December 5, 2017

The Abandonment Wound

I'm beyond thrilled to introduce you this week to Amy Paulson. Not only is she a powerhouse woman, but I have the honor of counting her as a friend. She is beyond skilled when it comes to working with trauma, one of the most authentic people I've ever met, and her heart is huge. I know you will be inspired by her words.

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Confession: I am the original martyr.  

It’s true. Just ask my husband. Or my parents. Or my friends. I always have to do it alone. No one ever helps me. In fact, I’m just alone all the time.

After 41 years and decades of psychotherapy, medication, meditation, healing circles, and all the things I am supposed to do to take care of my inner child, it still hurts. But, childhood wounds are deep. And, my healing journey is not linear.

For me, abandonment isn’t a myth. It was a true story. At least, my adoption paperwork said so: Abandoned at a police station in Seoul, Korea. No family history attached.

My adopted parents always reassured me that I was loved - otherwise, I wouldn’t have been left at a police station where I could be found and cared for. That made sense in my head. But, I couldn’t reconcile that in my heart. I tried to visualize my birth mother leaving me at the police station and being able to walk away. Did she cry? Did she look back? How could any mother do that?

I grew up feeling a profound sense of loss, an overriding fear of being alone, and the deep shame of feeling unlovable.

But, abandonment issues aren’t just for adopted kids. Anyone who has experienced loss, neglect, abuse, or lack of attunement (physical and/or emotional responsiveness) from a parent, caregiver, or loved one - especially during childhood - may suffer from abandonment wounds, even later in life.

As a child, my wound looked like trying to win the love of my adoptive parents by being perfect - straight A’s, dancer, musician, volunteer, and all the school clubs - then as a young adult, lashing out by engaging in risky behaviors (sex, drugs, and alcohol).

On the outside, I looked like little miss overachiever. On the inside, I felt alone, miserable, and unloved, suffering from depression, bulimia, and self-hatred.

As an adult, my abandonment wound looks like (still) trying to be perfect - then beating myself up when I’m not. Stressing over the small stuff. People-pleasing. Taking personally other people’s shit. Feeling like a martyr - or even putting myself into situations where I can be the martyr (then complaining about it later).

Sound familiar?

The good news is that it can get better. At least, it did for me.

The first step: acknowledge the abandonment wound.

While I’m not one for labels (that’s a lie actually, I have a deep love for my electronic label maker), naming my abandonment wound made me feel like it was valid - and that my resulting emotions and behaviors were justifiable. As someone who has always felt crazy, the impact of acknowledging my wound helped me feel normal.

Notice, with curiosity how it shows up… then honor the wounded child.

For me, this started with a list of the ways in which my childhood wound has affected my life. Though I love making lists, this one was painful, eye-opening, and like the naming exercise above, liberating. I listed out all the emotions, the people-pleasing and self-sabotaging behaviors, the fear-based career moves, and even the ex-friends and ex-boyfriends who meandered into my life, and who left, painfully and dramatically.


Sure, maybe not everything can be wholly traced back to my abandonment wound (there were certainly other wounds too), but noticing patterns - and trying my damndest to do it without judgment - has been super fascinating and highly educational. I now get to see myself with a whole new level of self-compassion for the wounded child that I once was. And, I get to notice, with much more awareness, when that wounded child shows up at my doorstep and wants to be acknowledged and loved.

Resource, resource, resource.

In the world of healing, resourcing is doing something that feels good, regulates the nervous system, and reminds the brain that I am not in danger in the present moment, so calm the fuck down and reeeeeeelax. So, when my wounded child shows up, and that familiar feeling of panic, scarcity, and fear of being unloved rises up in my chest, I do something resourcing.

For me, that looks like breathing, meditation, music, dancing, yoga, hiking, cuddling my cat, getting a massage, taking a bath, or watching movies that help me release my sadness.

Once the chatter in my brain and the pain in my heart subsides, I can, from a more regulated, state of mind, body, and heart, think about what might have triggered my abandonment wound. Then, I can move to the next step...

Own what’s mine. Dump what’s not.

