One Man's Journey from Childhood Sexual Abuse to Healing

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Matt Carey

shares with us in this article what it was like to write "A Small Boy Smiling," a journey of deep pain, but also of hope and courage.

Finally, I have written my story in the hope that fellow survivors of sexual abuse, of which there are estimated to be well over a million in the UK alone, might find encouragement and strength to get the help they desperately need to heal. I am very grateful to Sarah Paton Briggs, my psychotherapist, who  has  written  a  later  chapter, Soulful Space: Reflections On  My Therapy  Work  With Matt.  Sarah  brings  her considerable  expertise  and  offers  a  professional perspective to my journey of healing, therapy options, and practical advice to fellow survivors of sexual abuse who may be considering professional therapy.

Writing About the Abuse

A close friend (a clinical psychologist, CSA survivor, and a recovering alcoholic), who has  supported  me  throughout  my  recovery  suggested  I  provide  a  description  of  the psychological and emotional process I went through to get the memories of the abuse from the mind to the page. She told me that when she read the abuse chapter, she sensed that I had dissociated from the trauma, which is true; I didn’t think I'd last five minutes without breaking down. During a traumatic event and throughout the emotional upheaval that often follows, dissociation is one of the mind's most common coping mechanisms in response to feeling a sensation  of  threat  or  danger.  Dissociation covers  a  wide  variety  of  experiences, from  mild detachment  to a complete  disconnection  from  all  conscious  physical  and  emotional experiences. It is also a common symptom of Complex PTSD.

Whilst I had spoken about the abuse in therapy for many years, writing everything I could remember about what happened made it feel so much more real, and this horrified me. To be able to get it on paper, I decided I had to deliberately suppress all my emotions, as I describe below. I'm not suggesting this is the best way to do it, but it was the only way I could find to be as brutally honest as I have been, dealing with the day-to-day challenges of living with Complex PTSD.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which severe physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include sexual and physical assaults, natural or unnatural disasters, accidents, or military combat. The term PTSD  was  first used  by  veterans  of  the  Vietnam  War,  but  the problem has existed for a lot longer and has had a variety of names, including shell shock, battle fatigue, combat stress, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS). One of the symptoms of PTSD is that I often go into shock as the memories come up, and whilst I feel hyper-vigilant and very anxious as soon as I have been triggered, there is delayed reaction to my feeling the intensity of the anger, shame and guilt until later that day.

The challenge was to focus all my attention on the writing whilst doing my best to ignore the emotional trauma that was building up inside of me. As I contemplated making a start, I felt the trauma had been triggered in my mind, and under my skin (the symptoms included physical tension in the groin and lower back, nausea in the stomach, and pain behind my eyes); mentally I knew I was very fragile. I knew this was an inevitable consequence of confronting my painful memories, and that I'd have to accept and work through them as best I could. I feared that if I attempted to write on my own, the shame and rage would attack me, and I wouldn't be able to get very far with the written work. It was also important to me that my new flat felt like a safe place, which hadn't been contaminated by memories of the abuse.

As odd as it may seem to some (but for me to feel more able to suppress the emotions and get everything I could remember on paper), I decided to write down the memories in several cafes across central and north London over a period of six months. I wrote brief notes which gradually  became  sentences,  which  were  then  revised  to  become  paragraphs  and  a chapter, and which were eventually sent to my editor, Tom Bartlett, for editing. Being in a public place, and having pride and an ego, helped to suppress the negative emotions, so I could ‘get the  job  done’.  I followed  a  schedule  of  an  hour  of  writing,  and  then  I  went  to  an  AA meeting, or for a long walk in Regents Park or across Hampstead Heath, during which time I'd feel the shock, and the shame, and rage come up, and during this I'd practice some helpful concentration techniques to make sure I didn’t fully dissociate. Depending how I felt, I'd force myself to do at least three hours of writing about the abuse for two days each week, and then I'd leave it to focus on another chapter.

