Vulnerability and Resilience
My book My Father’s Eyes: A Story of Stolen Lives is ready to be released and inside I feel a resistance to exposing my story to the world. Many reasons come to mind for the resistance. One is it is an unusual and sad story. From experience, I have felt when I shared my story with others I get a sense of rejection. That somehow the loneliness and sadness I feel inside will rub off on them, so to keep themselves safe, they move away. This may not be true. It could be a projection created by my mind, or it could be a sense of empathic awareness. Maybe it is a bit of both.
Another reason I resist is wondering if it is written well enough. The questions inside my mind are, am I a good writer? Does it read well? Will the reader understand what I am saying? As I wrote the book, I wanted to bring in real-life experiences and tie it with the overwhelming effects of Post-Traumatic Stress. I want to provide an opportunity for the reader to glimpse inside the body/mind of the trauma survivor. The flashbacks, the unregulated emotions, the internal world of not belonging, feeling lost and not being a part of the world, let alone ourselves. As a social worker and clinician, it is important for me to learn and understand what trauma survivors go through. I have a deep desire for knowledge. Knowledge and learning from the experts help to understand how stress effects the child. I included a chapter on how children respond to stress and the developing brain. This knowledge helped me to know how my body and brain encoded the stress as this is what I experienced as a child. Now that I know, I must take responsibility for myself. Knowing this, the question becomes, how do I heal?
The other reason I resist is vulnerability. Being vulnerable is not easy. The story we tell ourselves is, if we are vulnerable we become easy targets for abuse and criticism. Fear of such vulnerability leaves us shrinking and going small, so we can be safe. I want to remain safe. Yet, paradoxically, I want the story to be told. I watched Brene’ Brown, Professor of Social Work at the University of Houston, TED Talk on vulnerability. In her talk she discusses the main reason we stay small is because of shame. Shame is certainly central to my story. My childhood experiences, my very existence was wrapped in shame. Being a product of adultery, family members saw my presence as a reminder of my parents’ betrayal to have sex outside of marriage, while married to other people. A violation of one of the 10 Commandments, “Thou shall not commit adultery.” I was not seen as an innocent victim inside the family. Rather, I was a reminder of the behavior of two adults. When my mother was killed, any protection to be provided to a child was gone. When my father fought for me, civil laws and family pressure kept me from being with the father who loved me.
Without any sense of connection or belonging, a deep chasm of loneliness was created. It is this chasm that I must go inside and sit to find myself. To belong to myself. I will not deny how difficult this is. There is no model, no internal representation of what this would look like, feel like or be like. This sense of not belonging is within my family tree. Researching my family history shows loss, unresolved grief, mental illness, escapism through religion and cutting off other family members if they did not conform to the dictates of the family’s religious beliefs. The truth is I am not alone. Other survivors of abuse and trauma feel this. A deep sadness of not belonging to themselves
Despite the fear and the feelings of vulnerability, the book will be released on April 14, 2018. This is my father’s birthday and I can’t think of a better day than this to honor a man who loved me but could not have me. My continual desire is hoping it helps others who may have had similar experiences and suffer from trauma. If I can help someone out there, then moving through the vulnerability was worth it.
Before I end this blog, there is something else I want to say. Following other trauma survivors on social media, listening as they share their stories, amazed at their courage and honesty helps me. We are in this together. Healing, learning, understanding and giving to others is our collective desire. You all are my heroes!