Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Benefits of Journaling: An Excerpt from Say It Out Loud

In my last post I shared how I chose the title, Say It Out Loud. Today I’ll go deeper into the book discussing the concept of using strategies for healing.
The word strategy commonly refers to military operations. How can a strategy aid in a healing journey? Healing is what we want to achieve. The pain, anger, nightmares, anxiety, and depression are like the enemy – blocking us from achieving that ultimate goal. Whether you are healing from abuse, loss of a loved one, or any emotional trauma, you will have to face your “enemies.”  It’s much easier to do so if you have strategies to draw from.

Woven into the book are many of the strategies I relied on. In Part II: Tools for the Journey, I devote three chapters specifically to the strategies: Creating a Respite, Journaling and Visualization. The one I’ll discuss today is journaling. Lots of people keep a journal, for lots of different reasons. It’s been a common practice for centuries. Not too earth shattering, but when your earth is being shattered journaling can be the glue that holds it together. There are specific ways to use a journal for healing. I explain and give examples of each in the book. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5: Journaling.

Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse
Chapter 5 Pg. 66

The Benefits of Journaling:
A journal provides:
·     a private place to express feelings and thoughts you aren't ready to say out loud
·         a place to document new insights you will access later
·         a safe place to release anger, pain, and sadness
·         a place to write words of consolation, support, and hope
·        an ongoing chronicle of your journey to healing and a validation of how   far you've come

More than 75 personal journal entries are included in the book with an explanation before and after each entry. 
Chapter 5 Pg. 67

Whenever possible, I would write within hours of coming home from a therapy session. These entries often began, Today we talked about… and included an “I said, she said” account of the session. Whatever was significant about the week, I put on paper before forgetting it. If I needed to refer to those thoughts during the week, I had a simple way to retrieve them.
September 25, 2001
I had my session and we touched on a lot. Mostly my need to express my anger—do it in little bits, do something physical while letting it out, I’m turning that anger inward. I doubt everything about myself again. I’m depressed, tired, worn out. It takes energy to suppress anger. My guard is up and when I let it down I feel so depressed, I feel like I don’t want to go on. Dellene said when I was young if I let my guard down I was not safe. Now again if I let my guard down I am not safe. I need to start spending time alone again. Writing, thinking, listening to music. Let myself feel. I have to work on my anger.
This entry reminded me that I needed to work on my anger in a constructive way. My therapist helped me understand why I kept my guard up. Putting the thoughts in my journal helped me to realize I was not in the place of that little girl; I was safe.
Journaling became a daily strategy during my years in therapy. Looking back, the journals are a validation of how far I've come. Have you ever kept a journal? What benefits did you find? If you haven’t I highly recommend you give it a try!   Roberta

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why Say It Out Loud?

Fifteen weeks from today I'll be preparing to attend the official launch of Say It Out Loud. Sounds like a long time, fifteen weeks, but putting it in perspective, it took almost eight years to complete this book, making the launch right around the corner. Leading up to that much anticipated day I'd like to share with you some excerpts from the book, offering insight into what you should expect, and my hope for a lasting impression.

So, today I will begin at the beginning! The title. I'm inspired to do so because of a story my cousin shared with me yesterday. More about that in a bit.

Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse
Chapter 1 pg. 7
 On January 3, 2001, I took the biggest step of my life: I walked into the office of Dellene, the woman who would be my therapist for the next six years. With my outfit freshly ironed, hair combed, and lips glossed, I projected an image of control as I extended my hand to greet her. Only my pounding heart told the true story. After a few preliminary questions she asked, "So, what brought you here tonight?" 

Without hesitation, I replied, "I think my father was sexually inappropriate with me as a child." I shared with her my one clear memory, the living room scene that had emerged a few years earlier. I exuded an air of nonchalance, making it clear that Rune had been an alcoholic--my effort to minimize what had happened. Although I wasn't sure there was more to talk about, I felt safe enough to make a second appointment before leaving. The drive home from that first session is as vivid in my mind today as it was the day it occurred. All the way home, I laughed and I cried, saying over and over, "I did it. I told someone. I said it out loud!"

In the early stages of writing, when I was brainstorming possible chapters for the book, I remembered that very first visit with Dellene. I was so moved by the visual of my drive home, laughing and crying. The relief I felt from saying it out loud was powerful, so powerful it led me on my way to revealing a dark past and healing the scars left behind. It was then, with the book in its infancy, that I knew the title would be Say It Out Loud.

What lasting impression do I want you to have when you think about the title? My cousin's story says it best. In summary: At a job related meeting, a comment was made that misrepresented her performance. Rather than let it fester inside she spoke up, clearly defining her actions. Later she was commended for speaking out. Her response was, "It was one of those times when I had to say it out loud."

