Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Slay the Drama Dragon - BE YOURSELF!

"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Twenty-nine...

Well, I haven't posted anything about the Joy Journey since January 25. Are you ready for Day 29? I know I am!

I was so excited this morning when I read today's task! I've been unknowingly doing the very thing that was assigned for today since the day I posted my mission statement! Today's task: BE YOURSELF!

I have had the biggest whirlwind of an adventure since I last discussed the Joy Journey in my blog. In the last 20 days or so, I have been through the fire - and I have emerged refined and VICTORIOUS! Sparing the details, let's just say that as a Christian woman, I felt like I was "under attack" by the enemy, otherwise known as Satan himself. But one thing held true through every ordeal I was faced with - I remembered that I am BRAVE, COURAGEOUS, and STRONG. Remember those affirmations? Lo and behold, I am pretty darn sure those things have taken hold in my psyche, because I fought my way through every fiery trial and slayed each "dragon of drama" with my trusty sword.

So many survivors have a difficult time when they're told to be themselves... I would have counted myself among them at one time, but thanks to the time and effort that I've devoted to healing, guess what? I know who I am! Do you know how empowering that is?

Do you know who you are? Look at what you've survived already! Here's one thing you are: A SURVIVOR! What's holding you back? Can you let loose and let your true feelings and your true self shine through? Are you able to tap into your inner warrior spirit when you're faced with adversity? I challenge you today to do the very thing you've been dreading... Be yourself! Move through that pain and find the joy!

I'll be back soon with Day 30... that's right - DAY 30! This is it, folks! Can you believe it?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Many Thanks (Blog-a-thon Post 25)


Here we are at the final post of this 24-hour adventure of a fundraiser. If you have not yet made a donation to the Angela Shelton Foundation, please consider doing so. Donations for this blog-a-thon will be accepted until Valentine's Day (February 14, 2010). Click here to donate.

Thanks to all of you who submitted your stories for this blog-a-thon, and thanks to all of the donors. Thanks to everyone who kept me AWAKE!!! Thanks to my sister for watching my kids so I could devote my energies to this project. I cannot find the words to tell you how truly grateful I am for all of you.

Thank you, Joanna Doane, for inspiring me to stop making excuses and to stop saying that there's nothing I can do to help. Thank you for showing me that I really CAN make a difference if I'll just get off my patootie and do something.

Special thanks to all of the ladies and gentlemen in the "We Support Mackenzie Phillips" facebook support group, which has recently undergone a name change to include ALL survivors speaking out against abuse. I love you all so much that just the thought of you makes me smile!

A super-special thanks to Angela Shelton, who truly gets it. Angela understands that we're all in this together, and she works harder than you can imagine to be sure that we as survivors of trauma have a place to find the resources and support and LOVE and JOY that we all need so desperately.

Angela, thank you for all you have done and for all that you do... but most of all, thank you for teaching me that I have within me the capability to make a huge difference in the lives of others by first and foremost recognizing that I am not my trauma. I never believed in myself until I found your story. At 32 years of age, I have found TRUE confidence in myself for the first time in my life, and I owe it all to the things God has revealed to me through your story and your efforts to educate and empower survivors.

Watch "Searching for Angela Shelton" - the film that started it all - for free:

Dear Survivor,

So many people want you to know you are not alone. Over the course of this blog-a-thon, other survivors have shared their stories. Visit Survivor Manual to learn how you can find healing and purpose and joy through telling your own story. Share your truth. Someone is waiting to hear it. You'll see.

Blessings to you all, and thank you for everything!


You Had to Be There, Highlights (Blog-a-thon Post 24)

The "hi-tech" setup for the 24-hour blogfest:

The side-ponytail seen 'round the world:

Tracie's solidarity side-ponytail:

Thomas, the GREAT sport and his amazing side-ponytailish hairdo:

Such a cute couple:

Stephanie's solidarity side-ponytail:

Mary's solidarity side-ponytail:

Damara, who gave up on waiting for Mary to go to bed:

Marcia's side-ponytail solidarity Photoshopped and amazing contribution:

Laura the Cheeto Nanner Queen:

Stephanie's encouraging SQUISH:

Vanessa's necklace - "Angelic Love" inspired by the blog-a-thon:

Stephanie and Meko ROCK! (And so does Tyler):

Cheeto Nanner Queen's damage:

You Are Not Alone, Jack's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 23)

Dear Survivor,

Jack wants you to know you are not alone. Jack is Bill's son and Marijo's brother. (Read Bill's story in blog-a-thon Post 21, Marijo's story in Blog-a-thon Post 22). Here's what he has to say:

My name is Jack Stem and I'm a recovering addict in my 15th year of recovery (20 years since it began). My sister, Marijo, is a group leader for a support group for those dealing with childhood sexual trauma. The following is a brief synopsis of my own story of addiction and recovery and how I arrived at this place and time in my life. I believe that the environment in which I grew had everything to do with my choices and disease. Both parents were sexually abused as children as well as my sister - none of them told their stories until late in life. My mother took it to her grave and never spoke of it, my father finally told after coming to know of my own daughter’s sexual abuse as well as cocaine addiction and bulimia and my sister told when our father finally broke his silence.

My disease began in early 1990 as a result of chronic pain associated with a spinal deformity. At the time I was a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) in my eighth year of practice. I had no previous history of substance abuse or dependence and had never tried marijuana or any other mood altering substances. My pain had become more intense and was lasting longer than any other previous episode. After several prescriptions for pain medication my doctor stopped prescribing because he felt my condition had not changed significantly from the last time I'd seen him. Little did I realize my disease of addiction had been triggered. It was at that point that my pain and my addiction led me to begin using medications left over at the end of the day to treat my pain and to help me sleep at night. Because of the potency of the medications I was injecting, my disease progressed rapidly. Within 6 months I was nearly dead. At this point I decided the best way to deal with my addiction was to die. I had prepared a syringe with a combination of medications that would kill me rapidly. While walking to the stall in the locker room to inject my "cocktail" a resident physician with bright red hair came blasting through the door and paced back and forth in front of me. He was obviously very angry about something. Every time I tried to get around him to get into the stall he would walk in front of me. It was clear I wasn't going to get past him so I decided to wait until his temper tantrum was over. During those few minutes I changed my mind (actually, I chickened out!). The instant I made that decision the resident's attitude changed completely! He began apologizing for being such a fool, etc. He shook my hand and left the locker room. When I asked the nurses and doctors who this crazy resident with the bright red hair was, they replied, "There are no residents with red hair in the residency program!" NONE! I have no doubt this man was
an angel sent by God to keep me from murdering the father of my children!

