Saturday, February 24, 2018

THINGS WE HAVEN'T SAID is now available for pre-order!

If you've been following the publication journey of THINGS WE HAVEN'T SAID, an anthology of 25 survivors of Sexual Assault, you probably know this has been a long 2 years. However, the end is in sight: Publication is marked for March 13, 2018 and will be available everywhere books are sold.



Here's a listing of those sites who currently list THINGS WE HAVEN'T SAID for pre-order:

1. Amazon:



2. Barnes & Noble:




3: Book Depository:




4: Books-A-Million:





5: Indiebound:



6: GoodReads:


Please note that the majority of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to:


The contributors have donated their time, their talents, and their poems, stories, and essays to speak up and speak out on the issue of sexual assault. In light of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, survivors have stepped out and choose to remain no longer silent about sexual abuse, sexual trauma, rape, incest, and sexual assault. By remaining silent, power remains with the abuser. By speaking out, survivors regain their voice, and begin to heal. Each of us who have contributed, myself included, have experienced healing as a result of speaking out. It is our hope that readers will also find hope and healing from their own Sexual Violence experiences.

For many survivors, it's hard enough to face the truth that sexual assault has even occurred, let alone, speak up about it. Unfortunately, many are ill-equipped to handle such trauma and the very real aftermath from which survivors suffer daily across years and decades. Obviously, there is a huge need for such a resource as this one, detailing from fellow survivors themselves the ways we have learned to heal and move forward in our treatment and recovery. Many families, even those with the best of intentions to support and help survivors heal, have no idea what to say or how to even begin the healing process. Thus, a book like THINGS WE HAVEN'T SAID, provides such a resource for teens and adults to slowly process their experiences and co-journey with other survivors who have made progress toward healing on their recovery journey.

Please consider purchasing a copy for yourself, your loved one, your children, the people you love, and for your community crisis center, your local women's shelter, your local churches, and your local libraries. We appreciate each and every one of you, and welcome you to share the word so others know there is hope, there is a resource, and when you purchase this book, know that you are making a difference, and the majority of your purchase will be donated to www.RAINN.org


Thank you!







Friday, September 29, 2017

Book Review: THE LAST TO LET GO by Amber Smith

The Last to Let GoThe Last to Let Go by Amber Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is such a careful and articulate unraveling, by the time you are fully entangled within the pages, you won't mind tugging at the next page like a loose thread until you reach the end, a kind of letting go. Beautifully written, painful, powerful. A jagged, glittering trail of bruises and tears. Must read. Dani and Brooke are my favorite characters, followed closely by Caroline.

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Friday, September 8, 2017

What If REcovery Is Not What You Need To Survive? The Role of DIScovery and UNcovering in Trauma and Abuse Healing

*****Trigger Warning*****

What if recovery is the wrong word, the wrong approach, the wrong lens to view the treatment and healing process? This question brought me to at least attempt to process this thought all the way through and blog about it so you have the opportunity to join the conversation, which I hope you'll do in the comment section below. Let's begin.

First, let's start with the question, what is recovery anyway?

The definition gives us a few inroads and insights to begin from, but it doesn't really get at what recovery is, or hopes, or attempts to be for a person in the treatment and healing process. The first definition, "a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength," implies that there is a right state of health or wellness, and there is a wrong state. This sounds very much like a victim of abuse must choose whether they are on one side or the other. Thus, a person who is in "recovery," carries with himself or herself a stigma that they are not well, and further, that they are in fact in a wrong state of wellness. Victim blaming, anyone? Ouch. That one stings a bit.

The second definition, "the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost," suggests that a trauma that has occurred has somehow robbed the victim of his or her innocence, and he or she should strive to "get back," what is rightfully his or hers to own. The heart or intent of this sentiment is at first a nice thought: surely, every child has a right to retain his or her innocence, right?

