Today I am pleased to join Gwen Plano on her blog, From Sorrow to Joy–Perfect Love. Last week Gwen visited me, and now I have the privilege of visiting Gwen. I hope you’ll come over and read my post and take a look around Gwen’s blog.
Silenced Voices of Abused Children
A little spoken of tragedy in our world is the silenced voices of abused children. Voices silenced for a variety of reasons are a hindrance to well-adjusted lives and justice for these children. Their scars are invisible, etched in tiny hearts and minds forever.
I was born in 1946, the first year of Baby Boomers. Our parents adhered to firm rules of 1940s and 1950s etiquette and discipline. Mama and Daddy were firm believers in proper behavior from their offspring.
Some likely familiar phrases heard on a regular basis in our home included:
Children should be seen and not heard.
Children should not speak unless spoken to.
Children should stand when an adult enters or leaves a room.
Children will not talk back or sass their parents or other adults.
Children will not begin a conversation with an adult; always wait for the adult to start the conversation.
These are only a few of the rules laid down for children in our family and culture to follow. Some of these often heard rules instruct children to be silent in certain situations involving adults. These instructions lay a perfect foundation for silencing children who are victims of abuse.
Today it is my pleasure to introduce my guest, Susannah Birch. Thank you, Susannah, for sharing with my followers. In Susannah’s own words,
I’m passionate about women’s rights in childbirth, support for families of those who are mentally ill and domestic abuse prevention, particularly against men and children. I’m a freelance journalist, online marketer, blogger and content creator.
I am also a qualified birth doula. I’m an activist and survivor of childhood trauma & I’m currently preparing to publish my memoirs. I run a local writing group and manage the website and social media for the Toowoomba Writers’ Festival.
I’m going to change the world – watch me.
Join me in welcoming Susannah Birch to the blog.
It took me 25 years to forgive my mother for trying to kill me. It took me 11 of those years to realise that I had something I needed to forgive her for.
When I was two years old, my mother experienced her first bipolar psychotic episode and believed that she had been told by God to sacrifice me just as Abraham had been called to sacrifice his only son in the Bible. Unlike Abraham, nothing told my mother to stop and I sustained such serious injuries that my life hung in the balance. It was only because she came out of her psychosis enough to realise something was wrong, and ring the police, that local emergency services were able to get to me in time. [Trigger Warning]You can listen to the full story here.
My mother spent a year in a psychiatric hospital and then came home to live with my father and I. My father was assured that my mother was fine and although we lived with my paternal grandparents, I felt that my life was normal and that my mother was too. I could remember the event; I just assumed that because other adults accepted my mother’s current mental health, it was a onetime event outside anyone’s control, even my mother’s.
It wasn’t till my mother experienced a breakdown when I was 13, taking me to the other side of the country and changing her entire fashion style, beliefs and social habits that I started to realise something wasn’t right. My teenage years were confused attempts to find the mother I’d never had and at the same time push her out of my life for what she’d done to me.
I rushed into a relationship, marriage at 20 and then just a few years later, I had my first child. Instead of making me understand my own mother, it confused me even more. I didn’t understand how my mother could have done what she did, but I experienced graphic images in my head, imagining what would happen if some part of her was somehow in me. It wasn’t till years later that I’d realise this was just a facet of OCD and other issues that became more obvious after entering motherhood.
My relationship with my mother followed a pattern. I’d try and make contact in an attempt to find the mother I so very much wanted in my life. It’d always end in tears. Over the years I had a screaming match with her in the middle of a downtown area, hacked her Facebook account and messaged all her friends, refused to talk to her and yelled and swore at her.
I kept hearing how forgiveness would make me feel better, lift a burden off my shoulders, allow me to let go. All I felt when I thought of forgiving my mother, though, was that I’d be condoning her behaviour and admitting my own weakness.
In 2013 I read a book called Mummy is a Killer by Nikkia Roberson. It told the story of how Nikkia’s two siblings were killed by her mother. I finished the book in two days but the part that amazed me the most was that Nikkia had forgiven her mother. The first tiny piece of me started to question how I could take the same journey.
The day I forgave my mother came and passed without me even realising it. The first few tendrils of forgiveness didn’t feel like anything more than compassion, like walking in someone else’s shoes. My thoughts subtly changed from being about what she’d done to me to how she must feel, having done what she did. My anger started to change into something else. I thought of all the issues my mother had had over the years as she buried that traumatic day, tried to rewrite history and slid deeper into her illness in an attempt to erase her awful memories of what her own hands had done.
