Survivors Empowering Survivors

The Essential Drives of Love, Peace and Purpose

elisabeth-coreyMeet Elisabeth Corey. Elisabeth is a contributing author to the Trigger Points Anthology and one of the most accomplished, driven advocates I know. She uses personal and  educational experience to offer services for survivors and parenting survivors, the kind of practical, soul-healing work we need in the pursuit to breaking generational dysfunctions. And now she has authored her first book! Elisabeth, you are an asset to the survivor community, and what the #SurvivorsEmpoweringSurvivors series is all about.


As a survivor of family-controlled sex trafficking and abuse, I have always known my purpose would be tied to my childhood experiences. But for many years, it wasn’t clear what that purpose looked like. It was marred by my past trauma. My beliefs that safety and security were the most important priority were holding me back. But over time, I discovered my understanding of dissociation and inner parts could help others heal. With Beating Trauma,  my personal blog, I helped others understand how their inner conversation was impacting their lives.

I expanded my offerings to including virtual one-on-one and group life coaching. At first, it was terrifying to offer my services. I heard my doubts telling me I was not worthy. I could not help others. But I proved them wrong over and over. As I helped others, I realized I was indeed taking steps toward living my purpose. But there was an elusive goal which seemed out of reach for me. I wanted to write a book. As a matter of a fact, I have wanted to be an author since I published my first poem in a kid’s magazine at 8 years old.

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And in October, I achieved a huge milestone in my life. I released my first book. When I started this journey, I thought the hard part would be writing enough words for a book. I figured since I knew how to blog, I would just write more words. Right? That sounds logical. I hate it when I try to be logical. In reality, the past two years (yep, two years) have been an obstacle course of self-sabotage and defense mechanisms. In fact, writing the words was the easy part. Getting out of my way was a nightmare. I heard constant phrases like:

“Who do you think you are?”

“You’re not good enough.”

“Nobody’s going to like it.”

And for a while, I believed it. But I kept pushing anyway. I changed direction a few times. I wrote several outlines. I started writing several concepts only to put them aside. It wasn’t the right topic, not yet, not now. But then, I had an epiphany.

I woke up to a new understanding that our inner parts are driven by something greater than trauma.

It came to me as I wrote a blog post and I knew this had to be the basis for the book. To back it up, a mentor emailed me after reading the post and said, “You should write that book now.” But even from this point, there was plenty of self sabotage to overcome.

A year later, I have completed something I always thought was impossible. And I’m proud and terrified at the same time. Today, I want to share with you an excerpt from that book in which I introduce the essential drives.

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An excerpt from One Voice

Discovering unconscious beliefs was one of the most important early steps in my recovery. I started questioning why my life had taken so many disastrous turns. And I started to take responsibility for it. Before I knew it, I was getting a sense of the beliefs I was carrying. And it was shocking. I had always seen myself as an independent, smart and reliable person in my conscious mind. I had no idea what those conscious thoughts were covering up. It was a mine field of unworthiness and self-hate. I was blown away.

After many years of struggling through those beliefs and the memories that created them, I became aware of my inner parts. I realized my beliefs and memories were held by parts of myself, and these parts had certain ways of viewing the world. I spent time building relationships with these parts, and they shared more and more information with me. That said, I didn’t always have the highest opinion of them, especially the parts who liked to curse me out and send me down the wrong roads.

But last year, I had a new epiphany. It spurred an idea so pivotal, this book is based on it. It also led me to a new relationship with my inner parts, a better relationship. I came to understand that my inner parts were not just trying to ruin my life with their crazy belief systems. They had a plan. There was an end goal to the ridiculousness. They were attempting to achieve something. This came to me when I was writing a blog post about the belief of “not enough”. I realized these beliefs are based on something innate within us. The beliefs are there to support our reason for existence on the planet. I refer to these reasons as the essential drives.

I came to understand three key reasons for being: love, peace and purpose. Are there more? Of course there are more. But I could always categorize them under love, peace and purpose. As I wrote about them, it became clear how they were driving my own beliefs. My essential drive for love was fueling my beliefs about losing myself to find it. My essential drive for peace was driving my beliefs about self-blame and control. My essential drive for purpose had birthed my beliefs around unworthiness and not being enough. These beliefs existed for the purpose of getting back to those essential drives.

