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

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Survivors Empowering Survivors

Do You Carry This Guilt Inside of You?

Many parenting survivors struggle with guilt, as they simultaneously work on raising their children and re-raising themselves. The decision to add journal prompts at the end of each essay in the Trigger Points Anthology was to encourage readers to use the connection and shared experiences as prompts in investigating their own personal parenting struggles. We are honored to share a response to one of those prompts with you today. Frieda bravely allows us to witness her own battles, and I can assure you by the end, you will be celebrating her insightful triumph. Frieda speaks open and honestly and that takes courage. We thank you, Frieda. This is what the #SurvivorsEmpoweringSurvivors series is all about.


Frieda

I do carry a massive amount of guilt for the effect my struggles with my mental health have upon my kids. The thing I feel most guilty for is the ‘overspill’ they have witnessed whilst I’ve been in the midst of a crisis (triggered by doctors, dentists or just a bad day). My curious eldest has asked me questions at such times and I’ve answered him honestly, but I wish he didn’t know all that stuff because of the weight and darkness of it. I worry about them having a bleak view of the world because mine is so distorted and inevitably affects theirs. I do talk about this with them though, and try and point out the presence of helpers and good people – in the Paris attacks recently, for example.

I regret that I am not a better model of emotional regulation, as I can find it hard to contain myself and come out with all sorts of inappropriate and bizarre comments/observations (which the kids find hilarious) when stressed. “Do your silly thing again mummy,” they often request, but it’s not something I have much control over and I worry about the affect of this on them.

I struggle with self harm and this is something I do lie to them about. I keep it as hidden as possible, which is mostly possible, but I make up weak and off the cuff stories about fresh scars in the swimming pool and they’re clearly not convinced. There has developed a definite taboo around them asking, and I know they feel that and must be confused, but I worry that if I told the truth they would see self harm as a valid coping mechanism and I really don’t want to pass that on to them.

I try to own my emotional states by saying to them things like “I’m having a hard day today. If I’m grumpy, it’s not because of anything you’ve done”, or “Sorry, I’m knackered/in a bad mood, it’s not you.” I try my hardest, and manage well to not take my struggles out on them; that’s part of breaking the cycle. I try and limit my negative self-talk around them, but at times it’s really hard to keep that running commentary inside. Because of them knowing a lot of stuff that other kids their age haven’t generally come across yet, we talk openly about all sorts of things. They know they can ask me anything and I will do my best to be honest with what I know.

It took me a while to fully grasp the SD bit of PTSD, but that has been very useful to get my head around. I find stress very difficult to manage and understanding the physiological basis of that has helped me to take it more seriously. It’s not all ‘in my head’, well it is, but deep in the physiology of my brain. Fully grasping that has helped me prioritize keeping my stress levels as low as possible because that’s when I function at my best, which is what I want to be for my kids.

It’s hard to keep on top of, but at least I recognize what’s happening now and can try and do something about it. Finding out about PTSD was a big “ping” moment leading to a shift in how I perceive myself. I blamed myself for not coping better, for being a middle aged adult who’d had some good experiences, but still couldn’t ‘get over it’, still re-living parts of my childhood daily. I thought it was all my fault for being weak and unable to cope when everyone else was just getting on with it.

I thought I ‘let’ the past rule my present and to not be able to transcend it highlighted my weakness of mind. And anyway, loads of people have had loads more difficult experiences than me and they do ok, so why don’t I just stop fussing about it. It led me on to reading about trauma and discovering the work of Babette Rothschild, Pete Walker, Bessel Van Der Kolk, which again was a revelation to me, and let me off the hook some more for why all these memories were still so raw and unprocessed in my body.

It’s very much work in progress and self hate is my most easily accessible emotion. I wish I could do so much better than I do. I guess that’s a thing I find really hard about parenting – that wish that I could be the mum I imagined I could be before I had them. I wish I was able to be fully present, to share their joy and spontaneity more, to take them out on trips instead of needing to stay within my comfort zone, to have attracted a wider support network including other children to substitute for lack of biological family. I wish I had the resources to get male role models on board. I do my best, but the reality is, it often isn‘t good enough. It’s limited and a bit barren at times when I wanted it to be full of vitality and colour.