There is no simple journey to forgiveness. No one can tell you how to feel or how to forgive. It’s just something that happens, either as a culmination of learning and thinking or from slowly looking at the events that require your forgiveness.
I never believed that forgiveness was more about me than her, until I felt it. It’s a wonderful feeling. I don’t condone my mother’s actions and I still don’t have contact with her, but I’m at peace with what happened. And for the things I did to her on my journey to forgiveness, I feel that she needs to forgive me too. While what she did to me was outside her control, what I did to her wasn’t outside mine. Maybe, at some step on my future journey, we’ll both be able to find the answers and the forgiveness we’re both looking for, even if it’s not together.
Learn more about Susannah Birch ~
Susannah Birch is a freelance Journalist, online writer, blogger, birth doula, activist and survivor. She’s currently editing her memoirs. She has a loving husband, two daughters and is slowly piecing together how the events of her childhood changed her life. She talks a lot, writes a lot and likes to analyse and understand everything around her. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Joan Rough is an artist, poet, and writer of nonfiction. Her poems have been published in a variety of journals, and are included in the anthology, Some Say Tomato, by Mariflo Stephens. Her first book, AUSTRALIAN LOCKER HOOKING: A New Approach to a Traditional Craft, was published in 1980. She is currently at work on her upcoming memoir, ME, MYSELF AND MOM, A Journey Through Love, Hate, and Healing.
You can follow Joan’s blog on her website at http://joanzrough.com and on these social media networks: Twitter: https:// twitter.com/JoanZRough Facebook: Personal page: www.facebook.com/joanz.rough Author page: www.facebook.com/JoanZRough.Author
Please join me in welcoming Joan!
I’m getting close to finishing up what I hope is one of the last of the revisions of my memoir, ME, MYSELF, AND MOM, A Journey Through Love, Hate, and Healing. Some of the work on this project has been easy. Some of it has been very hard. The toughest part, for sure, was making myself sit down and revisit the memories and places that I wanted to hide away forever in a dark closet whose door I never unlocked. But struggling with recovery from PTSD and a bout with endometrial cancer, I knew I needed to clean up my act if I was ever going to be ready to pass onto the next level of existence, feeling good about myself, and the legacy I hoped to leave behind.
I’d watched both of my parents die without making peace with themselves or with those around them. They were difficult, painful deaths that I believe could have been less emotionally charged had they taken the time to examine the baggage they’d carried around with them all of their lives.
I did not want to leave this world the same way they did. I sat myself down and had a long talk with myself about what I did want. On the list were things like peace, clarity, authenticity, and the crazy idea of writing a memoir about the most difficult period of my life. That last item arrived with clanging bells, shrill whistles, and choral music performed by an invisible choir of characters, along with approval from my remaining family members and friends who wanted to know my story.
Today I have the pleasure and honor of welcoming Anne Peterson, author of Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival. Anne has graciously prepared a post recalling how she came to write Broken and what the process of that writing was like. As I prepared Anne’s post for publication, I was struck by many of her words and their combined power as an affirmation of the healing benefits found in writing. Please join me in welcoming Anne!
I knew it would be hard. I just didn’t realize how hard.
When I started writing my memoir Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, all sorts of challenges met me head on. You don’t write painful events without reliving them. And in my case, it was a full length movie.
Loss is hard
Loss has been a recurring theme in my life. I was actually introduced to loss when I was a little girl. Our neighbor called out for her son. Into the street he ran after his ball. He just never came back. All night long his mother wailed through open windows on that summer night.
But that wasn’t the only loss. They would come one after the other for years upon years.
Why write a book about loss? It’s what I’ve known.
Experiences are great teachers
We are products of the experiences that make up our lives.
We don’t have control over many things that happen to us. But we do have control over how we respond to them.
I found as I continued to pour my life into the pages of my book, I found healing. It’s not the first time I had shared these stories. For years, I’ve shared them to various groups of people. Highlighting how God taught me about his character through my pain. And what was the benefit? Apart from pain, I would never know God’s comfort. Continue reading “In the Rubble by Anne Peterson, Guest”→
I know from personal experience that writing has a healing effect.
From the age of eleven when I received a pink journal with a lock and key, I have written my way through my life challenges. Writing in my journal always makes me feel like I have a safe place to go to unload my concerns and fears. And when I do, I can make sense out of what I am feeling. It feels like my concerns take on a different shape once they land on the pages. Often times when I go back to read my entries over, I will see something I haven’t seen before—a new insight or idea that might help me understand myself a little better.