With abandonment trauma (and most other traumas, for that matter), one of the most painful feelings is the lack of agency. I had no choice in being abandoned. Someone did it to me. And it fucked me up for years.

But, with healing, I get to reclaim my sense of power. When I find myself building a narrative about how I always have to do it alone, or how I’m always failing at being perfect, I get to (from a resourced state) acknowledge that my wounded child was triggered, own my own feelings, and then release anything that doesn’t belong to me (like someone else’s guilt, usually the result of their own wounded child).

Resource, resource, resource.

And, then I come back to my resources. Again, and again, and, again. Because healing, for me, is a lifelong, never-ending process of my wounds showing up, acknowledging and honoring them, owning my own shit, releasing what is not mine, and taking care of myself with self-love and self-compassion every step of the way.

When I pay attention, I get the opportunity to heal even the tiniest part of my old abandonment wound. And when I don’t pay attention, without fail, it’ll come back to teach me a bigger lesson next time around.

Ironically, when I finally did look my trauma in the face years ago when I reconnected with my Korean birth mother, I learned that I was never, in fact, abandoned. At least, not in the way that my paperwork said I was.

Learning the truth of my story hasn’t lessened the pain from my abandonment wound. But, it has helped me reframe my abandonment trauma into intergenerational trauma. Tracing back the legacy of trauma in both my biological family and my adoptive one, and seeing how those cycles impact me today, has been, in many ways, resourcing. It’s a poignant reminder that, it’s not all about me and my wound. It’s about healing generations of wounds - for my ancestors, and for my future children. And, that, is a gift.


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Amy Paulson is the co-founder of Global Gratitude Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to heal individual and collective trauma through innovative training, mentoring, and leadership programs around the world.

Once an orphan herself, Amy is passionate about healing and transformation for children who have lost their mothers and for those who most need to reclaim their inner mother.  She's served in the nonprofit sector as a volunteer, international program manager, finance manager, and board member focusing on projects benefiting orphans and vulnerable children in the U.S. and abroad.  

Based in San Francisco, Amy is also working on her first book, The Wound Myth (working title) - a story about her journey through trauma, growing up as an adoptee in a biracial family, reuniting with her birth parents, and learning to embrace her trauma as a powerful catalyst for change.

November 7, 2017

The Moment I Became Larger Than My Abuser

This week, we continue our series with Amy Oestreicher, who shares with us how she broke her silence, healed from the secrets that had made her sick, and created a life that leaves her abuser small and in the shadows.

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At 18 years old, I was prepared to make a lot of life-changes.  After all, I was about to venture into the world of independence – that April, I had received my college acceptance letters. When an unforeseen blood clot caused my body to go into septic shock, my life really did change forever.

It turned into six years before I’d ever be able to put food into my own body, rather than relying on intravenous fluids.  I eagerly waited for the day I could finally eat again, which came after a 19-hour surgery requiring three shifts of nurses and doctors. I’d be happy, normal, and finally feel like me again. Eating food made me feel again, but it also made me remember, even the things I didn’t want to remember, things that I thought a coma had permanently repressed.…like the hurt and confusion I had felt burning in my gut, but was too afraid to tell anyone about. Suddenly I was flooded with alarming memories of having been sexually abused by my voice teacher, also my godfather, for months before all this began. This huge role model in my life shattered my trust in an instant, plaguing me with anxiety that grew worse and worse until that stomach ache changed my world overnight. 

My mother always used to say our secrets made us sick. If I told a little white lie about what the latest cafeteria meal tasted like, she’d tell me that my body was really the one who’d be sorry if I didn’t eat the steamed vegetable trio of carrots, peas and cauliflower that kept Wednesday’s magic meatloaf company. If I told her I had done my chores when I was really diving head-first into the latest Harry Potter novel, she’d tell me I’d have to live with that guilt when she ended up having to do yesterday’s laundry. When I didn’t tell her what my friend had called me when I came home from school with a sniffly red nose and tears lining my eyelids, my mother said it’s not good for my soul to bottle up feelings so tightly.