Part of me believes I don’t deserve my kids, especially as I actively (as a lesbian) chose to have them. I feel that I wouldn’t have passed the test if there was one, and I certainly don’t live up to my own expectations. I remember the heartbreaking moment of realization that “breaking the cycle” was beyond me, that I was damaging my kids with the sharp edges of my own brokenness.

But then I see parents out and about casually humiliating their kids or being really disrespectful and I think at least mine don’t have to put up with that. My psychologist, who used to work in forensics, said to me last week “It’s not all those other people you should be comparing yourself to, it’s the people locked up on secure wards who’ve had more similar experiences to you. You’re doing fantastically.” And that’s hard to hear, hard to let in, hard to think about those people with no freedom as a result of having messed up childhoods, but part of me feels reassured by that. Maybe I am doing ok; maybe my kids will grow into relatively unscathed, content men.

Self compassion and forgiveness are things I’m still trying to make friends with, but being an introvert, I spend most of the time in my safe cold corner with my back to them. It’s hard to believe I am worthy, it’s hard to get over my deep ambivalence and let go of the self hatred as it feels like my identity is founded on it, and what would I be without foundations?

Part of me thinks that to be compassionate to myself would mean feeling the pain of all that happened instead of the hard faced denial which keeps me at a safer distance from it. But another part of me wants to feel more whole, wants to find life easier and feel less alone and less alien, and I know that can’t happen until I stop nursing this fetid resentment towards myself.

In terms of celebrating the good work I am doing as a parent – I am always open to learning from my children. I tell them many times a day how much I love them. I apologize when I mess up. I so want the best for them and do whatever I can to support them. I try to own my “stuff.”

A recent parenting success took a long time to unfold, but I feel really glad to have got there. My boys, aged 9 and nearly 12, are arguing a lot at the moment, petty bickering which can turn into full on fighting. I find it really stressful, and cannot relax or tune out, I’m vigilant around it and without realizing have assumed they experience it similarly. It has been hard not to react to them from a place of stress “Will you stop arguing, it’s really stressing me out” or, “Ok, it’s bedtime if you two are too tired to get along.”

The other day they were playing a long game of Monopoly whilst I was doing various jobs in the kitchen and I noticed my stress levels rising as they bickered constantly. But then I kept noticing that they were still playing the game quite amicably together, and I fully realized something which has been gradually dawning on me. My associations with conflict are that it will soon turn to violence, which is why I find it so intolerable, but I realized they experience it in a completely different way – that it is part of a normal range of communication for them. When I acknowledged this, it felt like a real breakthrough and I was able to let go of my vigilance and stress around it, and leave them to get on with it. And then of course I realized my vigilance and stress added nothing useful to the situation anyway!

Another time, a few weeks ago, I was feeling very triggered by their arguing, which had got physical and I felt like I would explode with the stress of it; I couldn’t think what to do to help them. I felt like shouting out my frustration and punishing them, but I knew that wouldn’t help, so instead I made hot chocolate and toast and invited them in to my bed for a story and they soon made friends. I feel a lot of compassion for them, and it feels so good when I get it right.

I would say that’s one of my parenting strengths – a willingness to look at myself and see what past things I might be bringing into a situation in order to prevent projecting things onto them or blaming them for things which are more to do with me. Sometimes it takes me a while to get there.


Bio: Frieda Blenkinslop is a single lesbian mum living in the UK with her two energetic boys, 9 and nearly 12. Her dream job is running the Nurture Room in a primary school, working with children who struggle with their behaviour. Frieda is currently working on completing a counseling course and enjoys running a couple of times a week to shake up her mood. You can follow Frieda on her personal blog: notesfromthelooneybin.

