Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tolson 4 TEARS* on "How Are You Feeling?"

In therapy, clients talk about their feelings. Therapists ask, "How are you feeling today?" 

Conversations with my therapist(s) frequently sounded like this:

“Lynn, what are you feeling?”
“I don’t know.”
“You must be feeling something.”
“No, nothing.”
“Please, tell me what it feels like.”
“I don’t know.”

I shrugged my shoulders, which was not an acceptable answer to the question of “how are you feeling.” How should I know? I had no clue, no compass, and no map to lead me through the hot and sweaty tropical jungle of twisted emotional thorny vines that lay strangled with family secrets and lies.

My step-father had taught me to deny my feelings at seven years old. He said, “Whenever someone asks you how you are doing, you say, ‘Fine, thank you,’ no matter what.” He added, “Speak only when you are spoken to.” He raised me under his spell of “children should be seen and not heard.” These powerful childrearing dictates led to the cold, calculating climate of control that froze all feelings into a block of ice that could only be released when talk-therapy chipped at the surface decades later.

What I felt was numb, which is a suppression of real feelings. Talking about my experiences and emotions in therapy years later did not feel good. If/when I felt, I felt crappy. Even in the company of a therapist I sensed I was safe with, one whom I trusted and developed rapport with, I dared not enter the realm of emotion. I was afraid to unlock my heart and uncover emotions. If I felt a bona fide feeling, I would surely go insane.

I felt all alone. Loneliness envelopes my being, seals me in a tomb lacking air. I am trapped in the darkness of my heart, all alone, Choking and grasping to find tender loving care.
With that admission of feeling in the form of prose, my therapist taught me that putting words to experiences and the emotions they carry can dispel the hold they had on me. She said, “As your fears recede, courage will emerge. Love was locked inside, shielded by fear. When the darkness of fear disappears, the light of love appears. You built walls around yourself to block out bad feelings, so you also blocked out any good that could come your way. You perpetuate pain by locking up feelings.”

My therapist explained that the depression used to cover up emotions can become a permanent part of the personality. She said, “The symptoms of anxiety and depression you experience are not personality flaws but the consequence of childhood wounds. When you excavate and explore emotions, you allow the fear to fade.” Digging deep like this may alleviate the depression, and allow room for expansion of joyful feelings.

I also had to accept that emotions are transitory, universal, and can co-exist. I had to trust that feeling would not drive me crazy. I learned that feeling could lead to positive emotions, especially L-O-V-E. I understood that in my head, but I needed to feel it in my heart.

Transformation from fear to love requires more than rationalization and intellectualization. Healing transpires from fully feeling emotions, and then taking necessary action, like this: determine the cause of an emotion, identify the feeling, and acknowledge its presence. Honor an emotion in the moment; just be with it, and that is more like going sane.

My therapist and I started with where I was at: scared to death of the world at large. There was a pervasive apprehension that cast an ominous shadow on my world. Slowly, we examined the fear to make it manageable. With each exhale of fear, I could inhale the courage to face my fears, feeling compassion for myself and others. As Eleanor Roosevelt says, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. . . You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” That is how we learn how to feel.

Post completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivors Story
*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tolson 4 TEARS* Cheers Advocate Svava Brooks

Bravo to Svava Brooks for her devotion to prevention of child abuse and advocacy for survivors.

Svava is a survivor of child sexual abuse and speaks openly about her experience in the hopes that it will help others know they are not alone. Svava leads by example in breaking the silence on this most damaging and pervasive issue. She has dedicated her life to ending the cycle of abuse through education, awareness and supporting survivors.

Svava’s efforts are global. She is the co-founder of a child sexual abuse prevention and education organization in Iceland, Blátt áfram

Svava also reaches out by offering online peer support for adult survivors of child sexual abuse at one,  which provides personalized support for survivors of childhood sexual trauma.

