Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!

I'm going to write a brief post today because I have a busy day ahead. Today, September 2, is my birthday. After a certain age most people, well at least most women, don't like to advertise their birthdays. Today I'd like to share it with the world and thanks to social media I can.

Why? Because it is the happiest birthday I have ever celebrated. 

Today I feel the power of being healed from a horrific past. I can honestly say it is in my past. There will be bumps in the road, but I also know the strength I have from facing my demons and moving on.

Today I feel the pride of one who has set a lofty goal and achieved it. A copy of Say It Out Loud is sitting right here on my desk.  Of course I can't for others to read it, but just seeing a completed, printed copy moves me to tears.

Today I feel an amazing, undying, love from my husband. He has been my rock and my savior and now we are able to enjoy our love and laughter on a whole new level. 

Today I feel joyful. Joyful because in three days our daughter is going to marry the man of her dreams. He is kind, loving, funny and someone we adore. I had no idea how deeply special the feelings are when your child marries. Magical.

So, it isn't hard to understand why today is the Happiest Birthday of my life. I am grateful,  blessed, and had to share it with the world! Roberta

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Inside the Author? Popcorn!

Behind the book Say It Out Loud is a very crazy author! I’m forty-two days from my pub date, and nine days from my daughter’s wedding. I've taught children with special needs my whole life, but I never dreamed I’d be needing strategies for my own mind going haywire. I’m quite sure this is what ADD feels like.
Each day I wake up and my thoughts are like a bag of microwave popcorn popping. I won’t bore you with the wedding details, but if any of you have had a daughter get married you know exactly what kernels are popping related to that. As they continue to pop, more kernels explode with Facebook, Twitter, launch team, Goodreads, emails, publicist, swag materials, book launch, book order, and blog post, sprinkled over them. Within minutes my mind is like a perfectly popped bag, puffed full to the top with a bit of steam seeping out.
Next comes the decision-making process. What do I tackle first? If I take on my MOB (that’s Mother of the Bride) role I can accomplish something significant, but then feel guilty that the “book work” is being pushed aside. If I take on my author role—which takes a whole lot more organization and thought, I get anxious that the wedding day will be here and nothing will be quite ready.
So what’s the solution? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out. My thirty-three years in special education taught me how to organize, strategize and meet goals. It just isn't so easy when it involves the two most important events of my life: my book release and my daughter’s wedding. My plan is to set a daily goal for each event before I go to bed. If this works, when I wake up there should only be two kernels popping around in my head. Once the goals are accomplished I can check them off my list and decide what I want to do with the remainder of my day. That night I’ll set two more goals for the next day.
If my plan works, on September 5th a beautiful bride will have the wedding she’s dreamed of, and by October 7th Say It Out Loud will be released with a bang! Not the microwave popcorn bag kind of bang but a well-organized, publicized, filled-with-pride kind of bang.
When life feels overwhelming, isn't it easy to get nothing done and hard to see that checking even one thing off a list will bring some relief? Try setting simple goals, making lists, and ticking things off one at a time.
That’s my plan--but if you have another suggestion, I’d love to hear from you. Roberta

If you haven’t guessed already, my writing goal  today was to get this blog post written—CHECK! Now off with my daughter to pick up the gown!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams: Through the Darkness

If you are having thoughts of suicide call: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

This week we lost one of America’s favorite entertainers, Robin Williams. I always thought of him as silly, and I love when an adult can be silly. It makes everyone feel lighter, happier and able to put their own troubles aside for the moment. So why did this man, who brought light and laughter into so many lives, choose to end his own?
I am not qualified to speculate an answer to that question or to offer advice for anyone battling with depression. I’m writing from personal experience, shedding some light on two aspects of suicide for those who are left shocked and confused by his tragic death.
A common question lingers when a loved one takes their own life. How could they leave me? It’s not unusual to feel angry or abandoned. As hard as this is to comprehend, when someone is suicidal they cannot think past the dark, isolated place they are in. They may even believe those they love will be better off without them. At the time they are so detached from emotion it isn't possible to rationally think about the emotions of others. It is that dark. What’s important for others to know is that the suicide was not about them or because of them and there is no blame.

Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse
Chapter 11 Pg. 172
January 17, 2005
7:20 A.M. Something feels awful. I’m sitting in my living room but I feel detached. I could easily not be here. I need to allow myself to feel this. Invisible, unattached, unknown. If this were the last day of my life would it really matter? What’s happening to me? I can’t feel any emotional attachment. I can only sit, breathe, stare, and occasionally write a sentence. Hollow. I want to feel but I have no feelings. I can list the people it would matter to—but would it really matter? They’d go on.

In chapter 11, Through the Darkness, I address suicidal thoughts and strategies for making it through the darkness. I call these strategies Beacons of Light. Sometimes just the tiniest pinhole of light will be enough to allow you to hold on, reach out and get the professional help you need. All of my “beacons” involved letting others in—a hard thing to do at the time. It’s gravely sad to accept that some, like Robin Williams, can’t see that pinhole, yet so hopeful to know that others can and do make it through the darkness. I don’t know why some do and others don’t. But what I do know is there are strategies that can help, and once you are through each dark episode there is strength to continue to do the work until you are in a place where the darkness is replaced by light, hope and joy.  

Chapter 11 Pg. 161
As you read this chapter, dwell not on the sadness but on the profound, positive thought that I walked through the darkness and I am on the other side, healed and whole. I made it!

Read more about my Beacons of Light in Say it Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse coming October 7, 2014.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bumps in the Road

Today I'm going to jump to the end of my book, Say It Out Loud, and share some thoughts on what I call bumps in the road.


What happens once the scars have been revealed and healed? Life. 

The process of healing from any trauma is long and difficult, but eventually the good days become more frequent than the bad and life takes on a new look. Joy seeps into the spaces where darkness prevailed. 

               Chapter 12: The Ongoing Journey 
Pg. 184
Months, even years go by. You are living your life as a survivor, healed and whole. Life is good, until something nudges you back in time or slams you against a wall. You feel as though you are back in the depths, facing your abuse, anxious, angry, sad.

Almost anything can trigger those old feelings; a news item, movie, event in someone's life etc. There are two important strategies that will help you get past the negative feelings and back to experiencing your new life as a survivor.

First, remember it is just a bump in the road. It is normal to fear that you are slipping back to the beginning of your journey and will never again experience feeling whole. You have to tell yourself that this is temporary, caused by an external event that triggered your feelings. No matter how well you are doing, the trauma you experienced was real and a part of your being. It is natural to have sad or angry feeling resurface but know that they will subside.

Second, talk about your feelings. When life is finally going smoothly the tendency is to ignore or push aside any negative feelings. By now you've probably learned that that doesn't work. The feelings sit inside and fester. The sooner you can talk about your feelings and identify the trigger, the sooner you will work through them and be back to feeling healed. Some "bumps" only require acknowledging them and perhaps a good cry. Others may take more effort, such as a few visits with your therapist. Whatever it takes, if you say it out loud, and let yourself feel you will make it over that bump healed and whole.

I've been contemplating this topic as a post for a reason. I hit a bump in the road recently and followed my own advice to get past it. Today I read a Facebook status from a dear friend who has worked long and hard to cope with the loss of her son. Her status made it clear that she had hit a "bump in the road." It sent me straight to my computer to get this post written. I hope she reads it and gains strength from knowing she is not alone and she can make it over her "bump." 

Have you hit a bump in the road on your healing journey? How did you get over it? I'd love to hear your strategies.


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.