Survivors Empowering Survivors

How Can This Be Funny? Using Humor to Heal

Kelly Wilson possesses one of the most powerful healing tools that any survivor can own — a sense of humor. The reality is that survivors struggle through dark moments and dark days, but that doesn’t mean that fear and depression hold our personalities captive. We are a community of men and women that are very often in tune with laughter and joy, because we have survived more misery and suffering than most. I already knew Kelly was an incredibly talented woman, but after reading her post Beating PTSD with Awesome Stand Up Comedy, and watching her hilarious stand-up videos (You gotta watch! Links at bottom of post), I knew I had to beg ask her to be a part of the #SurvivorsEmpoweringSurvivors series. Today, Kelly challenges us to channel our inner twisted senses of humor, and use laughter to take back the control.


Kelly-Wilson-headshotAfter I had my oldest child, I knew I was a writer. After I had my youngest child, I knew I was funny.

My oldest child, who is now thirteen years old, was born in a tornado of trauma that threatened both our lives. After a few days when it was certain we would both live, I discovered that my best friend had also had her baby in the midst of trauma. However, her baby died.

The confusion and grief that followed this news was overwhelming. As I trekked to and from the hospital each day to visit my oldest child in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I found myself processing our near-death and healing through a filter that included immense grief for my best friend.

Everything that everybody said to me – regardless of the comfort that they intended – made me question my foundational philosophies and faith. If someone said I was blessed because my child had lived, I questioned if that meant that my friend was being punished. As another person said that my trauma was somehow part of God’s plan, I wondered what kind of God would take babies from their mothers. This was the tip of the iceberg.

During that year of being a new mom and getting very little sleep and wondering if I was going to make it, the only way I could avoid drowning in depression and hopelessness was to write. I had always been a writer, even as a kid. I wrote pages and pages of earnest questions and my changing ways of thinking, even as my fingers trembled and my heart fluttered in my chest.

About two and a half years later, I was pregnant with my youngest child and placed on mandatory hospital bed rest. I was in the hospital for 28 days – which I joked was as long as rehab without all the “perks” – because my uterus had sprung a leak and my baby kept sitting on the umbilical cord and cutting of his supply of oxygen. Every day was gambling on whether leaving the baby in the womb was safer than taking him via emergency c-section, and he still had eight weeks to cook.

I wrote about those experiences as well, and those stories have a certain twisted humor about them because I was trapped in a hospital and my baby’s life was threatened every day and let’s face it – I was going a bit crazy.

Kelly CFC-front-coverIt wasn’t too many years later that I decided to write a book about my experiences with grief and trauma, particularly how the nature of grief is cyclical and that the stages of grief theory hadn’t really helped me as I had expected. It was a very somber, earnest, and real look at the nature of the grief process from a survivor of abuse who had undergone a significant amount of trauma before finally breaking down.

It was also boring. As I shopped it around, an agent asked me, “Memoirs are a dime a dozen. What makes yours different? What makes you different?”

People of all ages had told me for years that I was funny. I cracked jokes without even meaning to, and especially in inappropriate times and places. I had just completed a stand-up comedy class and hadn’t done too badly, if I do say so myself.

Could I make this grief memoir funny? Was it even possible to make fun of trauma?

I went back through early versions of my stories to see if I had culled out the funniest parts, the segments that I thought may be too “offensive” or misunderstood.

Sure enough, I found them – what turned out to be the best parts of my book.

kelly stand-up-for-blog2

The brain is hard-wired for humor, we just don’t understand why or how. And while neuroscience is just beginning to understand the importance of humor in treating trauma and mental illness, I have plenty of personal experience and anecdotes to encourage others to at least try it as part of a larger treatment plan.

When I hang out at comedy clubs and hear other comics, I learn a lot about comedy and I leave feeling better than when I arrived. When I recognize that something is funny – especially when I’m angry or in pain, usually about my PTSD, depression, or anxiety – I write it down and feel more control. After I took a series of Improv classes at a local theater, my depression started to lift more frequently and I started to feel more even.

To me, making humor out of grief and trauma and mental illness is a no-brainer. Not to say that all of us need to take the stage and become stand-up comedians. But seeing our traumatic experiences through the lens of comedy can certainly help inject some light into those dark places where we need to hide, and make our trips into the darkness shorter and easier to manage.

Watch more videos here.