There was a problem. My inner parts were going about it all wrong. The beliefs were encouraging behavior that would never lead to true love, peace and purpose. The trauma was skewing my approach. The trauma was fueling some bad choices in my attempts to do the right thing, to come back home. In some cases, it was making my essential drives mutually exclusive. I could only have one, but not all three. When I figured that out, I was able to work with my inner parts in a different way. I knew their end goals, so I could facilitate their journey by providing a different perspective on how to get there. And I think my inner parts knew it. They started responding differently to me, as though we had connected on a deeper level.

Now, I can share those ideas with you. Now, you can ask those questions of your inner parts. What is it you really want? What is your goal? How can I help you get there differently? I am hopeful this perspective changes your understanding of your inner relationships and leads to breakthroughs in your work. In reality, your parts mean well. And you have what it takes to help them come home to their essential drives.

An excerpt from One Voice


Bio: Elisabeth Corey is a life coach for trauma survivors. She offers one-on-one guidance, virtual groups and workshops to help survivors build awareness of their inner conversation and heal their trauma. Her guidance is informed by her personal recovery from a childhood of family-controlled child sex trafficking and abuse, her life experiences as a parent breaking the cycle of inter-generational trauma, and her education in social work. She helps survivors take life back from their dissociative defense mechanisms through memory recovery, emotional expression, awareness of unconscious beliefs and inner parts work. Elisabeth’s writings and offerings can be found at BeatingTrauma.com.

Connect with Elisabeth on Facebook and Twitter

 

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Survivors Empowering Survivors

It’s Time to Write the Wrong.

After Laura’s article He Wrote It Down, the story of Laura and her cousin’s plan to dance on their shared abuser’s grave went viral, they quickly realized the healing power of permitting others to tell their story. …and Say It, Survivor was born.

Laura and Mary are committed to using their experiences as survivors and writers to facilitate people telling their stories as a way to empower and heal themselves through workshops, public speaking and offering a safe space for survivors to anonymously share their story.

Today, Laura shares with us the path that led to the creation of Say It, Survivor. Be sure to check out their upcoming events!


lauraI can’t say exactly when my abuse began.

Most abuse is insidious. It’s like the lobster in the pot. You just turn the heat up bit by bit, tiny increments- and before the lobster knows what’s happening it’s being boiled alive.

I know it didn’t begin where it ended, violently, on a cold, linoleum utility room floor- a dish of wet cat food near my head, the smell overwhelming

It’s funny, the things I remember.

I’m sure it did not start with an overtly sexual act. I’m sure it was with little boundary violations. I remember being held in a lap while I squirmed, trying to leave. That forced affection my first indication that my “no” was not enforceable. I remember being barged in on in the bathroom and pool cabana, again and again.

All easily explained.

Accidents. Misunderstandings.

I don’t remember much about life before my abuse. I don’t remember who I was, really. I’ve heard accounts. I can piece together a composite of the little girl I was. My nickname was Leave-me-lone Laura.

That was not to be my path. I was not to be left alone.

I told, eventually. My mother believed me, my father did not.

My cousin Mary had been abused as well. After I disclosed, Mary heard I’d told and tried to tell the adults in her life that she too was being abused. Her cries for help fell on deaf ears. She endured years more abuse. I did not.

Mary and I did not see one another again except for at our grandmother’s funeral. No one talked to me. Not my aunts, not my uncles, not my godfather. My grandfather gave me wide berth. It was as though I was invisible. A ghost. But I remember locking eyes with Mary. She’s the only one who looked at me. It was a knowing look.

That made sense, actually. I always knew Mary had been abused.  She’d tried to warn me, but I was too young to understand what she was talking about.

I think I laughed, actually.

When I think back and realize that in that moment at the funeral she was still in it, that she was still being harmed, it breaks my heart.

We would not see one another again for thirty-five years. We went from being very close, to being cleaved from one another. It felt like a punishment for telling.

