Dec. 8, 2021

Thriving After Sexual Abuse

Denise Bossarte is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and now she is helping others heal.  Join us for a conversation about Denise's healing journey as well as her beautiful book, "Thriving After Sexual Abuse: Break Your Bondage to the Past and Live a Life You Love".   
Denise Bossarte is an award-winning writer, poet, photographer, and artist. Denise is a certified meditation facilitator and contemplative arts teacher. She is an IT professional working for a large urban school district. Denise holds a BA in chemistry, an MS in computer science, and a PhD in developmental neuroscience. Denise lives in Texas with her husband, Randy, and literary cat, Sapphira.

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healing needs to focus on joy what is that
where can we get that how do i continue to

tap into that how can i give that to myself
and rewire my brain we want a joyful brain

that's what we're going for



hi there thank you so much for joining me
i'm hecate and this is finding okay a healing

podcast for survivors of sexual assault and
any and all abuse today i'm joined by denise

bossart denise is an award-winning writer
poet photographer and artist she is a certified

meditation facilitator and contemplative arts
teacher she is an i.t professional working

for a large urban school district i had the
pleasure of reading her beautiful book thriving

after sexual abuse break your bondage to the
past and live a life you love and we'll be

talking about it today as well as hearing
a bit about denise's healing journey trigger

and content warnings for this episode include
the following trauma abuse child abuse sexual

assault family sexual abuse eating disorders
and weight please check in with yourself and

make sure you're all right to continue yeah
i completely adore the book and i'm really

excited to to talk to you about it i it blew
me away and i'm really excited to um like

that this is available for for people who
are really raw who are just starting their

healing journey um and i think like personally
on my podcast i think it's probably gonna

be my number one recommendation for people
who are just beginning their healing journey

because it's such an incredible oh my gosh
the um especially the the checklist that you

gave for finding a therapist i'm gonna use
that i've been in therapy since i was in second

grade and i was like this is incredible i'm
a therapist where was this oh my gosh yes

like where was this my whole life it's an
incredible resource um and such a such a great

tool there are so many uh just incredible
resources and tools all throughout the book

and i'm just so excited that you've done this
and uh and that we get to talk about it so

thank you for being here awesome yeah so i'd
like to begin are you okay i'm doing great

it's been a lovely weekend here in houston
and just enjoying the transition we have a

light transition to winter so you know we
don't get down into negative temperatures

by any stretch of the imagination here so
it's been quite likely to get out and and

i i teach photography courses consumptive
photography courses and i installed a student

show today at a gallery and had people come
by it was just lovely to share that yeah so

i'd i'd love to hear a compliment that you've
received and that you've never forgotten

i was thinking back i'm not really good at
accepting compliments so it's hard sometimes

to remember when when you've gotten them you
know you're like oh yeah thanks whatever um

that's relatable yeah i did get one recently
again in teaching my photography classes i

had someone say what a wonderful experience
it was to be in my class because i gave them

permission to be vulnerable and they felt
safe to really explore what we were trying

to do and to me that was really heart touching
because that's my goal is when i teach i want

to make a container for folks that they can
learn and explore and feel safe and it just

proved that i was as attaining what i had
hoped to attain and really had impacted the

students that way so that was quite lovely
that's wonderful yeah that's so important

especially uh when it comes to creative expression
and feeling safe enough to yeah to explore

that to learn new things to express yourself
yeah and what is your favorite color and what

do you associate with it it's interesting
that my favorite color has changed over time

when i was a little girl it was yellow and
i had a yellow room with yellow bed spread

you know the walls were yellow but recently
i really come to love the color orange which

i never really had an affinity for earlier
but i've really fallen in love with it and

part of it is i think i learned that it was
the color of creativity and and some frameworks

and i just think that it's it's so rich and
it's complementary to such beautiful colors

like purple and turquoise you know it's not
only on its own but in relationship to other

colors and how vibrant that can be and so
i really embraced orange recently uh for its

creativity and vibrancy and in its zeal and
that it invokes when i when i look at it or

wear it nice yeah it's always it's always
interesting when um when our affinity for

fur colors shift over time as we grow and
change and as people i find that fascinating


and if i had to summon you in a ritual what
five things would i need to place as offerings

at each point of the pentacle on the floor
so i've never been asked this type of question

before so it took me a little while to kind
of think through it it's like what would draw

me in so of course the first thing top of
mind was high quality chocolate a diver or

something both fancy chocolate especially
if it had nuts in it even better a sea shell