It doesn't have to be something big, like my story. Anything that will fester within when left unsaid, is worth saying. When we hold something in it can deplete our energy; be distracting; damage our self-esteem; create greater problems at a later time - all negative consequences of holding back. There is one big positive when you say it out loud; you are set free! Free from burden, anguish, regret, emotional stress - you know the effects.

Don't be afraid of the times when you need to say it out loud. Set yourself free!

Will this be your lasting impression of the title, Say It Out Loud? I would love to hear your thoughts.

More to come soon on Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Take a Blog Tour: My Writing Process

The timing couldn't have been better. As I was researching ways to promote my first book, Say it Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse, I received an email from a fellow She Writes Press author, Andrea Miles, inviting me to join her on the My Writing Process blog tour. You can learn more about Andrea and her book, Trespassers, on her website www.AndreaMiles.com.

Answers to the prepared questions for the tour cause authors to reflect on their writing process, inspire new writer's to pursue writing their dream book, and reinforce that as writers we are not alone - or crazy! So, I hope you enjoy, are inspired by and feel supported after reading my thoughts.

1. What Am I Working On? After seven long years of writing Say it Out Loud, I am currently preparing for its release on October 7, 2014. Developing my social media presence is the priority right now. I'm redesigning my website, attempting to gain followers on my Facebook page and making a commitment to posting regularly on my blog. I actually printed a schedule, including topics to write about from June through October. That felt like a great start but now I'm under pressure to actually write those posts! Check back soon to see how I'm doing. I must say I miss the process of planning and writing something longer than a blog post. I have a few ideas swimming around for my next book.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? My book is a unique blend of self-help and memoir. The meat of the book contains tangible strategies that anyone attempting to heal from sexual abuse or other traumas can use or adapt to their needs. That's the "self-help" part. The strategies are supported by my personal experience in years of therapy for a childhood of sexual abuse - "memoir." Included are over seventy-five excerpts from my journals as well as a very candid discussion on how to navigate life after healing, in the final chapter, The Ongoing Journey.

3. Why do I write what I do? 
One of my favorite quotes is from author Anne Michaels, Write to save yourself, and someday you will write because you've been saved. This is why I write in a nutshell. I filled six journals throughout my years in therapy. They became an integral strategy for healing my scars of abuse. I knew if I could make it on this difficult journey, so could others. I wanted to help and realized that I could do that by breaking my silence, sharing my story and writing about the tools that took me from someone broken to someone whole.

4. How does my writing process work? 
I'm a Virgo, need I say more? I have to be organized or it just doesn't happen. The day of the week, or time of day doesn't matter. What matters is that I have a plan. Most days, when I'm ending a writing session, I make a list of what I need to accomplish next. Once my goal is set I can easily get started whenever the time allows. I just love the feeling of checking things off as they are done. For novice writers this helps with the editing affliction many of us have; write a paragraph, edit it, write a few more sentences, go back and rewrite, wake up the next day and  edit and rewrite again. With my plan I only allow myself to edit on the days that I decide to make it my goal. It forces me to keep moving forward.

Now I’d like to introduce you to three of my favorite authors. All three were gracious enough to read and endorse my book. I strongly recommend you connect with them on their sites and treat yourself to their books. You won’t be disappointed!

Kathryn Orzech writes thriller and suspense fiction with a little romance to keep it real—and an undercurrent of supernatural intrigue. Online 15 years with global reach to 36 countries and 44 states, her website, Dreamwatch.com, was the inspiration for her psychic thriller Premonition of Terror when she wondered: What if premonitions from around the world predict the same catastrophe? Her blog features paranormal experiences of ordinary people and posts about writing and her books. Newly released Asylum, a dark suspense saga, follows a granddaughter’s search for her family's mysterious past. A seasoned world traveler, Kathy admits to being a news junkie with interests in geopolitics, society and culture, history and science. You’ll find her on social sites and at her Dreamwatch Paranormal Blog.

Catherine McCall is a regular blogger for Psychology Today Magazine, writing about topics related to overcoming child abuse. She tells her own story in her memoir, Never Tell: A True Story of Overcoming a Terrifying Childhood, which enjoyed four weeks on the London Sunday Times bestseller list in 2010, and has recently been re-released in the US in both ebook and print. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with 30 years of clinical experience, a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and a member of the Speakers Bureau for the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN). Catherine lives in a suburb of Atlanta with her husband. They've reared four daughters and now enjoy eight grandchildren. You can follow her on her blog: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-child-abuse or visit her website: www.catherinemccall.net

Gwendolyn (Gwen) Plano spent most of her professional life in higher education. She taught and served in colleges in New York, Connecticut, and California. As a college administrator, her life was highly visible and accountable—but as a wife and mother, behind closed doors, she and her family experienced the terror of domestic violence and abuse. Alternately heart-wrenching and joyful, Gwen’s first book, Letting Go into Perfect Love, is a powerful story of triumph over adversity—one woman’s inspiring account of learning how to forgive the unforgivable, recover her sense of self, open her heart, and honor the journey home. Gwen now lives in Branson, Missouri with her husband. Amid the beauty of the Ozark Mountains, she writes and otherwise volunteers in the local area. You can follow Gwen at www.gwenplano.com/blog-reflections or www.facebook.com/GwenPlano1.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

I write this today out of respect for one of the most admired women I know.

