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Guest Post: It’s Time for me to Rejoin the Parade by C. Streetlights


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Maria Victoria Heredia Reyes

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Maria Victoria Heredia Reyes

There is a lot of myself that I keep locked away that I usually say is part of my Old Life. It’s not because these things are embarrassing or bad, but my Old Life is filled with all the parts of me that came before I was sexually assaulted and that life was destroyed. It’s the life that was taken away from me and I was forced to redefine.

Sometimes I happen across evidence from my Old Life that I forgot existed. I realize that perhaps I didn’t box up everything as carefully as I thought I did. Like forgotten Christmas ornaments that roll behind the couch, I will find proof of the person I once was – covered in dust and no longer shining.

My 5-year-old daughter asked me this week if we could go to Disneyland and I told her that we could. In fact, I had already started saving up for our trip during Spring Break. I loved watching her excitement at hearing the news and I suddenly felt the stirrings of an old familiar joy that I had buried when it came to Disneyland.

In my Old Life, I made sure our family had annual passes even though we didn’t live in Southern California because we went there at least three times a year. I had an enormous laminated and illustrated map of the theme park for my classroom and my honors English students read Walt Disney’s official biography.

Anyone who knew me in my Old Life (because I cut off ties with most people from my Old Life) would tell you that I loved Disneyland and Walt Disney. That to me, it wasn’t about what Disney, Inc. does currently, it was all about the park and Walt Disney the man. I could walk down Main Street in my Old Life and tell people the story of the names painted on the storefront windows, help people find hidden Mickeys, and why the train is named what it is. My son could find his way around Disneyland from the time he was about 6-years-old, and I cried during the parades.

But really, it was what the park represented to me and who Walt Disney was. I loved and admired the man’s spirit and drive. It didn’t matter how many times Disney faced financial ruin or economic despair, he kept moving forward and I respected that. According to him, the only time he ever contemplated giving up was when Oswald the Rabbit was stolen from him and he had to head home on the train and face uncertainty. Fate intervened in the form of a little mouse scurrying around on the floor and as Walt Disney would say, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started with a mouse.”

paradeWhen I used Walt Disney as an example with my students, I stressed how success didn’t come easy to him. He was a failure in school and bankers refused to fund him for business loans. But he had heart and resiliency. And he worked hard to achieve his own success.

I believed in resiliency and heart in my Old Life until sexual assault taught me that the hard workers don’t deserve success or their dreams coming true. I shoved it all in the attic along with everything else I identified with in my Old Life and began to build a New Life, one that definitely didn’t involve any risk taking that could yield neither success nor failure. My New Life would be beige.

And yet, after telling my daughter that on a whim I began to save money for a Disneyland trip, I’ve been thinking more about how much I once loved it. And I remembered a story Walt Disney would tell his employees that I would also tell my students:

“Remember the boy who wanted to march in the circus parade?  When the show came to town, the bandmaster needed a trombonist, so the boy signed up.  He hadn’t marched a block before the fearful noises from his horn caused two old ladies to faint and a horse to run away.  The bandmaster demanded, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you couldn’t play the trombone?’ and the boy said, ‘How did I know? I never tired before!’

“… if I’m no longer young in age, I hope I stay young enough in spirit never to fear failure — young enough still to take a chance and march in the parade.”

I’ve started to reread some of my Walt Disney books again, hoping to revitalize this part of my Old Life again. I want to feel this kind of hope and invincibility again. I want to feel the excitement for life I once felt. All of that was taken from me, not just from the person who assaulted me from all the people around me who should have believed me and didn’t.

While some of my Old Life is gone, never to be a part of my life again, there are other parts that need to come home to me. It’s time for me to join the parade.

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cstreetlightsAfter writing and illustrating her first bestseller in second grade, “The Lovely Unicorn”, C. Streetlights took 20 years to decide if she wanted to continue writing. In the time known as growing up she became a teacher, a wife, and mother. Retired from teaching, C. Streetlights now lives with her family in the mountains along with their dog that eats Kleenex. Her memoir, Tea and Madness, won honorable mention for memoir in the Los Angeles Book Fair (2016) and is available for purchase on Amazon.

C. Streetlights is represented by Lisa Hagan Books and published by Shadow Teams NYC. For all press interviews and other inquiries, please contact Ms. Hagan directly.

You can connect with C. Streetlights on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon Author Central, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

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Filed under Disney, Family, Guest Post, Life, Mental Health, sexual assault, Survivors, Writing

When Your First Kiss Causes a Full-Blown Panic Attack


By Ryan Moreno

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Ryan Moreno

Do first kisses usually cause panic attacks?

I don’t mean a heart-racing-weak-in-the-knees anticipation kind of feeling, either. I mean a full-blown, honest-to-God panic attack.

Thought I didn’t realize it at the time, mine did. The muscle memory is still with me. My heart is hammering my chest just from the memory. I remember the physical sensations, the thoughts that ran through my head and the emotional upheaval as clearly as if it’d happened only yesterday:

Sweat beaded my lip and brow, and ran its cool fingers down my spine. I was so flushed, my body was burning up. I hyperventilated and my heart beat so hard I thought it would jump out of my chest (due to a heart condition, when I’m having a panic attack, I can look down and literally SEE my heart pounding). It felt like I was on a roller coast (I LOVE roller coasters, but I didn’t love this one – it felt more like drowning), and the contents of my stomach were threatening imminent reappearance. This was my first kiss panic attack. I was 15.