After some writing sessions, I felt I might lose consciousness. Whilst I didn't have any physical warning (unlike with a panic attack, I didn’t have any palpitations, or shortness of breath), I'd suddenly feel very light-headed and my vision would become slightly impaired. If I was out walking, I would immediately find a wall or bench and hold on tight to keep myself bodily conscious until the experience had passed. I avoided traveling on the Underground when I felt like this, and walking near traffic, just in case my legs did give way. (There were several occasions when the flashbacks to the abuse, and the shame I felt, made me feel suicidal; I didn’t trust myself when it felt like this, and so there was another reason to avoid taking the Underground). The sensation was as if I'd had a sudden rush of oxygen to the brain. Perhaps it was that the writing had released a great deal of energy which had been locked into the memories. Later in the evening, the suppressed emotions (the shame, rage, and sometimes the tears) would finally hit me, and I would make sure I was in a safe place, which was preferably at home. I felt so desperately vulnerable at this point, I couldn't handle anyone else seeing me like this.

The whole process of writing the chapter about the abuse was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting, but it has certainly helped me to release so much of the shame and rage. From start to finish, it took eleven months to write that one chapter.

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I do hope my story might offer some encouragement on your healing journey. It has been hugely important for me to know that I am not alone, and that there are professional organisations, charities and voluntary groups offering support.

The book also includes a chapter written by my trauma therapist Sarah Paton Briggs, called Soulful  Space:  Reflections  On  My  Therapy  Work  With  Matt, which  is  offered  as  a  free download  from  my  website. I invited  Sarah  to  pull  back  the  curtain  of  client/therapist confidentiality and write a chapter about my therapy sessions with her from the therapist’s perspective. The chapter offers a professional perspective to his journey of healing, therapy options,  and  practical  advice  for  survivors  of  sexual  abuse  who  may  be  considering professional therapy.

I welcome comments and feedback, in particular from fellow survivors, educators and mental health professionals.   Please feel free to contact me via www.mattcareybooks.com. 

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You may order Matt's book through his web site or from the OOTS Books section

Top 10 Practices for Navigating Complex PTSD - Part 2

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Pete Walker, author of Homesteading in the Eye of the Storm writes about his top ten practices for navigating Complex PTSD.

6. Meditation: There’s No Boogeyman in My Inner Closet

At my first ten day meditation retreat I was cooped up inside myself without distraction or diversion for ten straight days. Damn! That was intense. But it left me knowing at least most of the time – that there was nothing wrong with me – nothing inside me that I had to flee, hate or be ashamed of. Ten years later, during my second ten day retreat, I anchored that understanding by practicing… 24/7… this guidance from Galway Kinnell:

What Is
Is
Is what I want
Only that
But that

From that time on, I learned to use Vipassana to rescue myself from thousands of flashbacks. For me, the quickest way back to calmness is to fully feel what I am most reluctant to feel. Now when I get triggered into a flashback, my dominant urge is to find a safe place to meditatively feel into the sensations and emotions of my upset as fully as I can. Within twenty minutes, the flashback almost invariably resolves and I am once again at peace with myself. Stephen Levine’s Who Dies and Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart are two great books that teach this invaluable skill.

7.  Getting and Giving Individual & Group Therapy

I needed to be reassured by many good-hearted authors before I could face the fear of seeking help from a stranger. I was a client of various therapists off and on for twenty-five years. Without that experience, my effectiveness as a therapist would have been quite limited. Receiving and providing therapy have been the yin and the yang of my ongoing training…training that informs me about what can and cannot be accomplished in psychotherapy.

Individual Therapy

Numerous helpful short-term therapies, and co-counseling with my friends Randi and Nancy, made me want long-term, depth-work psychotherapy. As described earlier, my first foray with Kleinian Dr. L was awful. To avoid repeating this, I had test- sessions with seven highly touted therapists. In one interview-session after another, each renowned therapist tried to distract me from venting pain. It was so hard to believe. Each paid lip service to welcoming grief, but when my feelings surfaced, they apparently could not go where they had not been. 