We have a right to be a child when we are children, and not be thrust into the very adult world of child sexual abuse, where our childhoods are essentially robbed from us, right? Every survivor of child sexual abuse knows this just isn't true. We know what that horror feels like every day that follows from the moment our sexual abuse first began. But the truth is: the world isn't a safe place where children retain their right to be innocent and free from the weight of being thrust forward into adulthood. We don't all chase butterflies, or toss copious amounts of glitter on things, or frolic with unicorns. So the idea of regaining something I never had seems ludicrous to me. I never had that fantasy or fairytale childhood. It didn't exist for me. Instead, I found myself forced to make the very adult choice to take the bullet and comply with my abuser's sexual demands in order to spare my siblings from this horror, not realizing the world isn't fair, and my abuser had no intention of holding up his end of the bargain. I cannot regain what I never had. Sure, I was robbed. So for me, that happened when I was only four years old. As I approach my own treatment and healing from child sexual abuse, I am no longer certain recovery is the right approach. Another way to state this is recovery may not be the right word.




Recovery has been described as many things. It can be a road, a pathway, a journey. It might also be a reset button, a reboot, a do-over, a new beginning. All of these "definitions," give insight and perspective on what recovery could be, but in many ways, it falls short. For the survivor of trauma, recovery just doesn't add up to the promise of giving us back what was stolen from us. It doesn't even come close.




So where does that leave us? It's such a common feeling for a survivor to not fit in with "normal" people. We are outsiders. We don't belong. We are the quintessential square peg trying to fit into a round hole. We just don't. Fit, that is.

For a survivor of child sexual abuse, recovery just isn't a good fit. For us, we need something that meets our unique healing and treatment needs. This led me to the following thought:

What if REcovery was more like DIScovery and UNcovering our TRUE SELVES?

Give that a minute to soak in. Feeling okay? Are you ready to move forward? It might take a few moments for you to fully absorb what I'm saying here. Let me try another way: I'm going to break each of these down a bit further to help clarify:

REcovery is supposed to equal getting back what was taken from you. This seems legitimate as long as you had something prior to your abuse that was taken, apart from your right to live an abuse-free life, that you can "RE," or RE-COVER, or get back.

What if you could, instead, DIScover, or not focus on getting something that was lost or stolen back in the first place? What if, instead, you could choose to do what YOU want to do with the cover. For me, "cover" represents the aspect of abuse that is hidden or covered up.

When you work to regain yourself, you pull the covers off, and reveal the secret. This step can be very triggering, and should not be attempted without the help and support necessary to fully go through this process. If you are considering this step, don't do it alone. Make sure you are ready, and you have professional support with a licensed professional, preferably one who is trauma-informed, and can attend to your unique therapeutic needs.

Before I can get to the final step in the "cover" process, I need to veer off from the main topic for a bit. You see, our abuser took all his or her responsibility for the abuse they inflicted on us, and placed the blame entirely on our shoulders. We tried to resist this, but over time, they wore us down. Eventually, we succumbed to their repeated statements (gas lighting) and treatment. They told us we were nothing, we were worthless, it was our fault. Then, they treated us as if we were nothing, as if we were worthless, and as if it was actually our fault.

To truly understand the process that took me from REcovery to DIScovery to UNcovering the TRUE SELF, check out "The Lying Triad and it's Dark Guard," by Bobbi L. Parish, MA on YouTube:





This brings me to the UNcover part: that the true task is to 1: Uncover the secret of the abuse, rip the cover off of the secret, and expose it for what it is. By taking the lie off of ourselves, we reveal what has been hidden all along: the lie our abuser gave to us, (that you are broken, deserving of your abuse, and essentially the Lying Triad and the Dark Guard Bobbi was talking about,) in order to avoid facing any consequences for abusing us, is finally given back to our abuser, and our TRUE SELF is seen for the first time. 2: The second task is to seek to fully know and embrace the TRUE SELF and allow the TRUE SELF to regain his or her power back.

If we as survivors are ever to regain anything, it is the truth of our TRUE SELVES. And this very important part of our healing journey can only be achieved if we move from REcovery to DIScovery and eventually arrive at UNcovering what has been hidden by our abuse: our TRUE SELVES.

If you've read this entire blog post, from the bottom of my heart to the tips of my toes and the top of my head, I thank you. I appreciate you hearing me out. You may not agree with anything I've said here. You might agree with some parts of it, or all of it. I invite you to join the conversation. Sound off in the comments below and let me know what this brought up for you, how you connect or disconnect from this concept about the recovery process. Healing from trauma and abuse have unique aspects that are not the same as other treatment and healing processes.