What I didn’t know when I started writing but have since found out is there is scientific evidence that what I experience intuitively has a tangible health benefits.
Dr. James Pennebaker (http://www.utexas.edu/features/2005/writing/) is a noted psychotherapist who has studied the therapeutic effects of writing on health. Now a professor of psychology at the University of Texas and the author of Opening Up, he chronicled his own journey of healing from depression through writing.
Recent research suggests writing may even ease the symptoms of serious non-psychiatric diseases. For example, blood tests show that subjects have more robust immune systems several weeks after completing writing exercises. http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun02/writing.aspx this link refers to all material through quote on next page.)
Another leading researcher in this field of writing to heal is Dr. Joshua Smyth of Syracuse University. He is quoted by Bridget Murray, in this article as saying:
There is emerging evidence that the key to writing’s effectiveness is in the way people use to interpret their experiences, right down to the words they choose. Venting emotions alone—whether through writing or talking –is not enough t relieve stress. To tap writing’s healing power, people must use it to better understand and learn from their emotions.
In a landmark study which appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 1999), involving 107 asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients, Dr. Smyth discovered that
70 patients in the stressful-writing group (wrote 20 minutes /day for three consecutive days) showed improvement on objective, clinical evaluation than the control group. He concluded that “writing helped patients get better and also kept them from getting worse.
Both Drs. Pennebaker and Smyth acknowledge that writing’s effectiveness in healing will be dependent upon several factors, including a person’s willingness to find meaning in the memory and integrate it into a healing process.
Writing’s power to heal lies not in the pen and paper, but in the mind of the writer.
The journals I wrote in throughout my trials became the seeds for my memoir. Writing my way through the painful memories helped me to get on the other side of them and find a new meaning for the part they played in shaping me into the person I am today.
But there were many days, I put my manuscript aside; walked away and came back to it when I felt strong enough to face my past mistakes. I’m not the same person I was back then and it was excruciating to re-visit those times when I could have, should have made different choices…
Eventually, with the support of mentors and fellow writers, I did find my way to the other side. I began to forgive the young woman in my story who made so many self-defeating choices that had led to untold heartache for not only her but her children. I shed the guilt and shame I had carried around for twenty-five years and started feeling compassion for her. She did the best she could. She acted in good faith, albeit naïvely.
Writing my memoir helped me find my pathway to healing. My greatest hope is that others who have struggled or are still struggling will find hope for their own healing on the pages of my story.
And, if and when I have the chance to talk with my readers, I will tell them that writing helped me to find my pathway to healing. It’s research-based.
Get to Know Kathy Pooler:
Kathleen (Kathy) Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28.2014 and work-in-progress sequel, Hope Matters: A Memoir are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.
She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.
A young woman who loses sight of the faith she has been brought up with attempts to find her way in the world, rejecting her stable roots in lieu of finding adventure and romance. Despite periods of spiritual renewal in which she receives a prophecy, she slides back, taking several self-defeating detours that take her through a series of heartbreaking events.
When Kathy’s second husband, Dan’s verbal abuse escalates, Kathy finally realizes she must move on before she and her children become a statistic.
How does a young woman who came from a stable, loving family make so many wise choices when it came to career, but so many wrong choices when it came to love, so that she ended up sacrificing career and having to flee in broad daylight with her children from an abusive marriage? What is getting in her way and why does she keep taking so many self-defeating detours?
The story opens up the day Kathy feels physically threatened for the first time in her three-year marriage to her second husband. This sends her on a journey to make sense of her life and discern what part she has played in the vulnerable circumstance she finds herself in.
She must make a decision–face her self-defeating patterns that have led to this situation and move on or repeat her mistakes. Her life and the lives of her two children are dependent upon the choices she makes and the chances she takes from this point forward.
Some of the links contained in this blog are affiliate links. This means that I may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase from the affiliate. It’s free for you, but I receive a portion of the sales, which funds go to support this blog. I only recommend products and services that we know or trust to be of high quality, whether an affiliate relationship is in place or not.
