Rachel Thompson's Blog, page 9

October 5, 2014


Please welcome author and domestic violence survivor Sarafina Bianco to the blog as she shares her story of abuse, suffering, and finally rebuilding. 


*Trigger Warning*


It’s been five years since I left the house on Sunset, but it seems like it happened last week. Time escaping me like morning dew as the sun rises. I still remember that hot July morning, limping out of a sociopath’s playground toward freedom. The week before he held a gun to my head. The morning I left, he threw me down a flight of stairs.


Leaving meant I would live, but life didn’t begin again once I escaped. Instead, I suffered the aftermath of my abuser, something my family and friends tried to understand. I should’ve been happier without him, they said. And I believed them. There we sat, thinking the year and a half I lost with him was all that would be taken.


But that’s not what happened.


My abuse was sexual, physical, emotional and financial. The aftermath of each haunted me. I lost my job because he was my boss. Three days later, a man and his wife chained my Beetle to their tow truck and stripped me of transportation and, more than that, the tiny shreds of dignity I was still holding onto. Then, a month later my house went into foreclosure proceedings. Jobless, carless and homeless at the age of twenty six. All because I loved with the wrong guy.


Standing in the yard of the house I was losing, I stared back at black shutters, wondering when they would fall like I had. My mums were dead. And in many ways, so was I.


In another sense, I was more alive than I’d been. He couldn’t rape me in the shower or beat me before breakfast. I didn’t have to hold my breath before speaking. And normal bumps and scrapes looked plunging shades of eggplant and red-violet, each a saturated and deep reminder that physical injuries disappear faster than emotional ones.


Sometimes, when my head was noisy, I’d inflict my own wounds, throwing myself against sharp edges of furniture or cutting my legs with razors to watch myself bleed, to remember I was alive. My life was reduced to this. Too much to handle, I made myself suffer the same injuries he did. To ease the excruciating depression, anxiety and panic, I battered myself, hoping physical pain would mask the emotional: my own personal form of bloodletting. In the interim, I showed signs of PTSD and body dysmorphic disorder. This was my life now. Unrecognizable. Unforgiving. Unbelievably broken.


I begrudgingly accepted help from people who, just a year before, looked up to me. And I was embarrassed about it. Survival, after all, is the commonality among us all: our abuse and abusers may differ, but we each face the unfair, unfiltered aftermath. It’s the place where we lose ourselves before we relearn how to live.


Certain I couldn’t afford therapy, I knew it was time to quit holding so many secrets. So I started a tiny blog, sharing details as excruciating as the ones I’ve shared here.


Eight months after I left, strangers were reading my story. And one of them, a childhood survivor of abuse, reached out to me.


“There are free services,” he said. “My dad abused my mom while I watched. Non-profits offer therapy, if you’re lucky.” An hour later, I found one in St. Louis.


The wait list was long, six months until I could be registered. But knowing I would receive help pulled me out of some moments of sadness, and I kept writing my journey, hopeful my honesty would also be my release.


I started intense trauma therapy for survivors a year after I left.


It took a long time for me to trust anyone, including my therapist, but I kept non-violently fighting. If I didn’t, suffering wouldn’t stop. I had no choice but to keep trying, to push through the discomfort and depression. A year later, I started seeing noticeable changes. I’d stopped hurting myself physically. And my blog was being nominated for awards I didn’t know existed.


Life reminded me it was worth living just in time to rebuild.


After three years of therapy and five years of surviving, I changed career paths, making a life as a writer and advocate. I wrote my blog into a book, detailing the remnants of a broken life in hopes society might, someday, better understanding the inner workings of abuse. And I will stand beside any woman who wants to share her horrors, because we all deserve to be heard.


My life is – once again – moving faster than I’m ready for. The House on Sunset was released on September 22nd, a baby of a book waiting for people to judge it. Old fears surface and threatened permanence. What if it sucks? What if my message is lost in the sadness?


Then I remind myself I’ve lived through worse than someone telling me they don’t like my writing. Bad reviews and infrequent sales are nothing. If I can survive at the hands of a man who tried to murder me, I can certainly rebound from something as small as an opinion.