that you could actually pick up and hear the
sea and i love the beach and the sea and just

how you feel with those waves rolling in meditatively
being there on the sunshine so definitely

a seashell a star lily because they are oh
my gosh so beautiful their scent is so strong

and lovely and they're beautiful so i love
that sandalwood incense of the smell of sandalwood

and then as a photographer as a nature level
lover a postcard of a beautiful scene maybe

like the mountains reflecting at a lake or
something very beautiful nature scene on a

postcard so i think those would draw me in
i love it i love it do you have a favorite

um a favorite godiva chocolate probably something
with hazelnuts or almonds chocolate dark chocolate

and here's a funny story i always loved light
chocolate milk chocolate for the longest time

when i was a kid i hated dark chocolate i
think maybe that was because at one point

in time i accidentally grabbed some cooking
chocolate thinking that was edible you never

forget it when you do that and so that to
me was dark chocolate i'm like i don't want

any of that but my husband was feeding my
chocolate addiction and for some reason he

got the idea in his head that i liked dark
chocolate and i just never had the heart to

tell him that i didn't and so eventually because
i i just kept eating all this chocolate he

kept giving me i converted and now i'm a doc
chocolate person and of course now that i've

learned how healthy that can be for you i
have the best excuse in the world to continue

my my dark chocolate passion and obsession
so that's how it arrives i love learning about

the health benefits of dark chocolate it makes
me feel like uh i don't know there's some

kind of justice in the universe yeah there's
a balance there yeah great chocolate and the

health benefits

and i would love to hear three essentials
to your self-care sure getting out in nature

is absolutely key for me there's something
so nurturing balancing settling just be able

to find peace out in nature generally if it's
not man-made nature but just in a garden wild

garden or a walk in the woods but even if
it's a flower garden that i have to get to

that's more man-made any of that can be so
rejuvenating for me and then of course my

bodywork practices the the yoga the qigong
meditation those kind of things are very very

important and also can't go without the cat
snuggles that's the final key ingredient to

my self-care is just spending time with her
we have the most snuggly little kitty she

just loves to curl up with you and there's
just something to say about being with an

animal that just gives you that unconditional
love and voluntarily comes to you to share

in those kind of warm loving kind of snuggly
situations that that's the i think the third

piece of what i now see is my self-care yeah

oh so important do you have do you have like
a favorite spot in nature

there are some spots that i really enjoy again
mostly i'm drawing the trees i just somehow

feel an affinity for trees um mostly the the
taller big growth trees there's a a retreat

center not far from where i live about an
hour away they get you out of the city so

you don't hear the noise and it has the most
incredible energy as soon as you get out of

your car you just feel settled and it's so
quiet and so peaceful and they have little

trails through the woods there's a little
pond that you can sit by there's a labyrinth

there that you can walk it's just lovely and
i i love to go there and kind of wander around

and take a few pictures and just be in that
energy i i've heard that they have literally

blessed every acre on that property and you
can feel it you can feel that energy there

is so encompassing it's just like you so easy
to lose yourself and be present and settle

in and not have to worry about things the
worry just goes away and you can just be present

and one day i went and i i don't know who
is more surprised me or the large otter that

came scampering along the trail getting into
the water it was one of those we looked at

each other and the eyes got big and my eyes
got big and then he went and he or she went

in the water and i'm scrambling for my cell
phone i got to take a picture they were gone

but it was you know we don't get those moments
of pure natural interfacing with animals like

that in in the city and to have that i mean
it was huge it was like five six people on

and wow and and then of course it was bobbing
up and down in the lake as it went away from

me and chirping at me and letting me know
that it was not happy i was there but i just

was stunned you know and that's something
i think modern humans really in the in the

urban areas certainly don't have those experiences
and they're so critical for us to be able

to have that it's not like going to the zoo
and you see an animal in a cage this is you're

in their environment you know so so that that
place just has this wonderful atmosphere and

there's these sacred places you can find all
over the all over the world right and this

happens to be in my backyard i'm just really
lucky i can go there i'm so happy it's it's

so close to you and that it gets to be that
you have that as part of your life and and

it's it's always a good sign when it when
an environment um you know like that that

it can support wildlife like that it's a great
it's a great sign that the that the otters

call it home as well yeah there's a good balance
there happening that that it's truly natural

that we're not creating something we're just
letting something exist as it should and providing

again providing the container for that to
grow yeah awesome thank you so much for talking

about that i love i love hearing um because
everybody's very different with the way that