It took him hours to wear me down. Maybe days. That part is kind of hazy. He was also 15, but either much more experienced or simply more confident than I. He was persistent and wore me down. That I was quite attracted to him might’ve helped to tip the scales in his favor. Even while we were kissing – French, of course 😉 – my heart ran a marathon. That fight or flight syndrome. I didn’t know what to do, how to handle the sensations running through me. I let him take the lead and he devoured me.

Kissing came easier after that. Until a few weeks later when I became uncomfortable with him slidding his hand up my skirt and attempting to fondle my breasts. He called me a prude. I’d never been called that before and had to find a dictionary. When I told my mother he’d called me a prude, she said I should be proud of that. At 15, I was just as uncomfortable with the idea of being a prude as I was with his hands on the covered parts of my body.

I don’t know if he really was looking to “score” or just wanted to fool around a little. After establishing my “prudishness,” he quickly lost interest. And I became a subtle stalker. I didn’t have the confidence to confront him, so I prank-called his house multiple times, wrote a lot of bad poetry, broke a few of my figurines, and cried. It wasn’t the first time – nor would it be the last – I cried over a male who didn’t deserve my tears.

I hated to say no to him…when I was younger I had that “want to please everyone” personality. I hated confrontation. It made me sick to my stomach. But at the same time, I was willful and stubborn. Great tug-o-war combo. I still sometimes struggle with wanting to make everyone else happy. But I’m less afraid of confrontation.

Something inside wouldn’t let me say yes to him…So I was a prude. Until I was 19. A guy I’d known for several years (my brother’s best friend, in fact), who was a couple years younger than me, said the right words, at the right time, and wooed me in just the right way…I let him in where another male hadn’t been since my CSA 15 years before (I talk about that HERE.) Eventually, this younger guy became abusive and the end of our relationship was a disaster and emotionally traumatic for me…but that’s another story for another time…

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Filed under Anxiety, Blogging, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Survivors, Writing

Guest Post: This is the Reason Writing Your Story Helps You Thrive by Rachel Thompson


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

I tell people right away that I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but I didn’t used to. I held that shame and fear of judgment in tightly for years, a filmy veil of anxiety separating me from everyone else. I didn’t feel I could really get close to friends or even lovers, always holding back this ugly secret. If anyone saw the real me, the tainted, used me, they wouldn’t want to pursue any kind of relationship.

It’s a common mindset after trauma – to be in victim mode and not even realize it. Total nonsense, of course, because I’m awesome. Ha! But this is what shame tells you, one of many horrific stories we learn to believe.

Therapy and meds helped me a lot to overcome those lies, but the damage is incredibly deep, it never truly leaves us. I moved from victim to survivor, but it took a lot of work, and if I’m totally honest with you right now, I still argue with myself sometimes; I minimize, or tell myself that it could’ve been worse, which is just so incredibly fucked up. How much worse would it have to be? I was only 11 when a man stole away my childhood…and then he came back for more.

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Eventually, I found the courage to write and share my story, despite the voices in my head telling me to shut the hell up, that nobody would care to read about yet another victim, that talking about something that happened 30-plus years ago would be seen by total strangers as a pathetic bid for attention (when truly, who cares? It’s my story, dammit, and I matter).

I moved beyond surviving into thriving. Writing, no publishing, my story, became such a huge part of my recovery, I truly had no idea the impact on so many others and myself.

That’s where I changed my paradigm and fooled that wretched little voice: I made friends with Shame. She’s been with me longer than almost anyone, and she has a lot to say, too. So, I let her speak, and Broken Pieces was born. I released it in 2013 and it’s still #1 on Amazon’s Women’s Poetry list, #2 on Women Authors, and Top 20 in all of Memoirs, which blows me away.

It’s won gosh, like 10 awards, but more importantly gave rise to a huge community of survivors, and that means more to me than anything else! #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday at 6pm pst/9pm est) on Twitter with survivor and licensed therapist Bobbi Parish, the #NoMoreShame Project Anthologies (published by the Gravity Imprint of Booktrope), and a 100+ person strong private survivor support group I moderate on Facebook are all the result of that first book. So is the Gravity Imprint!

Broken Places followed in 2015, with more amazing reviews, awards, and top rankings. I’m writing the final Broken book now, Broken People, for a Winter release from Booktrope. Apparently, Shame still has more to say.

I’m still just as busy as ever with writing, business, publishing, my advocacy work for other survivors, and most importantly, being a mom. Beyond surviving, I’m now thriving, though with occasional triggers, I stumble my way back.

My kids vaguely know something bad happened when I was younger – my son will be 11 in September. He’s very protective of his mama, and I love that about him. I’m raising him to be respectful of all women, including his almost-17-year-old sister with whom he bickers constantly over the Xbox and Squeakers, our girl cat. He has a lot of females in the house to learn from!

The lessons are there, though, and that’s what matters; I tell them both often, “you get what you give, and you give what you get.” Give mad, get mad; give compassion, get compassion. Him: Give money, get money? Me: Welcome to Capitalism (and book marketing).

I survived, and now I thrive, because I give what I get.

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Rachel-Thompson1Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

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Filed under Anxiety, Blogging, Booktrope, Depression, Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Life, Literary, Mental Health, Published, Survivors, Writing