There’s no denying life gets ugly. We all face adversity. It’s what we do in the aftermath, the choices we make and the beliefs we hold about them that define us. Nobody else controls that. Nobody else determines our worth.


I know I’m stronger than the naysayers and critics now, because I’m sharing my story anyway.


 


 


Image courtesy of  marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


About Sarafina Bianco:


Fina_400x400Sarafina Bianco is the author of The House on Sunset, a memoir released on Amazon. She is a domestic violence survivor, blogger, columnist and activist. She is starting the Twitter campaign #domesticviolencechat, set to begin on October 1st: the first day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You can find her on her blog, Twitter and Facebook. She also writes for The Flounce and The Good Men Project weekly.


Sarafina lives with her husband and three dogs in St. Louis, Missouri.


 


 


 


 



Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. Increase your blog traffic by participating in #MondayBlogs (a Twitter meme I created to share posts on Mondays — no book promo) and entering my free feature giveaway.


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All content copyrighted unless otherwise specified. © 2014 by Rachel Thompson, author. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.



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Published on October 05, 2014 08:37 • 46 views

October 2, 2014

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Since I created #MondayBlogs in late 2012, even I’m shocked at what an amazing success it has become! Thousands participate each week, generating more than 5,000 tweets! And it is because of all of you that we can say that with a lot of pride and a big ol’ smile! As a thank you to all you wonderful #MondayBlogs tweeps, we launched an ongoing, monthly giveaway contest in April and we couldn’t be happier with the response!


The Featured Monday Blogger giveaway is our way to say thank you for participating in #MondayBlogs by giving you more exposure for you and your blog. Each Monday for one month, you could have a different tweet sent out by @MondayBlogs to all our followers and be featured on IndieBookPromo.com! But wait, there’s more! Following you, the lucky winner, on Twitter would enter others into the next month’s contest!


Nice bit of exposure, don’t ya think?


That sound like something you’d be interested in?


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Featured Blogger September 2014

Morgan Dragonwillow at The Dancing Muse

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Published on October 02, 2014 10:50 • 23 views

September 28, 2014

The Power of the Survivor Memoir


by staff writer Bobbi Parish (aka @TruthIsHers)


shutterstock_177713315


Storytelling has always been a powerful, integral part of human life. We tell stories to entertain, impart knowledge, and record our history. A narrative is the easiest format for us to understand and relate to. Through it we connect with our past, information and other human beings in a way that would be difficult otherwise, especially before the advent of the written word.


Since time began, we have been telling stories through oral traditions, song and dance. Through the development of the written word, mass communication and international travel, storytelling has moved beyond the local tribe, town and clan. Now a story can be conceived of in someone’s mind anywhere and shared around the world with speed and ease. Because of this our world is flatter, more multi-cultural and most assuredly richer. The more developed the world has become, the more powerful the personal narrative has become.


For survivors of childhood abuse, telling their story is particularly powerful. At the very core of the after effects of childhood abuse is shame and a lack of self-worth that often dips into self-loathing. Those two forces pull the survivor into isolation, away from the eyes of the world where they believe others will easily see their glaring flaws.


MEMOIR


When someone tells their story of abuse and survival through memoir it is a commanding force against the shame and worthlessness. In that simple step forward, out of the shadows to state their truth, they are not only claiming their worth but also choosing to stand in the light. “Here is my story,” they are declaring, “I’m not ashamed of it or myself. It’s worthy of being told and also being read.” That’s a fierce statement from someone who spent years engulfed in the flames of shame and worthlessness.


The boldness of a survivor publishing their memoir empowers other survivors as well. That isolation that abuse victims seek keeps them from one of the most healing tools for their recovery journey: community with safe, supportive peers. Gathering with other survivors provides camaraderie and encouragement. More importantly, it shatters shame. Abuse victims come to understand that others feel the same way they do, experience some of the same aftereffects of the abuse they do, and struggle to recover just like they do. It is liberating to an individual who has known little freedom in their life.