Bio:

Kelly Wilson is an author and comedian who entertains and inspires with stories of humor, healing, and hope. She is the author of Live Cheap and Free, Don’t Punch People in the Junk, and Caskets From Costco.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Kelly writes and speaks about finding hope in the process of recovery. Through both stand-up and improv comedy, she brings laughter to audiences of all ages using a wide range of subject matter, including silly songs, parenting stories, and jokes and anecdotes revolving around mental health issues.

Kelly Wilson currently writes for a living and lives with her Magically Delicious husband, junk-punching children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon. Read more about her at www.wilsonwrites.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WilsonWrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KW_Writes

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/wilsonwrites

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KellyWilsonWrites

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6548683.Kelly_Wilson

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/wilsonwrites/

Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Wilson/e/B0030ZX24S

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellywilsonwrites/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kelly-wilson-i

Survivors Empowering Survivors

Spirit and Truth.

I found Alison’s submission particularly intriguing because of my own recent pull towards spirituality. I’ve never been a religious person, and at many points during my angst-filled youth, I thought not to kindly of any kind of God. I’m quite fascinated by any survivor who walks toward God/Love instead of away, given the fire she or he has had to walk through.

Alison describes the services she provides as a Spiritual Director and Healer as:

… follow[ing] the nudges and leadings of the Spirit to bring about healing in your life.  We will savor those moments that are filled with awe and wonder, and look for glimpses of the Spirit in those moments where it seems She is far removed.

Alison’s message in this incredibly personal, raw and inspiring piece embodies the kind of empowerment that can help move all of us forward in our own journey to heal.


My name is Alison Hendley.  I grew up in England.  I am a pastor of a church in California, a spiritual director and wilderness guide.  I have just begun fostering a 13 year old boy, thrown into being mother to a teen with all the joys, worries and triggers that brings!

I wrote this piece to speak at a healing service for a gathering of some 250 pastors.  The theme was Too Deep for Words, and a refrain the main speaker used was Spirit and Truth.  It was my first testimony using this style, and the Spirit came to me at midnight, the night before I was too speak, with these words

spirit and truth1

 

My earliest memory

6 months old

my nappy dirty and my

belly empty.

I’m in a pram

beneath the tree

crying and crying

and no one comes

exhausting myself as I lie in the filth

until angels come and hush me

their lullaby soothing me

their breath blowing the leaves

mesmerizing

and quieting the pain of abandonment

too deep for words

 

 

Then, before I turned three,

my grandfather raping me

pushing inside me

telling me I was a bad girl

that this was all my fault….

and when I tell my mum

my fear and pain and shame

reflected in her eyes

as she tells me I have

a good imagination

beating me into silence

pushing down that pain to a place

too deep for words

 

 

Over the next 16 years

Grandfather, father, mother,

brother

all push their

tongues and fingers, penises

and hate and anger into me

raping me

blaming me

telling me I’m bad….

but they love me

I’m the one causing this

and I can’t tell

for no one will believe me

and the spiders

will come and crawl in my body

and kill me

 

 

So I push it all down

pretending it does not happen

leaving my body when it does

and asking Jesus to save me

even as he holds me in his arms

while they

violate me

 

 

Age 9

I decide I’m done

and throw myself

down the stairs.

Angels catch me

and set me gently on the ground

my pain denied

my life continues

 

 

Age 15-20

I try to drown this pain

too deep for words

alcohol becomes my best friend

for it numbs

it makes me forget

it keeps me from home

and sometimes,

just sometimes

it lets me cry

the tears releasing some of

that overwhelming pressure

of the

pain too deep for words

 

 

Age 20

My brother tries to kill me

and in that moment

I hear God speak

“You don’t have to stay

you can change

I will be with you.”