My family keeps a lot of secrets. In a household with three older brothers romping around, someone was always looking to stir up some good-natured sibling rivalry or pull a harmless prank. Some secrets were more serious, I’m sure, but as the youngest and only girl, there were probably many things I didn’t know about, although I was always curious.  

I remember feeling exasperated as a child, feeling extremely loved, but not very “relatable,” because of the huge age gap between me and the rest of my family.  I learned that some things made the most sense to keep to myself.

If we didn’t talk about things, they didn’t happen — even if they had happened already.

While I sensed my family kept their day-to-day “secrets,” I kept a secret far more burdensome. When I was seventeen, my voice teacher started molesting me after promising to be my mentor, my godfather, and a man I could always trust. I didn’t mean to keep it a secret, but I was so na├»ve that I didn’t even realize what a pedophile actually was.  

I had no idea I was being molested and couldn’t fathom the idea of such a tremendous betrayal. I was just confused. Our family didn’t talk about things like that.

When I was betrayed by someone whom I really trusted, I didn’t know what to do. I was hurt, betrayed, confused, and afraid to tell anyone about these frantic, tumultuous feelings that were suddenly tormenting me every waking second.

I learned that our secrets do keep us sick. We lock emotions, memories — any terrible things we might try to suppress — in our fragile, mortal frames.

For months I kept that secret inside — the secret of something so horrific, I couldn’t even comprehend it.

My secret made me sick. All that anger, guilt and confusion. I felt it in my stomach.  And two weeks after I turned 18 years old, my stomach exploded due to a blood clot, which later was hypothesized to be caused from a stress ulcer.  My molestation was a very stressful secret.

Suddenly, my family could keep no secrets.

When the glowing baby girl of the family suddenly ends up in a coma for months and lands on the cover of every local news story, it’s hard to keep everything quiet. If you don’t share your secrets, people will tell your secrets for you — even if they’re the wrong secrets.

As my health worsened, the whispers of others grew louder. In an effort to stomp out concerns, theories and rumors about everything from anorexia to cancer to getting hit by a bus, my mother spoke the secret I had told her in confidence just two weeks before. Amy was molested.

My secret leaked when I was in a coma. In my sedated, comatose trance, it was too late for my disclosed secret to heal me.  When I awoke months later and my ventilator was finally removed, the first words I breathlessly shouted were, "It was him!"

This radical realization was overshadowed by the surgeon’s subsequent disclosure. I had no stomach anymore, I couldn’t eat or drink, and he didn’t know when or if I’d ever be able to again.

They had kept this secret from me as long as they could but decided to tell me when I appeared "healthy enough" to hear it.

But I was too afflicted by my own secrets to be saved at that point.  My secrets had made me sick.

Now it was up to me to start speaking up.

As soon as I was discharged from the hospital, although weak, worn and still unable to eat or drink, my parents took me to a lawyer in the effort to bring some kind of closure to the massive traumas that had happened. When you can’t fix a destroyed digestive system, you try to fix what you can and blame the nearest person you can persecute.

As we explained my complicated case and asked about the "ins and outs" of testifying in court against my molester, the lawyer looked at me compassionately and explained to my parents that I had been through so much. Testifying would be a terribly emotional, grueling process. What was important was that I heal physically.

So this secret was put on the back burner until I got "healthy."

Ten years have passed since my stomach exploded, and the headlines have slowly changed from "surgical disaster" to "medical miracle." I’ve changed from a Ms. to a Mrs., from starving for nutrition to hungry for life. But I still have secrets, and so does my family.

Every time my father drove us to a doctor’s appointment at my hospital in New
York, my dad would leave my mother and I for an hour or two.  Then he’d pick us up, and we’d never ask a word. Until he started going back to the city more and more, like a secret compulsion.

After a bit of spying, we learned that my father drove right back to my voice teacher’s street every week, just pacing up and down the sidewalk, waiting for that one moment where my molester would come out of hiding and my father would, well — I’m not sure. That’s one secret I’ll hopefully never have to find out.

My father was waiting for that final confrontation which I had given up on years ago.

