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Archive for the ‘child abuse’ Category

Since I was 8 years old, I have existed with a sense of bad things on the horizon.

I know exactly where that came from – abuse by my grandmother, which led me to believe that my lot in life was to suffer, and if I tried to succeed, she would guarantee a horrid ending to my existence.

I could not change this reality – the expectation of doom was deeply embedded in the fibers of my soul. I reflect back on my actions over the years, and they now make a lot of sense – why try to be happy when disaster would be the outcome?

I have spent a lot of time in the last several years working on the abuse by my grandmother, which was the most core source of my PTSD. I have been committed to root out that dysfunction, and do all I could to recover from that trauma.

Last week, my writer friend Randi said something like “be open to embrace the blessings of what is about to happen in your world.” I was ready to act on that new truth – that blessing could be mine! For me, it’s best to just leave it at that – if I try to define the blessings, I limit how wonderful they could be.

The other morning, I woke up and thought “I’ve made it.” It signaled a deep feeling.

I’m not going to claim that I’m free of symptoms, or that I have fully recovered. The nature of the C-PTSD I have struggled with is too deep, and I still expect to feel its effects at times. But my world has shifted in a remarkable way.

I woke this morning and had to chat with my friend Carl, because I was just aware of a new reality in my world – the expectation of blessing!

Good things are coming my way, and I am ready to embrace them.

That is mostly a head statement right now, and I think it will take a while for it to sink in. So for now, I’m smiling a lot and basking in the glow of this new reality.

I’m just letting it sink in.

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Here’s a very interesting book I just found out about. The author candidly shares her story, to help break the cycle of abuse and the damaging effects that result from that abuse. Kindle-Wounds-of-the-Father-High-Resolution-188x300

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In the bestselling tradition of Smashed and Glass Castle, this raw, eye-opening memoir tells the powerful story of Elizabeth Garrison’s fractured childhood, descent into teenage drug addiction, and struggle to overcome nearly insurmountable odds. Elizabeth invites the reader behind the closed doors of a picture-perfect Christian family to reveal a dark, hidden world of child abuse, domestic violence, and chilling family secrets all performed in the name of God under the tyrannical rule of her father. Like countless teenage girls, Elizabeth turns to drugs and alcohol to escape. With smack-you-in-the-face honesty, Elizabeth chronicles the dark realities and real-life horrors of teenage drug abuse, living on the streets, foster homes, and treatment centers. She paints an unsparing portrait of scratching and clawing her way out of the grips of child abuse, addiction, and betrayal to find the strength within herself to save her own life.

 

Elizabeth Garrison has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and works as a researcher for the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. Her research focuses on the effects of childhood abuse and developing interventions to help children recover. She also is a well-known celebrity ghost-writer. Given her talent in helping others to tell their stories, Garrison decided it was time to tell her own story. Visit her at www.elizabethgarrison.info.

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I have been working on final edits for Healing The Writer – A Personal Account of Overcoming PTSD for the last month. An editor gave me tremendous feedback to help tighten the manuscript, and I’ve been making great progress on making those changes.

I have known that it would be a big deal to finish and publish this book, because it would directly expose the lies of my grandmother to the light of day, thereby robbing much of their power. It would also contradict her messages about being a writer. I will reclaim a lot of power by publishing this particular book, because of the subject. Even my doctor said “this book is a big deal.”

When I was 8 years old, my grandmother told me if I ever became a writer, they would “call me crazy and lock me up.” She reinforced the message in pretty hideous ways, which included saying the doctor she worked for could have me committed to an asylum, and then showing me what it would be like.

In one section, the editor suggested I might need to dig further down to get in touch with my experience of the worst abuse. I thought I already had, but as I worked on editing that section, I wrote additional content that was the how that little boy felt, at a deeper level than I had ever gotten to it. Later I had a “feeling memory” where I got in touch with what happened to me on a very visceral level.

I feel different about it now. A therapist I worked with for many years emphasized that we had to expose the lies. He used an analogy several times – he said it was like the old movies where Dracula could never face the light of day. If he did, he would wither up and die. I have experienced that effect a number of times, where facing an abuse will suck a lot of power out of it.

I’m in an interesting place. I feel lighter. I am more ready to publish this book. I’m astonished by how healing this process has been.

It feels like a huge victory, and I’m letting it sink in.

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About two months ago I was ready to begin the third rough draft of my next memoir, Healing The Writer. I had finished the second draft in the spring of 2013, and thought this would be a polishing draft. I also thought I had gotten most of the healing experience out of the memoir. I was wrong.

The third draft started at about 58,000 words. It’s now up to 64,000 words, and continues to expand. Just working on this draft has been enormously cathartic – it continues to flush old negative energy out of my system.