The remainder of Kathy’s tour:
Monday, October 13 @ Women’s Writing Circle
Kathleen Pooler sits down with Susan Weidener for a friendly conversation about how Kathleen crowdfunded her memoir, Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://www.susanweidener.com/
Tuesday, October 14 @ Lauren Scharhag
Don’t miss Kathleen Pooler’s interview with Lauren Scharhag as these ladies discuss the hot topic of memoir. Find out more about Kathleen and her own Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://laurenscharhag.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, October 14 @ Vera’s Version
Join Kathleen Pooler as she guest blogs about “How Writing Memoir Helped Me Find Self-Forgiveness” at Vera’s Version and shares insight into her memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://verasversion.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, October 15 @ About Amish
Kathleen Pooler and her memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse makes a stop to visit Saloma Furlong at About Amish where you can read Saloma’s review and get in a giveaway for an opportunity to read Ever Faithful To His Lead for yourself! http://salomafurlong.com/aboutamish/
Friday, October 17 @ Jerry Waxler
Author, Friend, and Fellow Memoir Writer Jerry Waxler reviews Kathleen Pooler’s Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse This is a blog stop you won’t want to miss! http://www.jerrywaxler.com/
Monday, October 20 @ Romance Junkies
Join Kathleen Pooler as she stops at Romance Junkies for an insightful interview about herself and her memoir, Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://www.romancejunkies.com/rjblog/
Tuesday, October 21 @ Mary Gottschalk
Kathleen Pooler shares her latest project: Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse as she visits with friend and fellow author Mary Gottschalk and fittingly writes about “Girlfriends Matter”. This is a blog stop you won’t want to miss! http://marycgottschalk.com/home/
Wednesday, October 22 @ CMash Reads
Join memoir writer Kathleen Pooler as she guest posts at CMash Reads. Kathleen will share her story of “Writing Through the Pain” and tell more about her popular memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://cmashlovestoread.com/
Thursday, October 23 @ Bring on Lemons
Hear what Crystal Otto has to say as she reviews Kathleen Pooler’s Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse Don’t miss this blog stop as Kathleen Pooler has graciously provided a copy of her memoir for one lucky reader to win via a giveaway! http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
In posts here, here, and here, I have written on the topic of writing and its healing benefits. Today I want to share a cautionary tale with you. Something happened in our family two weeks ago today casting a different light, at least for me, on the subject of memories, writing, and healing.
I am a proponent of the healing benefits of writing because I thoughtI had come close to healing from scars and memories of my past related to my mother’s parenting skills and my ex-husband’s similar abuses. I now know this is only partially true.
The incident bringing this understanding to light occurred in our home and involved our eldest child, a son aged 43. Coincidentally, he is the son of my first marriage and later adopted at age 18, at his request, by my second husband. The details of what happened are not important to my post. However, I will say that Bob and I were stunned at their occurrence.
What is important for you to know is that I was alone here with our son when this happened and mid-point through the incident, I felt as though I had time travelled decades backward. My emotions kicked into high gear, and I immediately found myself wanting to put space between the two of us.
As soon as I did, the incident took on the heat of a glass blower’s furnace, and I felt my emotions accelerate into what felt like a nightmare. I could not be living through this again! And yet I felt as if I were staring at my mother and ex-husband rolled into one.
The reaction I was having to our son’s behavior was familiar to me — a tightness in my chest, shallow breathing, a need for air, a need to close myself off from what was happening. As a child, I would run and close my door and lock it when Mama treated me abusively. With my ex-husband, it was a different story; he was bigger and stronger than I and so I rolled into a fetal position and cried.
Finally, I walked to our entry which prompted our son to leave. And then all of my past emotions and feelings came surging forward and out. I cried the next three hours until my husband returned home.
♦ ♦ ♦
What I have learned from this experience is as follows:
Although this incident brought back unhappy and painful memories, my recovery from them has been quicker. For the past two weeks, my husband and I have talked about what happened but less and less each day. Bob has yet to speak to our son about his actions but will in due course.
I realize that my emotions were the result of seeing in action what caused my pain before, and I began taking steps to remove myself — standing up from the kitchen table where we sat, walking step-by-step into our kitchen, and then into our entry. I placed myself at a distance from the person hurting me with his words and emotions.
Initially, I haven’t been able to write here or on my memoir. I realized yesterday I was ready to write again because writing is what brought me far enough to take the steps listed above. This morning the subject of this post came to me, and here I am. Later today I plan to begin work again on rewriting my first draft of my memoir.
Based on all of this, I have learned that yes, writing is a healing agent from whatever pain, abuse, unhappiness or loss we have experienced. However, not all of those memories disappear. They are a part of who we are forever. They make up our being, the person we have become, for we have learned from them. And yes, like in PTSD and other similar emotional situations, there are triggers which precipitate memories surging back quickly.
♦ ♦ ♦
Be cautious as you write to remember we cannot wipe away our memories by writing, but the writing itself with its cathartic nature will teach us how to handle the resurgence of those memories should something or someone trigger them.
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” ∼ Rose Kennedy