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.

 

 

 

 

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Win a Free Copy of the Trigger Points Anthology!!

tp book giveaway

We are so excited to offer a chance to win a free (paperback) copy of the Trigger Points Anthology!

Already have a copy of your own? Enter anyway!! You can donate your copy to someone who may benefit from connecting with other parenting-survivors, or donate it to a local  organization that assist people in recovery i.e. mental health clinic, domestic violence shelter, child and family services, church, etc.

Entering to win is simple. Just click on the Enter Giveaway link below. Easy Peasy.

So many can benefit from this book (many of which you may not even realize), so be sure to share our giveaway on social media. We absolutely appreciate your support.

Good Luck!

~Dawn and Joyelle

Become a part of the Trigger Points community on Facebook and Twitter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Trigger Points Anthology by Dawn Daum

Trigger Points Anthology

by Dawn Daum

Giveaway ends April 17, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Meet the Trigger Points Contributors

Trigger Points Editor and Contributor: Dawn Daum

Introducing Trigger Points Editor & Contributor Dawn Daum, author of Raising a Girl as a Survivor and Permission to Love.

me1

“After my failed search for stories on what it’s like to live and experience motherhood as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I was reminded how quiet survivors are. I know the role that shame has in keeping it that way, but a discussion on the effects of the abuse that resurface, or suddenly arise, when we become mothers is something we need to talk about. It’s vital to our ability to raise healthy girls.”

Raising a Girl as a Survivor

Dawn Daum

Trigger Points: Childhood Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting

1. What was the most surprising thing about becoming a parent?

How little I actually realized about what it means to be a parent, before I actually had kids. I was very naïve in how I believed I would accomplish “giving my kids the life I never had.” My kids having a “normal” childhood was a picture in my head of a nice house, not having to say no and  lots of love. I had no idea that just because I loved them didn’t mean I would know what the hell I was doing.

I was clueless on the level of conscious availability it takes to raise healthy kids. My daughter is 6 and my son is 3, being Mom means everything I do, say, react to and choose to make important or un-important in my life spills over in to their lives. I never in a million years thought I would matter that much.

2. Tell us about one of your proudest parenting moments.

My daughter was chosen for student of the month last October. That month students were chosen based on the character trait pride. I was ridiculously proud of her. It made me step back and acknowledge that even though my journey through motherhood hits some pretty rough roads sometimes, I am in fact getting it right along the way. My daughter takes pride in who she is, how she treats others and what she creates. I didn’t know what that felt like until I was well in to my 20’s.

3. Was it difficult for you to participate in this project? What strength did you pull from to get past the fear and contribute?

The actual act of writing out my experiences as a parent who experienced childhood abuse was not difficult. The tough part has been keeping eye contact when speaking about it. When I start to feel the sting of vulnerability, and I notice I’m looking anywhere but at the person I am speaking to, I remind myself that it’s shame I’m feeling, not disgust I am projecting. A mantra of sorts that I have held on to is for every time I keep eye contact while talking about my experiences as a parent and survivor, I am strengthening a mental muscle that will eventually defeat the shame.

4. Do you believe participating in this project has changed you in any way? If so, how?

In what way hasn’t it?!! I mean every day I am working on using this tool we have created as a catalyst for conversation and change. And when I’m not jotting down one more thing to do, I’m starting another list of things to consider doing. It is hard work but it doesn’t feel like work I have to do, instead like work I want to do. My life has veered so far off the “map” I created in my head because of this project; for that I am so grateful.

5. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your children?

To slow the hell down. Breastfeeding was my first lesson. For the first time, I had to just sit still. I couldn’t rush the moment. I couldn’t think up a new task to take up time and busy my mind. I had to just sit down; slow down. Now that I have a preschooler and first grader on my hands and I’m back to working full time, time is FLYING! I can’t give all of my time to my children, but I understand the importance of giving all of me to them when I have the time.

6. When you are not writing or parenting, what do you love to do?

I love listening to music that moves me. I love getting together with friends to play poker and catch up with each other. I love sometimes deep and sometimes just plain ridiculous conversations with my girls. And I absolutely love sharing a good bottle of red wine with my husband, with phones out of arms length and the tv OFF!

Until I became a parent, I was able to drown out the flashbacks I had experienced throughout my adult life. When I became a mom, I could no longer do that. I couldn’t get away from the triggers, because my children had become the source of them. I started to live in an on again, off again state of panic. I suddenly had no control over the way my body reacted to the very people I loved the most in this world. I couldn’t understand why I always wanted to run away from my children, instead of towards them.

Permission to Love

Dawn Daum

Trigger Points: Childhood Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting

Bio:

Dawn Daum is a thirty-something wife, Momma to two, survivor and student of life. She spends her work week as a mental health care manager, helping others put and keep pieces of their lives together. Dawn is currently working on her first novel and recently published Trigger Points: Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting, which she co-edited with Joyelle Brandt. Her work has been featured on Huff Post Parents, Huff Post Comedy, The Indie Chicks, Elephant Journal and Scary Mommy.

Website: W.T.F. words thought feelings
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordsthoughtsfeelings
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TDawn81


book cover

The Trigger Points Anthology is now available for Kindle and paperback. Click the link to get your copy today!!

Trigger Points Anthology paperback

Trigger Points Anthology for Kindle

Become a member of the supportive Trigger Points community on Facebook and Twitter to connect with other parenting survivors.

 

Meet the Trigger Points Contributors

Trigger Points Editor and Contributor: Joyelle Brandt

Introducing Joyelle Brandt, co-editor of the Trigger Points Anthology & author of Staring at the Sun and Tainted.

Joy

It’s a fine line

This tight-rope walk

Of delving in

But not too far

Digging down

But not too deep

Staring at the sun

With our shades on

Staring at the Sun

Joyelle Brandt

Trigger Points: Childhood Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting

1. What was the most surprising thing about becoming a parent?

Becoming a mom gave my life a sense of purpose that I had been craving, and it also completely changed my creative life. Everything I create now relates to being a mother.

2. Tell us about one of your proudest parenting moments.

On anti-bullying day I had a discussion with my son about why it means so much to me that he wear his pink shirt to school. I told him that I had been bullied very badly as a child, and so this day meant a lot to me. He turned to me and said “Why didn’t you just get a monitor to help you?” And I realized that in his world, he trusts implicitly that the people in charge will keep him safe. And that to me was the biggest parenting win ever.

3. Was it difficult for you to participate in this project? What strength did you pull from to get past the fear and contribute?

It’s so funny, because I have been reading all the contributors answers to this question and they are all “No, it wasn’t hard at all.” Holy crap, I don’t even have words to describe how $#%$ hard this has been. I am so grateful to have partnered with Dawn on this project, because there have been times when it has all been just too much for me to handle and I needed to step away for a while. Every bit of my experience and instinct told me NOT to talk about this stuff, and there has been a whole lot of fear and anxiety to battle through to do this. Last week I had a full on mental break and just spent an entire day crying.

What I have learned is that I need to get a whole lot better at asking for support. And I need to ask often and loudly. Because there is support available to me, when I stop pretending that everything is great and I am totally ok. It’s that first part of showing my vulnerable, aching heart that sucks.

4. Do you believe participating in this project has changed you in any way? If so, how?

You know that quote “If you want to heal the world, start by healing yourself”? That’s pretty much how this goes for me. Working on this project has shown all the places in myself that need healing. Sometimes I get lost in the practical details, so I can stay in my comfortable detached mental state; then a big reminder shows up to tell me to tune back into my heart and remember that the journey starts within.

5. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your children?

Tune into joy. When I think back on my day, often the moments I am most grateful for are the simple moments with them. Laughing together as we watch The Grinch, making crafts or playing board games together. Having a cuddle before bed. These are the moments that make life worth living.

6. When you are not writing or parenting, what do you love to do?

I love to write songs and stories, make art, go for walks in nature with my headphones on, and play poi. I also love curling up on my couch with a good fantasty novel and a cup of tea.

“As he gets older there will be more talks. Talks about how to be a kind and considerate lover. Talks about consent. And I know at some point during those talks I will have to make a choice that most survivors dread. Will I tell my son what happened to me or not?”

Tainted

Joyelle Brandt

Trigger Points: Childhood Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting

 

 

Bio:

Joyelle Brandt is a creative mama who believes in the power of the arts to create social change. She is the author/illustrator of Princess Monsters from A to Z, and an accomplished singer/songwriter and speaker. 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. Joyelle has two major projects at the moment:

She is currently creating Love Your Body events, retreats and workshops to help women reclaim ownership of their bodies and learn to love their whole selves.

As well, she recently published the Trigger Points Anthology: Childhood Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting, which she co-edited with Dawn Daum.

Website: www.joyellebrandt.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/joyelle.brandt

Twitter: www.twitter.com/joyellebrandt


 

book cover

The Trigger Points Anthology is now available for Kindle and paperback. Click the link to get your copy today!!