they connect to nature like what part of nature
or what kind of environments like really feed

them or nurture them or what they're drawn
to and so i love hearing about that and i

i loved that you talked about um the importance
of nature uh in your book because it's it's

so true and i i think it's starting to get
talked about more uh how important you know

the the tie between nature and healing um
but it is it is still a conversation that

is not being had enough um so i love that
you included that in your book um yeah definitely

um yeah so i i would love to know uh just
a little bit about your your writing process

and uh and how you knew that it was time to
write your story sure sure so i've always

been somewhat of a writer when i was a little
kid i wrote poems um just because i enjoyed

expressing myself that way the mighty hunters
have set out you know at thanksgiving time

and all these silly little things that you
do when your kid in your three-line note paper

that we used to have back in the day and i
loved writing short stories and you know the

book reports that everyone hated i loved writing
reading and writing book reports and i did

that throughout elementary school in high
school and then kind of lost that a little

bit in in college but i actually got back
into writing uh because as part of my healing

process i started writing poems about my abuse
experience and how i felt what i sensed what

i was experiencing as abuse happen as a child
and then i wrote poetry about my transition

and my healing process so it's kind of a a
journey that i went on in poetry and at the

time my husband had told me you should publish
that those are that would be really helpful

to people to hear that and i'm like who's
going to publish poetry you know back then

before everyone was self-publishing like who's
gonna publish this and and self-publishing

wasn't an option back then so i kind of put
it aside and i actually got into writing some

fiction a friend of mine was doing some fiction
work and i uh wrote a novel that was um actually

based on my abuse experience kind of the subtext
behind it was the the villain was my grandfather

who was my abuser and the heroine was a younger
stronger version of me and there were characters

in there that represented very as people in
my family and and i really didn't know with

that fiction novel that it was a about my
abuse until much later my friend it said pick

someone you know who's a bad guy and turn
them into your villain i'm like oh i have

a bad guy in my life you know my abuser but
it didn't click to me to actually finish the

book that that that was the role the villain
was my grandfather i was a heroine and it

was a resolution to that abuse story that
i never got because my grandfather died when

i was in high school so this was a way that
i was able to express that it was a real aha

moment to have the book finished and be looking
at it and going oh my gosh i just wrote about

my abuse and overcoming it and so i i i still
didn't feel at that point in time that i had

a way to express my story as a trauma survivor
i don't have a way to really put the memories

of my abuse and into the timeline of my life
outside of the views it's just very hard to

do that so i didn't have a quote memoir that
i could write about my story and i i really

wanted to share it to help people but i thought
i just don't have enough to was it going to

be five pages you know what what how helpful
would that be but then the story about dr

larry nessar and the gymnast broke and here
were all these hundreds of girls and women

that this one man had abused in front of their
parents in the same room and i my heart just

broke i was like these women need help to
you know they need help to heal it's horrible

what happened to them i know what they're
going through and then like a little light

bulb went off saying i could write that book
i could write the book to help people heal

i can tell my experiences share some of my
story but the main goal would be to give people

the information and inspiration they need
to start their healing journeys or continue

on their healing journeys and i can share
the various things that i did that i put together

because there was no blueprint there was no
guidebook to how to do it when i started i

thought i could write the book i wish i had
had when i started my healing journey and

put it together so that you know i i i'm a
creative person but a very analytical person

kind of have both sides of the brain i said
i can be creative and write about my story

and my healing but that organizational critical
minded side i can put together some checklists

for people and some questions that they could
ask themselves that they could work on and

make it kind of a story workbook that they
could use to help guide them through things

to give them inspiration give them ideas now
i wasn't trying to set up a 21 day plan to

healing i was just like hey this is my story
this is what worked for me why don't you explore

these things try to find things that work
for yourself i'm like i can write that book

so that inspired me to begin writing but the
challenge for me was that when i wrote the

fiction it was on a schedule i'll sit down
i'll write a chapter this weekend and i'll

edit it but you know chunk chunk the time
was scheduled i could do it there was no problem

i tried to do that with my book about healing
and it blew up in my face i had such writer's

block because it was just too much to try
to do it on a schedule and i got very frustrated

and and i wanted to do it but it was really
hard it was like another layer of healing

that i was trying to do in writing it and
so i finally just said you know what the heck

with the schedule let me just approach it
any way i can i can't start at the beginning

and right to the end it's too intense let
me kind of put my story in detail aside let

me the first thing i did was i knew the structure
i wanted to have about each of the ways that