A few days after this incident I ended up having back surgery as a result of increasing muscular weakness in my legs. It turns out there was significant damage to my spine and it was putting pressure on several large nerves leading to my legs. I now have 6 screws and 2 rods in my lower spine. Thankfully the surgery has significantly reduced the number of times I have any back pain. Unfortunately I was now addicted to pain medication. When I returned to work 4 months later I discovered I couldn't resist using those medications anymore. The first day that I chose to inject the medication I had been away from for those 4 months, I accidently
overdosed. Again, God intervened. My 4 year old daughter had forgotten her swimsuit for lessons. They came back to get her suit and she came in to the bedroom to give Daddy a kiss (I was supposedly taking a nap). She told my now ex-wife, "Daddy's a funny color". This incident forced me into treatment. After treatment I struggled for quite awhile. I had periods of clean time, but also had periods of using. It took 5 years, 2 relapses, getting busted, losing my license, losing my marriage and most of my worldly possessions for me to FINALLY start working on my recovery.

I have struggled financially and emotionally over the past 20 years, but the last 15 have been some of the best of my life! Achieving and maintaining recovery is a difficult journey, but it is well worth the effort! I began reaching out to those who suffer with the disease as well as those who love the person with addiction. Today, I'm a peer advisor for Ohio's nurse anesthetists, have an advocacy and consulting business for nurses with addictions, and consult with an attorney who represents nurses facing the board of nursing as a result of addiction. I'm an advocate and a recovery "coach". I try to fill the gap between professional counselors and 12 Step sponsors. With the recent knowledge of sexual abuse through our family’s generational legacy my sister and I have begun to tell our truths - we speak out together and sometimes with our father. I joined a support
group with my dad so he wouldn’t go alone and came to find that the men who have struggled with sexual abuse had many if not all the same symptoms I carried. It is intricately connected and a web of pain whether physical or emotional. I also help moderate online support groups for those in addictions and know how powerful
and healing they can be . . . [Online support sites are] a safe environment to share as well as learn that we are not alone!

Stay tuned for the final post of the blog-a-thon...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Marijo's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 22)

Dear Survivor,

Marijo wants you to know you are not alone. Marijo is Bill's daughter (read Bill's story in Blog-a-thon Post 21). Here's what she has to say:

Growing up our family unit looked really good on the outside – we all appeared happy and healthy. Inside, secrets that were too deep to be seen were buried within the heart and soul of both parents . . . old wounds, horrors and fears, tucked away but growing like toxic mold infecting the family unit. I was the youngest of 3 – two older brothers and when I turned 9 we inherited a 3rd older brother – my mentally handicapped uncle (my mom’s brother) after my grandparents died. Soon after moving in with us my uncle inappropriately grabbed me and hoped to lure me into much more with candy and snacks. Fortunately I knew better to stop him - but, unfortunately rather than tell either parent I used the threatening wrath of my mother to keep him at bay – I used fear to combat fear. My uncle feared her just like the rest of us. I never viewed this as sexual abuse, but minimized it since he didn’t get too far at the time and his brain was that of a child - so, it couldn’t have been his fault - right? Of course I never asked who’s fault it was, I just assumed it was mine - for close to 40 years (I am now 53). Fear became my best friend - it motivated me more than anything else - mostly it helped me learn how to hide and isolate. I also have very real and vague, strange memories that don’t make sense which I believe are repressed memories of other sexual abuse at a much younger age. I am now beginning to work on that in counseling.

Truth was not in my vocabulary . . . and so the toxic mold grew into a wasteland of terror, anxiety, despair, anger, depression, distrust, and a wrong belief system that my safety and security was up to me because I couldn’t trust that mom would stay in control if she found out and dad seemed more like one of the kids where mom was concerned - he had no authority in our home. I would never tell and I was responsible for my own safety . . . at the age of 9. I don’t think I have ever viewed myself as a child and as a result, I began living like a parent making adult choices, or what should have been choices made by the real adults in my life. I understand now that the emotional separation I experienced – the lack of trust with mom – had much to do with my poor choices and insecurities of low self esteem. My belief system was so skewed and damaged that by age 18 when I discovered drugs, sex and rock and roll – there was no stopping me. I was finally “free” of all my ugliness and un-coolness and literally got lost in the world of promiscuity and unholy-extremely-un-healthy choices, and it felt good. I hated who I was and was determined to create another person - I even had the spelling of my name legally changed at age 15. I did NOT want to be me anymore. Our little family became quite skilled at functioning in, around and under a huge elephant that decided to plant itself smack down in the middle of our home.

Over the years it has come to the surface that both mom and dad lived in homes that were built on sexual, emotional and verbal abuse - so their fears were passed on to their children. Since I have finally begun putting forth the effort on myself and learning about abuse and dysfunction - I have worked out all of the blame I had towards my parents - they did the best they could with what they were taught by their parents.

I now lead support groups for sexually abused women and help with an educational program that we present at our church twice a year dealing with Childhood Sexual Trauma. My motivation is to help stop this pattern and begin to show the victims that they are just that, victims and not at fault and that the shame and guilt does not belong to them. Holding it all in only perpetuates the sickness and untruths. I am also heavily involved with an online support group (via Facebook) that has helped bust the darkness of abuse even more wide open for me. There are literally hundreds of thousands of hurt and abused people out there giving very loud voices now in search of healing, justice and prevention. So many strong and courageous “ordinary” folks doing extraordinary services - I am proud to be a part of it all!