After the sixth, I despaired about finding a therapist who would welcome my emotional pain. I reread some of the therapist-writers who insisted that shame about emotional pain could only be worked through with a supportive witness. I scheduled a seventh appointment and mercifully I finally found Gina. Hundreds of sessions with her over five years brought me profound relational healing. My toxic shame lost its life support system. My toxic critic became an endangered species, and at times I almost disliked automatically shooting it on sight.                               ~                    

Through my experiences as a client, I discovered in the laboratory of my own psyche what actually helps. What especially struck me was that all my helpful therapists reparented me to some degree. As an extra bonus, many also served as role models on how to do therapy. Thank you, thank you, thank you Derek, Bob, Randi, Nancy, Gina and Sara for your psyche-renovating help – for helping me truly befriend myself.

As a therapist I noticed that most clients suffer shame and self-hate over similar issues. I heard endless self-flagellation over the same minor flaws, “bad” feelings, taboo fantasies, and small potato mistakes. So many humiliated confessions about such common harmless human imperfections! How tragic that perfectionism shames us into hiding the same innocuous “shady secrets.” As I consistently felt no judgment about my clients “flaws”, the glacier of my own self-judgment gradually melted into a snowball.

I have facilitated more than thirty thousand therapy sessions, and frequently experienced healing in the manner I describe in Appendix 2. How blessed I am that I have had so many clients who I easily care about and respect. A great turning point occurred decades ago when I learned to quickly nudge bona fide narcissists out of my office. Dyed-in-the-wool narcissists do not seek transformation. They only want adoring listeners whom they can control and suck dry. Too many become even more entitled from the process of therapy – believing that everyone owes them fifty minutes of uninterrupted listening.

Group Therapy

What a boon that so many of my university courses featured group therapy. Sydney University was way ahead of its time. Antioch was the most profound. At Antioch, Will Schutz taught me to do anger work in a way where no one hurt themselves or anyone else. I often left group feeling purified by the cleansing flame of therapeutic angering. What a privilege to pass this gift onto others!                            

My disappointment in the poor quality of JFK groups was tempered by the sheer quantity of experience. JFK shortcomings matched the old saying: “Good and bad experiences are like the right and left hand. The wise person uses both to his/her benefit.” From JFK, I learned to avoid the mistakes that commonly spoil group therapy. I guarded my groups from being hijacked by narcissists. I immediately stopped shaming and scapegoating behaviors, and divvied up the time so that all members shared equally.

I was also a member of many support groups. Really liking and being liked by others with similar vulnerabilities helped pry perfectionism off my self-esteem. My men’s support group was the heart of my created family for fifteen years. My imperfections were met with nothing but kindness. I cannot thank you guys too much for your healing support!

This all culminated with an ACA/Codependency/CPTSD support group that I lead for twenty-five years. It was by far my most potent experience of the hub of mutual relational healing [see Appendix 2]. Members often grieved together about the pain caused by their selfish parents. They cried together and they angered together. They healthily blamed their parents for forcing them to fawn and abandon themselves – for making them easy pickings for exploitative narcissists. The group’s mutual empathy shrunk their inner critics and bred self-kindness. Most members went on to find at least one other island of human safety in the world outside of the group. I was not a “working member” of the group, but often felt vicariously comforted and healed by group commiseration.  I treasure everyone who “graduated” from this group. I wish I could name them for posterity, but of course confidentiality prohibits.

Sometimes when I flash back into alienation, I remember all the groups that gave me their esteem when “mortified” was my middle name. Accordingly, I often advise survivors to join a support group – on line or in vivo. Many respondents to my writings have testified to the helpfulness of such connections.

8. Self-Reparenting: Finding an Inner Mom and Dad

I am forever indebted to John Bradshaw for exposing the epidemic of traumatizing parents. Such parents create children who grow up developmentally arrested in myriad ways. Bradshaw gave us many reparenting tools to meet the unmet needs of survivors of such abandonment.

Over time, I also discovered tools of my own which I used to reparent myself and my clients. I taught many clients through modeling to take over the job of ongoingly mothering and fathering themselves.