My father could never hurt a fly, and has never been one to look for a confrontation. But I know that’s not what he was looking for. He too,was left so emotionally wounded, and ached for some kind of resolution to the hurt that was caused to him, his daughter and his family.

I’ve never talked to my father about his trips to New York. We all know why he kept driving back, but we’re scared to talk about it with him, mostly for ourselves. Some things are easier to not talk about at all.

I still get asked why I don’t try to testify in court now or why I don’t try to confront him or attempt to expose the sociopath that changed my life forever. I don’t think of it as a secret anymore. I know it in my heart, and it’s my truth. Just because I haven’t shared his name or confronted him directly doesn’t mean the universe can’t hear my secret.

To the man who molested me as soon as I turned seventeen:

I am not going to tell the world who you are. I am not even going to tell you this directly or look for a way to get my message to you.

I’ve shared my story.

I’ve written a one-woman musical about my life.

I’ve painted it, sang it, yelled it, danced it, known it, felt it, mourned it, accepted it, moved through it.

I’ve gotten married. I’ve gotten divorced. I’ve been betrayed, and I’ve been hurt, but I will not let that destroy my ability to have faith in my future, and have my trust put in others. It is our ability to trust that makes a rich and vivid tapestry of pleasure and pain, struggles and triumphs, trials and lessons learned.

You are my art, my theatre, my story, my growth, my lesson learned.

But you are NOT my secret.

As my mother said, our secrets keep us sick.

And your secret will keep you sick.


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Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright.   As creator of her one-woman musical Gutless & Grateful , the #LoveMyDetour Campaign, which was the subject of her TEDx Talk, she's currently touring theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness  and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences. She currently offers private coaching and consults for creativity, "detour navigation", public speaking, and social media marketing.

Subscribe to her newsletter for updates and free excerpts from her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, available December 2017.  Get your free creativity e-book at amyoes.com/create and a free guide to getting a TEDx Talk at amyoes.com/discover.



October 31, 2017

How to Overcome (Nearly) Anything

This week, we meet Amy Oestreicher, performer, speaker, advocate, and survivor. She and I connected awhile back and I just knew I had to share her with you all. Her story is an inspiration and I love how she has found her voice and gone on to perform and share her story with others.

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I’ve always thought myself capable of overcoming anything.  In high school, my nickname was Audacious Amy, ready to dive head-first into anything as a fearless, invincible-feeling daredevil.  I guess when you come into this world, your health is something you assume will always stay status quo, and your focus is drawn to the "more pressing" matters that come with growing up, like fitting in with your friends or making the dance team.

As a kid, I grew antsy with impatience, waiting until I was "older" to start dating, to go to the mall unsupervised, to learn how to drive. I was counting the days until I turned 18, giddy at the idea of college and independence at last. Two weeks after I turned 18, I was pulled into another realm where "waiting" took on an entirely new meaning.



What happened to me physically had no formal diagnosis. I had ostomy bags and gastrointestinal issues, but I didn’t have Crohn’s disease. Doctors were fighting to keep me alive, but I had no terminal illness. There was so much damage done to my esophagus that it had to be surgically diverted, but I was never bulimic. I didn’t fit into any category. Suddenly, I was just “ill”.

When an unforeseen blood clot caused my body to go into septic shock, my life changed forever. Now, it was my devoted family who waited patiently and lovingly while I recovered from a three-month coma. When I awoke, I waited many more months before I could take a breath of outside air once again. I became extremely well-versed in patience -- little did I know that I've have to wait eight more months before I was discharged from the ICU, six years before I could drink a sip of water or eat a morsel of food again and 27 surgeries before life showed any promise of regaining stability.

In the meantime, I became a surgical guinea pig, subject to medical procedures, tests and interventions, as devoted medical staff put hours into reconstructing and re-reconstructing me, determined to give me a digestive system and a functional life.

As a born go-getter, I've never been great with "patience." So I became extremely frustrated as doctors explained to me how "it would be a long road to recovery, but I'll get there." But healing physically and recovering my "self" emotionally, feeling my aliveness as well as being alive... I learned that this is a daily process, a life-long one. Life will not always be perfect, and there's no reason to wait until things are.