My mantra has become: A kept secret endangers the soul, wounds the heart and infects those close by.

Stay tuned to hear more about how survivors are thriving thanks to support they've received both on and offline.

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Bill's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 21)

Dear Survivor,

Bill wants you to know you are not alone. Bill is now 84 years old. At a young age, he experienced sexual abuse by his peers. At 15, he was molested by a cousin. Here's some of what he has to say:

At 19 while in the service, during a night out on the town, some buddies and I were trying to find a place to sleep. We met another serviceman who offered his room to share. During the night he began to make advances of molestation towards me, but this time I stopped it before anything happened. This left me with many questions of my manhood and self-worth. Anger and fear became my identity.

I had dropped out of high school when I was 16 - I always felt inferior because of my lack of interest in book studies. I bought into the belief that I was stupid. This coupled with the fear and insecurities from the sex abuse had paved the way of a codependent world full of depression, anxieties and a lack of self-esteem.

In April of 1947 I met the woman who would become my wife. And we fit like a glove - little did I know of her own abusive home life. Together our life was driven by her neediness and high-maintenance and my desire to fix, create happiness and give, give, give. I had become her “Knight-in-Shining-Armor” and it all felt wonderful in the beginning.

As life unfolded, verbal and emotional abuse would become my wife’s demeanor and our home would be one of continual unhealthy behaviors and her desperate need to control everything and my need to give up control to please her was what ensued for 60 years.

At the age of 80 I finally told of my story of childhood sexual trauma to my daughter after we had found out that a 3rd granddaughter had experienced sexual violence. Two others had experienced it as tiny young girls and the third while away at college. My wife had died and once these truths came out, I came undone . . . While spilling my story through tears, my own daughter told of her sexual abuse within our own home by my wife’s mentally-handicapped brother. The devastation of this truth is what finally began my journey of healing along with support groups and therapy. My daughter continues to share with all of us through not only the support groups she leads for women who have been sexually abused, but also through an incredible online support community. The many courageous stories she reads and hears daily have proven to make truth our family’s core rather than the foundation of lies and secrets which originally engulfed us all.

I believe speaking out and stopping the silence is one of the most important moves anyone can make in this journey - it then becomes a ripple effect which in turn helps many others. Thanks for reading my story.

Stay tuned for the stories of Bill's children. This family is an excellent example of how one person's healing can make a difference in many, many lives...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Angela's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 20)

Dear Survivor,

Angela wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

As a girl between the ages of 6 and 13, I experienced incest, other sexual abuse, domestic violence, and mental and emotional trauma. The violence, and, mental and emotional abuse lasted until I left home at 18. From a young age, I was taught, and learned, to wear deceitful masks (a most difficult balancing act), to try and hide the pain and the truth (though I didn't know that's what was happening at the time). I locked it all away as best I could. The best way for me to describe large chunks of my existence, was that of feeling paralyzed (emotionally and mentally). I felt numb a lot - dead in my head and heart. But, the masks hid much of it.

I have struggled with depression (resulting in bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder), anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks, low self esteem, eating disorders, alcoholism, drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, failed relationships, acute emotional collapse, suicidal tendencies, and struggled with school and work performance. For many years, I didn't understand what was happening to me, and when I started to get it, I searched for many more years to find the right answers, and right help.

I found myself on a spiritual healing path. I have learned healthier coping techniques to try and balance everything. I got sober. It has not been easy... with the negativity of the world always sideswiping you, throwing you off course. It has taken me a long time to get where I am. I have spent much of the past few years connecting with loving, caring, people across the world through the internet, and I now enjoy long time cherished relationships with people I not only call my friends... but - my family... Then came Facebook... and, last October of '09...

Mackenzie Phillips disclosed her story, a friend told me, and I began a search online. And, through Facebook, I found and joined the group: We Support Mackenzie Phillips & ALL Survivors Speaking Out Against Abuse. I was going through all manner of emotions and pain. Their stories were my story. I knew this was big, and I thought, "Here It Is!! - Now is the Time" - To fully Admit my truth to myself, and to others. My beautiful new friends, and long time friends alike, lift me up with their love, strength, bravery, and encouragement, and I am now able to stand as they stand with me. Some of it is painful.. but, speaking out and telling the Truth is So Liberating!! It has not been easy.. but, I must tell you - I am HEALING by what I am doing!!.. and I owe much of my success to online support of my friends. - I Am So Blessed.. and, I am so grateful!

Stay tuned for more information and more stories of hop and survival...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Elizabeth's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 19)

Dear Survivor,

Elizabeth wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

As a child, I was verbally, physically, emotionally, mentally and sexually abused. I don't remember a time when I wasn't afraid. Our home was like a field of landmines, and no matter how carefully you stepped, there was always one going off. Yelling, fighting, hitting, cursing, went on 24 hrs a day. I thought it was normal.

When an uncle [molested me] at age 11, I told my mother immediately. She brushed it off, saying he had been drinking and didn't mean anything by it. Later, she would tell me I was lying about it. At 12 years old, my mother ran off with him (he was her sister's husband), married him, and stayed with him until the day she died. I have been estranged from the rest of my family because they are all either pedophiles or enablers. And to them, I am just an attention seeking liar.

In the warmth and love and truth of the Facebook group, I have found my real family. I am valued here, I am believed here, and I hear my story over and over in their stories, and know I am not alone. From those further in their healing, I learn. To those who are in earlier stages of their process, I teach. We are the family we deserved, not the cesspools in which we somehow survived. Here we thrive on love, hope, honesty, and compassion. All the things we didn't get as children.