In my own recovery, my critic upped its scoffing to a new level when I first heard about inner child work.  I had to bypass my inner child at first and just work with the concept of healing my developmental arrests.  Thankfully I eventually whittled down my critic and built a profoundly therapeutic relationship with my developmentally arrested, infant, toddler, preschooler, primary schooler and adolescent.

Through continually evolving my ability to nurture, love and protect myself and my various child selves, I customarily feel a sense of safety and of belonging in the world. [Guidelines for this process can be found in Chapters 8 & 9 and Appendix C of The Tao of Fully Feeling.]

9.  The Created Family: Healing the Loss of Tribe

The love of my grandmothers and my sisters, Pat, Diane and Sharon, helped keep my heart alive despite all the parental and clerical abuse. Growing up in New York City as a baby boomer gave me access to a wealth of kids on the street, and I had many safe enough friends, although I also had to learn to steer clear of numerous bullies. Moving to Dover, New Hampshire as an adolescent opened the door to more supportive friendships, especially the one with my lifetime friend, Bruce McAdams. Even the army brought me many good enough friends. I also met many kind and respectful people during my travels. All this gradually restored my trust in human nature.

Communal living greatly bolstered this trust. Fifteen years with kind roommates soothed me with relational healing. How lucky I was to come of age during the hippie times. I was especially fortunate to live for a decade in Australia while the Hippie Zeitgeist of loving cooperation still endured. During this time, many layers of my deep CPTSD fear of people dissolved. Empirical proof accumulated that destructive narcissists like my parents were a small part of the population. I bet they are less than ten percent. Sadly, communal living ended for me thirty years ago. Happily, it was gradually replaced with a looser sense of tribe. I experience my current clan as concentric circles of intimacy. My inner most circle is my wife, son and a handful of close friends with whom I can easily be my whole self.

The next circle is a group of old friends I see infrequently but immediately feel close to when I do. Outside that circle is less intimate friends and family members with whom I am usually comfortable via many years of safe interactions. A final superficial but warm circle is safe-enough acquaintances from my neighborhood, my son’s school and my membership in community organizations. Intermingling with various arcs of this circle are the many people I no longer see but still hold dear in my heart.

When I am actively engaged in flashback management, I sometimes visualize a human mandala of all these circles as Step 10 [Seek Support].

10.  Gratitude: A Realistic Approach

Yesterday I laughed aloud at a cartoon in The New Yorker. Moses, with the Ten Commandments in hand, was looking up toward God and calling out: “Now, how about some affirmations to balance out all this negativity.”

Twenty years ago I began my end-of-the-day gratitude practice. Upon laying down each night I spend five minutes using my breath to relax me. To better appreciate the day, I then recall ten things for which I am grateful. Even on gloomy days, I usually find ten worthwhile things. Usually it’s simple stuff: an especially sweet pear, something funny that Sara or Jaden said, a new flower that bloomed in my garden, a cloud with a striking shape, a sense of being healthy when I stretched, a dull radio background sound that suddenly morphed into a tune that begged for my accompaniment.

Gratitude is a thought-correction practice that gradually eroded the negative noticing of my toxic critic. Now, I refuse to let all-or-none thinking throw out the baby of daily niceties with the bathwater of normal disappointments.

Here is how I keep this practice fresh. I accept that I do not always feel gratitude while I am expressing it. As I argue in my first book, our feelings are rarely a matter of choice. But gratitude is more than a feeling. Gratitude is also a health-inducing perspective that with enough practice grows into a belief. So while I may not feel grateful for my wife while we are struggling about something, I almost always know she is a blessing in my life. And although life can bring unpredictable difficulties, bounteous wonder usually tips the scale and makes me grateful to be alive.

Sometimes I have difficulty with the homily “Stop and smell the roses.”  In my old all-or-none days, I was bitter when their perfume did not rescue me from feeling bad. Nowadays though, I still love flowers even when they do not move me. And, I still dislike it when someone tries to fast-fix my pain by pointing them out.