Over time, I stopped talking about it. Make no mistake, though, I may not have been telling my story, but my story was being told.  Every day. It was being told in addiction, unhealthy relationships, promiscuity, anorexia, insomnia perfectionism. All of those things were my story being told- it was just my abuser telling it.

The Thanksgiving before last, I awoke to find a Facebook friend request from Mary. I hesitated to accept at first, not knowing what she’d been told, what she remembered. I decided that worst-case scenario I could un-friend her and be no worse for the wear.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself on the phone with my cousin. The decades disappeared. We began to catch up on each other’s lives.  The parallels were staggering. Same sense of humor, similar interests and talents. Same self-destructive behaviors.

At a certain point, Mary expressed confusion. She said, “I know your parents got divorced, but I don’t understand why we never saw each other again.” I was afraid to rock the boat- afraid to lose her again, so I hesitated. Then Mary said, “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.”

And so we told each other our stories.

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Two months later, we reconnected in person. We stayed up all night talking, looking at photos, filling in the missing pieces- trying to make sense of things. Laughing. Crying.

The next day we set out to dance on our grandfather’s grave. We got lost on the way to the cemetery and pulled into a police station to ask for directions. On a whim, we decided to report him, though he’d long been deceased.

The officer assigned to us, Officer Paul, treated us with such kindness, and such dignity. He led us through our story and filled out a formal report. He investigated and found another victim of my grandfather’s outside of the family. We met with her mother the following day.

I wrote about the experience, published it on my blog, and the post went viral. Overnight, I began to get inundated with people telling me their stories. People saying, “Me too.” Many strangers, yes- but also people I knew well. Women and men whose stories I’d have said I knew. It quickly became apparent that this was no longer just our story. It was bigger than that. We became determined to do something with the experience, to give our pain a purpose.

I’ve come to understand that whatever story you aren’t telling is the one that is running the board.

It’s the one to which you’ve attached the most shame and it is in charge of your whole life. You either integrate that story as A fact of your life, or it will be THE fact- and our abusers do not get that. They do not get to tell our stories. They do not get to write the ending for us.


Bio:  Laura Parrott-Perry is the single mother of two amazing children and is devoted to a very handsome dog, indeed. She is the author of the popular blogs, In Others’ Words, and The Golden Repair on DivorcedMoms.com.  Her work has been featured on Huffington Post and in Boston Magazine.

She is also a survivor of sexual abuse.  And she’s talking about it.  Shamelessly.

Connect with Say it, Survivor:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Survivors Empowering Survivors

I Spoke About Parenting as a Survivor, Because I Was Asked.

cissy whiteEven though I’m a socially awkward introvert with post-traumatic stress, I gave a talk on parenting after trauma last month. Why? Because I was asked.

Someone read the Trigger Points Anthology and wanted a keynote speaker who is a trauma survivor and a parent. Let me say it again. I spoke because I was asked. That never happens.

My experiences were treated as though they are useful, valuable and important. As though they matter. As though survivors matter. As though I matter. I didn’t have to scream or beg or fight to be heard. I was asked.

I joked with one friend, “The only time I ever get to talk about my childhood is in therapy, and I have to pay someone to listen. This time, I’m being paid.”

As a teenager, when I told my mother I was abused, she didn’t believe me. Not being believed almost ended me. And I can’t speak articulately about that yet or recovering from that. I can say that being asked to talk about my childhood and how it has impacted my parenting was medicinal. It was also liberating, terrifying and healing.

The opportunity for us to have conversations about life and trauma and parenting as peers, sharing the experiences we had as children and the way we live with them as adults and parents now, is very rare. It’s very different than our conversations as patients or clients. So often our lived experiences, opinions, insights and expertise are rarely heard, valued or sought. That silence and shame stuff is still pervasive.

So I said yes when invited to speak because it’s so radical to be asked. Just like I said, “yes, please” when asked to write about my experiences for the Trigger Points Anthology.

Because we need to hear each other to feel less alone. Being asked is powerful and life-changing. 

I made very conscious decisions about which parts of my life and experiences I would speak about. I talked mostly about the present and how the past impacts the present all of the time. I did not speak in detail about the abuse I survived.