It is my hope that this can be the beginning of a conversation about those needs for true recovery and healing to happen in the survivor community. If you have an idea for a blog post in response to this one, I hope you'll post a link in the comments below and I look forward to reading your reactions, comments, and posts.

I will close with a checklist for recovery, "Guiding Principles of Recovery":





Thursday, August 24, 2017

Book Review: Release, by Patrick Ness

ReleaseRelease by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found the voice of RELEASE, by Patrick Ness, immediately captivating while the story centered on Adam, but found myself at first a bit confused with the secondary storyline, although I quickly understood these two seemingly separate storylines would eventually entwine and cross paths with one another. This structure frames the story well, loosely based on, and giving literary nods to FOREVER by Judy Blume, and MRS. DALLOWAY, by Virginia Woolf. Of course, more contemporary YA works such as THE SERPENT KING, by Jeff Zentner, also come to mind among the triune circle of friends: Ness's Adam, Linus, and Angela characters.
At the heart of Release is Adam Thorn, a young man on the brink of transition between boyhood and manhood. But equally important is the internal journey he takes to identify and embrace, as fully as he knows how, his true self. Adam's true self might be as easy to discover for him as buying a single rose, unsure of his intended recipient. But as Adam wrestles with the facets that make up himself, those which are "good" or "acceptable" to the world, or to his overbearing religiously rigid family, and the other parts of himself, which seem to be "bad" or "unacceptable," parts he has kept from the public eye for fear of the consequences which have imprisoned him much of his life.
The entire story takes place within the confines of one day, and is complicated by a variety of surprises, both alarming and lovely, threats painful and stifling, and the question of how both story threads will inevitably meet. What makes this a pleasure to read, though, is the journey, the discovery, and the risk of living one's truth. Bravo to Ness and to Adam. May we all learn to risk everything for the right reasons, rather than the wrong ones. Highly, Highly recommended.


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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Review: They Both Die At the End, by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the EndThey Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This scything, searing read tore at me from the first page, and for me, hit all the high notes in character, plot, pacing, voice, and surprises and touches that thrum long after swiping left on blast to the very last page. Silvera is at his best in his third YA novel, having read and loved both of his first books as well. I'm not ashamed to be a hardcore fanboy. He's definitely on my list of auto-read authors.
I loved the nuanced way Silvera wove life after life together in the primarily dual POV structure, with layers of other characters that may surprise you time and again. Each beat is pointed, deliberate, and a testament to the life of each of his characters, the way dancers leave it all on the floor of the club when they dance among their tribe.
My takeaway is clear: what if we lived our lives to the fullest, as if today were our last? What if we dared to be our authentic self, holding nothing back, regretting nothing, yet if we had regrets, finding the best way to make it right? How true. What a risk. And what an important message. The fact that I know Adam pours his own heart and soul out here on every page, making himself vulnerable for his readers, and did all the hard work to take us there, makes it even more a brave, glorious song, perhaps sung a bit off key, but real, authentic, and chock full of humanity.
I loved the many tender moments I found myself choked up, teary-eyed, not giving a shit that others might laugh at me since I might as well be at Make-A-Moment; after all, I'm just reading a book, right?
Mateo and Rufus leapt off the page, soared on the back pegs of a bike rushing full boar into their final day. What a day. What a life. What a powerful read. I'm still reeling from the aftermath. Damnit, Silvera: you made me mad cry. I will find you, and I will punch you. Looking forward to your next book, and the next.
P.S. The traveler game is my new fave. Love all the social media treats, too.


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Saturday, July 1, 2017

For Survivors: Icebergs, Recovery, and the Importance of Using Your Voice

 
I don't know what your recovery pathway looks like compared to mine, but I've been walking mine out for nearly 40 years. In those four decades, I've made some progress, have experienced fallouts and fallbacks, and I've discovered things about myself I would never have known had I not done the hard work of digging below the surface and asking the hard questions. I also had to sort through a lot of difficult things, and there were times this was triggering for me. However, at the end of the day, I can look back and honestly say that it is ENTIRELY worth every pain, every trigger, and leaning into that pain and allowing myself to fully experience that as honestly as I can has made all the difference.