The memoir deals with abuse by my Grandmother (Mamaw) when I was 8 years old, which locked up my writing for many years. I already knew that going in. I had remembered the abuse, and thought I had moved through the feelings that had been stuck in my body. But like peeling the layers of an onion, there has been more to release. As that old energy has released, I have felt more and more free. But as well, I have also continued to learn from the memoir, as I put together pieces that seemed separate, but which are now invested with new awareness and connections.

I’m spending as much time on the last third of the book as I did on the first two thirds, because that was the time when the healing was happening. I begin to add things like this to the book:

In Chapter 36, as I began to feel the magnitude of the healing, I originally wrote:

“Words came to me, reminding me about how bold my destiny would be…”

In the revision, I suddenly realized where that bold sense of destiny had first come to me:

“Words came to me, reminding me about how bold my destiny would be – the certainty I had felt when I was 6 years old and knew I was to be a successful writer.”

I then remembered that I had talked about owning that sense of destiny – in Chapter 2:

“When I was six years old I felt very connected with God. I had a sense of peace about my world, and knew – I just knew – that one day I would become a famous writer. It was a sense of destiny as tangible as anything I’ve ever experienced.”

It had been so long since I wrote the early part, I had forgotten about including this, but it was the origin of “destiny” for me. It was powerful to have that destiny affirmed after the healing, and own that it began when I was very young.

Then in Chapter 39, I perform a visualization where I have a man bulldoze the house where the pain happened, much like Forrest Gump did with the house that had caused Jenny so much pain. I’ve published it in my blog, some of you have probably read it. I thought I had a handle on the full meaning of it. At the end of that exercise, I wrote:

“… the driver pushed the rubble backward, into the back yard. It took several passes for each section of rubble, but eventually he exposed raw dirt under the foundation, which hadn’t see the light of day in many, many years.”

In Chapter 40, I had originally written about a few weeks later feeling something holding me back, that still needed to be healed. I wrote in the early draft:

“I could feel a big, black ball of tar way down in my gut…”

In the latest edit, I revised that sentence to say:

“I could feel a big, black ball of tar way down in my gut – like the dark, raw dirt underneath Mamaw’s  house, exposed when the bulldozer cleared away what lay on top of it.”

The visualization and what it uncovered happened just that way, but I hadn’t seen the cause and effect. The visualization had an impact on releasing deeper abuse damage. Astounding!

I continue to learn from this memoir in most astonishing ways.

A friend of mine once said “Dan, your books write themselves at their own speed and in their own time. You just have to go along with that.”

I had predicted in 2011 that I would have Healing The Writer published by early 2012. Nope – it is writing in its own way and time. Back then I was writing about healing events that were still too close to me, and I hadn’t fully felt and released the abuse. Based on the expansion that has happened in the third draft, I’m now just leaning back and letting it happen without trying to predict when this book will be finished. I continue to get too much healing out of it to rush it.

I do know this – I’m starting to appreciate how powerful a book this is turning into, as I heal and let the story continue to blossom into what it is meant to be.

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When I began to explore the topic of my writer’s block, I published chapters as I wrote them in Life As A Human magazine. I did that to help me stay focused on the real story in what was a complex and intricate topic, and keep me moving forward with the writing project.  I published 29 chapters that way, and then I was able to see the best way to finish the book.

My friend Karen told me several years ago that she thought Healing The Writer might be the most powerful book I would ever write. Back in April, I read the polished first draft, then set it aside. I think it has taken me six months to fully appreciate the magnitude of the healing journey I chronicled.

Late last night I watched the end of Mr. Holland’s Opus, where he gets to conduct the symphony he spent years writing, played by former students. The final shot in the movie is a closeup of him with a powerful look of serenity on his face – like he accepted what he had created. I think I saw it that way because I had felt myself coming to that same point.

I picked up the Healing The Writer manuscript today and began reading it once more, with an eye to editing needed. I’m ready, and it’s time.

 

Below is the Table of Contents, along with links to the first 29 chapters. (The chapters are in reverse order by publication date in the magazine, and this will give a better idea of how to follow the flow of the book).

Healing The Writer

The desire to express, I was taught to repress,

 Has caused me a block, I wish to unlock.

I pick up the pen, I start writing again.

 I feel the flow –

        And then I stop.

   – Dan Hays October 1986

Part One – Search For Peace

One: Why Is This Fantastic News So Scary?

Two: What To Put On Paper?

Three: I Find My Writing Voice

Four: I Hide Out To Write A Book

Five: Scared To Put It In The Mail

Six: I Walk Away From Publication

Part Two – Nothing Left to Lose

Seven: Ghosts Of The Wheat Harvest

Eight: The Query Letter and The Question

Nine: I Abandon A Book – Again!

Part Three – What Mamaw Said

Ten: They’ll Call You Crazy – And Lock You Up!

Eleven: I Capture The Writing Vision

Twelve: The Creative River Flows Once More

Thirteen: The Writer’s Conference and the Fear

Fourteen: What Is It About That Particular Park?