i had helped myself heal so i decided let
me walk through the checklist the questions

i want people to ask themselves i'll start
with that that's pretty easy and i'd skip

around to the different parts of the book
and that's okay let me write about my story

in relationship to each of those areas so
you mentioned nature let me talk about how

nature was healing to me and so i would fill
in my story to that piece and got those done

and the very last thing i tackled was the
full introduction that was the story of my

abuse and my my recovery because it was the
hardest it was really hard to dip into that

and i wasn't afraid of sharing it maybe a
teeny little bit afraid of sharing it but

what i was afraid of was get doing it well
enough that people could understand and relate

and it could be helpful you know that's where
the pressure was for me that i put on myself

is i really want this to be written well and
to be helpful and even at the end i i would

use that as an inspiration to say you can
do it because it's going to be helpful and

i just kind of let it go and just try to do
it so rather than start the beginning to go

to the end on a schedule it turned out it
was do what you can and sometimes it like

be honey it's okay you wrote one sentence
this week good you made progress that's what

we need you know it's like a healing journey
in itself right because if you can take that

one step forward even if it's a baby step
it's going forward and so it was a very very

different process it took me two years to
get through it and finish it but you know

i just gave myself permission to go slow and
do what i needed to take care of myself but

continue to work to try to get this book put
together in a way that would serve other survivors

to help them yeah but not be a detriment to
you right that's wonderful thank you so much

for talking about that i love hearing about
yeah i love hearing about people's process

um and especially because there's there's
so many um survivors that have questions about

that like that are thinking about doing this
that are thinking about making writing their

story or sharing their story uh as you know
a part of their their journey and um yeah

and i love that you were so mindful about
uh self-regulation and not uh not harming

yourself and and being gentle with yourself
and the the way that you organized it the

way it needed to be organized uh instead of
yeah like

yeah um yeah i was trying to trying to make
it happen uh you know in in the wrong way

um or the way that that wasn't gonna work
for you yeah and i didn't really tell people

i was writing it because i didn't want that
pressure of people asking me is it done yet

you know how far are you and my husband knew
about it of course he always supported me

he never pushed me he you know just gave me
the space to do what i needed to do and so

eventually i did share with people that i
was going to start writing it and especially

when i got an editor and was getting some
professional help with that and then i started

posting about it on social media it was like
the first time it's like okay this is going

to be real click you know it's like it's out
there now you know and but then that i saw

as part of my process of healing and being
willing to be authentic and be present and

say this is who i am i'm not ashamed of it
bad things happen to me but i'm working to

make myself a better person beyond what could
have defined me and here here's what i've

been through and you know i i felt okay doing
that because it wasn't a finger-pointing book

it wasn't a book about what that person that
it hurt me it was about going forward you

know going forward in healing and what we
could do to to support each other in healing

um and it's interesting because you know i
get if i post on social media and i get feedback

from people like at work it feels like my
worlds are two separate places you know but

someone from work will like a post that i
had and like oh okay they know that that book

is out there but okay they know you know it
it sometimes is like a little jarring because

sometimes i feel like those worlds are really
separate but at the same time it's nice that

the people are recognizing it throughout my
connections in the world you know family friends

and work that people are aware of it because
that's that's just part of who i am um and

i'm perfectly happy to talk about it if anyone
wanted to come up to me and i did have someone

come up to me recently at work because she
had a situation that could look like it might

be an abuse situation and she says i know
that you know about this so i want your input

on it i was like oh wow okay so this opened
the door for her to feel comfortable to come

forward and and get some help some advice
about that so i was like hey you know if that

that opens some doors for people to have feel
comfortable and and doing that then that's

that's great that that's part of what's going
on with this book well and thank goodness

i mean so much better than how things were
before which was just you know the stigma

and the silence and no one's talking about
it so no one has anyone to go to or yeah you've

even like even just someone to go to and they
say here's a resource and just um yeah just

just this unspoken and that's that's the killer
i think for survivors is the shame you know

it's so hard to internally for yourself face
what's happened to you a lot of times we'd

associate we find ways of shoving it down
we find ways to numb ourselves to forget what's

going to have happened to us there's so many
coping mechanisms that we have because it's

just overwhelming and then we're afraid of
that rejection when you feel like you are

to a point you need to share whether it's
sharing it to get help in the immediate situation

or afterwards to get help to recover from
the situation um it's really daunting to say

i'm going to tell someone the the first time
i ever outside of my my husband really told