I pass out

and somehow

I am alone

when I come to

knowing something has changed

 

 

It takes another 7 years

before I begin to talk

The first time I speak of

that pain too deep for words

I’m convinced I will

not be believed

that it’s all my fault

that now I will be killed

by the spiders

or them

 

 

One sentence I spoke

then silence

for another year or so

 

One sentence

and nothing struck me dead

One sentence

and no one told me

I was lying

One sentence

of that

pain too deep for words

 

 

Slowly I began to speak more

the truth

seeping out

as the memories and

flashbacks

and pain

flooding back

that sentence unleashing

a torrent

over time

the truth flooding out

the spirit flooding in

healing slowly happening

as I began to believe

that maybe, just maybe

it was not my fault

that maybe, just maybe

I could be loved by God

that maybe, just maybe

I was not bad

that maybe, just maybe

I could live

 

spirit and truth123

These two things

still work in my life today

 

when I get triggered

by a man

high and unstable

who finds a way

into the locked building

and catches me by

surprise

 

Spirit and truth

come as I speak

and discover what memory

this awakes

 

 

When I get triggered

by my 13 year old foster son

processing his own

pain too deep for words

feeling anger arise in me

that leaves me

shaking

fearful that I might be

like them

even when I know I’m not

Spirit and Truth

come as I speak

and see

that I am me

and not a monster

 

 

When I get triggered

by a gentle touch

that catches me

unaware

all the fear

rushing back

breathing shallow

heartbeat fast

frozen inside into that

place too deep for words

until Spirit and truth

come back

and I will myself to the

present time

embodied

safe

here

 

 

Still this pain

too deep for words

can catch me unawares

but now

I know what to do

I know how to greet it

I have people who know

the truth

and remind me if I forget

this pain

too deep for words

has risen to the surface

and I cannot be silenced

anymore

 

 

Words must be spoken

the pain cradled and

nurtured

and loved

and held

and given space

and bathed in the light

 

Spirit and truth

heal

for they know my name

and call me by it

each day.

Bio:

alison2Alison Hendley is a pastor, spiritual director, healer, wilderness guide and new mama to a 13 year old boy.  She grew up in England and came to America 20 years ago, where her healing journey began.  In her past she has been a nanny, Waldorf teacher and worked for a bank.  She enjoys being in nature, kayaking and being creative in as many aspects of her life as possible.

 

You can follow Alison of Facebook, and learn more about her the services she provides as a spiritual director and healer at her website: www.alisonhendleyspirit.com 

“My soul is striving to remember who I am, to make who I am compatible with who I was born to be, to bring who I am into synch with who I will be.”  Steven Foster

Survivors Empowering Survivors

The Freeze Response: How a Warrior Handles the Trauma of Sexual Assault

Amy Oestreicher B&W 2006Many 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?”

I had heard this dozens and dozens of times — in my own head and with students who have opened up to me during my programs. Many victims of abuse, molestation and domestic violence often feel a guilt that they are not deserving of. For months after my voice teacher molested me, I beat myself up thinking, “Why did I do that?” wondering, “What was I thinking?” I assumed something must be wrong with me.

It also took me a very long time to accept that a mentor and father figure in my life had violated our trusting relationship. I kept replaying the events that had occurred in my mind, telling myself, I must have done something wrong — why else would he have done this? I felt like I must have instigated it. I blamed myself, convinced that no one could take advantage of me if I had not invited it.

I couldn’t shake off this shame I felt no matter how hard I tried. In fact, the more I tried to block my memories, the more anxious and confused I became. I became a space cadet — hardly feeling at all. It was how I protected myself from feeling the loss, betrayal and shame. My numbness started to alarm my friends and family, to whom I insisted that nothing was wrong at all. I kept this secret hidden inside, burning in my gut, hidden from those I loved.

Shocked, upset and overwhelmed, I began living in three worlds — part of me functioning normally in school, keeping up my grades, and telling people I was “fine”; part of me replaying traumatic memories in my head, beating myself up for not saying no, for not running away, for not fighting back; and part of me in a numb, apathetic space of disconnect — a place I created in my head as a survival instinct.

amy o hurtabcabc

When I turned 18, I finally spilled everything to my mother. I was so afraid of what she might say or if she would judge my actions. I was embarrassed to say words like “sex” and “molestor” and “rape” out loud, let alone with my mother. My mother was as shocked as I was, but provided me with the one solid anchor that I needed. She told me it was not my fault. No matter what I told her I had done, what he had done, what details I could remember, or what I confided in her, she reassured me with the kind of certainty only a mother can — it was not my fault.