COMMUNITY


When a survivor reads another survivor’s memoir, they join in community with the author. They see the life of another victim taken apart and destroyed by their abuser, like theirs was. They see someone else bear the crushing weight of shame and worthlessness, struggling to rebuild their lives while carrying that heavy burden. And they know they aren’t alone in their own journey to bear the weight of their own abuse. The survivor’s shame decreases and their world expands.


The awareness of childhood sexual abuse also expands with every memoir a survivor publishes. As a society we don’t usually talk openly about this topic. It’s a hush, hush taboo matter. To decrease the shame and isolation of survivors we need to discuss childhood sexual abuse. Honestly. Openly. Often.


The need to speak publicly about childhood sexual abuse is one of the primary reasons Rachel and I launched a weekly #SexAbuseChat Tuesday evenings on Twitter. Toward the same goal Athena Moberg, a Trauma Recovery Coach, and I launched a weekly Google Hangout for Survivors on Wednesday evenings.


NO MORE SHAME PROJECT


In November, the three of us will be publishing our first survivor anthology. We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the anthology project. To move even further toward bringing the power of telling and sharing the survivor story into the public domain Rachel, Athena and I are thrilled to announce that we have formed No More Shame Publishing! Beginning in 2015, we will be publishing survivor memoirs in both eBook and paperback format. We are so excited to move our advocacy for abuse survivors into this new realm. Look for more details about the submission process soon.


In the meantime, look for the first #NoMoreShame Project Anthology to be published on November 17, 2014. The project tagline is: Every Survivor. Every Voice. Every Story. Join us as we work to make that a reality in the coming months!


You can connect with Bobbi on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or on her website.


 


Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. NEW: Author Social Media Boot Camp! Take a look: group sessions for authors on a budget. Now you too can get affordable, effective help FAST! Follow @ASMBootCamp on Twitter.


 


All content copyrighted unless otherwise specified. © 2014 by Rachel Thompson, author. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.

 


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Published on September 28, 2014 16:05 • 26 views

September 20, 2014

stop woman pic


*Trigger Warning*


A talented author friend Amy Gigi Alexander pointed me to an opinion piece this past week in a journal (I’m purposely not sending you to it because, well, I’ll get further into that below), that stated with silly and outdated words (which the article author claims she used for effect) that trigger warnings for sexual abuse survivors are ‘poppycock.’ As is the right of the author and of the journal to share opinions, it is our right as readers to disagree. The reaction was swift: negative and uproarious from the survivor community (and I will say here, I like the journal — they typically publish great work).


The article author went on to say that while she herself is a rape ‘victim,’ she didn’t believe that trauma ‘victims’ could be triggered by reading content, and if we are, it’s because we’ve read too much misinformation on PTSD (which she claims is extremely rare and only exists in less than 2% of all (military, accidents, abuse) trauma ‘victims,’ and that all a trigger warning does is give us an opportunity to continue to ‘perpetuate avoidance,’ causing us to insulate ourselves from real life.


Finally, *trigger warning* she goes into an unrelated and extremely graphic description of a video of a young girl in third-world country being buried alive and stoned to death by a group of young men (with no warning and in far greater detail), which is where I stopped reading because, well, I WAS TRIGGERED.*


Let’s deconstruct.


TRIGGER WARNINGS


It wasn’t until I started writing my own book Broken Pieces, where I share my own experience with childhood sexual assault, rape, and other difficult topics, that I started to pay attention to and think about whether my content would trigger any readers who had survived such traumas themselves. I had a psychologist friend take a look, as well as an ER nurse, who had plenty of experience with trauma, particularly with rape kits in a trauma setting. With the exception of a few words (removed before release), they both gave me their approval. (Still, I do give readers plenty of warning that the material, while not graphic, can be triggering and is not appropriate for readers under eighteen.)


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Published on September 20, 2014 19:10 • 37 views

September 14, 2014

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As a therapist and trauma recovery coach I experienced significant distress among my clients this past week. Between World Suicide Awareness Day and the anniversary of 9/11 social media channels and the news were filled with triggering articles, posts, statuses and tweets. As a trauma and suicide survivor myself, I easily identified with the jangled nerves and recurrent painful thoughts that my clients were coping with. I get it. In a million ways, I get it.