someone was when i had to pick up the phone
and call my insurance company to say i need

help finding someone who specializes in abuse
and that was the first time those words kind

of came out to a stranger someone outside
of my my known trust area and that was huge

that was terrifying and huge but it got me
on the road to where i needed to be but that's

really hard to take those steps if you're
feeling like people are going to respond negatively

to you they're going to reject you either
directly explicitly by denying and invalidating

your experience and most people don't really
realize it's hard to hear someone's story

when something horrible like that's happened
but people who share their stories a lot of

times they just need validation they just
need you to accept that what i'm telling you

is my true experience and then maybe we can
go from there to the next step which would

be can you support me in getting me some help
that i need to to move forward but it's hard

it's really hard to do that first step yeah
well and yeah that that validation like being

heard receiving validation and not receiving
judgment or shame which um which is you know

sadly plentiful you know not not only in ourselves
but unfortunately does exist from others um

or society at large at times um yeah and we
can face that in our immediate situations

because people want to deny because they don't
want to deal with it they don't want to admit

what's happening because they don't want to
change the family structures or the dynamics

of what's happening there's a lot of reasons
why people would deny you know i had some

denials when i was a child and it's just something
that we fear happening but it shouldn't keep

you from continuing to look for what you need
you know because you know your experience

is true and and you need to find someone who
can validate that that's why i'm really a

strong proponent of if you can possibly do
it your situation allows you to get some help

from a professional who's been trained in
dealing with trauma we've come a long way

from just being able to have general therapists
of people who understand these kind of abuse

and trauma situations and are specifically
trained to help deal with those kind of things

for people and so and especially during this
age where you can do telehealth you can get

on a call with someone and you don't have
to have that expert in your hometown you can

find that expert in a network um so it's it's
a wonderful time i think for people who need

help to be able to find the help they need
it does take a little effort to do that and

you know i try to help people figure that
out in my book how to find the therapist you

need and what questions to ask them but i
think it's a wonderful time to give an opportunity

for more people to connect with the help that
they need without having to to you know be

able to drive there being able to find the
person locally and it's wonderful to have

those kind of resources now yeah the accessibility
uh has just exploded um especially during

the pandemic and you know and i i love like
not not just for location but also um for

uh you know various like disability issues
that someone might be facing if they if they

can't travel something like that maybe you
suffer with uh agoraphobia all of a sudden

like you're you're able to receive treatment
without having to exit your home if that's

a problem for you there's just so many angles
um to it and yeah that the the treatment that

people need that it's now available uh on
i mean just a level that is unprecedented

it's very exciting and i think um yeah i'm

i'm very happy about that and i have i have
friends who are receiving treatment that um

were never able to receive treatment before
um and i'm just really really excited about

that so were they it's more than me what is
your story and uh and how did you how did

you tell people for the first time and get
help so my view started when i was very young

again i can't tell you exactly when it started
because of the the trauma brain but i know

based on the experiences i was having and
the types of use that was happening and i

knew my relative size to people and so i was
very small little person elementary school

for sure and that continued till my grandfather
died when i was 15 freshman in high school

i don't know how much longer it would have
continued if he hadn't died of prostate cancer

karma um but that was a pretty long time and
i think i the way i remember that i mentioned

something to my sister when we were very little
and i remember her going to tell my mother

and coming back and saying yeah mom says that's
not true and so i was already feeling like

what was happening was definitely not right
it felt icky to a little girl it just didn't

feel right it just didn't make sense to me
and that was kind of the first barrier that

i had placed in front of me about getting
help and i learned to associate physically

i learned to sort of push down the memories
so i wouldn't remember it in between it was

usually when we were dropped off for summer
vacation and would spend that with my grandparents

on their house on the lake so here's this
ideal situation there's boating and skiing

and fishing and swimming and grandma cooking
homemade meals and abuse um he went after

a particular type of personality and there
were several generations in my family that

there were women that he went after multiple
women and you know the real creative bright

women that he was drawn to um i actually think
that he was abused i think it was a cycle

in our family and i think he was abused and
but i he probably would have been diagnosed

as a narcissist in our current languaging
and understanding of personality types very

domineering very controlling very manipulative
very sharp person and absolutely terrifying

to a little girl to have this six foot something
guy ex-military man and i don't remember him

ever saying what would happen but it certainly
it was an atmospheric secrecy of where it

happened when it happened and he was so imposing
personality wise and physically to me then

i i knew that you don't cross this man um
so i pretty early on learned to keep my mouth

