Tag Archives: healing

Books & Reading: Legacy & Healing

My parents met because of books. Mom was a bookseller, Dad a book collector.

Books saved my life. For decades, I read compulsively first thing in the morning and last thing at night. They were my only constant: no matter how bad or good the day was, the words on the page remained the same.

The abused, wounded little girl I was to the young woman I became, desperately needed a constant. God had been blocked from me, as had any belief system or group of people — as part of that abuse.

Then I met this quiet 6’1 man who decided he was going to take the person he said was, “the most cynical person I’ve ever known,” and be the rock she needed. It worked, but it took years.

During those years, I still read compulsively. I opened the shop, in part to thank the literary world for saving my sanity/life. Then, at 45, I was diagnosed with PTSD, and the therapist, DH and I slowly but steadily unpicked the knot of my abuse and traumas.

My therapist said that when people get PTSD, the first thing which eases the pain becomes the addiction. In my case, I was 3 and it was books and reading.


(Not sure where I got the image, I’ve used it before, sorry!)

More years, more books, more healing. The store closed in 2005. Sometime afterwards, about the time I started knitting (2015), I stopped reading compulsively first and last thing every day.

I’d gotten to where I almost resented books. I had too many, they cluttered up my life and were a continual reminder of how wounded I’d been.

I count people who write, illustrate, publish and edit as some of my dearest friends. There are 6 books with my name on the cover, and two more scheduled to come out late this year or early next.

One of the future books is the memoir and that’s the period, for me, on the end of the abuse/PTSD sentence. If one person, just one, doesn’t commit suicide or tries to find another way — just once — the ten years it took me to write will be worthwhile.

Behind that 10 years are hundreds of hours of therapy, both effective and not. Also behind it are thousands of hours of reading: recharging my batteries, giving me hope, giving me respite, and telling me to try again and again.

Recently, I plucked a copy of Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legacy from a box. I was completely prepared to get rid of it, and will, but I hadn’t read it. I’ve read everything else she wrote, except her text books, and I skimmed those! So I picked it up and started.

In the course of reading about how she became the person associated with the Marks & Co. bookshop and all that happened to her because of that association, I found a new way to adjust for my past. Having books and reading is fine. It’s no longer my refuge, safety and salvation, it’s a pleasant way to spend some time.

I still have way too many books — but somehow, it’s hard to resent it.



Irritating & Human

I spaced an appointment today. I’ve been working hard at being organized, really organized the past week or two, and just blew it.

Which of course makes me mad — madder than when I was completely disorganized! The more I work at it, the madder I get when it doesn’t work. And it seems like I go through a period where try as I might, I screw up, over and over. I think it’s the broken egg/omelette problem.  This time at least, I’m determined NOT to throw my hands up in the air (figuratively) and give up.


So I “forgave” myself for the lapse. I have another appointment which I have an email out to reschedule. hopefully it can be. There’s a workshop I’d like to go to which creates a conflict.

In some ways being organized is MUCH easier, in others, it’s just work. Not the adult life I thought I’d have, but not feeling like I’m always in a state of chaos will be worthwhile, although scary. It was a major piece of my “camouflage.” I don’t think I need it any more. In fact, I think I need the low stress that not being chaotic will bring!

We’ll see.



PTSD/Abuse Trap

I realized something the other day. That is, that since the “Breakthrough” post what, last week? (link) I’ve done a lot of work on the house, got 2 rooms cleaned up and culled, and no emotional/PTSD backwash, that is, no panic.

I also, after Thursday, when I got done with the 2nd one with help, stopped working on it and intend to not work on it (except to maintain or restore those 2 rooms) until next Monday. And no guilt, that is, no beating myself up with “shoulds.”

Both of those reactions were part of the trap the PTSD/abuse/self-esteem/brain washing (whatever) issues most of my life:

If I worked on something, it wasn’t done well enough or quickly enough, and mostly it wasn’t finished at all. When I quit, I’d then beat myself up because I was a loser who never finished anything.

A few years ago, I realized I had a similar trap about dealing with pain. I call it the Emotional Function Badguy. When I created this graphic, it was the first time I saw it was an endless loop I could not escape.

function bad guy

The PTSD/Abuse Trap was similar:


(yes) -> Panic!

(no) – > Vile/Disgusting!

Keep cleaning?

(yes) -> Not fast/good enough! -> Panic!

(no) ->Wimp!

Again, there’s no way out. No positive side.

What’s different this time?


(yes) -> No panic

(no) -> I did good, I can take a few days off.

If you’re me? The change is bizarre. I’m relaxed. It’s okay that I’m not cleaning. It’s okay that the rooms have degraded somewhat; I can fix it,. It’s okay. I can clean or not, and that’s okay.

F’n amazing.



Not that I’ve done a whole lot, but my attitude is different. The last post, the “making my mark” thing just makes me sorry. How pathetic and sad it is that my young self felt that way. How bizarre that it took so much time & work to uncover it. But trauma is like that.

It’s an onion of healing. Your body won’t let you remember/deal/figure out what you can’t handle. In my case, because the source of much of it is so long ago and far away, it’s obscured by time and perspective. Learning to pay attention to what my body/mind is trying to tell me has taken a long time and much work.

I’ve only ever had one full blown, complete “flashback” which included “lost’ memories and all. That was 30+ years ago. That one I got time of year, location, incident, smell, look,  the incident, in short the details — all at once.

Since then, I have had one other, which definitely was a flashback, but it wasn’t the complete memory like the full blown one. DH and I were lounging on our bed one summer day He was just holding me. It wasn’t intimacy, just closeness. All of a sudden he shifted a little, or I did — I jerked back and screamed, “Don’t hit me!”

Of course he was puzzled, and frankly, so was I.

I felt the ghost slap connect with my face. I *felt* it. I was also surprised I could move. I felt as if I were pinned to the bed and couldn’t do more that flail my arms & legs around.

For much of my life, something would happen and I’d have a “flashback,” a return to my miserable emotional past. The ghost slap pushed those buttons. It propelled me back into the old feelings: helpless, unlovable, insecure, damned, and crazy. [The hodgepodge of old feelings is what I normally, in conversation, call a flashback; it is, and it isn’t.]

When things like this occurred, it took me a while to pull myself out.

The emotional “flashback” used to terrify me, because I couldn’t change whether I went back or not, change the “flashback” or grow out of them  — and I still can’t. It makes healing a double-edged sword. I’m happy to do so, but it means when I see something a new way or remember something, I have to deal with the emotional content the new perspective triggers, deal with the emotional flashback, and then after that, I get to go on with my life. For much of my life this has been a four-step process:

  1. Remember or recast something new.
  2. Deal with whatever emotional issues this brings because of its content.
  3. Deal with up to two weeks of emotional backsliding/flashback.
  4. Move on into my now-improved life.

I did NOT go back to the hurting little girl this time! I had the tear in my eye when I wrote the post. That’s it. No step three!!!

I haven’t done a flurry of cleaning either, but you know? I’ll take it. I avoided needing at least two weeks to get my emotional house back in order. Or even three days, which is the shortest I’ve managed not too long ago.

After nearly 6 decades of the other behavior, this is definitely a win, and I will take it — you bet!!!