Following the death of Robin Wiliams in August and now with September being National Suicide Prevention month it seems a day hasn’t passed where I haven’t seen an article, blog post or television report about the “why” behind people deciding to die by suicide. Some are quick to judge negatively, labeling the act selfish and an impulsive, permanent response to a temporary problem. Others make a valiant effort to unravel the complicated knot of feelings and circumstances that tangle together to create each individual’s “why”.


In the summer of 1994 I tried to kill myself. I’ve always been open about my experience, and have tried repeatedly to explain why I made the decision to die by my own hand. I haven’t always been successful in having others understand my “why”, starting from immediately after my attempt.


I remember lying in my hospital bed, after I regained consciousness, with wires and tubes running amok over and around me. In the hallway a doctor who had just spoken to me was, in turn, speaking to one of my nurses. I will never forget hearing him say “She had a spat with her boyfriend. That’s why she did it,” I wanted to scream, “No! That’s not it at all! That’s not what I said!” As tears flowed down my face I felt so misunderstood, judged and ashamed. It wasn’t about a silly “spat”. It was about years and years of pain, beginning with almost a decade of childhood sexual abuse, continuing with my husband betraying me and leaving for another woman, and building into unbearable agony following my fiancé telling me that he’d met someone else.


Yes, there are those rare suicides that stem from jealousy, guilt or an impulsive thought. But for 90% of those who kill themselves it’s about suffering from mental illness. It’s about pain, long term emotional agony. Yet, many people have never experienced such pain so they have a hard time wrapping their understanding around that explanation. Without that comprehension they revert back to interpreting the basis of the behavior through their own life lens.


Ironically, the “why” and the tragedy of 9/11 have come together to give me the best explanation I have ever heard for the reason behind one’s decision to die by their own hand. I remember watching the television footage on 9/11. One of the most difficult things to watch was the people jumping from the World Trade Towers to escape the explosive flames burning within the buildings. There was no way those individuals would live. None whatsoever. It was heart breaking to watch.


The reason why those people jumped is same the reason why most people choose to kill themselves. They want(ed) to escape the agony of burning alive. It wasn’t that they wanted to die. That wasn’t it at all. They wanted to live. But to live meant to face the pain of the raging fire. Circumstances had boxed them into a horrific corner with only two options. Given that, they chose what they felt was the lesser of two evils.


THAT is why people choose suicide. It isn’t that we want to die. We just don’t want to be in pain anymore. I realize not everyone will understand my comparison between emotional pain and the agony of burning alive. But those who have experienced emotional pain, especially long term emotional pain, will tell you that the feeling is a similar one.


Escaping the agony of decades of betrayal and abandonment, which had me convinced I was damaged beyond repair, is why I chose to take my life. I had never known life without pain, as my abuse started when I was a toddler. I didn’t know what it was like to live happily or with contentment. All I knew was pain. And I had reached my limit of enduring it. I had tried treatment, but unfortunately, the only options available to me were low quality and ineffectual. After decades of pain, with no hope that therapy or medication would alleviate my pain, I chose the only way I knew would permanently remove me from that pain.


As a society we need to do a much better job of providing high quality, easily accessible mental health care. And as individuals we need to seek an understanding of the pain those with mental illness endure every day, especially without the high quality, easy to obtain, treatment they need. Circumstances often box them into a horrible place where their choices are very, very few. Judgment isn’t the answer, because as long as there is a negative societal judgment the worth of those with mental illness is diminished. In that environment, treatment options will remain limited. If we choose compassion I have no doubt that more mentally ill individuals will choose life.


Welcome to new staff columnist Bobbi Parish! I’m beyond thrilled to have Bobbi here every few weeks, and I know you will be, too. Please welcome her to RachelintheOC.com and enjoy her wisdom. I’m honored to have her and look forward to her regular contributions! 

 


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Published on September 14, 2014 19:21 • 33 views

September 8, 2014

Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

If you want to be happy, practice compassion



~ The Dalai Lama


An English fellow with a fairly large following left a stark, terrifying message on his Facebook wall last week, a suicide note: he had swallowed a lethal dose of pills, he had given up, he was done.


