23 May 2017

A Review of Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas

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I have been taking time and space for self-care when I can lately. It's been hard because work has been busy, but I'm moving into the lull now, so I'll have more time to do what I need to do.

One of the important things I've been doing is giving voice to experiences I've had, accepting some hard truths about those experiences, and moving forward in healing.

That's why I decided to take the advice given to me from multiple people and read Shannon Thomas's Healing from Hidden Abuse.

The book is written by a licensed counselor who specializes in helping people heal from psychological abuse. In addition, she is a survivor herself, giving her perspective that not all therapists do. She speaks with authority not only because of her education and career, but because of her personal experiences, as well.

It's structured well. The book begins by explaining what psychological abuse is (and how it differs from other forms of abuse), common characteristics of psychological abusers, and how to recognize this type of abuse in different parts of your life. The second portion of the book goes through six phases of recovery from psychological abuse, explaining what the phases are and how survivors (survivors, not victims) can incorporate these phases of healing into their own lives regardless of who is abusing them. At the back of the book are workbook/journal/reflection pages that the reader can use to apply what is learned from the book to their own situations.

This book was valuable to me. It gave me a foundation of education on an important topic in my life and is providing me with terminology and education I can use to speak my truth about what has happened to me throughout my life.

Most importantly, the book has shown me that I'm not alone in what I've experienced.

And I'm not crazy.

And I didn't do anything wrong.

And if that had been all I'd gotten from the book, it would have been worth the read. It gave me much more than that. I have more reading to do on this topic as I heal and recover. but this was an excellent start.

15 May 2017

In which I am out to my grandmother....

I've been living out for almost five and a half years.

I came out first to my immediate family, including my ex-husband, which led to our divorce. I came out to my close friends.

But I didn't come out to my grandmother.

Part of the reason for this was a request by my father that I shouldn't have honored. But that was only part of it. I was also afraid to come out to her.

My grandmother and I were once very close. When I was in high school and through part of college, I lived with my dad and my brother; my mom had primary custody of my other brother and my sister. It was a hard period of my life, and I wouldn't have gotten through it without my grandmother's love and support. She was an oasis in the windswept desert of my life. I respect her and her role in my life. I was afraid that if I came out to her, the one person whose opinion I respected more than just about anything in my life would turn her back on me. That I would lose her.

So I didn't tell her.

I didn't see her often when I was living in the same state, and then I moved four states away back to Florida and our relationship faded somewhat. We both kept in touch, but it wasn't like it was before.

And I didn't tell her.

When I started dating Bo, my relationship with my dad became very strained. As that relationship faded, it was easy to not tell Grammy because I didn't see her and didn't really talk to her. By this time, everyone else in the family knew, so I assumed she did, too. And it just was what it was.

My grandmother recently went through cancer. It was bad for a while. She's finished her treatments and is doing better now. I called her before her last surgery, and we reconnected a bit. I've talked to her a couple of times since then, and she's sounded better each time.

The last time I spoke with her, she told me she wanted me to bring the kids to visit. She's only seen them once since I moved back to Florida. And though it may sound a bit dark, I don't know how much longer she'll be around. She needs to see her great-grandchildren. At least once more. And I can't take that trip without my wife. I won't pretend that I'm not remarried or that the kids don't have two moms. I have to live authentically for myself, for my kids, for my wife.

So I wrote my grandmother a letter and came out to her. I told her that I'm married and that I'm happy.

And I waited.

I was sure that if I got any response at all, it would be a heartbreaking letter disowning me, damning me to hell. I was sure I'd lose her.

I didn't.

She sent me a birthday note that said:
You are still my granddaughter and I still love you. I have to trust that you are happy. Don't leave God out of your life.
That in itself was enough for me. She didn't hate me. She didn't disown me. She accepts that, no matter what she thinks or feels about homosexuality, I am happy.

But was was so much more poignant for me was that the envelope was addressed to my married name.

October 2015
Photo by A. Harris Photography
She made the conscious choice to write the married last name of her lesbian granddaughter on the envelope.

She didn't have to. She could have written my previously-married name or my maiden name or have left a last name off entirely. But she didn't. She wrote my name.

She validated my wife's role in my life and validated a marriage she may not believe should even be legal.

I was so afraid of how she would react when I came out to her. And I know that it's likely she isn't a-ok about it. I know it's likely she may never be "okay" about it. It may always be a source of tension between us.

But she accepts it.

And that's enough for me.