On a larger scale this is true of gratitude and love in general. At times Monet’s paintings, my favorite songs or even kindnesses from others do not impact me. Yet, in a wider spiritual sense, I am always grateful for these gifts because I know from experience that sooner or later I will fully appreciate them again. So, I accept the cyclical nature of feeling love and gratitude, knowing that I will repeatedly be moved by the bounty of the world. Color, flowers, nature, food, panoramas, music, movies, kindnesses, pets, and so on, will inevitably move me again even when they momentarily leave me cold.

Back in the late twentieth century, the practice of Be-Here-Now [based eponymously on Ram Das’s book] was considered to be the height of wisdom in many spiritual circles. Invoking “Be Here Now!” was supposed to make you instantly return to feeling grateful and loving. I soon came to hate this phrase however, because I hated myself for not being able to do it on command. Even worse, be-here-now was often callously shoved in the face of anyone who was having a hard time.

Once in a JFK group, a student sporting an ascended master persona told a woman distraught about the recent demise of her twenty year marriage: “If you weren’t so attached to the past, you wouldn’t be so upset. Try to Be Here Now!” Over time, “be-here-now” morphed into “just be grateful!” which in turn acquired a flight-into-light subtext: “If you just get your mundane head out of your unspiritual ass, and flip the gratitude switch, your pain will instantly vanish.” Unfortunately I still regularly see this shaming corrective use of gratitude…especially in Marin County, the nesting place of the world’s largest population of flight-into-lighters.

For my own use, I have ironically converted be-here-now from an elixir to a reminder: Be here now, Pete. Drop down into that pain and feel your way through it. Usually this soon restores me into authentically being here now.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff is a more modern version of be-here-now. It’s a great book title and idea by itself, but it’s instantly ruined by the book’s small print subtitle: And it’s All Small Stuff. Hopefully at this point I don’t need to explain the nonsense in that.

An anonymous reader sent me this poem.

In which I count to ten, grateful that:
Spider webs catch sunlight and moonbeams.
Long-lost lovers sometimes reappear.
Women make an art out of friendship.
Wisdom wanders the world planting stories.
People transform pain into blues.
Weather changes.
Sloths are not extinct.
Turkey contains serotonin.
Frequently accidents are not as bad as they might be.
Love abides.

Pete Walker is a relational therapist and author in California who both suffers from and treats Complex PTSD.  As many in the Out of the Storm community will attest, his books resonate deeply with those of us who endured trauma in childhood.  At the same time as he shares his lived experience with us in a way we can understand, he offers us personal and therapeutic insights into navigating Complex PTSD.   Pete's web site.

Navigating Complex PTSD through Art

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In her book An Artist's Travel Log: An illustrated memoir of exploration in a wilderness obscured by trauma, Martina Franklin Poole reflects on how art helped her to navigate Complex PTSD. 

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked her. She worked with women and children, victims of domestic violence according to the appointment reminder card in my hand.

“Some people like to hold an ice cube,” she said, more to her notes than to me. The previous week had yielded sage wisdom about feeling my feet, but without any explanation. I now had a diagnosis of PTSD and two coping tools. I thought of the noisy overwhelming public setting of my most recent embarrassing display of symptoms and wondered how I would ever find the mental clarity to look for an ice cube to ground myself.

It was the same year the news reported reuniting a kidnapped girl with her family. For 18 years she had been held prisoner and raped, even giving birth to two kids. For me it was 14 years and had one child, but I had signed a marriage certificate so it was hardly newsworthy. Yet there was that familiar feeling of detachment when seeing her story, watching it much the same way that I have always watched myself. I didn’t mention it to Ice Cube Lady. It didn’t really seem like she needed to know much about the actual violence, just that it existed. She didn’t seem to hear me and the sessions frustrated me. I decided I could manage on my own.

I was wrong. Fortunately, my next experience with therapy was different. After a brief intake interview I was contacted by a therapist who understood trauma. Marjorie was reassuring and infinitely patient. She had to do most of the talking for awhile, educating me about C-PTSD, practicing with me, and asking gentle questions. My vocabulary failed me. Perhaps my inability to identify more than three emotions helped her to discern that there was a long and painful childhood that I was escaping when I signed away my maiden name. She appealed to that invisible child with a handful of magic markers, and that is where my memoir begins telling the story, because that is when I started drawing again. I had difficulty telling her what I felt or what had happened to me, but I could hand her a drawing and respond to her. She would say “This makes me feel...” or “When I look at this I think of...” allowing me to agree and expand on the observation, to correct her and explain or to learn something about myself. Suddenly I had a language, and an ally.