I can't answer for you whether this is a good way to go about walking out your pathway, but I encourage you to take the risk, or at the very least, allow yourself to consider the possibility that you can. Read on if you'd like to know more. As I often say, take whatever is helpful, and toss out the stuff that doesn't work for you. My solutions may not work for you. When you try something that doesn't work, shrug it off. That's just a sign you're not there yet, you're not ready for that yet, or it's just not right for YOU. That's okay. Be you. Be where you're at and do the best you can with where you're at. It's that simple. Or, it can be, if you let it.

 
 
 
The beginning of this process may be a bit off-putting for the person in recovery. As is very often the case, once you start digging, you tend to uncover more and more, and very soon you may become overwhelmed with what you dig up. It can be helpful to know beforehand that this is a very normal part of the process. After all, we aren't 2 dimensional beings. We're very complex, far more than we often give ourselves credit. That may ping onto that false belief you're holding onto that you're broken, unworthy, or an outsider. I'll come back to that later. For now, just know that's a lie, and you are worthy, wonderful, and just as valuable as everyone else.
 
 
 
It's high time you stop believing your abuser, turn those tapes off from replaying over and over in your mind, and replace them with positive thoughts, affirmations, and mindfulness. This will lead you to wellness, which is a much healthier place to exist. You've beat yourself down for far too long, in fact, you may have even taken the shovel out of the hands of your abuser, and done the burying of yourself on their behalf. Stop it. Enough of that. It's time to unbury some stuff and get to the truth of your actual identity. See yourself the way the rest of the world sees you. Look in that mirror. You might be surprised. It will take your breath away.
 
 



What you may find, beneath the surface of your true identity, is a person far more complicated than you have even risked thinking about. You probably think very little of yourself, or when you're in the early stages of recovery, it's much easier to believe this is true. Well, let me say it: It's a lie. Untrue. Not even close. You. Have. Value. You. Are. Amazing. You are beautiful and wonderful, and never let ANYONE, even yourself, tell you otherwise.

Let that soak in for a minute.

Think of yourself as an iceberg. This might also match how your feelings have become over the years. That's okay, too. You might have shut them off, become numb, and isolated. This is all very similar to an iceberg. But, there's more to it: You survived. You're still here. You win. Not your abuser.

It's okay to be an iceberg, but when you're ready, I encourage you to explore your emotions and let yourself feel again. I know it's a risk. It may also be painful, I'm not going to lie. IT may hurt like hell. But if you don't let yourself feel anything, you will miss so much more.

There are good things in the world.

There are positive feelings, wonderful feelings, things that are indescribable, and worth experiencing. But if you're numb to your feelings, if you're living in that dissociative state, you'll miss so much of your life, and you might not be able to get that back. Don't put the power with your abuser. Take it back. Own it. It's yours. Let yourself feel. Slowly, carefully, and you'll be able to suffer through and process the pain, and you will also have the joy of knowing what it means to truly be alive. You'll experience the good things, too. You deserve that. You always have. You may have just forgotten or believed those lies. The good news is, you don't have to anymore. Start today. Begin afresh. Unwrap the gift of feeling and experiencing your life right now.

There are many great resources you can use in your recovery and healing journey. One of my favorites is to find a great book that helps me to process some of these thoughts and feelings and reflect on how they were added together to become behaviors. Here are two suggestions for you:

http://a.co/43SKELP               http://a.co/2AtEx5Q
 
Jasmin Lee Cori is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and abuse survivor. She writes bluntly and honestly about the recovery process, and gives so many great examples and word pictures that helped me immensely in my own recovery process. You'll love this resource. Check out, Healing From Trauma, and comment below once you've had a chance to read through it.
 
Bessel Van Der Kolk is THE resource for trauma research over the last forty years. He's survived a concentration camp and his own trauma and loss, while helping others, particularly veterans, understand and walk out what it is like to unravel the mystery of trauma and find a way out towards healing. In particular, The Body Keeps the Score, helps the reader understand that trauma does not store in the mind and body (and spirit) the way other memories do. This was hugely illuminating for me. I highlighted this book like crazy. Get your own copy so you can do the same. I'd recommend that for both of these resources. Click the covers or the highlighted text to follow the link to buy your copy today. I wrote a blog about my experience of reading The Body Keeps the Score. You can check it out here.
 