Reaching out to someone I knew loved me unconditionally calmed my anxiety. Telling someone what had happened made my dark secret come to light. I became open to viewing my abuse in a different way. I was willing to take some of the responsibility off of myself. My mother and I started reading about trauma.

I learned that in the face of trauma, you can have three responses: You can fight, flee or freeze. I could have immediately fought back against my abuser, yelling No or defying him in some way. I could have just ran in the other direction as fast as I could. But I was so shocked by everything that happened that I froze. Like a deer in the headlights, I couldn’t come to terms with the idea that a man that I trusted as my mentor could turn into such a monster in the blink of an eye. I mentally left the situation, disassociated from my body, and became a passive bystander to a trauma that my body was directly involved in.

I learned that the physical sensations of guilt register in the same way that shame and helplessness do in your body. When a person feels helpless in a situation, the body automatically pairs that sensation with guilt. When you undergo any kind of trauma, it causes a disturbance in your energy flow. Suddenly, you are unable to feel those emotions that once came so naturally.

My body stopped breathing the same way it used to — a big knot of tension evolved in my chest and remained there like a cocoon. My thoughts became rigid and too scared to wander into past memories. I put myself in to a daze with four safe walls around me that protected me from being consciously present in the abuse That daze stayed with me with or without him. I lived in a world separate from everyone else.

Reaching out not only gave me the blessing of compassion from others, it also informed me of what I had really experienced. I realized my numb response to my assault, my nervous energy, sweating fits and anxiety attacks were not something to be ashamed of, but rather, a proud and victorious survival strategy.

In a wonderful book, Waking the Tiger, Peter Levine writes:

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Suddenly, I felt understood. I understood that I protected myself in a traumatic situation by becoming numb to my emotions. Now, when I work with survivors, I help them realize that their reactions to trauma and assault are natural human reactions to be applauded. The real work comes from taking that nervous energy, which was formerly an essential trauma survival skill, and turning it into productive healing energy — energy that once redirected, can build a new, beautiful world for the survivor.

As a proud, once-frozen survivor, I finally see my world in color again. I could finally find the courage to feel the sensations of being alive. Now, the work was up to me. I told myself it wasn’t my fault, until I believed it. And once I felt these words resonate in my body, in my soul — I was liberated. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I had every right to reclaim my life, my aliveness, move on and experience the world in all of its radiant colors once again.

The biggest gift I can give to survivors I work with in my program now, is the gift of a world in color — alive with melancholy blues, angry reds, uncertain grays, but also one of ecstatic oranges, bright yellows, and deep rich purples. Once we let ourselves feel the bad, we make room for the good.

I was sexually abused. It was not my fault. In a traumatizing situation, I froze, while others might have fled or fought back. But with time and with confiding in those I trust, I have thawed and faced what I’ve tried to forget. And with nothing to hide, nothing to regret or redo, and everything to look forward to in the future, I’ve allowed myself to move on, claiming my voice, speaking my truth. As survivors, the most wonderful part of healing is moving from a helpless situation into a world of our own design.

So what is shame? Shame is energy. As we turn that energy into energy that is rightfully ours, the energy of survival, pride and life, we become forces to be reckoned with.

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Isn’t she fantastic!! Amy has two upcoming performances of her one woman show Gutless & Grateful, a one-woman musical autobiography of her life, taking her audience on a journey of hope, resilience and gratitude.  An inspiring story of survival and determination, Gutless & Grateful is appropriate for audiences of all ages.  You can check her out at: Boston College 2/29/16 and New York 3/11/16. Click here to learn more.

Bio:

Amy Oestreicher is a  PTSD peer-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright.  As a survivor and “thriver” of nearly 30 surgeries, a coma, sexual abuse, organ failure and a decade of medical trauma, Amy has been challenged with moments of extreme difficulty.  But as an artistnewlywedactress, 28-year old college student and overall lover of life, Amy eagerly shares the lessons learned from trauma and has brought out the stories that unite us all through her writingmixed media artperformance  and inspirational speaking.

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