Life can be serious business.

A Bucket List Accomplishment – Featured on Huffington Post Today!!

Somebody pinch me. I am beyond excited to be featured on Huffington Post Parents today, with an article Joyelle and I co-wrote. Even more than the personal recognition, I am so grateful to have my voice as a parent-survivor be heard on such a large platform. I hope you will check out the article, share your thoughts and help us start this very important conversation.

Parenting Survivors of Childhood Abuse Need a Voice

Life can be serious business.

What It’s Like Being A Mother and A Survivor of Abuse

our landI’m guest posting on Kristi Campbell’s Our Land Series today. I have followed Kristi, at Finding Ninee, since I started blogging. Her Our Land Series is something that I immediately connected with, and am so proud to be among the other brave, insightful writers she has hosted.

“That panicked physical reaction I speak of, steams from the fear instilled in me as a little girl, when my abuser walked in to my room at night. The abuse distorted connections in my brain that appropriately associate things correctly, like love and fear.”

Please head on over to read more:

What It’s Like Being a Mother And A Survivor Of Abuse

Life can be serious business.

A New Chapter – The Creation Of An Anthology.

trigger point cover

Ever notice when you’re in a small crowd, and one person brings up a difficult subject to talk about, how quickly people are to open up about their own experiences? We want to be that one person, on a much larger scale.

Our plan is to create an Anthology. We have searched extensively online for supportive information for parents who are survivors of physical and/or sexual abuse – there is little to none. This topic is touched on in the vast amount of literature already written on abuse, but there is nothing that we could find specifically for parents.

It’s discouraging that an awareness so vital to a survivor’s ability to raise healthy children, is a mere chapter in a book. There are so many of us, how much longer can we keep so quiet?

We want to give survivors an opportunity to act on the bond that we all seem to share – supporting other survivors. We will support the writers through out the process and will allow any writer to remain anonymous. If there is ever going to be a break in the epidemic that is child abuse, it has to start with us – parents who are tired of suffering in silence. We have to tell our stories, learn from one another and help non-survivors become more aware.

That’s why we want parents to come forward, and share their stories with us. Joyelle said it best, when I asked her opinion on the over-all theme of the book. Her idea was to ask survivors to share how the abuse has affected their parenting, but more about how becoming a parent has forced them to address the parts of themselves that still need healing. And that is exactly it.

When a parent is derailed by the effects of his or her childhood abuse, or a survivor’s loved one is having difficulties understanding what he’s going through, we want them to find our stories.

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We have created a Facebook page to help guide you in submitting your story.

https://www.facebook.com/TriggerPointsAnthology?ref=hl

Follow the link to find the details you need, regarding submitting a personal essay for this anthology. If something is unclear, please feel free to email us at triggerpointsanthology@gmail.com.

Please, please, please (I’m not above begging, just ask my children) click the link, like the page, share it on any or all social media outlets, and ask your friends to share. Even if you are not interested in submitting a story, odds are, you know someone that may be. We need your support to get this project off the ground!

Every single survivor has a story, that has the potential to help build a more empowered community of parents. You don’t need to be a professional writer or a blogger to participate in this project. We’ll help you craft your words.

Just Be Brave.


**This project was ignited by Joyelle’s reaction to a piece I wrote, Raising A Girl As A Survivor, for Scary Mommy. It is an article about my own experiences on being a mom, and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It may give you an idea of what we are looking for; however, please let your story guide you.

My co-editor wrote a post today as well, on her thoughts about this passionate and crazy adventure we are starting on. Here’s the link: Passion, Purpose, and the Journey

Life can be serious business.

I Had No Idea It Would All Lead To This.

empowered

In December of 2012, I put my career on hold and decided to become a SAHM. I quickly fell in love with raising my children full-time. Just as quickly, I started to spiral into an intense depression. I know now, that simultaneous break in my life, was necessary.

My life slowed down tremendously after becoming a SAHM. I remained always on the move, but the motions were less demanding on my brain. It left room for my mind to sit still, something I have always thrived on avoiding. I started drowning in both unwanted memories and a belief that I had very little to offer others, or myself.