Stay tuned for more stories of hope and survival made possible with the help of online support...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

You Are Not Alone, Carmen's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 18)

Dear Survivor,

Carmen wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

I was born in post-war Germany, and I just a couple months old when my parents, were divorced and gave me away to be raised by a poor welfare couple who lived in a three-room hovel without running water or electricity. While this might sound awful, it was ultimately a good thing because looking back, I can see that, had I been raised during my formative years by my natural mother who was an alcoholic and a prostitute, I probably wouldn’t be the person that I am today.

But, what I thought was a “perfect world” came to an end just before I turned nine when my natural mother married an American soldier and together they tore me out of my happy foster home because Mother couldn’t leave Germany unless all the children that she had given up for adoption, were legally adopted. The Neumanns couldn’t adopt me because they were welfare recipients, and so Mother was basically forced to take me back. It was the most traumatic thing that ever happened to me – until, my adoptive father, Austin Forrester, a well-respected Army First Sergeant, began to sexually abuse me just months after my “abduction.” Luckily, my mother divorced him when I was 14, because I’m not sure I would have survived after I began to fight his endless advances. Austin actually put me in the hospital with internal injuries once when I was 14, after I threatened to tell on him. I was so terrified of the man, I lied to the doctors about my bruises, swearing I’d fallen off my horse, into a rockpile...

Suffice it to say, my entire childhood was hell. Life with my mother was an endless barrage of turmoil. By the time I graduated high school in 1969, I had attended 14 different schools and lived in a dozen different places. Whereas Austin had been physically abusive, my mother was mentally abusive, and so, to get away from home, I joined the Army, which was the best decision I could ever have made because it culminated in a very successful 22-year career as an Army journalist with a college degree and a business college diploma. But my personal relationships never got off the ground until I found my way to God at age 44. These events are all outlined in my book, “Rags to Rabbi” which can be purchased at Amazon.

Groups like this one are so very, very important, because they not only help us to find the courage to speak out BECAUSE of the moral support of others, but they let you know you aren't alone in this. When I was a child victim of mental and physical abuse, I honestly thought I was the only one these things were happening to. Well, today, I am NOT alone anymore - thank God!

Stay tuned... more survivor stories will follow.

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Lynn's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 17)

Dear Survivor,

Lynn wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

As a survivor of sexual abuse, including incest, and as an advocate for victims, I peruse internet sites in search of support, resources, and research. In September, 2009, when Mackenzie Phillips’ memoir “High On Arrival” was published, I watched her interviews. I wanted to hear what others were saying. That’s when I found the Facebook group: “We Support Mackenzie Phillips’ Decision to Speak Out Against Abuse.”

“You will remember… nothing.” I heard that phrase from my father repeatedly when I was a child. He was using pseudo-hypnosis to force me to forget what he was doing to me, which was, he said, my “duty as his daughter.” Then, when I was 12, my older brother forced himself on me, and used that phrase “You will remember…. Nothing.” (I don’t know if our father had used that phrase to hypnotize my brother, or if my brother over-heard it when our father was sexually abusing me.) I trained my mind to forget; the temptation to tell was replaced by the habit of not telling.

Incest was not the only experience I kept to myself. I did not know that I was not supposed to be in the corner bar with my father (when I was 8 and 10). By the time I was 15, my father’s doctor (a cardiologist) was giving me amphetamines, (Dexedrine and Benzedrine). My father told me that if I ever experimented with drugs, he would rather I get them from him
“than some scum bag on the streets.” When I was 17, I had to testify in court that my step-mother gave me Valium, and my father smoked pot with me. By the time I was 18, I was a full-blown addict, hell-bent on self-destruction by shooting meth and cocaine (see my memoir Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor’s Story).

Due to therapy after an over-dose, I was in my twenties when I stopped using speed. Yet I did not get to the reason for the drug abuse until I was in my forties. The secrets and shame shrouded me in silence until I was 43. It took me 3 decades to tell of what had been done to me! A return to therapy helped me put the fragmented pieces of my shattered heart together again.

Now, in my fifties, I share my story so others who are survivors of incest know that they are not alone. Groups such “We Support Mackenzie Phillips” have shown me that survivors can thrive in unity. “Our wounds are not a measure of one individual’s sad fate, but an indication of our unity with others.”

Stay tuned for more stories of survivors who gain strength from online support...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Sonia's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 16)

Dear Survivor,

Sonia wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

I'm a 27 year old incest survivor who was molested by my step-father from 6th-8th grade. When I was being bullied at school, my step-dad saw it as an opportunity to "groom me." I didn't know much about sex, healthy relationships and healthy boundaries. On top of that, I felt terrible about myself due to being bullied and being undermined by my narcissistic mom. Hence, my step-dad viewed his abuse as "sex education and a way to help me out." My step-dad taught me that being sexual is how you get love, validation, and power from people. He taught me that sex is how you cope with your problems... Sex is supposed to be a pleasurable act of love, but I learned that it was about power, control, humiliation and anger bundled up together. My step-dad told me to swear to God to never tell anyone, or that he would get into trouble. When you're a compassionate 12 year-old, what else are you supposed to do?

All of these "lessons" can severely impact how a child views the world and herself. I was showing classic signs of a sexually abused kid by acting very seductive and displaying sexual knowledge that most kids my age didn't know. It was a "cry for help", but none of the adults around me did anything. Even trained psychologists didn't try to address the topic of possible sexual abuse! I'm saying this to let people know that some therapists don't know much about detecting sexual abuse or know how to handle it. My current therapists are shocked to hear how my previous therapists missed the "in your face" red flags I was displaying as a kid. It's sad that the people who were supposed to help me turned the other cheek.

I was too terrified to directly tell anyone. My parents were rich model citizens that presented themselves well in the community. I felt that nobody would believe me or do anything about it, if I told. After all, my behavior led me to look like a "bad kid giving her parents hell." In reality, my step-dad's sexual abuse and my mom's verbal/emotional abuse was the reason for my behavior! My mom used to brainwash me how we would be living on the streets without our step-dad. When you live with abusive parents, you're terrified of just how much more evil the outside world is! All I knew how to do was act sexual, depressed and anxious to cope with what was going on. I kept my mouth shut about the actual abuse for many years, but this led me to engage in self-destructive behavior (abusive relationships, etc).