NC-Suicide-Prevention-Ad


Predictably, and with swift action, hundreds of people worldwide banded together to get him help and fortunately, help made it in time. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief. He was taken to hospital and it is our hope, got the psychiatric help he desperately needs. The wonders of social media — saving a life, yea? Lots of shit happens on social media — awful, terrible things. But this was one instance where I felt buoyed by the wonders of technology!


I don’t know this man well, other than a few retweets here and there and reading a few of his blog posts. We’re not good friends, but he seems like a nice enough guy who has been going through a rough time. We’ve all known rough times. Having compassion for another is part of being human. So when I saw people criticize him for leaving his suicide note on Facebook, telling him to just get it over with, calling him a ‘coward,’ and other such bitter ‘tough love’ armchair psychobabble, I was appalled. Shocked. Upset.


But not all that surprised.


SUICIDE PREVENTION


September is National Suicide Prevention Month.


‘According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 3000 people on average commit suicide daily. Suicide rates are at an all time high for veterans. In addition, for every person who commits suicide, 20 or more others attempt to end their lives.’


About one million people die by suicide each year (WHO). World Suicide Prevention Day, which first started in 2003, is recognized annually on Septembr 10. World Suicide Prevention Day aims to:



Raise awareness that suicide is preventable
Improve education about suicide
Spread information about suicide awareness
Decrease stigmatization regarding suicide

This is most staggering to me: 90% of people who die by #suicide have a diagnosable/treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. Youth is especially at risk (bullying, gays, etc. Read more here at The Semicolon Project).


MY EXPERIENCE


I’ve not personally tried to kill myself, though the thought crossed my mind when I was in the midst of experiencing the childhood sexual abuse I write about in Broken Pieces (I was eleven). It wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to recognize and admit that. Not because of the stigma — if anything, I’m an open book. No, it’s more because I didn’t realize that what I was feeling — that complete desperation of wanting to make it just stop, and looking for ways to make that happen — was me actually considering it. Looking in my folks’ medicine cabinet and opening bottles of mystifying names colors stumped that lost, young child. A good thing, I realize now.


Fortunately, it never went further for me, despite depression, anxiety, and PTSD — I sought help as an adult and continue treatment (medical and therapeutic) to this day. The few times I’ve attempted to stop meds, the gray closes in. So, I accepted long ago that I will continue to go with what works for me. Because, despite what anybody else says about me or how they think I should be doing things, my depression belongs to me and not to anyone else.


COMPASSION


A few years ago, an ex-lover shot himself in the heart. It was as shocking as you would imagine it to be. We hadn’t seen each other in over twenty years though we had been in touch. In fact, we had chatted that day at lunch and I had no idea that anything was wrong. Those closest to him knew though, and, as I discovered later, not only was he an alcoholic, he had suffered from depression (most likely untreated bipoloar, given his predilection for high-risk behavior — drugs, bull-riding, black-diamond skiing, etc).


Many people who knew him felt what he did was incredibly selfish — he had a young son, debts, etc. I didn’t agree, and I still don’t. What’s lacking in that attitude is compassion, and let’s face it, respect. His burden became to heavy to carry any longer. It was his life. I felt the same with the fellow I mentioned at the beginning, as well as with Robin Williams’ tragic death. Who are we to play judge and jury with someone else’s life?


If someone is in pain and we know, we reach out. That is what good people do. Even if we don’t know what to do or how to do it, we reach out. That’s where compassion comes in. Being there is often enough. Calling someone names or making judgments about them says far more about those who say those things than it ever says about the person they are targeting. What are these people thinking?


(Compassion is my watchword for this year, and I’m trying really hard to have compassion for the people saying these really awful things, but I’m not perfect. They really pissed me off. The best I can come up with is that they must be speaking from a place of their own great loss and pain, and I hope they follow their own advice and seek help as well.)


Before you make a flippant comment, remember, this IS life or death.


We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.’ 