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Broken Windows

It helps me to view complex trauma as an injury instead of an illness or condition. My childhood development was interrupted by my early experiences. That is why my flashbacks and feelings can’t be communicated with facial expressions and words. They can come out in colors on my page, and the relief of that discovery has produced a portfolio. When Marjorie suggested parts of that portfolio could be published to help others, it was neat to think that something positive could come from so much agony. I started writing.

The drawings for the book were chosen and arranged in chronological order. The narratives came to me in a more random order and surprised me as they came together. Early on I had given in and decided to trust her, even though I could not figure out how our time together fit into any logical plan of care. Writing the memoir gave me an overview of just how much we had accomplished. It also gave me a deeper understanding of the nature of emotional health and well-being. Therapy wasn’t about making some mysterious list of goals and checking off my progress. Marjorie was teaching me to identify what I was feeling, to know it was appropriate to feel it, to be able to endure it and even, hopefully, appreciate it. My emotions are not the source of my suffering. They are a temporary reaction to the suffering. Therapy was slowly teaching me to respond as an emotional being as I watched Marjorie allowing herself to respond to me.

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                                        Damage Undefiled

As a child I was carefully instructed that I was different and that others should never be expected to understand me. My body was somehow deformed or broken and couldn’t do what other kids did. I was only loved because they were my family and they “had to” love me. The words were reinforced with actions. It feels almost as though I was being specifically trained to have symptoms of C-PTSD. It’s not easy as an adult to replace childhood lessons like these. We need all the help and support that we can find. If my words or drawings help one other person to feel less alone or find words in therapy, then my book is a success.

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                        An Artist’s Travel Log: an illustrated memoir of exploration in a wilderness obscured by trauma is available on Amazon and can be accessed through the OOTS booklist.

A little about me: I live in the Pacific Northwest with my teenage daughter, two dogs and a cat. I work as a billing specialist for a medical group with seven clinics and a home health team. Our department supports both medical staff and mental health staff as we move toward providing complete patient care. I rely on my faith, my chosen community, my role as a mom, my creativity, my garden and my therapist to get me through each week.

Website: martinafranklinpoole.com               Twitter: MartinaFPoole                      Instagram: martinafranklinpoole

Complex PTSD, Radical Authenticity and Transcendence

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Leslie Browning, author of "To Lose the Madness: Field Notes on Trauma, Loss and Radical Authenticity"

Over the course of 3 years, my life has undergone the strangest and most beautiful of arcs, and I now find myself at the center of a surreal whirlwind….

A little background on me... my name is Leslie M. Browning. I am an award-winning spiritual author of eleven books and founder of the publishing house, Homebound Publications. In late 2015, I suffered the miscarriage of twins. This was but the latest trauma in a long succession reaching all the way back into my childhood. When the miscarriage happened, all the shock and pain amalgamated into a solid wall of denial. I'd suffered many traumatic events in the years prior to the miscarriage and this was the mental-last straw. I entered a severe depressive episode wherein I was suicidal. Later went on to be diagnosed with C-PTSD, Depression, and Mild Dissociative Disorder. I'd been in therapy only about six weeks when this formal diagnosis came. I was referred to a trauma specialist to start EMDR.

Long story short, the therapy didn't work. Shortly after starting EMDR, I began experiencing episodes of severe emotional flooding. In these episodes, I would go from being depressed to full tilt rage, to fight or flight, to crashing back down in the bleakest despair and exhaustion, and cycle back again. They happened on a biweekly basis for several months.