Maya Angelou 4/4/28 – 5/28/14

Maya Angelou—poet, author, educator, actress and activist—used her lyrical words and distinguished voice to be a “song bird” of her own. Years ago, long before I remembered my own childhood of abuse, I read her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Dr. Angelou was molested and raped by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of 8. Living with the guilt and shame of sexual abuse and feeling responsible for the beating death of her perpetrator, young Angelou stopped speaking to everyone accept her brother. She eventually learned to love herself, finding the strong spirit that lies within.

At the time, I was moved by her story and referred to it in a message I gave at my church. My interpretation was this: “I know why the caged bird sings. I know that no matter what your cage may be—illness, grief, poverty, stress, or insecurity, that within that cage you can still find a strength that will sustain you through the most difficult times.”

That was more than twenty years ago. I had no memory of my abuse. I had no idea why Dr. Angelou’s message resonated so dearly with me. Years later, in the throes of the anger and pain that accompanied my healing journey, I wrote this in my journal.

September 19, 2001
So here is the piece I must remember through all of this. My whole life I felt different from my family. There was a small piece of me that was all my own.It survived through all of the terror, pain, fear and loneliness. It gave me strength to live. It allowed me to love and be loved. If that core survived then, it will survive now. He took everything from me but that core. He can not take it or destroy it now. 

I  learned from Maya Angelou, long before I even realized it, that we can face many defeats in life but not be defeated because there is a core in us that holds a strong spirit and the promise of hope. I am grateful for that lesson from an icon who I will remember for my lifetime with respect and love.

May you rest in peace Maya Angelou.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Say It Out Loud: The Back Story


Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse was being written long before I ever dreamed of writing a book. It began as a series of journals kept during my six years in therapy for a childhood of sexual abuse. As my healing journey progressed I knew that one day I would use my experience to help other survivors—a bit of the “pass it on” philosophy.
I started by organizing the strategies I used to release anger, cope with depression, reveal memories and more. I had firsthand knowledge of the healing process from my own work in therapy and my candid journal entries authenticated each strategy.  I worked on this unique blend of memoir and how-to for six years, taking breaks from my writing for a few reasons, one being to learn how I could get this baby published.
And boy was I as na├»ve as a new born baby when I began exploring getting my book in print. Don’t I just find a publisher or two, send the manuscript out, and choose the best contract to sign? (It’s okay, you can laugh.)  After a stock pile of rejections from publishers and agents—I was told no one would take my prescriptive nonfiction because I wasn’t an “expert” in my subject matter (a blog topic itself,) I began exploring self-publishing.  My background is in education and my reason for writing Say It Out Loud is to help others on their healing journey, unlike others who always knew they wanted to be an author. The amount of autonomy required to self-publish was overwhelming.
Since I didn’t have a PhD in psychology, traditional publishing was out, and because I was scared to death of navigating alone through the steps of self-publishing, I couldn’t pursue that option either. I began to doubt that my book would ever be in the hands of other survivors. And then one day, as a member of She Writes, I clicked on She Writes Press. As long as they accepted my project, it sounded like the answer to my prayers—and it is!
I’ve had the pleasure of working with an amazing writing coach, Annie Tucker, my cover has been designed and I am well on my way to an October 7, 2014 release date.  I feel supported and blessed to be working with a great team at She Writes Press and my new publicist, Eva Zimmerman!

Stay tuned for a peak at the cover and a few excerpts from Say It Out Loud!  Roberta

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Be Not Afraid

It has been a curious month for me. Every so often the phrase be not afraid streams through my mind. When it does I feel a settling of the fibers in my body much like when you open a vacuum sealed bag of coffee and the grounds settle into a softer state. I don't know if I read it, heard it in a song or perhaps recall it from a sermon, but it is a welcome thought.

My life is very exciting right now. Say it Out Loud will be released in October, I am in the throws of planning our daughter's shower and fall wedding, and life in general is good. So why am I needing the comfort of those words be not afraid? What exactly am I afraid of? I don't have the answer but I will share a few thoughts.