I remember a day last September, through unexplainable tears, I tried to explain to a friend how I was feeling. I admitted to feeling empty, even though my life was so full. My friend knew I enjoyed writing and encouraged me to start putting my feelings on paper. She suggested starting a blog. I barely knew what a blog was, but for the first time in a long time, I was intrigued.

I started writing in journals and creating poetry at a very young age. Reading, writing and music were always my way of stepping out of the dysfunctional environment I was raised in. I carried my love of writing into my teenage years but it halted at around age eighteen. Life started to get in the way. I was young, on my own, working full time, going to school full time and more focused on exploring life, not the emotions that were driving me.

Two weeks after my friend and I spoke, I created a blog. I had no idea what I was doing as far as building an audience, I was just absorbed in using my words as stepping stones to feel better – more like myself. The positive feedback and support I received encouraged me to dig deeper and talk louder. It was after I wrote and shared a post about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse that something clicked. For the first time in my life, I felt vulnerable, but not afraid. I felt empowered.

I started writing daily. During the day, I scribbled on napkins while I made pbj sandwiches. I danced the with little guy on my hip and typed with one hand, if he let me. I would let the sassy one break out every crafty thing in the house to occupy her, while I hid and emptied my brains for ten minutes. Nap time became sacred to me.

I wrote about childhood experiences, parenting experiences, fiction, day to day conversations and things I saw happening around me that struck a nerve. It became clear to me, the most vulnerable pieces, those around the topic of abuse and mental illness, were the ones that were pushing my spirit in the right direction. They were, and still are, always the ones that touched people enough to respond.

When Can Someone Tell My Daughter Who God Is was Freshly Pressed, it was the first time anything I had ever written had been recognized and exposed to that magnitude. The irony of it being a post on faith, was not lost on me. It was a huge leap of faith for me to even write it, let alone share that story.

I never saw my ability to be a “good” writer, as a tool I could use to help heal myself and others, until now. That quiet pull on my heartstrings to quit my job, to be home with my kids, to throw away the map and follow my heart, is all starting to make sense now. Had I not, I would never of recognized the pen as the prescription I needed to get healthy, and move my life in the direction it is now headed.

The string of events I am speaking of is allowing me to take another huge leap of faith. Publishing Raising A Girl As A Survivor, has led me to team up with another blogger, Joyelle, with plans to extend our voices, and work toward shutting down the shame that keep abuse survivors so quiet.

If you follow my blog, you know I am passionate about speaking openly about being a survivor. I have no doubt that my life, for the past two years, has led to exactly this. The project we are working on is still in the planning stages, but I will be posting more information soon. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this.

That unexplainable emptiness that carried me to such a low place two years ago, along with the universe putting me in a place where I was surrounded by love, was on purpose. It has led me here – to a place where I am confident that I can now use the dysfunction I lived through, for a greater cause.

Much love to all that have and continue to support me in this journey. I will continue to need your support, as we get this project off the ground. Stay tuned!

 

Life can be serious business.

Raising A Girl As A Survivor.

I often find myself up against the effects of my childhood sexual abuse, not only as a woman, but now as a mother.

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“Momma, Can I put on some make-up?”

I tell my daughter she is beautiful with out it, but “Sure honey, what’s the harm?”

Internally, I am struggling with ideas of beauty and sexuality and safety and how all of this will play out in her life. I can’t help but want to tell my daughter “No”, she can’t wear make-up; and in the years ahead of her, “No”, she can’t wear anything that sexualizes her in any way. I want to protect her as much as I can against catching the attention of a predator – even knowing that idea is a farce. Make-up and fashion statements have nothing to do with victimization. Predators don’t look for lipstick and short skirts. They look and wait for opportunity, usually within surroundings that are comfortable to a child.

At her age, I became a sexual object to some one. I know enough now to know, it had nothing to do with what I looked like, but more of the opportunity given to a man with a sick addiction and no self control. It’s not what the child looks like, but how vulnerable she is.

Does every woman grow hollow inside when she hears a man tell her daughter that she looks pretty? It shrinks me into a scared ten year-old little girl, now wondering if this man too, will do to me what other “good” men have done. Except, it’s not about me anymore. It’s about my daughter. It’s about the compulsive urge I have to protect her from ever being preyed upon, like I was.