I had this fantasy that the day I was finally discharged from the hospital, everything would be "back to normal." I'd have my old body back -- devoid of any medical scars, tubes, bags or IVs. I'd be eating and drinking again. I'd be able to run, jump and leap like I had in dance class just the week before my coma. These surgeries would just be a "blip" in my life, and now it could proceed as it was meant to.

But I learned something far better. I learned my life as I knew it had shattered, but I could reassemble the pieces differently, but still beautifully -- like a mosaic. These "imperfect" shards of a life I longed to reclaim could create a work of art even greater, using the grout of experience and newfound wisdom.


I waited for the day I could finally eat again, which came after a 19-hour surgery requiring three shifts of nurses and doctors. I’d be happy, normal, and finally feel like me again – eating waffles for breakfast.Eating food made me feel again, but it also made me remember, even the things I didn’t want to remember, things that I thought a coma had permanently repressed.…like the hurt and confusion I had felt burning in my gut, but was too afraid to tell anyone about. Suddenly I was flooded with alarming memories of having been sexually abused by my voice teacher, also my godfather, for months before all this began. This huge role model in my life shattered my trust in an instant, plaguing me with anxiety that grew worse and worse until that stomach ache changed my world forever.

Although these raw, forgotten emotions were so overwhelming; for the first time, I realized I could feel.  I decided that I’d rather feel everything than nothing at all.

I felt myself start to materialize. It was then that I realized I had been waiting for what I had had within me all along – feeling.


Over a decade has passed since my life took an unexpected detour. It was a messy detour that put most of my anticipated life plans on hold, if not changing them completely. But this detour turned into the richest time in my life. To this day, I am still healing physically and emotionally. Every morning I make a new attempt to find who I am and to discover who I am becoming. If I had waited for life to be "perfect," or at least for life to go back to "how it was," I would have missed out on so many things. I would have never mounted my first solo art show after learning to paint in the hospital. I would have never written a one-woman musical about my life that I've performed for five years, written a play about my abuser, or given a TEDx Talk... If I hadn't had the audacity to set up an online dating profile for myself while still in my hospital gown, on IVs and recovering from a disastrous surgery, I would never have married the first love of my life.  And when I was suddenly hit with a divorce less than a year later, I learned that there is never a reason to wait to fully love yourself.


I may not know where my detour is headed, and the road may be terrifying at times, but that’s OK.

Not “waiting” for life to happen can mean simply showing up and staying open to where the path may lead.  Even with wounds that still haven’t healed – and that’s not a metaphor – I’m on the road.  If I’m willing to feel, I’ll always have my heart to guide me. Apparently you don't need a stomach to survive, but, a heart is indispensable!

They say that all good things come to those who wait. But what for? Every day is an opportunity to learn, to grow and better myself. I love the imperfect twists and turns my life has taken, simply because they have made me who I am. It has been a mess, having life as I knew it shattered to pieces. But bit by bit it's reassembling -- different, imperfect, but beautiful all the same.

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Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright.   As creator of her one-woman musical Gutless & Grateful , the #LoveMyDetour Campaign, which was the subject of her TEDx Talk, she's currently touring theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness  and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences. She currently offers private coaching and consults for creativity, "detour navigation", public speaking, and social media marketing.

Subscribe to her newsletter for updates and free excerpts from her upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, available December 2017.  Get your free creativity e-book at amyoes.com/create and a free guide to getting a TEDx Talk at amyoes.com/discover.


October 24, 2017

From Incest to Joy - Part 4

This week, we conclude our series with Donna Jenson, who shares with us about three powerful survivors who are "out" and making a difference from the world - who have transformed their pain to joy!

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We are swimming against the tide of taboo. All we brave and battling souls deciding it is time to stop abuse from happening to the children. I’m watching so, so many hearty hearts step up to microphones, web sites, and audiences filled with curious faces, open faces, even welcoming faces. I remember a day in 1998 – I had been invited by someone in Boston to lead a workshop for survivors. I had a most simple agenda – form a circle, say our names, tell each other why we’re here, look at a statue of a wise old woman who’s survived incest and tell us what you see. That was it. That was all. That was everything.