When I did tell, my mom threw it in my face by saying it's my fault. She scolded me for keeping quiet and how the abuse "wasn't that bad." People judge us for not telling, but I sometimes feel that telling can make it worse. While I don't want to discourage other incest survivors from sharing their story, I have encountered cruel people that won't understand where we're coming from. I'm sorry to say that I lived in a wealthy area that probably would have labeled me a disease, if word got out that I was a victim of incest. I'm glad that there ARE communities where survivors can get the help and love that they deserve. I am lucky to find other sources of support, such as this facebook group. It's comforting to know that other people have gone through what I have been through, and won't judge me.

Stay tuned... there are more survivors who want to share their stories with you...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Vivian's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 15)

Dear Survivor,

Vivian wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

After months of therapy, I still lacked any memories more concrete than a couple of still images, like snapshots, plus a collection of symptoms, nightmares and emotions. Not having any more definite "proof," I doubted myself, wondered if anyone else had such odd memories, and felt alone.

I can still recall the enormous relief that washed over me when I read the first response to some questions I had posted in the support group, which indicated that I was not alone, that someone else had nothing more than still images. Similar responses followed. It freed me to put less energy into my doubt and more into recovering from what probably had, in fact, happened to me.

Books can help too but are not always enough. None of the books I'd read had let me understand that my situation was not unique. Rather, they'd given me the impression that such fragmentary memories will be followed by others until the event is filled in. This had not happened at the time, and still hasn't happened today. Books can't replace the opportunity to talk with other people who have been there. That is what this group gave me, and it was of great value to me.

Stay tuned for more stories of survivors finding hope and help and healing online...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Renee's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 14)

Dear Survivor,

Renee wants you to know you are not alone. When Renee was very young, she was raped by a cousin. Later she was sexually abused by her father. She turned to food for comfort and struggled with the abuse's effects for years. Here's some of what she has to say:

I sought out all kinds of books and the now more vocal TV shows on people being overweight and sexually abused being connected. This is when the talk shows were finally saying something about sexual abuse during the 80's. I later found a incest survivor group, and a therapist to deal with all of my anger and betrayal for my mom and my dad. Why didn't they take me to a doctor for help when I first told about my cousin? Then again, when I was molested by my father? I had a lot of unspoken rage to purge on that subject. I did a lot of the suggested therapy writings, and anger workshops to help my own family establish healthier boundaries.

I got to confront both of my perpetrators that changed my life forever. Both ironically died in the same year. My cousin had been a perpetrator to many other friends of his sisters and family members. His family had many different types of abuses in them. His dad killed his beloved mom and then himself in their 70's. My cousin killed himself a year or so later.

I found this group about supporting Mackenzie Phillips because I was curious and did in fact want Mackenzie to know that I believe her and validate her and all the others that had their loving trusting fathers twist our need for a healthy relationship to a sick violated one. I stand behind her and all the other woman and men trying to stop this abuse. Even at this point, I try to be discreet in who and how I tell my story. I still have a need to protect the family image for my mom and dad's sake, even more than they tried to protect me during their shame.

This is an ongoing healing process to be a survivor of childhood sexual trauma. People don't understand that we have absolutely no trust for anyone because of our parents' betrayal. All of our relationships have and will be a product of what we do with this fact from here on out. I chose to forgive, and become better in my own daily walk with Christ as my guide.

God bless you all for giving us the space to speak and in turn help someone else.

Stay tuned for more stories of healing and hope and online support...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Anya's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 13)

Dear Survivor,

Anya wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by my uncle, both parents, and eventually, my brother. I grew up in an organized sex trafficking/child pornography ring, and from the ages of approximately six to ten, was forced to perform [sexual acts] for money (that I of course, I was never allowed to have/spend). Additionally, much of my abuse was satanic ritual abuse (SRA), creating additional obstacles to overcome internally. When I was older, I began working for a pimp (who I thought was my girlfriend), and continued in the life for some years after. After myriad abusive teenage relationships, I found myself magically aligned with the most wonderful man--who consciously and not, encouraged my self care and made attempts at healing significantly easier. Additionally, I began to find friends that had my best interests in mind, shifting my own self-doubt to a place of open-mindedness and even acceptance, regarding my history. At 15, I was brutally raped by a stranger at a high school/college party. I became pregnant, but was only aware after I'd miscarried. At 16, I was raped again by a "client". After increasingly distancing myself from my family, I began to allow myself to heal, although slowly at first. I'd begun the journey toward healing, and I'd begun to ask valued people in my life for help. However, in 2008, I was raped by a classmate, which eventually forced me to realize I was in desperate need of transparency, resources and professional help. I had just started therapy, but promised myself I'd continue, even though recovery seemed impossible. Since, I've been blessed with many people -- my partner, therapists and friends, all who wish me well. And while there are days I don't believe that I deserve one ounce of generosity, in large part, I have learned that the world can be kind.

The [online support] group has inspired me greatly. After seeing the public's response to Mackenzie's story, and seeing my own story glaring back at me, I found a great deal of solace in recognizing that none of us is ever alone. Even in the most impossibly paralyzing moments, we are, day in and day out, part of a strong and indestructible community of survivors. The group [is] proof that we are larger than what has happened to us.

The painting that accompanies Anya's story is one of her own creation. Copyright 2009 Anya le Dire, used with permission. (Thanks, Anya!)

Stay tuned for even more stories of support and strength in numbers... online resources are invaluable, and that is why I'm working so hard to bring attention to what's available for survivors.