I could be wrong. Perhaps the guy at the cook-out that complimented my daughter is of no harm. But when I got that kick of uneasiness in his presence, I paid attention. It doesn’t occur every time I or my daughter are around men. Only sometimes. So every time, I listen and know that whether the man involved is her best friend’s father, the town pastor, a friend’s brother or even someone related to her, I will never let her be in a position to be groomed by him.

I have to teach my daughter how to listen to and feel that sixth sense that we all have. The most effective tool she can possess is trusting herself. For now, we call it the “uh-oh” feeling. It’s an idea a school social worker taught me while interning at an elementary school. I connected with that “uh-oh” feeling because I recognized it. It’s what made me keep a secret for over eight years. I want my daughter to not be scared of that feeling like I was, but to pay attention to it and to react to it no matter what.

The most difficult part to all of this is when that uneasiness sets in at times I know are irrational, like when my husband helps our daughter with her shower or is having a playful game of tickle monster with her. I have to convince myself that in spite of what the literature and statistics say, I will never continue the cycle of abuse – as the victim or the abuser. I have to pull myself out of the hole these innocent events and ingrained thoughts push me in, and recognize the irrational fear.

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. I feel like it’s vital to our ability to raise healthy girls ourselves.

***

“Momma, If a boy kisses you, does that mean he loves you?”

Perhaps the “everything happens for a reason” rhetoric finally makes sense to me now. I am able to see the damage that is done, when our daughters are told yes to this question. Love is more than a kiss, or any contact with her physical body. Teaching her to equate love with either, implies she is suppose to love, in the presence of the other. That doesn’t leave much room for choice.

“Baby, a boy kisses you because he chooses to kiss you, it doesn’t always mean he loves you. And a boy, or any one else, should never kiss you unless you want him to. If he does, I highly encourage you to punch him in the nose.”

***

(I am also the mother of a son and recognize the need and desire of mothers everywhere to keep their son’s safe; as well as, their daughters. This story is more in line with the effects of the abuse and raising my daughter. That doesn’t mean, I am concerned any less about my son or the numerous male survivors struggling with their own stories.)

**Originally featured on Scary Mommy.

Life can be serious business.

I’m on Scary Mommy!

Scary Mommy

I’m so excited to be sharing over at Scary Mommy today. I’m discussing a difficult subject, but one that is very close to my heart and always on my mind as a mother. Click on the link to read my story, on how being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse has effected me in raising my daughter. As always, please share your thoughts.  ~Dawn

Raising A Girl

Life can be serious business.

Grieving 64 Candles – Happy Birthday, Momma.

Today you’d be turning 64. I’m not sure if we would have had a party for you. I can’t say we would have gathered like a normal family, while you played with your grandchildren. It’s a picture I like to believe was possible. One that under normal circumstances would be predictable. Then again, nothing about your life was predictable.

I’ve learned more about you since you have been gone, but still feel like a huge piece is missing. When did it all start to unravel for you? Who dropped the ball and failed to reach out to you? Why didn’t you ever reach for the hands that did?

I walked into your childhood bedroom this summer. If only walls could talk. I have a fitful rage to know what it was like for you. To unravel your story, so that I can see where the direction my life took began. Drug abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, inability to parent, not seeing yourself worthy enough of love until the very end…that doesn’t stem from no where.

I have such a good life. And that is why my heart breaks for the life you lost. Not just since you’ve been gone, but I get the sense, since the day you were born – today. There must have been love around you – I’ve seen your baby pictures and they are ones of proud parents and a beautiful baby girl, but the photos never tell the whole story. You are no longer here to tell me your story. That’s what I grieve the most. the inability to acknowledging your story.

What I can’t see, I feel inside. I know there was a survivor’s strength fueling your wild heart. I have that light. Your granddaughter has that light. I just pray she won’t ever have to go looking for it, like we did. Maybe the generational cycle of dysfunction is ending with me. I can only hope.