Sexual abuse isn’t my story. Sexual abuse is the story of those who abuse. Being an adult child of an alcoholic isn’t my story. That’s the story of the person who drank. Having a homeless father doesn’t tell you a bit about who I am or how I parent.

These things all shaped me. They did and do impact me and how I parent, and sometimes explain why parenting is challenging. They contribute to my post-traumatic stress and contribute to my high ACE score. They are some of the reasons I do advocacy work, but they aren’t my story.

Nope. No way.

My story is about me and the choices I make. My story is about how I use, express, make sense of and recover from all of my experiences. My story is about how I learn to parent, to love, to trust and care about myself and my daughter. My story is about how I learn to inhabit my body and attempt to show up and be present without shame or apology or numbness.

The only story I sign, autograph and own is my own. I reject the notion that what was done to me, by others, is my story.

When I joined the Trigger Points community a few years ago it was the first and only one I’d ever heard of with, for and by survivors. I was jumping up and down, elated to find others craving, creating and needing community and conversations. Not clinical talk, therapy or processing, but just sharing life and stories about day to day.

Photo Credit: Margaret Bellafiore
Photo Credit: Margaret Bellafiore

So I said yes and spoke at the Partnering for Excellence conference, even though I was afraid. I said yes because I was asked by people creating trauma-informed and collaborative approaches to the mental health system, to children and families in the foster care system and to the wider community as well.

At this conference, the Trigger Points Anthology was shared with staff in order to help professionals working to improve the lives of children better understand the challenges parenting survivors face. Professionals referenced our words, our experiences and the stories we chose to share. Our experiences mattered to others.

It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors is what I say. 

I chose to focus on how trauma in childhood was less an event and more an environment. How it was less a crack in the foundation and more the way the foundation was never poured. I was trying to explain how it feels as a child to live with trauma; as a child who has no adult concepts, words and language; as a child who might grow up to become a parent.

I spoke about how kids don’t realize, “This is trauma I’m living.” Especially young kids.

We don’t think:

I’m being flooded with toxic stress. My ACE score is rising by the second. I will probably need a lot of evidence based therapy.

Those are adult thoughts.

Kids think things like this:

I like animals. People suck. Get me the hell out of here. Here being the body, family or world.

Kid’s don’t have language or context or perspective. We don’t know what we are living would be easier without trauma. We don’t know that there’s an opposite of trauma to be had. As kids, it’s just life we’re living.

It's not so much that trauma and adversity are being minimized by us or our family members, it's that trauma is normalized. 

It’s the norm for us, and maybe for our parents too. It’s maybe been “traumatic” for months and years and decades. For generations. Day in. Day out. For many families, trauma and childhood might be synonyms. But I didn’t grow up thinking I was living with trauma. I thought I was just too sensitive or lousy at life. How we learn to live in a traumatic environment as a child is hard to unlearn as an adult when it’s your baseline.

Everyone brings the experience of being parented as a child to the forefront when becoming a parent yourself. And it’s hard to learn to parent differently when we didn’t experience a healthier and safe home and childhood. And when, as adults, it’s easier to find books on gluten free recipes than break-the-cycle parenting.

For so long, I’ve been in a fight, warring with shame and silence and what can seem like an indifferent world. Sometimes it can be futile and exhausting to volunteer or work hard to make social change, not knowing if we are making any difference.

Sometimes having not been believed as a child still stings my soul, leaving me feeling invisible and afraid to speak.

But here we are. We are here and we are hearing and seeing and supporting each other.

I know I'm not alone and feel it in my bones. 

We are supporting ourselves too and making the way easier for others who become parents after surviving childhood trauma.

And that’s my story, the one I author, autograph, share and tell again and again. For myself. For the kid I once was who had no words or language or support. And with the strength of this entire community I’m grateful to be a part of.


Bio: Christine Cissy White is a writer who believes it’s possible to live, love and parent well after being raised in hell. Possible, but not easy. She founded www.healwritenow.com and writes, speaks and consults about trauma-informed care from a survivor’s perspective. She develops Writing for Wellness programs and educates about the need for portable and affordable ways to heal traumatic stress at the Heal Write Now Center: Creating Hope, Health and Happiness in Massachusetts. She’s been published in Ms. Magazine online, Spirituality & Health, The Boston Globe and is a columnist at Elephant Journal. She’s writing a book with Nancy Slonim Aronie entitled: Your Childhood is Making You Fat, Sick & Dead: Write to Heal.