And no one came. Nada. No one felt safe enough or ready enough or curious enough to step into the light generated by a circle of people looking across at each other with open eyes, open ears and just maybe open hearts.

But the times they are a-changin’.

I went to Albany last month (Sept. 2017) for the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault Conference – to run a workshop for survivors working in the sexual abuse response world. That can be a mighty big step for a survivor – going from planery to lunches to rooms with power points and tables full of all the things dealing with the issue. See, not every survivor of sexual abuse is “out”, not even in organizations dealing with it. Some might be surprised about this – but we’re not.

But I don’t want to write about what I did over there in Albany. I want to write about what I experienced. It was one great big infusion of hope and inspiration. See, the place was teaming with activists. Activists who are doing remarkable things and who also happen to be survivors, like me.

Later I’ll tell you what some are specifically doing but first I want to explain how three in particular touched me – Mia Mingus, Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Erin Esposito – three Amazonian, childhood sexual abuse dropkicking individuals.

Erin, a deaf woman leading an organization serving deaf and hearing-impaired women, delivered her message so powerfully. Yes, she had an American Sign Language interpreter perched below her speaking into a microphone in front of Erin on the dais and, yes, the words being said were important – the details of her message.  But it was watching Erin, watching Erin swinging and throwing her arms out wide, her hands flashing back and forth in front of her face. You could see heat emanating off of her as she so clearly explained the struggles to identify and illuminate sexual abuse in families and institutions holding and serving deaf women and girls. Her excitement to make change was palpable and contagious.

And there’s Mia – a five-foot tall dynamo from San Francisco, driving her scooter around at top speed, sparkling up every room with her laughter.  Yes, she’s a survivor of incest, too, and polio and racism – lots of ands. The biggest AND was her larger than life belief that all this oppressive crap is changeable. In her workshop she told us we have to, "... respond to the real and messy realities of child sexual abuse when it happens in our families and communities."

The third is Aishah. We met earlier this year making the 3 Women Rising video. This rock steady woman has been working non-stop for 20 years to get this world on track. She walked into the banquet room, sat down, stared at what was going on and her aura reached out to Mia at the podium communicating – “Keep on sister, just keep on doing what you’re doing, doing what you do so well.” Oh, and yes, she’s a survivor, too.



It’s a big thing – these three particular and remarkable women being OUT; out in PUBLIC – proclaiming not just what was done to them but also what needs to happen; what to stop and what to start. It’s a big thing for me to be able to walk among them, hear their wisdom, learn their ways. The biggest thing is the hope thing. Hope that the epidemic of childhood sexual abuse can be stopped; turned around and stopped.

I have this great big hope for multiplication of more survivors coming out. Heck, there were at the very least 20 people out of 100 attending this conference who were “out” as survivors. That’s 20%. Excuse me but 35 years ago, when I was just whispering my survivor-ship to one sweet friend, there was nowhere I could have gone in 1982 where 20% of any group would have been “out” survivors. While I’m on this 20 kick – what’s 20 of something I’d like to see coming down the pike? Oh, how about 20 million bucks for a band of survivors to join Erin and Mia and Aishah to get all that they’re working on funded and finished.

Would 20 million do it? My guess is the three of them would say, “Bring it on – we’ll use it well and make it work.” Without even asking them, I’ll bet they’ve all been making miracles on shoestring budgets for years. So, just imagine what this threesome and a band of merry persons could make happen together.

So let me tell you just a tiny bit about what they’re into and give you some links for some more.

Erin, and her organization Ignite, are working with schools for the deaf where abuse has been happening. And, guess what? Unlike schools for hearing students, when a scandal hits the news the sponsors and the government say, “Change your ways or we’ll shut this place down.” Which turns out to be a double whammy since these places are also oases for deaf children in a hearing dominant world. So they get screwed twice.

And Mia – out there in San Francisco – she’s working within communities for something wonderful called Transformative Justice through the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective. Now, there’s a mouthful. She’s working on how to basically stop childhood sexual abuse AND make perpetrators accountable AND not use the criminal justice system, which breaks more than mends families. Mia tells us, “We cannot only resist the world we do not want; we must also build the world we long for.”