The difficulties your survived, while you tried to find your place in the world have not been forsaken. The movement forward you made in your short time here, travels on with my soul. I love you, Momma. Cheers to you – the life you lived and the life you gave me.

Life can be serious business.

Give It To Me Straight, Doc. How Long Do I Have?

“I need you to lift your breast and flop it on to the machine. Now relax while I squish the shit out of your boob and also, please stop breathing until you feel like passing out, while I take the picture. After I’m done violating your breasts with this vice, I’ll have you wait here to ponder your own demise.”

Ok, so maybe the technician performing my mammogram didn’t use those exact words, but she may as well have. All the niceties in the world could not have prepared me for what I experienced this morning, and I don’t just mean the actual act of have my boobies flattened like a pancake. Through out the process, I felt incredibly vulnerable and scared out of my mind.

During a routine physical last week, my doctor felt something in my breast that concerned her and sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. I had both tests done this morning. While I waited for the doctor to look over the results, I completely convinced myself that I had breast cancer.

I sat there planning how I was going to tell my family. Already convinced of my fate, I decided that I would opt to have my breasts cut off. I wondered if my health insurance would cover all the treatments I would need, including whether or not implants would be an option. I panicked as I thought about my hair falling out. I fought back tears, as I thought about my two kids growing up without me. I knew it was inevitable that my new found breast cancer would kill me.

When the tech came in and told me that the doctor did not see anything that concerned him, Ididn’t believe her. I had managed to work myself up to the point that even hard evidence, showing I was in good health, wasn’t enough. I then went for my ultrasound.

“I want you to lie down and expose your left booby. I’m going to glob some hot gooey stuff on your tit and awkwardly rub this wand all over it, while saying nothing but making noises that will lead you to believe I just saw death on the screen I’ll be staring at.”

Yeah, no. That isn’t really what the ultrasound technician said either, but again, she might as well have.

Before I was even finished wiping off the boob goo and getting dressed, the tech was telling me through the door (how personal, right?) that the doctor saw nothing and I was free to go. I whipped the door open so fast, I almost smacked the poor woman in the face with it. I asked her, “So, you’re sure I’m good. I don’t need a biopsy or anything like that? Will I need a follow up ultrasound, ya know, just to be sure?” “No” she said. “You’re all good.”

And just like that, I was physically no different then when I arrived.

As I drove home with the confirmation that my ta tas were actually healthy, I contemplated why I’ve always feared I would die young. Is it connected, in some way, to my early childhood trauma? Is it because my mom died young? Could my self-esteem really be that low – to the point that I don’t feel worthy of living a full lifetime?

It’s so strange to me that this one event could make me question so much, and convince me so strongly of a false fate. I’m so grateful for the outcome and in a strange way for the entire experience. Once again, life has shown me how damaging my “pending doom” and irrational thinking can be.

Always fearing the worst, I see things without clarity or lack an authenticity to my experiences. I’m not in control all the time – that’s not even a realistic option. I need to be reminded of this from time to time. Today was a clear reminder. I had myself six feet under because I fooled myself in to thinking I was in control. Apparently, my idea of controlling things leads me in the path of the worst case scenario. That is not how I want to live. If I always assume and plan for the worst, I’m preventing the good in life from shining through.

I realized something today that I don’t think I fully understand yet. Letting go of fear seems to run parallel with letting go of control for me. Perhaps by heading towards fear, I can move forward more freely.

Why is it so common to expect the worst? Is imagining the experience of pain easier than imagining the experience of joy? Have you ever experienced something similar, where you convinced yourself something bad was going to happen, even before you had all the necessary information?

mammo

 

 

Life can be serious business.

Depression, Not Suicide, Took Life From Him.

At the core of what I know about depression, is the truth that emptiness fuels it. How can a man that we see as so full of life, be so empty. That, is depression. Learning of Robin Williams suicide, I am paralyzed at the power of this disease.

In ways, his death scares the shit out of me.

I have depression. I treat it, but still battle with it. I’ve felt despair so thick that it becomes a barrier against feeling anything else. One is very weak in that moment. Love, friends, success, children – it’s all seen as existing in spite of you. Yes, I gave my children life, but in that dark space it feels like I am now the one draining the life out of them. And everyone else around me.