Fifteen: I Can Have You Committed

Sixteen: The Fear And The Light!

Seventeen: Breaking Through – Moving Beyond Writer’s Block

Part Four – Down To The Roots

Eighteen: Red Rocks and Remembering: A Writer’s Road Trip

Nineteen: A Writer’s Journey of Inspiration

Twenty: The Landscape of a Writer

Twenty One: Publishing a Book: Getting One Step Closer

Twenty Two: A Disappointed Writer and a Backup Plan

Twenty Three: The Fearful Writer – Monsters in the Closet

Twenty Four: How My Writing Got Locked Up

Part Five – Freedom’s Just Another Word

Twenty Five: Insomnia – A Writer’s Night Journey

Twenty Six: Confronting the Fear – A Writer Prepares to Publish

Twenty Seven: “I’d Like To Read Your Manuscript.”

Twenty Eight A: A Writer Revisits High School – Part One

Twenty Eight B: A Writer Revisits High School – Part Two

Twenty Nine: I Am A Published Author

Thirty: A Hopeful Omen

Thirty One: Publicity Can Be Rewarding – Or Maybe Not!

Thirty Two: The Origin of Minute To Freedom

Part Six – Moving To The Light

Thirty Three: I Combine Publicity And Therapy

Thirty Four: Healing The Wounded Child

Thirty Five: Preparing To Leave The Dark Closet

Thirty Six: Independence Day

Thirty Seven: Little Danny Set Free

Thirty Eight: The “Don’t” Messages – Deep Damage Healed

Thirty Nine: Deep Healing and Destiny Arising

Forty: The Terror of the Dark Death

Part Seven – Free To Write

Forty One: Writing For Publication as a Healing Tool

Forty Two: Killing The Octopus

Forty Three: A Sign of Healing – The Poetry Returns

Forty Four: Am I Able To Work – As A Writer?

Forty Five: A Sign of Healing – I Become a Freelance Writer

Forty Six: Epilogue

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I haven’t posted in my blog for a long time. I had someone ask me about it the other day, and it nudged me to spend some time writing a post (thanks, Patricia!). What have I been doing? I have been accepting this statement as a reality in my world:

I Am A Successful Writer

For several years I have been working to overcome the effects of abuse by my grandmother when I was 8 years old. The damage was deep enough that it was a source of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The incidents with my grandmother all centered around – becoming a writer.

Healing The Writer

My next memoir will be about the healing process from that abuse. I fought with a writer’s block for many years, and didn’t know why – until I did some inner child work and uncovered the damage. I have finished the first draft, and am astounded by how powerful a book it is. A friend said a long time ago that my healing process has a life of its own – it unfolds at its own pace. He noted that my writing – much of it about my healing process – paralleled that pace, and my books wrote themselves at their own speed,  when I was emotionally ready to own and share that content.

I am settling in with becoming ready to publish Healing The Writer – it will happen soon. I think it has taken a while because the healing is so breathtaking and powerful that I’ve had to get used to it.

Writing Update

When I started coming out the other side of the abuse issues with my grandmother, I was able to go back to work, and looked for a source of income. I set up a business editing service – it went nowhere. I investigated going back to work in the real estate title industry- nothing unfolded.

In the meantime, I was working as a freelance writer – generating travel articles and getting paid for it. I did it for about a year and have said it felt like a “boot camp” for my writing.  I felt I had gotten all I could from it, and didn’t foresee it as a direction I could count on as full time work, hence my efforts to find work in other arenas. I see now I was resisting – trying not to see how powerfully I had been healed.

But I kept having more and more freelance opportunities – clients were seeking me out for my writing talents and skills. Over the first part of 2103, I had to admit how freely I could now write. It was tremendously empowering!

Then in July, I was contacted by the person who I had written the travel articles for. She was with another company, was looking for writers, and said “Dan, you were the first person I thought of.”

That contact has quickly blossomed into more challenging writing assignments – which I very freely and JOYFULLY handle with ease. I’m having a blast! It looks like freelance writing will continue to unfold and progress.

The balance is that I still have plenty of time and emotional energy to publish and publicize Healing The Writer, and begin work on my next book.

I promise to post more on my blog, and flesh out the details of how my healing has led to greater and greater freedom as a writer.

Life is good! 🙂

 

 

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I’m getting closer to publishing my next memoir, Healing The Writer. I put it on my website today as “Coming Soon,” with the front cover I plan to use. DanLHays.com

The woman who edited my first book said she thought this would be one of the most powerful books I would ever publish. I didn’t get it at the time, but I’m beginning to understand what she meant. I’m about to read the whole manuscript for the first time. I published the first 29 chapters on Life As A Human magazine, but have been letting them get cold while I wrote the final chapters.

Book Cover Cropped

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