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Stephanie's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 12)

Dear Survivor, Stephanie wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

My name is Stephanie C. and I am a survivor of sexual abuse. It started when I was sixteen and went on for a year, which is when I found the courage to leave. Unfortunately I didn't have many places to choose from when deciding where to move so I ended up moving into a physically and emotionally abusive home. I grew more and more depressed and knew I wasn't going to live much longer in this situation because I had no one to turn to about the sexual abuse or the physical abuse, I felt so alone. That's when I turned to resources and support from the internet. I found great support from many people who have been through similar situations and I found heroes like Mackenzie Phillips, Angela Shelton, and Mariska Hargitay throughout my journey who inspired me to fight for my safety. I knew that I had to get out of the home that I was in but I didn't have anywhere else to go other than back to my perpetrator, so I went back. I had raised enough suspicion to have social services come and make check-ins and I had threatened my abuser that if it happened again I would tell the social worker. I had scared him enough that he never tried it again and I am eighteen now.

Through the help of my online support and my heroes, my voice is becoming stronger and I am on a beautiful healing journey. When I first heard Mackenzie's story I was so inspired by her courage to speak out that I decided to do the same in hopes that I can inspire others to seek help as well. Mackenzie made me realize that I CAN make a difference and help so many others if I take a stand to fight against the horrible crime of sexual abuse, so that is exactly what I am going to do. I am currently in University working on my masters in psychology and I have dreams of opening up my own non-profit for survivors. Mackenzie Phillips, Angela Shelton, and Mariska Hargitay have all inspired me and changed my life, they gave me my life back and I am finally living again. I am going to use my new found life to help as many survivors as I possibly can. I am a big dreamer and I will never give up.

Stay tuned for more survivor stories... gotta love that ripple effect!

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Little Di's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 11)

Dear Survivor,

Little Di wants you to know you are not alone. She was sexually abused at about 7-9 years of age by an uncle. She was later abused by her father, and also by an older cousin. Here's what she has to say:

What I remember the most vividly is being in my father's room while he was doing whatever to me and my mind leaving my body, listening to my friends playing outside and wishing I was there with them. The picture I chose to share with my story reflects that, but the irony of the picture is that it's titled "Waiting On Daddy". I also only remember little bits from my childhood until I was about maybe 12 or 13 years old. My abuse went on until my later teens. It only stopped when he and my mother separated. It happened (I think) one more time when I went to visit him and after that I would not go visit him alone. A boyfriend (or later, my husband) always went with me.

Also during my pre-teen years and my early teens, my father would have card parties. I had an older cousin who would pretend to go to the bathroom and come in my room and abuse me. I don't remember how many times this happened. Adult men have touched me inappropriately, and I even had a boss who kissed me in an elevator out of the blue. It took time and therapy for me to stop believing that I was the bad person. For a long time, I felt I was the one causing all these things to happen to me.

The reason I joined the Facebook group is because not too many women talk about sexual abuse with their own biological fathers. I was so proud of Mackenzie Phillips for finally speaking about it. When I found the group, it was such a relief to feel I was not alone. When my father acted like a dad, I loved him dearly. He was my confidant and I miss him horribly. I know that is hard for many people to understand, but like Mackenzie, I separated the abusive "bad man" from my daddy. It is so hard to talk about that dynamic, but I know that some of the people in our group can understand me and not judge me. For that I am so grateful for this group.

The painting in this blog post (Waiting on Daddy) is used with the express permission of the artist, Merryl Jaye. Little Di and I would like to thank her for blessing us by allowing us to use the painting in my blog-a-thon.

Stay tuned for more stories of survival and support...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Kerri's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 10)

Dear Survivor,

Kerri wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

When I was two or three, my grandma and granddaddy used to babysit me while my mom went to school or work. My uncle and his best friend would take me into my uncle’s room and [abuse me]. They both had to be about 15... At one point, I remember fighting and clenching my teeth together. I fell through the springs on the bed and cut my ankle-pretty badly... I remember completely wrapping myself up in a blanket. My uncle and his best friend were laughing and one of them picked me up in the blanket and tossed me in his closet and shut the door. I don’t know how long I stayed... When I got out of the blanket and the closet, I got a spanking. My uncle had told my grandma that I cut my ankle jumping on the bed and hid in the closet. She also spanked me for getting blood on her blanket. I am sure there is more. But, I don’t remember it. I also had an uncle who I am 100% positive touched me inappropriately. I think I was maybe two. From the time I can remember until I was about six, I witnessed my biological father repeatedly rape my sister. We shared a room and a bed.

Kerri is also a member of our support group, the group that flourishes partly because of information our members and leaders receive from the Angela Shelton Foundation. Kerri says:

This group has helped me tremendously. First, I do not worry about anyone around me feeling guilty for anything that did or didn’t happen to me when I was a child. My sister takes a lot of blame and holds a lot of guilt so I don’t tell her a lot of things. Secondly, I get to feel like I help people. I also get to talk to people who don’t judge me and basically just let me be me. A bonus, I don't get those looks. Everyone that has ever disclosed knows those looks. The, "you poor thing" or "you are f***ing crazy" looks. I don’t feel pushed to disclose or pushed to help. It is just a nice, warm, safe place.

Stay tuned for more stories of survival and hope...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Belle's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 9)

Dear Survivor,

Belle wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

When Mackenzie Phillips took the courageous step to talk publicly about her abuse, I was awakened. For me, the timing of this announcement was lifesaving. I am a survivor of childhood abuse. I was molested at an early age, first by a close family member, then by a neighbor. There was a lot of emotional confusion. I was angry and unable to process what happened over time.

As I got older, I turned to drugs and alcohol to hide my pain. I also hid my own memories from myself until one day 2 years ago. It may be hard to believe, but it is so true, and sadly very common. Also, when children are abused, they often have deficits in areas such as knowing when a situation is unsafe. My judgement was clouded by the abuse. I was raped in college. I became a vulnerable adult, unable to trust or read others, afraid of certain touches, avoiding triggers without even knowing what they were or why I avoided them.