Even knowing the grips and lashes of depression, I’m profoundly sad and shocked that Robin Williams took his own life. He talked candidly in interviews about his struggles with mental illness and the many treatments he tried. He could have afforded to have world renowned psychiatrist and psychologists on staff. But that wasn’t enough. Sometimes it’s just not. Perhaps it’s better said that it was the depression that took life from him.

I’m wondering where his brilliant mind was at, and the thoughts that led him to end his life. Did he see the decision as a sacrifice for his loved ones? Was the pain finally just too much? No one can say.

So many of us are walking around these days, on the edge of whatever it is keeping our being together. Not lost souls, but individuals with dark spots on our every days. Some days we’re better at seeing through the spots. Some days we’re not.

I don’t know what to take away from Robin Williams death. I’m struggling with hope. I’m at ease for his new peace. I’m consumed with the idea that no matter who you are and how capable you are of fighting this disease, sometimes it’s just not enough.

Try to see the pain through his eyes. Take a different angle, and never judge someone else's battle.
Try to see the pain through his eyes. Take a different angle, and never judge someone else’s battle.

 

 

Life can be serious business.

Absorbing The Past, In The Present.

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As I sit here, on my last day of vacation, I have so much to absorb and reflect on. This wasn’t a “normal” vacation. This was life changing. I’ve experienced being around people that I am connected to not only by blood, but by unfortunate circumstances as well. The death of my uncle, my cousin’s father, and the death of my own mother, has created a bond that is palpable. It’s not only the passing of our parents, but the amount of unknown that surrounds their lives as well.

I had the chance to visit my grandfather’s home, where his widowed wife (not my grandmother, unfortunately she is gone too) still lives. My siblings and cousins hold fond memories of this place; however, I have none. My sister was with me and was shocked at how much of the house remains as it did when she was a child. I walked in to the room that belonged to my mother, adorned with the same wallpaper she looked at as a child, and became incredibly overwhelmed – not only by her presence, but also by the questions that began burning in my brain. I prayed that the walls would begin talking.

Looking in the back yard, I wondered, did she and her brothers climb the trees? Did they ride their bikes in this neighborhood? What the fuck went wrong here? How did a family crumble within these walls and why? There is so much I don’t know. The air was thick and heavy with sadness. I’d like to say I felt content just being in the space where she was, but I didn’t. If anything, it caused the fire in me to know more, to burn even hotter.

Fortunately, while there, we were given many items that belonged to my grandfather, including a binder full of letters and many photo albums. I can’t wait to dig in to those letters. My cousins nor I have much, if anything, that belonged to our parents. While rummaging through one of the boxes, one of my cousins found a letter that her father wrote. Words were not necessary to explain her tears. The connection of just holding something that her father once held is understood. I’m praying that somewhere in that stack of letters, I find my Mother’s handwriting.

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My cousin Serina and I have shared many late night talks. It’s uncanny how much our thoughts and personalities reflect each other. It’s been therapeutic to be here. I’m not even sure that particular word describes how I am feeling right now. I’m hoping to process it all a little better on the very long drive home and in the days that follow.

For now, I’m grateful.

I have lots of comments and blogs to catch up on when I get home. Not to mention the overflow of my own stories to write about. I need to purge all that I am feeling and that is best done with a “pen”. Thank you to all that have dug in to my archives while I’ve stepped back from writing anything new. As always, you’re reads, shares and feedback is so very appreciated. And guess what, I’m about to reach a pretty damn awesome milestone… I’m only two followers away from 1,000 right now. I can’t even begin to tell you what that feels like.

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I’ve enjoyed myself immensely while here. Reuniting with family and watching my little ones get to know their cousins has been amazing. All good things must come to an end and this adventure will be over at 6am tomorrow morning, as we pack up the car and drive away. Although we live on separate ends of the country, our hearts will remain close.

Much love to my family. And thank you Serina, Justin and Patti (the greatest big sis a girl could ever ask for). This trip wouldn’t have been possible without you.

This is such an accurate picture of who we are! Had to share :)
This is such an accurate picture of who we are! Had to share 🙂