shut and live in perfect misery for and i
just i didn't know how i was going to get

help i didn't know how i was going to make
it stop i my brain kind of released all of

that pressure because i would have this recurring
nightmare of a monster coming through this

dark hole in my wall of my bedroom to come
get me you know symbolism there but other

than that i just i just would repress it and
until he died and then i guess my brain said

aha there's no one here to threaten you you're
we're going to let you remember everything

and it's just just all these body memories
all these sort of visual flashbacks um it

was just overwhelming and here i am in high
school all the hormones are already going

i want to be attractive i want to attract
male attention and here is this whole total

maelstrom of shame and negativity and lack
of self-worth and you know what he my grandfather

taught me was i was worthless i was unlovable
i was worthless it was a shameful thing i

deserved what i was getting and that voice
even though he was dead that voice was in

my head you know and and telling me i had
internalized that voice and to counter that

i kind of turned into a perfectionist some
some way of getting control of my life was

to be as perfectionist at school and to do
really well in school because i got a lot

of positive feedback from that so i had no
way to get help i was ashamed to ask for help

i had kind of learned that you better just
not ask you're not going to get supported

and so i immersed myself in school and band
and basketball and kept my brain busy that

was my coping mechanism pour everything into
school get a lot of good feedback for getting

good grades make yourself feel good about
getting good grades and i did love to learn

i love to learn it was just this extra piece
on it and so that went on until i got into

college and i started dating a graduate student
and i had told a couple of boyfriends in high

school a little bit about it but not much
but i really opened up to this this graduate

student he was a recovering alcoholic and
he went to 12-step programs alcoholics anonymous

and so he was very much aware of how getting
that help would benefit me so he got me to

go to the counseling center and took me a
couple tries but i found a counselor at school

that was working for me and then i got into
a 12-step program survivors of incest anonymous

which was incredible my my therapist helped
me get into a women's group of people who

had been abused or assaulted raped et cetera
and so that was my first chance to really

be in front of other women and hear their
stories because i you know you always think

you're it's just you in a way you know that
no one's had your experience no one can understand

what you're going through but here's women
yeah it's just really sad that how isolated

we can feel but here was this group of women
and what was great for me is there were some

that were pretty far along in their healing
journey and i could actually see where i could

be if i worked like they did it's very inspiring
and then when the surprise of the incest anonymous

there were people of all ages and there were
men it was a mixed group there was this young

man who was a model and gorgeous and had a
horrible abuse of childhood and here was a

man the age of my grandfather when my grandfather
abused me and his mother had abused him and

that just put my brain on its side it's like
oh they're all not dirty old men there's actually

something other than that you know and here's
this poor man that had been abused by his

mother and was still suffering and trying
to find his way so all of these things really

were what got me started in college to start
the process of healing and doing sort of more

of the traditional therapy-based group-based
approaches but eventually i kind of went my

own way to find additional things that would
support me

yeah i have never had an experience um specific
to uh the the sexual trauma that i've had

i've never had like a a group therapy experience
um that was specific to that and i loved uh

reading about how helpful that was to you
because i think especially like seeking therapy

is uh i mean for people who are new to it
it's intimidating even to look for uh for

an individual therapist and i think groups
are seeking group therapy is this is even

more so intimidating and so i loved how positive
your experience was and how inspiring it was

um and that you talked about uh being able
to meet someone who was like a healing role

model like someone you know i i could i could
be that i could be where you are i just have

to keep going being able to to actually meet
somebody um who had a shared experience and

and who's you know like look they're doing
it and it's just uh it can be done they're

not miserable in their life they're actually
finding some happiness and joy which i i was

like what is that what are you talking about
what yeah oh it's it's so important it's so

important what has been your experience um
since then moving forward with therapy what

uh what role has therapy played in in your
healing um since then yeah i i did the therapy

in college until i went to grad school and
then i kind of felt like i had reached sort

of a plateau where i was pretty okay with
it and then grad school just again was sucked

back into academia and doing well in school
and working 80 hours a week between school

work in the lab and getting my my degree and
so i kind of put self-care and so feeling

on boz i did a few things sports-wise club
sports teams and things but other than that

again it was kind of a plateau and a pause
but once i got out of graduate school you

know i realized that i needed to do some more
healing and so i felt like i had gotten as

far as i could with with the therapy for for
then i eventually went back into therapy when

my husband and i got engaged and i wanted
to make sure that i was going to be in a good