Then there’s Aishah and her remarkable #LOVEwithAccountabilityProject. Get this – she’s going all around the country promoting something that, unlike the common belief that to “tell” on an abuser in the family is to harm the family, so keep quiet – she’s got one hell of a radical idea. Aishah is teaching us the opposite – that it’s an act of love to hold the family accountable: the harm doers and the bystanders. To love the family is to stop the perpetuation of the harm and the silencing.

Thank you Erin and Aishah and Mia for your work, your perseverance and for modeling so graciously how to be an “out” survivor swimming against the tide.


Thanks for reading,
Donna







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In 2009 Donna 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. 

Her book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, a narrative of the choices she made and experiences she had that helped her heal from her childhood trauma, will be released by Levellers Press in Fall of 2017. For more information go to www.timetotell.org




Donna's book, Healing my life from Incest to Joy, has been released. In chronicling the physical, emotional and spiritual steps she took to reclaim her life and peel away the layers of damage done by incest, Donna has written a powerful narrative of one person’s journey of healing. And though the subject matter is deeply serious, she writes with her sense of humor firmly intact, reminding us that joy is possible in the face of great pain. Poignant and brave, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy offers a much-needed testimony for anyone affected by or concerned about childhood sexual abuse.

This is a book, “ …that is unique and personal in its detail, yet also universal and human in its impact,” says Gloria Steinem.






October 17, 2017

From Incest to Joy - Part 3

This week, we continue our series with the Donna Jenson, who explores the healing power of breath.

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Sometimes there’s a beckoning voice inside that can pull my mind away from worry, croon my fear out of its cage, or coax my ego off her pedestal and, instead, get me to pay attention to my breathing. Oh if I could only hear that calming hum every day, 24/7, asleep or awake. God, could I even stand it, that much peace? The breath can be like a well-varnished cherry wood canoe carrying me back to my very own best self. All it takes is attention – some days that’s the same as saying all it takes is a million dollars.

It seems to me my breathing was shallow in childhood. I don’t remember thinking about breathing back then. I did think about running away or at least hiding. I didn’t learn to breathe for health and well being until I was in my fifties. Breathing used to be the last thing on my mind, which is, come to think of it, lucky for me since my breathing didn’t need me to keep going.

It seems to me, back then, I held my breath more than let it out; each breath never went deeper than the top of my lungs before it turned around and left.


What changed my breathing? Dad dying, for starters. And writing. When I write about my childhood – the trauma years, the traumatic era, the fear infested decades – the deeper my breath travels into me. Writing has a pulse and it seems to me my lungs get exercised by the push and pull of the pen. Is that why I seem to write more about feelings when I write longhand? Tap, tap, tapping on a keyboard does nothing for my lungs.

It seems to me my fear of breathing is connected to all the times I had pleurisy – from age 10 to 17. I never had pleurisy after I left home.

Yoga changed my breathing. Every teacher has been hell bent on the breath. Last week Lisa told the class, “Send the breath to a tight place in your body.” I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that 60 years ago. Thinking my breath was a thing to be directed somewhere. Lisa acts like the breath is some kind of miracle medicine. Maybe I do too, now.

I just stopped writing, closed my eyes and let my mind ride down with my breath, curving up my nostrils, twisting down the back of my skull, down the back of my neck, take a left turn at the top of the spine over to that sore muscle under my left shoulder blade. And the breath circles round and round the muscle like a stream of water shooting out of a faucet turned on full, I hold it there a little while then have the breath trace its tracks back out again.

It seems to me it would have been a comfort, maybe even a healing, if I had known how to do that when I was eight years old and nine and ten and, and, and...

I didn’t know then but I know now. Lucky me.

Thanks for reading,
Donna


Read Part 4!




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In 2009 Donna 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. 

Her book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, a narrative of the choices she made and experiences she had that helped her heal from her childhood trauma, will be released by Levellers Press in Fall of 2017. For more information go to www.timetotell.org




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