoulder to shoulder with you.
Shelly J. Dodson