place mentally physically emotionally about
getting into this long-term relationship but

then i started exploring other things and
i decided that we heard that if you want to

have kids you yoga is a good thing to do while
you're pregnant so i'm like okay if we want

to get pregnant let me back that up a few
months or so and start doing yoga then so

you know my planning brain came in like let
me try yoga so it's really about anticipating

having a family and not really something to
focus on for my own healing but it was amazing

that the universe was guiding me to the right
place that was needed for me and i found a

wonderful studio i actually started working
with male teachers because that's who was

teaching the introductory courses and it was
intimidating at first because there's a lot

of poses that i was uncomfortable with i felt
very exposed in and i didn't want to stand

out by not doing them but i was uncomfortable
and i eventually talked to the teacher and

not surprising based on all the statistics
we have but his sister had been sexually abused

and so he got it he understood we talked about
how i could do things differently for some

of the poses he wouldn't you know make adjustments
for me because that was you know didn't really

want to be touched and you know he wouldn't
call out anything about what i was doing differently

so that i'd feel comfortable with class and
eventually going through the practice it really

allowed me to get back in touch with my body
because i had like i said learn to dissociate

and i actually had grown to hate my body because
my body was part of this whole thing with

my grandfather and i just learned to hate
it and despise it and ugh it was just i didn't

want to have anything to do with it but yoga
got me back into my body got me to learn to

accept my body see my body as this beautiful
supportive thing and totally transformed my

my own body imagery and my connection with
my body and to the point i learned to love

the yoga because of the the strength the flexibility
the physicality part but also it was helping

me move into more spiritual uh engagement
and practices like meditation which was the

next thing i kind of connected with but i
thought that's why in my book i talk about

body practices because i think that's very
important for survivors to really learn to

connect with their body learn to be at home
in their body because it's your body what

happened to you kind of stole that stole your
body from you and this is a finding a way

to reclaim your body and inhabit it and to
fully enjoy it as the gift that it is for

us that takes some tremendous amount of healing
and whatever way that you connect if it's

running rollerblading dancing whatever it
is that can get you embodied i think that's

a real critical part of healing that all of
us need to try to explore it is and i i loved

how how much of just this this core part of
your book was your how embodied your healing

process was um and it's honestly mine is not
so much i still very much struggle with um

with that uh being being in your own body
being comfortable with that um and i i very

i really loved you talking about yoga specifically
um because i i very much related to that and

uh uh yeah and i love that trauma-informed
yoga practices are becoming so much uh more

common uh and you know easy to find in certain
areas um so that's something if you're interested

in starting yoga you can look for trauma informed
practices um and you know if you talk to your

yoga instructor asking them that is definitely
something you should do it can definitely

help because yeah yoga can be um very activating
when you're when you're getting getting into

it and i've i've had a lot of experiences
like that there's nothing like uh being in

a yoga class and all of a sudden you you try
a post and it's like oh that shook something

loose in me and yeah now we're now we're crying
upside down um it's just yeah but uh but yeah

so so incredibly healing um to to be present
in your own body is such a uh it is such a

struggle after uh experiencing specifically
sexual trauma um and it is i mean it's essential

you are a you are a person in your flesh

until you gotta leave and that's you know
that's that's life and uh and i think it's

all part of learning to to like ourselves
and love ourselves again you know i was taught

to hate myself to despise myself to be ashamed
of myself and for me to reclaim all aspects

of who i am my body is one of those things
that i want to reclaim to be part of what

i like about myself and we all come in different
shapes and sizes and that's okay and whatever

yours is as long as you're being healthy with
it you know treating it well it's okay um

god made us unique the universe goddess however
you want to describe it we show up as unique

expressions and i think that we can work hard
you know society has to try to push us and

the western society is trying to push us into
a certain idea of what a body should be and

how you should use your body but we need to
figure that out for ourselves i'm a real proponent

of figure out what works for you what works
for you is what you're going to do is what

you're going to absorb is what you're going
to make a habit and that's what you need to

figure out don't let somebody else tell you
what it should be for you they might give

you examples like me in my book and say hey
try this out think about this but in the end

it's an exploration of homecoming to yourself
and what does that mean for you what is it

that makes your body feel good is it a hot
bath is it taking a run is it walking in the

quiet woods is it not going up with your pet
whatever that is can you do more of it we

know so much more about neuroscience now and
we know our brains learn and grow all the

time there's no endpoint to building those
new connections in your brain you can literally

rewire your brain through what you experience
and do and what you focus on if you can focus