Svava also maintains a web site at Educate4change, which is dedicated to ending the cycle of child sexual abuse. The blog at Speak4change offers information on how survivors can get the help they need, as well as providing education for ending child sexual abuse. Svava says, "You are not alone, together we can stop the cycle, together we can heal via awareness, education, and support." Svava knows that "we are stronger together." Facebook page here

Svava is a Certified Instructor and Facilitator for Darkness to Light Stewards of Children, a child sexual abuse prevention program. Svava provides evidence-based training throughout California.  In addition, Svava has developed programs for adults and teens to learn about the prevention of CSA.

Svava Brooks, art by Michal Madison

(This portrait of Svava Brooks was painted by Michal Madison. To read more about how Michal uses art to advocate for victims of abuse, visit her site

Thank you Svava Brooks for your dedication!
*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted.
Post completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tolson 4 TEARS* Reviews "My Justice"

My Justice, a memoir by Patricia A. McKnight, is a harrowing story of unrelenting child abuse and life-threatening domestic violence. The author says that she initially hoped her book would open lines of communication between her and her adult children, a generation affected by the ramifications of trauma. Then, Patricia realized that abuse is an unaddressed epidemic, and her family was a microcosm of the problems that plague our society. She chose to offer a solution by making her personal story a publication that serves to educate and empower.

Even a seasoned reader of memoirs about trauma will feel the suffering of the narrator, an innocent child who experienced emotional cruelty, medical/dental neglect, and sexual abuse. Her father abandoned her, her step-father abused her, and her mother neglected her. Imagine wondering if this is the night your step-father is going to kill you, then trying to concentrate in school the next morning, then being the house-maid and nurse-maid and sex-slave when it’s time to be doing your own homework, then being chastised the next day for not having her assignments done on time. No child can be expected to carry-on like this for 12 years! Yet, no one seemed to notice the bruises, skin rashes, and tooth decay, obvious outer wounds that reflected the inner pain of a lost and alone child. Teachers ignored her and classmates harassed her. Tricia felt condemnation based on fear instead of compassion full of love. She also carried the burden of guilt and shame as well as the responsibility to keep the secrets of the disturbed and dysfunctional “family” she so desperately needed to survive because no one intervened!

McKnight uses details, descriptions, and a direct writing model to convey the terror of her childhood and young adulthood. The style seemed stream-of-consciousness, as if telling a story all in one breath. While reading, I held my breath, waiting to exhale. Sometimes the tense changed suddenly from past to present, indicating that emotions are not orderly concepts like chronological time. Sometimes a paragraph was written in 1st person with a sudden shift to “you” statements, as if the narrative was too hard for the author to relive in “I” statements. (First you live through it, then you experience it again when writing, and at different levels of consciousness.) Yet the readers’ final exhalation may be a sigh of relief; despite the torture and toxicity Tricia survived.

My Justice is not only a memoir; it is a call to action. In her own words Patricia A. McKnight implores people to “be the extended arm of help to anyone suffering from the impact of family violence or abuse.” She lives by shining example, offering words of encouragement and opportunities for enlightenment on the subjects of child abuse, rape, incest, and domestic violence. To tell a story about good versus evil, it takes courage to face fears, compassion for oneself and others, and a conviction to tell the truth. Bravo!

Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story
*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tolson 4 TEARS* Reviews "Don't Mind Me"

Don’t Mind Me by Judith Haire is a memoir about the deep descent into psychosis and the long struggle to find mental health in the aftermath. It is one woman’s true story of finding herself at the bottom of a well of insanity, with nothing but her own wits to get her to surface to sanity.
Ms. Haire describes a history of generations of hostile family relationships, including those of her grandparents. Then, she delves into the unsatisfying marriage of her parents, which made her feel unwanted. Her father’s moods alternated from violent to withdrawn, while her mother distanced herself from emotional commitment toward her child. Ms. Haire’s painful childhood left her bereft of the nurturing children require to grow to healthy adults. As is often the case, she repeats the patterns of helplessness and hopelessness by marrying a man who used and abused her. She described herself as “mentally destroyed.” Having no support, Ms. Haire became vulnerable to a psychotic break.
In Don’t Mind Me, Judith Haire describes the hell of psychological torment: “I imagined there was a nuclear war going on around me, I imagined my house would explode the next time I opened the front door.” How could she live a healthy life under that kind of mental pressure? The reader is taken on a journey of hallucinations that leads Ms. Haire to be as helpless as an infant in the “fetal position.”
Ms. Haire’s treatment appeared to lack compassion; she was often ignored, under-medicated, over-medicated, misunderstood, and isolated. It seemed to be the commitment of the patient herself that moved her mind through psychosis. Step by step she took on challenges that lead to a healthy life with a fulfilling relationship. She’s firm in her belief that even an unborn child can take on the stressors of the parents. This theory helps Ms. Haire to have compassion for herself.
Judith Haire says she found catharsis in writing Don’t Mind Me. She offers resources for mental health clinicians and patients alike. Most importantly, she shares a personal story that helps to reduce the stigma of mental illness by increasing the understanding society needs to protect vulnerable citizens.