Trigger Points Anthology paperback

Trigger Points Anthology for Kindle

Become a member of the supportive Trigger Points community on Facebook and Twitter to connect with other parenting survivors.

 

 

Meet the Trigger Points Contributors

Trigger Points Contributor: Aprel Phelps Downey

Introducing Trigger Points Contributor Aprel Downey, author of I Stand Guard At My Post.

aprel downey

1. What was the most surprising thing about becoming a parent?

The most surprising thing about becoming a parent has been my ability to be a parent. When I was in my early twenties, I had the mindset that children were not something that would be a part of my life. I was not against parenting and always felt happiness and excitement for my friends that started their own family. Things were different for me because I could barely take care of myself, let alone be responsible for another human being.

When I found out I was pregnant my initial reaction was fear. My cousin gave me a piece of advice during my pregnancy that has stuck with me today. She told me to be the kind of parent that I wish I had growing up. I let that advice serve as the motivating factor for my approach to parenting, and now ten years later I am the proud parent of a kind, loving, amazing daughter.

2. Tell us about one of your proudest parenting moments.

One of my proudest parenting moments happened not too long ago. My daughter and I were talking one day after school. I told her how proud of her I was for always trying her best in school and with her activities. I shared with her that it can be hard work to be a kid sometimes and I want her to know that her hard work is recognized and appreciated.

She looked at me, smiled and said “I know you are proud of me mom. Even when you don’t say it, I still feel it.” For my daughter to know in her heart that I am proud of her means that I must be doing something right in the parenting department.

3. Was it difficult for you to participate in this project? What strength did you pull from to get past the fear and contribute?

It was not extremely difficult for me to participate in this project. As I was writing my story, I was conscious of the fact that there will be people who know me personally that will not be happy with what I wrote. This kept a significant amount of fear tugging at me with each word I typed. I just tried to take deep breathes and tell myself that I have every right to share my story, despite how uncomfortable it may make others feel.

The strength I pulled from in order to get past that fear was empowerment. Each word I typed made me feel stronger, as if I was taking back some of my voice that had been lost as a child. I knew that the words I was writing would touch another abuse survivor who is trying to break the cycle with their own approach to parenting. That helped me put my fear into perspective and submit my contribution.

4. Do you believe participating in this project has changed you in any way? If so, how?

I do believe that participating in this project has changed me. It has made me feel more confident in my parenting ability. I am able to see vast differences in the way I’m raising my daughter and the way that I was raised. Connecting with other abuse survivors who are also parents has been like a breath of fresh air. Knowing that I am not alone in struggling to break the cycle of abuse has been comforting.

5. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your children?

The greatest lesson I have learned from my daughter is how amazing unconditional love feels. I spent so much of my life chasing after expectations that I thought would make someone love me. No matter what I did or which condition I met, there was always another condition waiting in its place. As a result, I never felt worthy of love.

My daughter has shown me that it is possible to love someone just for who they are, no questions asked or conditions that need to be met first. She loves me when I’m laughing, happy and having a great day just as much as she loves me when I’m grumpy or sad. There are no conditions I need to meet with her. She loves me just because I’m her mom!

6. When you are not writing or parenting, what do you love to do?

I love to listen to music, read a good book or spend time with my husband and daughter. I also have an amazingly supportive group of girlfriends that always make me laugh whenever we get together.

“My eyes fill with tears. I grieve for that little girl who just wanted someone to care that she was being hurt. My daughter’s fear is not quite this extreme, but it triggers me. I don’t want her to ever be afraid to come to me for any reason. I go overboard making sure she never feels that way.”

I Stand Guard At My Post

Aprel Phelps Downey

Trigger Points: Childhood Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting

 

Bio:

Aprel Phelps Downey has held a passion for writing since her childhood days of elementary school. That passion has been the driving force behind everything that she has set out to do in her life.

As a child abuse survivor, she understands firsthand the emotional challenges involved in trying to move on from a painful life experience. She shares her story so that other survivors know they are not alone. She believes that standing together and supporting one another makes the healing process a little easier to endure.

 

Website: http://aprelphelpsdowney.com

Twitter: @aphelpsdowney

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


book cover

The Trigger Points Anthology is now available for Kindle and paperback. Click the link to get your copy today!!

Trigger Points Anthology paperback

Trigger Points Anthology for Kindle

Become a member of the supportive Trigger Points community on Facebook and Twitter to connect with other parenting survivors.