After a (supposedly devastating) career layoff in 2004, I went back to college as an adult to earn a teaching certificate. I was very excited to teach, and chose very specific students. I work with students identified as having a disability EBD which stands for emotional and behavioral disorders. I told myself that this was my choice because I like the at-risk kids, more challenging, and you get to work one-on-one and in small groups. During my first official week as a teacher, I was talking with a student 1:1. The student shared a story of abuse that jolted me into the reality. I started to have vivid and very real images reflecting my own trauma. It was hell. I tried to stop it with excessive amounts of anything I could find (ignoring, smoking, pills, alcohol), but nothing was stopping the truth. I lost my job, partly due to my inability to control my emotions. The stress caused such emotional and physical pain that it became unbearable. I was in a very bad place, and felt so alone. I considered ways to end this life, despite having a family who needs me.

I had no choice. It was either get help or die. I decided to go back to the therapist that I had tried years before (but never gave it a chance). Then, Mack came out in the fall, and I was so thrilled to have a celebrity taking that step, so I wanted to support her. How lucky was I that Megan had started this Facebook group? I had just joined Facebook weeks earlier.

We need to speak out against childhood abuse. We need to protect the kids who can not protect themselves. We need to change laws to help prevent future trauma. We need to be loud enough for general society to change! I speak out about my story because it helps me heal, and because in telling my story, I hope to help someone else the way that Megan, Mack, and my support system helped me! Life began for me the day I decided to begin healing, and now I feel happy and alive for the first time. I hope someone can benefit from the messages we send as survivors of incest and childhood abuse.

Stay tuned for more stories of how the Angela Shelton Foundation is helping others through the ripple effect...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Ger's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 8)

Dear Survivor,

Ger wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

When I joined the Facebook group, it was quite well established. At first, I was an angry old lady who didn't think discussion groups would help anyone. My experience with groups was quite negative...

My childhood was brutal and so terrifying, I put it away and hid from it for 39 years. I'd never met anyone who shared my experiences. I mean, my mother tried to kill me, my father attacked and sodomized me and my grandfather molested me, for years. So, I wasn't expecting to be embraced, nor did I expect to find like-minded women who really do 'get it'.

This group has opened my mind. That was just the first thing they did, though. After prying my mind open, they made me see that I have a contribution to make, I can help others. Not only have they helped me to help others, they've helped me help myself. Their support gave me the impetus and I must say, the courage to get back to working on my book.

I can honestly say, from my heart, I adore and honor and respect everyone I've met in this group and they have helped me get through the tough times and made me see, in a way I never saw before, the process never ends. And, that's OKAY.

Stay tuned for more...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Jan's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 7)

Dear Survivor,

Jan wants you to know you are not alone. Here's what she has to say:

I didn't know that things like this happened to other people because I did not share with other people. I kept my mouth quiet and held my secret close to my heart. I did that because I was told I'd cause a lot of trouble for a lot of people if I said anything. So, I shut up: I closed off my heart and stopped trusting people for a very long time.

For many years I held onto the truth that I was unlovable, I was not to be trusted, I was not to share with anybody, I was worthless. I was a victim and I chose to stay that way. I didn't know any better. It wasn't until many years later that I realized that sexual abuse was not just about me, there were many others. In my therapy and group counselling sessions I learned that I, sadly, was not alone in the horror.

Jan began working with a life coach... She began to thrive. Today, she is a life coach! Way to go, Jan! She says:

My goal, my dream, my purpose, yes my calling, is to empower [others] to know that there is so much more: more joy, more love, more happiness, more opportunity, more gratitude: and it's all right there for you. I truly believe that my own travels through my abuse journey were necessary so that I could, in turn, offer myself out to others who are still suffering.

Regarding being a member of our support group, Jan says:

This group has allowed me the experience of hearing how others are dealing, or not, with their own issues of abuse. This opening up of one's heart to those who will listen offers all of us a safe and trusting space to speak our minds free of judgement. This is also how I offer my coaching and so it has been a very symbiotic relationship. I admire the courage of those who have chosen to speak out and speak up because of this site.

Stay tuned for more stories about why support is so important to survivors of abuse and trauma...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Joanne's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 6)

Dear Survivor,

Joanne D. wants you to know you are not alone. When I asked members of the facebook group to share stories of how important it is to have support, she was among the first to respond. Here's some of what she had to say:

The benefits [of having support] as I see them are two fold. Yes, we get to ask questions of other survivors to see if their experience is the same or to problem-solve shared challenges together; but of equal importance is the platform for survivor advocacy. It is the automatic silence and unspoken nature of incest that allows it to continue in society. Incest cannot exist without this automatic familial and community silence.

I am one of the lucky ones…in spite of the awful abuse I suffered as a child; I somehow do not need daily medication and do not have a DSM diagnosis. I have been very successful in 2 careers including high performance Olympic caliber Coaching and as a high ranking Business Executive in the Online/E-Commerce field internationally, directly responsible for many lucrative e-business ‘firsts’ for Fortune 500 Companies. I put myself through University as an adult after disclosing and I was hard working enough (plus good therapy) to want to turn my experience and suffering into a gift. I am currently looking at achieving my next degree. However, I can still easily and completely relate to the feelings, family dynamics, and devastation suffered by all Survivors of Incest. It is my wish now that all survivors feel comfortable enough to come forward for healing, fellowship, and shared advocacy – it is time to change the world. Take incest out of the dark - and put it on the global awareness front page where it belongs.

Joanne D.

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Megan's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 5)

Dear Survivor,

I want you to know you are not alone. Here's what I have to say:

I am survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was raped at the age of 18. I started my healing journey at 17 years of age, but I didn't actually tell anyone in my family about my abuse until I was 19 years old. I have been hospitalized twice for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and anxiety, and I have been treated in crisis centers so many times I've literally lost count. I roamed around for years, looking for help in so many different places, but it seemed as though things never changed no matter how hard I tried...

In March of 2009, at age 31, I was treated at a local crisis unit because I had a huge setback that ended up throwing me into "panic mode" all over again. While I was in treatment, a therapist named Ken took the time to teach me how to face the feelings I'd been burying my whole life. I left that crisis unit with a new lease on life. I followed up with traditional talk therapy on a regular basis. I poured over books and found resources to help me along the way of my healing journey. Then, in September of 2009, Mackenzie Phillips appeared on Oprah. Though Mackenzie's story is almost nothing like mine, I felt a camaraderie with her. We were both survivors of unspeakable things. I was not alone in my suffering!

When Mackenzie spoke about her traumatic experiences, I was inspired to reach out to try to support her. I started a group on facebook stating my support for her. In doing so, I became part of a network of survivors and supportive people who changed my life. Learning that I am not alone is what sparked me to begin reaching out to survivors everywhere. Finding the Angela Shelton Foundation is what fanned the spark into a full-blown flame. I now run an online support group thanks to Mackenzie Phillips and the Angela Shelton Foundation. I am helping other survivors heal!

There is a ripple effect that happens when you support a survivor. When you help a survivor find hope, you help them heal. Many survivors heal and then go on to help other survivors find the support they so desperately need. In the next several entries, I want to introduce you to some people who have found hope through the ripple effect... People who have been reached because of what the Angela Shelton Foundation has done for me. Angela Shelton's "ripple" moved me (and many others).

Stay tuned to meet some of the people my "ripple" has moved...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

You Are Not Alone, Joanna's Story (Blog-a-thon, Post 4)

Joanna is the lovely lady who inspired me to do this blog-a-thon. She hosted a blog-a-thon to raise funds for the Angela Shelton Foundation about a month ago. I was online with her during a few hours of her efforts to raise money for the foundation, and I was so moved by her passion and dedication to the cause that I decided I might as well do what I could to reach out to survivors as well. Here's a little bit about Joanna:

Joanna Doane is 27 years old, and lives in the Phoenix-metro area of Arizona. She was diagnosed in 2003 with post-traumatic stress disorder and with a dissociative disorder – both disorders being a result of abuse in her early childhood. Today Joanna is working towards obtaining a bachelors degree in social work through Arizona State University. While her family and friends are her main priority, standing up for the rights of children, person(s) with mental illnesses, and for victims of abuse and violent crimes also means a lot to her. Since 2004 she’s worked to building, a website that offers coping techniques, resources, and hope to survivors of trauma. She is also co-founder and project coordinator of an second online resource for survivors, the Survivor Archives Project.

Joanna puts a lot of energy, when time allows, into the advocacy for survivors of violence. She is currently a national manager for the Army of Angels, a grassroots movement of survivors and humanitarians who work in a united effort to spread the word about the epidemic of abuse that exists in our country and to encourage all survivors to break the silence, heal themselves, and live joyfully. She believes that education and awareness are essential in solving these problems in society. She continually works through her various projects and with outside organizations in an effort to prove that people can make a difference when they work together to combat issues within their communities — be it on a local, state, or national level.

Stay tuned for my story, and for the stories of many others who have found hope and help online...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

We're All In This Together (Blog-a-thon Post 3)

SURVIVORS: It is important for you to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

SUPPORTERS: You can help survivors feel connected by supporting organizations like the Angela Shelton Foundation.

Support during the healing process is what keeps many survivors alive. As I blog throughout the day, into the night, and into tomorrow morning, I will be sharing some stories with you. These stories are stories of real people who have been helped either directly or indirectly by the Angela Shelton Foundation. In these stories, I hope you will see that if you are a survivor, you are not alone... and if you are a supporter, I hope you will see that your involvement makes more of a difference than you can imagine. You're saving lives.

Stay tuned for stories of hope and healing...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

Why the Angela Shelton Foundation? (Blog-a-thon Post 2)

The main reason I'm doing this blog-a-thon is to reach out to survivors of sexual abuse, rape and trauma. I realize that there are tons and tons of nonprofit 501c3 organizations out there who already do this. Let me tell you why I've chosen to raise money for this particular one...

The purpose of the Angela Shelton Foundation is to inspire and empower all survivors of abuse to heal and lead joyful lives. The foundation provides assistance to worldwide organizations and projects in the arts and media that share their mission of inspiring, empowering and aiding all survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

The Angela Shelton Foundation understands that if we all come together in one place and share what we know, how we heal, and where to go for help, the world will be a better place for survivors. That's why they created the website Survivor Manual. The goal for Survivor Manual, its mission, is "to inspire and empower all survivors of abuse to heal and lead joyful lives and provide the answers needed to do so."

Angela Shelton works so hard to bring people and resources together to show survivors that there is hope. She embraces a "no competition" attitude that I love. She encourages survivors, therapists, nonprofits, supporters, etc. to contribute to Survivor Manual. I've heard her say many times that her vision is to make Survivor Manual like the Huffington Post of healing. How cool is that? How can I not support that? After all, the Angela Shelton Foundation and Survivor Manual have had a huge hand in my own healing.

Stay tuned for more information, and for stories of survivors who have found help and hope through online organizations made possible in part by the Angela Shelton Foundation.

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

And So It Begins (Blog-a-thon Post 1)

Welcome to the 2010 "You Are Not Alone: Blogging for the Angela Shelton Foundation" blog-a-thon!

For those of you who don't know what's going on here, let me explain:

Starting now (6am EST), I'll be staying up for 24 hours straight and posting one blog each hour in order to raise awareness of and money for the Angela Shelton Foundation. Thank you to everyone who's sponsored me so far. I hope to get a few more donations as this thing rolls along.

If you know anyone who would be interested in donating, or anyone who just needs some support or encouragement on their healing journey, please send them my way! Let's work together to make my very first blog-a-thon a huge success!

You can probably tell I'm very excited to be able to raise money for such a great organization. Stay tuned to learn all about why I have such a passion for the Angela Shelton Foundation and what they do for survivors...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here. Yup. That's right. I'm broadcasting live from UStream during the entire 24-hour blog-a-thon.

This should be interesting!
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