Twitter @JudithHaire, and Facebook 

Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story
*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tolson 4 TEARS Reviews "Panic Child"

Panic Child: A Harrowing True Story of Sexual Abuse and Neglect by Carol D. Levine is a memoir about a childhood lost to abandonment, mistreatment, and confusion. As a child, Carol was not offered protection or guidance or even nourishment. She was denied basic human rights within her own home, leaving her burdened and vulnerable before first grade.
It takes courage to write a true story about child abuse when the author is also the victim. Yet Carol D. Levine gathered her strength to tell her story of abuse so that she can help bring awareness to the crime of child abuse. Her story shares vividly what child abuse and sexual assault feels like. The reader cannot help but feel empathy for the little girl who is lost, lonely, and isolated. Carol also brings attention to the symptoms of her fears and frightening experiences: She suffered from “panic attacks” that made her think she was “going crazy.” Victims of childhood abuse often use drugs and/or alcohol to alleviate the pain. Carol writes about how her use of alcohol escalated in plain sight of a cold and distant mother and a distracted step-father.

As Carol matures in the narrative, she makes every effort to move through the trauma she experienced. She shares with the reader how her faith, and one friend at a time, helped her to develop a life free from the cycle of abuse. She is now a strong survivor who is an articulate advocate that brings inspiration to those who need healing. Bravo to Carol for having a conviction to tell the truth!

(Carol Levine is co-host with Bill Murray on the Blog Talk Radio program SCAN: Stop Child Abuse Now)

Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story

Authors and advocates Lynn C. Tolson and Carol Levine discussed the similarities in their stories on SCAN: Stop Child Abuse Now

Find Additional Self Help Podcasts with Bill Murray on BlogTalkRadio

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tolson 4 TEARS* Reviews "Deaf, Dumb, Blind and Stupid"

Deaf, Dumb, Blind, and Stupid: Michael Anderson’s Fight for Life by Tremayne Moore @Mahntre is a story about a boy suffering from child abuse. Although fictionalized, the author states that it is based on a true story. There are too few books about abuse and its life-long effects on males.

What makes this book unique is in the format: A pastor explains to the congregation the tragic history of young Michael and educates the parishioners on the topic of child abuse. Woven throughout the pastor’s speech are snippets from the boy’s personal diary, read aloud to the attendees; the journals indicate the emotional devastation of abuse and the deep despair of the victim. Thus, there is a cautionary tale within the pastor’s eulogy, one that urges readers to become aware of abuse and its ramifications.

This could be considered a coming-of-age story because it takes the reader from the main character’s childhood through adolescence. During this time, Michael explains through the journals his observations of society, such as the hypocrisy of religions, the injustice in society, and the betrayals of love. He is a sensitive boy, thinking and feeling on a mature, meaningful level; he is wise beyond his years.

Through this novel, Tremayne Moore offers to open lines of communication of social problems such as abuse and suicide. He even developed a question guide for use by an individual reader or a book club. Deaf, Dumb, Blind and Stupid provides the necessary awareness of child abuse and how it may evolve into a tragic loss of human potential.

Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story

New Culture Internet Radio with NINA FITZHUGH WELLS on BlogTalkRadio

*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted