Healing My Life from Incest to Joy is a memoir of the choices I made and experiences that helped me heal from childhood trauma.
The book offers hope to survivors of child sexual abuse
Breaking Through The Silence
A great part of the damage of childhood sexual abuse is the silencing. When you break through the silencing – whether it’s communicating the truth to yourself, another individual or a whole group of people – you chip away at the wall, the prison, which was built around your voice, around your capacity to express yourself.
There’s so much to get over: the physical assault, the emotional trouncing, and the slicing up of your spirit. Writing the stories of how I was hurt and how I felt while it was happening improved my spirit and moved me along my path. I’ve watched myself gain more color in my cheeks and strength in the muscle that is my heart each year I keep writing.
I’ve used writing to extend what happens in talk therapy – taking ten or twenty minutes to free write my state of heart and mind after leaving a therapy session. It ends up being like a session and a half. What a bargain!
Healing Journey – Incest Camp
A preliminary explanation of this excerpt: I decided to go to an intensive program held at The Meadows in Phoenix, Arizona; one week of intensive therapy for childhood sexual abuse survivors. I called it an incest camp! The sixty or so enrollees were divided up into small therapy groups with their own therapist. Each of us would eventually receive an intensive individual therapy session within the group for support. Our group’s therapist was named Linda. Here’s a recounting of my session.
Reliving the Trauma of Incest
Linda said, “Now, Donna, I want you to picture your father coming through the door of this room. He’s going to sit down and you get to say whatever you want to say to him. My temperature rose; thoughts stacked on top of each other in my brain. My bloodstream revved up. I’m ready to lean right into it. Then she added, “Oh yeah, and your mother’s with him. Their elbows are linked together. One word flies out of my mouth, “WHAT?”
I gripped both sides of the seat of my chair so I wouldn’t take off. I looked down at my lap saying, “She doesn’t belong here with him.” Linda responded, “But that’s where she is. Where she’s mostly been as far as I can tell. Donna, can you look at them? You don’t have to say anything.” My head stayed down. I loved my mother deeply, completely. She was the calm to his storm, the tenderness to his treachery. He bellowed, she whispered. He raped, she didn’t. Never in my life had I let myself question why she stayed with him.
Facing the Ugly Truth
And now this insane therapist was attempting to have me consider something completely ridiculous, that my parents were attached to each other. My throat choked up, tears starting to fill my eyes. Linda reached over to put her hand on my arm – I gave a violent toss of my shoulder in revulsion and she backed off. That shoulder toss put me over the top. I heard a loud wail. Suddenly realizing that horrible sound was coming from me. I have no idea how long I cried. I said next to nothing. A part of me was cracking open.
I know that blowout session with Linda laid the groundwork for my deciding to start writing, years later, asking the question, a question I hadn’t let myself ask my entire life, “Why couldn’t my mother protect me?
Rebuilding My Life – From Self-Blame To Self-Love
Shortly after my divorce, I realized the importance of building a positive, supportive relationship with myself. It would be key to my healing. I needed to start seeing myself not as my ex-husband saw me, a second class member of a marriage or, even more importantly, as my father saw me, an object to abuse.
My decision to consciously pay attention to my relationship to myself – crossing that threshold from self-blame to self-love fueled all the work I’ve done to retrieve that “me” before the incest started.
To be in a good relationship with myself means I’m aware of and content with all of me – my thinking, my feelings, my body and my spirit – my imperfections and my strengths.
Making Tough Choices – Walking Away From Family
As I navigated through my recovery from the incest the family of choice I’d built would my ballast. I’m not sure I could have both told the truth and walked away from my first family if there wasn’t a second one. Imagine if it were absolutely OK for everyone to choose whomever they want to love and be loved by.
I’m mad that there’s this assumption that the best place for everyone to be is in a big ole’ family where everyone shares genes and ancestry and witnesses each other grow up, grow old and die. And if you aren’t in that, or don’t come from that, then poor you. What if the assumption were, instead, you get brought into this world by some characters. And if they don’t turn out to be good for you – for whatever reason – you go right ahead and find a different set of characters to love and grow old and die with.
Finding Your Tribe
You don’t have to stay with [your] first [family], grinning and bearing it or trying to change them into something they’re not. You don’t have to spend your life pretending to be someone you’re not, either. I decided to grab hold of everyone who makes me feel good and loved and seen, keep them up close and personal and let my life be enriched by them.
Moreover, I don’t think this biological family tree is all it’s always cracked up to be. I believe those of us who find ourselves in this predicament ought to do everything we can, with lots of support, to construct something better for ourselves out of the ruins of our first families.
We Are Not Alone – Relationships Are Medicine
The first draft [of this book] took three years. When I wasn’t working or playing
I was inside the pages of my book. Though I spent a lot of time in solitude, there was a sweet tribe of survivors shoring me up. All the survivors that came to my workshops were like flashlights on the shadowy paths to my stories. And my sister survivors were lighthouses standing tall and steady when I had to write out the storms.
All of that helped me to understand that I am not alone with my story. I’m not alone in my coming out, exposing my family and myself. No matter how alone I feel, I am not alone. I’m going to write it again: No matter how alone I feel, I am not alone.
Connecting with Survivors
Having built solid, healthy, strong, authentic relationships with other survivors was of critical importance to writing this book. I needed those relationships to stand on.
See – I think getting into healthy relationships with other survivors is more medicine. It’s a major antidote to not feeling alone. And a booster shot for despair prevention. It’s a salve on all the surface wounds left by people striking back at you for telling the truth.
This is dedicated to the tens of millions of us, survivors one and all.
Like so many stars sparkling near each other –
scattered across a midnight sky.
May more and more of our lights reach out
and illuminate one another.
P:S : (The book is available in Kindle EBook format.)
Donna Jenson founded Time To Tell with a mission to spark stories from lives affected by incest and sexual abuse to be told and heard. She wrote and performs her one-woman play, What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest to Joy, which is based on her own experience of surviving incest and what she did to make her life worth living. She leads Time To Tell What We Know writing and mindfulness workshops for those who have survived sexual violence as well as survivors working in the field of sexual exploitation.