 

 

 

 

Survivors Empowering Survivors

Trigger Points Seeking Submissions for Survivors Empowering Survivors Series.

At times, survivors may be their own worst enemy. We riddle ourselves with doubts, constantly questioning whether or not we are good enough – as parents, partners, human beings – and determine our accomplishments to be irrelevant. Some aren’t cautious enough with the empathic residue left by their abuse, and find themselves unable to recognize when they are being used or further abused. At times we self-sabotage because there is no fear greater than the unknown, and for many of us, our wires misfired on the way to building happiness and aspirations, creating uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable feelings in the presence of simple joys and accomplishments.

Two of the most brutal side effects of childhood traumas in adulthood are self doubt and lack of self value. In order to combat the often self notion that you aren’t deserving of the recognition of what you have overcome and accomplished, Trigger Points is re-igniting the Survivors Empowering Survivors series, and are currently seeking submissions for guest posts.

Our intention with this series is to offer a platform to which survivors can proudly speak about achievements – big and small. We’re looking to inspire and educate readers by introducing them to the difference you are making in your day to day, or how you are contributing to cultural change. Especially, as it pertains to parenting as a survivor.

We want to hear about:

  • A book you’ve published, are working on, or took part in as a contributor.
  • A recovery-focused workshop, class, center, non-for-profit or conference you contributed to or helped create.
  • A service you provide specifically for parenting survivors.
  • Your experience speaking or teaching on the topic of parenting as a survivor.

Other stories we are interested in:

  • A discussion you’ve had with your child(ren) about your abuse.
  • How you’ve found a way to channel your recovery in a healthy, productive way, such as creative arts.
  • A trigger you have experienced that you are struggling with; one you may or may not have learned to manage yet.
  • Your reaction to reading the Trigger Points Anthology and the impact it left on you.
  • An essay you have written based on one of the journal prompts from the Trigger Points Anthology.

If you have an idea based on something other than what is listed here, we encourage you to reach out to us.

it's in our nature

If you want to get a better idea of what the Survivors Empowering Survivors series is all about, check out these previously included essays:

“This collision between my work as an abuse counselor and my work as a birth worker who had indirectly referred a “woman in need” to an inexperienced doula, is what changed everything for me, laying the foundation for A Safe Passage.”      ~My Worlds Collided.by Jodi Hall

“Many survivors “know” that being sexually assaulted was not their fault. Now, I’m one of them. But the question I’ve worked to answer after a decade of healing and processing what happened to me is, “Well, then why didn’t I do something?”     ~The Freeze Response: How a Warrior Handles the Trauma of Sexual Assault by Amy Oestreicher

“If I was having a hard time and needed help, it didn’t mean anything other than that. If I was soaring and taking on the world, I still had nothing to prove. I was just as worthwhile, sitting alone in yana mudra in my apartment as I was putting on a symposium.”    ~Just Breathing, I Was Enough. by Anika Tilland-Stafford

“After years of struggling and feeling no one understood us survivors, I determined that the only way to create change was to start our own organization. So, I announced at a particularly irritating health professionals meeting that I would start our own organization which would truly present the survivors view of what we need in order to heal and if anyone wanted to join me, to phone me.”    ~We Just Have To Be Asked. by Liz Mullinar

**We prefer original essays tailored to the survivor community, which includes loved ones of survivors and those that are working with survivors on their recovery journey. However, we will absolutely consider previously published work. Please let us know if what you are submitting has been previously published, so we can offer proper credit.

**Send your essay in the body of an email to triggerpointsanthology@gmail.com, with SES Submission as the subject. Don’t forget to add a short bio (3 to 5 lines), including social media profile links, and a headshot if you would like. And send along an image to go with your essay if you have one you’d like to share.

We can’t wait to hear from you guys!

