Survivors Empowering Survivors

The Power of Community: 3 reasons you need a tribe, and how to get one.

I was at a neighborhood party a few weeks ago. It was a celebration of the successful completion of our annual block party. I sat down with a glass of wine to chat with one of my neighbors, and she told me during our conversation that her daughter had died under tragic circumstances at age 30.

“You probably read about it in the news” she told me.

She also told me that across the hall from her lived another woman whose daughter had died at the same age, and that when she was having a hard day she would walk across the hall and knock on the door, knowing that there was someone who would understand.

A week later I was talking to a friend of mine who confided that she was starting the process of separating from her husband. We talked about the overwhelming list of practical details she had in the weeks ahead, including finding a full time job and a new place to live. And I thought of another friend of mine, who is also going through a separation. I thought they would probably get along really well, and could both use someone to talk to. Someone who would understand. So I put them in contact and they got together over coffee.

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Human beings are a funny species. There are billions of us on the planet, and yet many of us live our lives feeling alone. We often feel that no one else could understand what we are going through, or no one else has the crazy thoughts that we have. This feeling of separation makes us sick, both emotionally and physically. We are a social species, we are meant to live in connection with others. But in order to be truly connected, we have to be vulnerable. That’s the scary part. We have to admit that we need help sometimes.

Before I became a parent, someone told me that parenting was like turning the amp up to eleven. Life is just more intense. The highs are higher and the lows are deep abysmal valleys. As a survivor of childhood abuse, my experience of becoming a parent certainly fit that description and more. I was suddenly confronted with the reality that no matter how much healing work I had done prior to having children, a whole new level of issues were arising for me. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD all reared their ugly heads. I knew it was related to my childhood trauma, but I couldn’t find any information about how other parents survived this. Until the day that I did. When I read Dawn’s article on Scary Mommy about Raising a Daughter as a Survivor, I knew I needed to talk with her. I did, and together we formed a community for other parents like us. Because when we are “in the rumble” as Brene Brown would say, with the hard things of life, we need to talk to someone who will understand.  And the ones who understand best are in the rumble with you.

Thinking about my experiences in the two years since Dawn and I started the Trigger Points community and anthology project, I realized I have learned so much about the power of community, and why we need it. Here are my top 3 benefits from forming this community:

  1. It normalized my struggles

Before I had the Trigger Points group, I didn’t have a baseline to compare against. I could talk to other moms about the developmental transitions my child was going through, but I didn’t feel like I could talk about what I was going through. And I really needed to hear that what I was experiencing was perfectly normal for someone with my history. Now when something comes up for me, I know exactly where to turn.

  1. It gave me a place to talk freely without censoring myself.

Have you ever had one of “those” days and then been asked “How are you?” by the grocery store clerk? And you really want to tell her “Actually I feel like total shit right now and I would like nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cry or better yet punch something, but instead I’m here buying fucking groceries.” But instead you just mumble out a “Fine”?  I hate those days. As a survivor, I learned from the reactions of people around me that my story was too much for most people. So as I grew older, I self censored. A lot. Now I have a place where I don’t have to do that, and it is such a gift.

  1. Advice & Resources

The Trigger Points community has been an amazing resource for me. Books to read, therapy modes to try, and more have been recommended. Even something simple like a playlist of songs (link to post) to listen to on hard days has made a huge difference.

Some other amazing things have happened in my life since Dawn and I started the Trigger Points Community. For instance, I shared my story in a spoken word performance at She Talks, and learned that not only could I speak publicly about being a survivor, but I would receive a standing ovation for doing so. That was so incredibly healing for me.

And one of the best things to happen after creating this anthology and community, is getting messages from other survivors that say things like “Thank you, I felt so alone and now I don’t feel alone anymore.” Knowing that Dawn and I have created this safe space for others is so incredibly rewarding.

I have always had a strong pull to create community, because I have seen the benefits of it in my own life, and in the lives of those around me. I have learned that I need different tribes for different phases and stages of my life, and that if I outgrow one tribe, I will find or build a new one. So I urge you, if you are feeling alone in any part of your life, go find your tribe.

How to find your tribe:

  1. Start with who you know and ask around. You may be surprised to find that a friend of a friend is in the exact situation you are, and is also looking to connect.
  2. Look to Facebook groups, Meetups, and libraries. Librarians are some of the best people to ask, they know everything!
  3. Start one yourself. If you can’t find what you are looking for, then the world needs you to step up and create it. You are never the only person going through anything. Never. Someone out there is wishing that they could find you, I guarantee it.

I know it can be scary to show your vulnerability and admit you need help, and often we are afraid to reach out because we don’t want to be a burden. But we need each other. There is someone out there who will hear your story and it will not be a burden at all. It will be a gift. Go find that person.

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Author: Joyelle Brandt

Joyelle Brandt is a radical self love warrior, on a mission to help women understand that their ugly is beautiful. As an artist, author and speaker, she uses the creative arts to help women heal their relationships with their bodies and recover from abuse trauma. She is the author/illustrator of the children’s book Princess Monsters from A to Z, and co-editor of the Trigger Points Anthology, a groundbreaking collection of writing by parents who are survivors of childhood abuse. Joyelle believes that her purpose in life is to be a beacon of light, and that the three most important things are love, kindness and gratitude. When she is not busy raising two rambunctious boys, she is most often found playing her guitar or covered in paint at her art desk.

Website: www.joyellebrandt.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/joyelle.brandt

Twitter: www.twitter.com/joyellebrandt

Instagram: JoyelleBrandt

 Tomorrow is the big day! For our one year anniversary we are having a Kindle giveaway of the Trigger Points Anthology!

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The Trigger Points Anthology sheds light on a topic most parenting books never address: what is it like to raise children when you were abused as a child? With contributions by 21 writers, this anthology and workbook covers the common triggers that arise as parents navigate everything from pregnancy to the teenage years, and helps to let survivors know that they are not alone. As Brene Brown says, the two most powerful words when we are in struggle are “Me too”. This book is a me-too for all the parents working to break the cycle of abuse.

Buy on Amazon US at: http://amzn.to/2fRMwGC

Buy on Amazon CA at: http://amzn.to/2eTCNLy

 

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