 
 
Of course, beginning to search for the pathway that works best for you and your recovery is easier said than done. What may work for one survivor may not work for another. Your pathway of recovery may be very different from mine. They might have similarities, as there are common threads in the process of recovery for most survivors, but your healing pathway is likely as different as your story and your experience. What you've lived through is unique. Equally true is the unique facets that make up all the complicated layers that make you you.
 
 
 
To illustrate this point, let's first consider the layers, the facets, the dimensions that make you the unique individual that is wholly YOU. At the very least, you have a body, a mind, and a spirit. There are three dimensions you possess that are as unique as your DNA. Check out the wheel above and consider what layers or dimensions make up who you are. When you consider your recovery pathway, it's important to note that your recovery involves ALL of these unique dimensions. It's not just a body thing. You can't just take a pill and move on. There's more to it.
 
Medication management may be an aspect of your recovery. That's okay. It may only need to be there for the time it takes you to work through all the stuff below the surface. (See the iceberg image above). You've also got to consider how your trauma or abuse experience impacted your mind, your mental health, and whether you have a diagnosis, or diagnoses that you need clinical help with to gain the skills and strategies you need to fully process and recover.
 
Another area with great significance in relation to your recovery is your support system. Do you have any supports? Are there family members or friends who know you completely, who know all that happened to you? Have you been able to share your experience with at least one other person? If not, consider what you need to make that happen. Plan it out. Make it a goal, and work toward that goal, when you're ready.
 
If you don't have supports, you can look for local support groups, and even groups which meet online. I know I have found private chat life coach groups, Twitter hashtag groups which meet weekly, and private Facebook Groups that vet members through a screening process to weed out trolls and abusive people looking to hurt survivors. It's sad this even happens, but it's also unfortunately true. So, guard yourself. You don't need to be hurt anymore than you already have been.
 
So what do you think your pathway to recovery looks like? Here are a few examples:
 
 
 
 
This is the model of recovery I used as a roadmap to healing. I began as a victim, then moved to survivor, then I developed my recovery skills through Adaptor and Thriver, and finally, I've been working to become an overcomer. Now that I am in this stage of recovery, I am also looking at where I came from (undiagnosed PTSD or cPTSD) to where I am at now in posttraumatic growth (PTG) with the added skills of resiliency, mindfulness, and wellness. These have helped my recovery and have transformed me from the person on the far left to the man I have become on the far right. As an added bonus, I have found a way to help others in their recovery, as a certified clinical mental health counselor.
 
 

 
Another model of recovery may look like the one above. It's not a straight line, and this is important to note: Your path of Recovery may look more like an upward spiral than a straight line. When you fall down six times, get up seven. You'll keep making your way up, up, up out of the dark cellar of your mind and your abuse or trauma experience, and you'll reach a point of light and recovery that is optimal for your healing journey.
 
 
 
 

As I said earlier, at the very least you need to attend to your body, your mind, and your spirit when developing a road to recovery.


Resiliency is a critical factor useful to develop the skills and strategies of healing and recovery. Use the list above to support your recovery goals.


Above, consider these mindfulness-based aspects of recovery which can contribute positively among other resiliency factors.


 
 
 
Finally, consider that your pathway to recovery may not look like anything listed here. It could feel very much like youv'e wiped out on the surfboard of your life, and you're just beneath the surface, not yet tumbled out of the pull of the wave of your trauma and abuse experience. I encourage you to find your own pathway, and develop your skills, coping tools, and recovery strategies that will adequately equip you in your recovery journey. Know that you are not alone. Know that you matter. You are loved. And you can find yourself among the wreckage, you can activate your voice and advocate for yourself and for your recovery. Take the next step today. I hope this post has been an encouragement. I welcome your comments and reactions below.
 
If you haven't seen my other posts for survivors, check out this Survivor Resource: The Smell of Smoke: Surviving the Aftermath of Trauma here.