I've worked extensively through therapy for my past of sexual abuse. During that time I relived horrific memories, faced my demons using visualization, and released the anger and pain. Did I not deal with the fear I  experienced as a child? Perhaps in the six year journey to healing the fear became secondary to the other issues and remains with me today.

A second thought, do I live with the fear that I will not maintain the level of joy I experience today? Living in the present is relatively new for me. Do I fear slipping back to the "old" me so busy doubting myself, trying to make things right, running from the past, that I will miss the present?

A final theory has to do with my book. Writing a book has been a dream, a process, and a steep learning curve. There were long stretches when I thought it would never come to be, but now I am looking at a completed manuscript, beautiful cover, wonderful publisher and newly hired publicist. It's real! I know I'm not afraid of the exposure. I'll talk to anyone who will listen about my life and my hope that all victims will one day heal. What may be frightening is the change being published will create in my life. I will no longer be sitting in my loft, alone with my computer, milling over the words and concepts. I will be an author, speaking about and promoting my work. There's a difference and it just may be one that causes me some angst.

Whether my fear is generated from my past, wanting to stay in the present, or the changes that will come from being a published author I don't know. What I do know is that three little words, be not afraid, bring me comfort and a sense that I will move forward with grace.

What words bring you comfort; cause the fibers in your body to settle? I suggest we not overthink the cause but enjoy the peace. I would love for you to share your words of comfort. Perhaps they will be a comfort to someone else.
Be not afraid, Roberta

Monday, April 7, 2014

Misconceptions About Child Sexual Abuse

In recognition of Child Sexual Abuse Awareness month I’ve decided to shed some light on two common misconceptions and offer suggestions on how YOU can make a difference in the life of a child.
Misconception #1
“If my child were being sexually abused they would tell me.”
Most parents feel they have a close relationship with their child and if anything is going wrong in the child’s life they would be the first to know. In most cases that is probably correct. Unfortunately, in the case of sexual abuse, there are other factors that prevent children from turning to their parent for help. Some of the factors are:
  • 90% of child sexual abusers are someone the child knows and trusts. Children fear a parent would never believe this family member, friend, clergy, teacher, trusted adult, would harm them.
  • Abusers bribe children with money, gifts, alcohol, to keep their “game” a secret.
  • Abusers threaten children saying they will harm a family member, telling would cause the family to break apart, or by convincing the child that they would be severely punished if their parent knew.
  • Abusers place guilt on the child telling them it is their fault or that they deserve to be treated this way.
  • Abusers groom children. This means that the abuse does not happen right away. They draw the child in by making them feel special—“You are my favorite…” “I bought this just for you,” “I can’t wait until we can spend more time together,” etc. The physical contact may begin with gentle hugs, stroking, or other physical acts that feel good to the child. It is only after they have gained the child’s trust that the playful grooming turns to sexual abuse.
So how does a parent prevent this from happening?
Talk about sexual abuse with your children and have a family plan.
That’s right, I said talk to your child about sexual abuse. We teach our children about fire safety, stranger danger, drugs and alcohol and peer pressure, so why not teach them what to do if someone the family knows and trusts is making them uncomfortable? There are many programs out there to help parents know what to say and how to say it. My favorite is Stop It Now! On their website, www.StopItNow.org!  you will find free information on how to develop a family plan. Remember, abusers groom their innocent victims. If you’ve discussed sexual abuse with your children they are very likely to tell before the grooming actually turns to physical harm.
Misconception #2
Unless I have concrete evidence I can’t accuse someone of sexually abusing a child.
If a child’s behavior changes in a concerning way, if an adult’s “attention” to one particular child makes you uncomfortable, if you’ve been told something or heard a conversation that caused you to suspect abuse, it is important that you explore further and report your suspicions.
The most important thing to remember is that you are reporting suspected abuse. It is up to the professionals to determine if the abuse has actually occurred. Most situations do not need evidence to report, but it is best if there is a symptom, behavior, or conversation that you can identify when making a report.
The two options for reporting are The Department of Children & Families, DCF, or your local police department. Generally you would call DCF if the suspected offender is in a caretaking role: parent, babysitter, relative, teacher or childcare provider, and the police if the suspected offender is in a non-caretaking role: family friend, neighbor or acquaintance. However, if you are more comfortable with one over the other it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you make the call!
There are some professions in which workers are mandated reporters. For the rest of us I say we deem ourselves mandated reporters! If we suspect a child is in danger it is our responsibility to protect that child.
If you do suspect abuse and are uncertain or afraid, do NOT let that stop you. Let your first call be to the Stop It Now! confidential helpline at 1.888.773.8368. They will answer your questions and advise you on what steps you should take.
I hope this shed some light on child sexual abuse, that you will take the necessary steps to prevention, and that you will share this information with others.
You can make a difference! Please do! Roberta