~ Paulo Coelho 


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Published on September 08, 2014 15:16 • 51 views

September 7, 2014

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Since I created #MondayBlogs in late 2012, even I’m shocked at what an amazing success it has become! Thousands participate each week, generating more than 5,000 tweets! And it is because of all of you that we can say that with a lot of pride and a big ol’ smile! As a thank you to all you wonderful #MondayBlogs tweeps, we launched an ongoing, monthly contest in April and we couldn’t be happier with the response!


The Featured Monday Blogger giveaway is our way to say thank you for participating in #MondayBlogs by giving you more exposure for you and your blog. Each Monday for one month, you could have a different tweet sent out by @MondayBlogs to all our followers and be featured on IndieBookPromo.com! But wait, there’s more! Following you, the lucky winner, on Twitter would enter others into the next month’s contest!


Nice bit of exposure, don’t ya think?


That sound like something you’d be interested in?


If so, enter now!


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Featured Blogger August 2014

Shikha at Shikha La Mode

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Rachel, Will, and Kate

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Published on September 07, 2014 08:00 • 19 views

August 28, 2014

An excerpt from my upcoming release, Broken Places, coming soon from Booktrope! Continuing along the same vein as my third book Broken Pieces (available from Amazon in digital format, print from Booktrope everywhere), I continue to write nonfiction essays and poetry about love, loss, grief, sexual abuse, and relationships in raw, sometimes graphic detail. This, is Shame.


*Trigger Warning — contains graphic language and references of sexual assault* 


 


SHAME


Shame doesn’t like to talk. She prefers to walk through a room, the center of attention, the girl that all the boys dream of, all eyes on her, flash and heels and lips and eyes, and hair.


freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net


Shame is the one everyone talks about but nobody talks to.


Shame wears pretty, tiny bits of clothes, fancy makeup, and drives a cool red fast car, the kind all little girls dream of when they play with their Barbies. She has all the hottest boyfriends, and even the occasional hot girlfriend, who shows up late to the cool kids’ parties as if she’s too good to be there anyway, and besides, ‘this place blows,’ she tells her jock hottie of the day, as she sashays her tiny hips poured into her ‘$1200 a pop paid for by daddy’ jeans out the door to the next coke-fueled gig.


Shame has a secret. Shame saturates herself with distractions, partying all day and all night because she’s desperately sad, filled with the loneliness of the lost, her heart a shell scraped so deep because she left it in an alley one night with her pride and her virginity when one large man pinched and shoved and filled and grabbed in ways she cringes to remember, in tears and rages, in nightmares and flashes she can’t ever discuss with another human.


Because he was an animal and that makes her one, too.


Shame carries this animal in her skin, unable to shake his eyes boring into hers as she fought and kicked while he held her down, sticking his furious cock into her. As she watched from above, she wondered aloud why he even needed to bother with a live girl, if all he wanted was a hole, he could have just as easily found some sort of household appliance to stick it in. A hole was a hole was a hole.


But he didn’t hear her mumbled words.


Nobody hears Shame. They follow her, watching her every move, but they don’t see her. They don’t see her terror, how she shakes alone in her room at night, how she wakes up covered in the slimy sweat of the animal, smelling his stink, flashing on his fetid breath, his flaccid penis finally moving away from her face, forever wiping his semen from her lips in the hour-long, skin-burning hot showers she takes


every night,


every night,


every night,


scrubbing away that which will never fucking die.


Nobody talks to Shame. They look at her, they stare at her, but they don’t embrace her. She’s not one of them. She’s this creature, this thing nobody will ever love or soothe, or even acknowledge. Shame knows this.


She was born out of fear and terror and hurt. She knows that she is nobody’s friend.


Because, after all, who wants to be friends with Shame?


(copyright 2014, Rachel Thompson, not to be reprinted without the author’s permission. Broken Places, 2014.)


 


If you enjoyed this excerpt, please leave a comment below. Want to join my street team, The BadRedheads (no red hair required!) and support my marketing efforts and get previews and cool swag and stuff? Learn more here. Be sure to get my occasional and completely non-critical but kinda cool newsletter here. Okay, off you go….