♥ Dawn & Joyelle

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Trigger Season

Still awake at 2:43 a.m.

Third night in a row.

I could easily stay up all night until dawn, but I have to try and get a little rest, at least, so I can be the mom that I need to be for my children tomorrow. When I do finally fall asleep, it is restless and disturbed, full of half-lucid dreams and recurring nightmares. I get up several times to check the lock on the windows, the front and back door, as well as the porch light.

Before I can go back to bed, I have to make sure that the curtains are drawn, the kids are okay, and the phone is within arms’ reach. It is a task.

A cool draught blows through the room.

I am reminded that summer is nearly over and start to cry in the dark. I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. On the wrong side of myself. I feel ugly, exhausted, out of sorts, on the outside of everything.

I bumble through my morning routine in a fog. Easily exasperated, far too impatient, I sigh and mumble under my breath as I rush the kids to get ready for daycare, my words stumbling over themselves in an effort to appear normal, whatever the hell that is. It is bad enough that I had to leave the sanctuary of my bedroom today at all, really, but is it truly necessary for me to be normal, too?

If so, I think, epic fail.

I smile harder, because I do not know what else to do, and keep going.

I take my meds. Remind myself that a bad day is just a bad day and not the end of the world. Keep going. Keep going, yes, but with a belly full of fanged butterflies determined to escape. Usually, the medication settles the rush of wings, but today—these days—it barely takes the edge off. On the balcony, catching the last rays of the summer sunshine, I try to figure out why.

 

Then it occurs to me. Fall is on the way.

It’s in the air, at night, I can smell it. Trigger season.

fall time

After a number of incidences in my childhood involving various forms of sexual abuse, I was raped at the age of seventeen, in autumn, by a boy I had previously dated. Every year since then, without fail, as soon as the first leaves begin to fall, the first chill touches my nose, the first hint of pumpkin spice arrives, I start to feel it, all of it, again, in my throat, my chest, my breasts, my guts… all over. Anxiety, panic, fear, depression, sorrow, angst, a sense of impending disaster, an urge to run, hide, avoid, disappear.

One by one, they arrive, like uninvited guests to the worst party ever.

And I’m the unwilling host, shackled to the floor and gagged, unable to get rid of them.

Oh, they will leave when they are ready, I know. By December, the dreaded gang will have gone, for the most part, leaving only a few stragglers behind—nothing I cannot manage with help from the Christmas Spirit—but for now, oh, for now, as my PTSD symptoms start to slowly worsen day by day, I find myself holding my breath, waiting.

Maybe it won’t be as bad this year, I tell myself noncommittally.

Guess we’ll see, I reply.

Since opening up about my experiences and sharing my own story, I have come to know countless other survivors, many of whom also experience a Trigger Season, a particular time of year, associated in the recesses of the mind with a past traumatic event (or events), which leaves them feeling unusually vulnerable and susceptible to flashbacks and triggers. For some, it is the high heat of summer; others find discomfort during the colder days of winter.

I feel paper thin from late-August through to late-November.

If you know someone who suffers from PTSD, please be aware that certain times of the year may be more challenging than others, and while we may not be able to express what we need, you can still ask.

Understand, we may be utilizing every ounce of available energy just to get through a day. We do not mean to be short, snippy, cranky, or rude, so if it happens, we probably feel worse about it than you do. Forgive easily. Since we are used to feeling less than and not enough, remind us to be gentle with ourselves, and be gentle with us. Show your love and support by checking in.

PTSD can be very isolating and lonely, and it helps to know that, even on the days when we do not want to face the world, we are not alone and we are loved.


This post originally appeared on Lilacs in October.

Bio: arwen park

Arwen Faulkner currently resides in Canada with her husband, their four children, and a few family pets… but she still hasn’t given up on the idea of moving the whole family to a deserted tropical island one day.

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, adolescent date rape, and intimate partner violence, Arwen has begun to overcome the legacy of fear and shame left behind by her abusers, and to share what she has learned along the journey from victim to survivor. An emerging writer and dedicated warrior in the fight to end violence against women and children, Arwen is hard at work on a biography of the late Canadian poet and social activist, Bronwen Wallace.