[Skimming over a very hard time in my life.] In order to transcend the meaningless loss and grieve for the life not lived, I processed the events the best way I could: through my pen.  Eventually, I took all of my journal entries from the time and put everything together into a personal essay and presented it for an advance narrative nonfiction class I was taking in college. At the end of class, something very interesting happened. One by one, my classmates started reaching out privately telling me of their own struggles with depression, grief, mental illness, and near suicides. It was as though my admitting that I wasn't okay gave them permission to admit that they weren't okay. My story seemed to tap into a larger conversation. Eventually, I decided to publish the story in a small book. Two years later, my cathartic writings have become a book entitled, "To Lose the Madness: Field Notes on Trauma, Loss and Radical Authenticity."

Unlike other books in my library, I wrote "To Lose the Madness" with absolutely no intention of sharing it with others; I simply wrote as a way to “process” this period in my life of severe mental strain and make sense out of the senseless.

The book gained momentum and as it did, I found myself flinching at the thought of revealing so much of myself on a public platform. Up until this point, only around 10 people knew of my breakdown and subsequent struggles. Just as I acclimated to the notion of my story being public, I was asked to give a TEDx Talk at Yale University's TEDx Conference on my story. In the talk I explore the philosophy of "radical authenticity" I mention in the book as well as my practice of transcending trauma. In the book, I also raise questions on what it means to heal. (In a society where we are socialized to "let go," what does it mean when we cannot? Does letting go equate healing or is it not more a processing of learning how to carry the load fate has set on our shoulders?)

After the miscarriage, I had dissociated—I couldn’t say the word miscarriage without having a breakdown, and there I was saying it to a room full of strangers, for a camera, for all the world to see. In some ways, giving the TED was freeing—to be “out there,” to be done with the denial, to own my journey (as I termed it in the book). And, in another way, it was terrifying. As a survivor of childhood trauma, trust isn’t my strong suit. I am trained to play things close to the vest—to hide anything that might make me appear weak. The TED Talk was like one public in-take with a psychologist—there was no denying it. I would be lying if I said the TED Talk’s release didn’t cause its fair share of panic attacks and moments of regret. I came face to face with the very philosophy I explore in my book that helped stabilize me: radical authenticity.

The reality of it all is settling within me as I ask myself the following question: Does my speaking publicly of the breakdown, the CPTSD, depression…make me weak or does it show a strength?

I have decided that this book, more than any other I have written, is a conversation starter and it is a needed conversation. So I―a notoriously private person―am going to share the story of my most difficult moments with the world. The prospect of this is both exciting and terrifying. Fear and trembling aside, I am 35-years-old, and I have come to realize that I have no answers―not one. I used to believe in answers but I don’t anymore. Instead, I have only my journey and the time has come to own it.

As those closest to me learned of my intention to release this story they asked me, "Why share all this with the world? Why put this much of myself out there?" The response: Because I’m broken. We’re all broken and right now we’re all isolated within that brokenness. The cure for the loneliness is connection—connection with that broken part of ourselves and with each other—and we can’t achieve that connection while pretending we are okay. We’re not okay. My previously published works were a lotus—an expression of hope—but I knew I had yet to speak of the mud—the darkness which makes these manifestations of hope an achievement of transcendence rather than simply one of literary merit. For me, leaving the story untold wasn’t an option. I knew I would have to tell everything that had happened not only for my own process of catharsis but for what I hoped to do as an author—to help highlight how we are all moving across the same terrain and suffering the same affliction, and in that, none of us are alone.

I don't know if my book will help others suffering from C-PTSD, depression, and Dissociation, but writing it, sharing it...helped me get through and take what was an unbearable journey and make it mean something.

I wanted to share my story with others who suffer from CPTSD because, more than most, I know they will "get" why I wrote the book and how hard it was to get up and own the whole messy ordeal.

Link to Leslie's TED Talk: https://youtu.be/a92jRPHu9wk
Link to her book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lose-Madness-Trauma-Radical-Authenticity/dp/1947003909
Link to her Website: http://lmbrowning.com
Link to the Radical Authenticity Community she formed as a blog for storytellers sharing their journeys in an effort to lift the stigma of mental illness: http://radicalauthenticity.community