 


 


 


 


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Published on August 28, 2014 23:30 • 30 views

August 17, 2014

Girls with Sole


Please help me in welcoming Liz Ferro, founder of Girls with Sole to the blog today, as she shares her journey through the pain of sexual abuse and hardship that lead her to a place of healing and supporting others through fitness.


When I was born I was given to the foster care system. After living in four foster homes amongst trauma and turmoil, I was adopted at age two. At the age of eight my next-door neighbor began sexually abusing me and continued to do so for about a year. When my mom discovered what was happening she made the fatal mistake of sweeping it under the rug. Maybe if we ignore it – it will go away. Well, much like anything that needs healing –ignoring it can often do more damage than good.


For much of my life I felt helpless and out of control- like I wanted to run away from myself. I wondered if I would ever feel at home in my body.


Today, when I look into the mirror and study the lines on my face, as I often do, I know that I’m the same person that I was all those years ago….but how can that be?


I lean into the mirror and do my best to see if I can catch a glimpse of that person somewhere deep inside the reflection but I don’t see her. Perhaps she sunk to the depths of my ocean colored eyes. It seems that the deeper the lines and wrinkles of time begin to show on my face-the harder it is to remember that girl, and the smaller the chance of ever seeing her resurface. Never to be forgotten, and possibly to help future generations of cast aways find solace, the memories of her have been scrawled on paper and placed in a bottle that tosses among the ceaseless waves of my brain.


Ocean waves, like old memories, often seem playful and harmless just before they come crashing down on us with a thunderous force but I don’t have to worry about rogue waves anymore.


Over the years, an abundance of salty tears have washed over those bottled memories, transforming them into shards of faded patina sea glass and leaving behind only a mythical, beautifully mysterious, and yet, tragically misunderstood mermaid of who I used to be.


Like buried treasure that is never unearthed, those memories are buried too deeply to see the light of day. They will permanently remain on the map, however, and I’m glad that they exist because they are a big part of what makes me the treasure that I am today.


The old feelings of self-hate and patterns of self-destruction that was my life for so many years were actually the spark that ignited my passion to create the non-profit, Girls With Sole, that uses free fitness and wellness programs to empower the minds, bodies and souls of girls who have experienced any type of abuse, or who are at-risk.


The girls that I work with everyday in Girls With Sole programming are blown away by stories of this mythical creature. Surely she couldn’t have existed. They look at me now and ask me:


“How can it be?”


With all the things that happened to you – how are you so happy, Ms. Liz?


Finish Line FeelingThey participate in Girls With Sole programming; they read my book, Finish Line Feeling and before they know it, they come to me and say:


“You inspire me and give me hope for a good life, Ms. Liz”

I am sure to let them know that it took time and effort to get there. I worked hard on self-healing and took a microscope to my interior – carefully investigating the scariest parts of my mind, my heart and my soul. It took a long time, but with the therapeutic effects of running, biking and swimming….I found my way out of the deep darkness and into the blue skies of a life that finally felt free. The heavy weight of self hate was completely washed away and I came to the realization that the rest of my life would be dedicated to bringing this same realization to girls who need it.


My whole life I was told I was wild and crazy. This was never meant as a playful or funny compliment- like the two wild and crazy guys played by Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin on the old Saturday Night Live episodes. When I was young I had a sizzling energy, that, combined with my mistrust of the world, and my inner anger…..created a neutron bomb of wild behavior ready to go off at any given moment. I was prone to sudden, angry outbursts that were beyond alarming to those who witnessed them. I was always considered “too much” of everything that was unacceptable. I was too loud, too wild, too sensitive, too destructive and disruptive, too obnoxious, too talkative, too moody, too crazy, too much of a perfectionist, too hard on myself and others – just “too much!”


I was the kid that adults couldn’t stand. Teachers were frustrated with me and I spent more time in the principal’s office than in the classrooms of my grade school. On the first day of Kindergarten I was sent home for punching a boy in the face at the finger-painting easels.


I was kicked out of the Girl Scouts.


I made most of my friends’ parents very nervous, many of them asking my mom what she was going to do to tame me. Ritalin was often suggested.


In high school I was suspended for a week from school for taking part in a food fight. When the principal called my mom to tell her, he told her that I was an “animal.”


In college I jumped out of moving cabs when the people I was riding with angered me, and put myself in the most precarious situations because I was the wild child; the hell raiser; the party girl. Storms brewed inside of me that kept the glowing embers of self-hate and misery alive. It was excruciating for me at times to be in my own skin. I longed to feel at home in my own body. Thank God I kept running and swimming, and it was both of these things that kept me from turning to drugs and even from suicide. I knew I was “wild” and that people worried about me and for my well being. Sometimes I was even a little afraid of me, if truth be told.


When I was a young adult I was told that “a room full of psychiatrists wouldn’t be able to figure out what was going on in my head.”


Members of my own family often told me I was crazy, wild, directionless, and begged me to tell them what was wrong with me.


For most of my life, being a wild girl was considered a bad thing. Therefore, in my mind, I was a bad thing. I became a people pleaser and desperately wanted other people to like me so that I might like myself. I desperately hoped someone would help me recognize that I had at least one redeeming quality.


The quality that was unanimously recognized by all was that I was athletic. I took this and literally ran with it. I nurtured it because it made me feel whole, awake, and alive! I was a good person when I did physical activities. My body and brain thanked me graciously. In sports, taking chances and pushing things a little too far is a good thing. You can channel negative energy into something so rewarding and productive. I found an answer to my apparently questionable, yet unanswerable behavior that boggled so many minds.


I quickly recognized that athletics and fitness made me feel special and could do more for my mind and body than therapy alone could ever accomplish. Being an athlete helped ease the pain of repressed childhood sexual abuse and built my strength both emotionally and physically. Soon this strength spilled over into every aspect of my life.


Today I realize that being a wild and crazy woman – an authentic and thriving version of the girl that scared so many – is a very good thing. I’m still my wild and crazy self…but I have honed my prowess of fiery energy and learned to channel it in a positive way. Girls With Sole does this for our youth. It provides them with the fundamental tools to believe in themselves, to love themselves, to be fit and well in mind, body and soul, and, like me, to take great pride in their wild woman status.   Once you harness this power, and use it wisely and in a healthy way, you can accomplish anything. The girls in my programming quickly begin to learn this lesson – the lesson that took me over twenty years to figure out for myself.


Today I’m too happy, too energetic, too helpful, too loving and caring, and too wild and crazy…in all the best ways possible!


Transcending the pain of our past isn’t easy, but we all have the choice to rise up from the dark depths of pain and into the light. Oftentimes on our way out of the murky darkness, those same things that hurt us become the treasure we can share with the world!


About Liz Ferro:


Liz FerroLiz Ferro is the author of Finish Line Feeling and the Founder and Executive Director of Girls With Sole.


Liz has been featured on the NBC TODAY Show, and in Family Circle Magazine.


She is the recipient of the 2014 SELF Women Doing Good Award; the 2012 Longines Women Who Make a Difference Award from Town & Country Magazine; the 2011 American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland Hero Award; and the 2011 Classic Woman Award from Traditional Home Magazine.


Liz lives in Cleveland with her husband, two children, and their rescue dog, Rico Suave.

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Published on August 17, 2014 08:00 • 36 views

August 5, 2014

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Since I created #MondayBlogs in late 2012, even I’m shocked at what an amazing success it has become! Thousands participate each week, generating more than 5,000 tweets! And it is because of all of you that we can say that with a lot of pride and a big ol’ smile! As a thank you to all you wonderful #MondayBlogs tweeps, we launched an ongoing, monthly contest in April and we couldn’t be happier with the response!


The Featured Monday Blogger giveaway is our way to say thank you for participating in #MondayBlogs by giving you more exposure for you and your blog. Each Monday for one month, you could have a different tweet sent out by @MondayBlogs to all our followers and be featured on IndieBookPromo.com! But wait, there’s more! Following you, the lucky winner, on Twitter would enter others into the next month’s contest!


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Featured Blogger July 2014

Maria Savva at UK Music Directory

Happy Sharing,

Rachel, Will, and Kate

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Published on August 05, 2014 11:37 • 26 views