on absorbing all these wonderful positive
healing healthy experiences if you can give

that to yourself and immerse yourself marinate
yourself in those as they show up little by

little you're going to literally rewire your
brain so it focuses on the positive it sees

the positive it finds a positive that brings
it back into your life and this is positive

virtuous cycle that you can literally use
what we know from western science and what

you might be exploring in non-western science
like yoga or meditation you can bring that

together and really have a healing that you
can actively engage in and you can see the

results in over time yeah the gift of neuroplasticity

oh if it weren't for that uh it would just
be a mess but um yeah i i loved you touched

on something else in your book and it was
uh food and control and uh and the experience

of disordered eating and uh i also relate
to that um so i was hoping that we could talk

about that for uh for a minute yeah it's it's
you know when you feel so out of control and

you feel someone else has control over your
body either because it's ongoing or you're

tied to what had happened to you that's one
of the places we we try to to control our

lives is through eating and for me i teetered
on the edge of anorexia i mean i was very

controlling about what i ate and you know
would push myself as far as i could to see

how little i could eat for how long i could
last without eating and my mom was busy with

her own business so a lot of times we were
you know i was in various activities i wouldn't

be home for dinner and i probably lived on
spaghetti you know that was because it was

easy to make and fast to make and you know
i could get studying but i would i would push

to the point of you know low sugar levels
you better get something to eat or going to

pass out and i think what kept me from going
over the edge into full-blown anorexia was

two things one is i wanted my brain to function
well enough to do well in school because that

was a real positive feedback for me i couldn't
tip it so far that i couldn't mentally do

what i needed to do and i was in sports i
needed to be healthy enough to be able to

play because i loved playing basketball and
was on a team and accepted for who i was it

was very empowering and nurturing space for
me they knew nothing about my abuse they just

knew i was good at sports and i was accepted
for that and that was really important to

me and you know i i was like 110 pounds 5
foot 10 skinny as a rail and and my coach

actually asked my mom to try to build me up
because i was i was a sinner and here i was

tossed around this skinny kid and we went
to the the doctor and that the doctor said

yeah okay if you want to gain weight you need
to have a 3 500 calorie a day and i was like

what does that mean how much do i have to
eat and he told me i'm like are you crazy

you know there's no way i would eat that much
food um but i i did and back then that again

i am the age that i am so i say back then
a lot for younger folks on the call but they

didn't know as much about eating disorders
then but um yeah it was a cutting edge for

me and once i got into therapy with the therapist
i think it started easing a little bit but

i think it was the yoga that finally let me
release the need for controlling my body that

i i didn't need to control my body because
i was trying to learn to be a partner with

my body and you know would hear about eating
well and and taking care of body and this

yoga community and started to realize that
there was another way that i could find an

easefulness in my body that didn't demand
that i tried to control the food and things

around the food and so i could release that
i could let go of that a little bit over time

yeah i love that i love that uh that practice
led to not only uh yeah in inhabiting uh your

body but that that led to um to acceptance
and respect of of your body as well that though

that that was a natural progression um yeah
yeah and there wasn't this aspect of punishment

you know there's an aspect to control about
the eating but there's an aspect of punishment

that i may not even consciously know why i
wanted to punish my body obviously now looking

back i can see what it was but there was some
aspect of punishment with mixed with the control

kind of the sick kind of thing happening and
with the yoga and the therapy and meditation

it's like i don't have to feel the need to
punish myself because it wasn't my fault something

bad happened to me i need to try to recover
from that but i don't need to punish myself

because it wasn't my fault i had no way of
stopping it i was elementary school short

little kid tall adult he should have known
better he should have done better and when

i started to get to a point where some little
piece of me said it wasn't my fault i didn't

fully accept that for a long time but some
part of me enough of me was like i don't have

to punish myself anymore i just need to put
that energy into healing rather than punishing


i loved the section on forgiveness because
it is such a loaded like it is in survivor

circles um the whole conversation around forgiveness
is um the way it's handled is is honestly

a pet peeve for me um that like i'll go off
yeah you just say that word and then it's

an explosion just it's i'm sure you're able
to flip your listeners like she talks about

forgiveness what it's like well hold

it's up what you think um yeah and it's uh
so so often as soon as as soon as that word

is said um and there are so many people who
specifically say uh their message is oh in

order to heal you have to forgive your abuser
and that that has to be a part of um of healing

and moving on and yeah it's a prerequisite
you have to you have to pass that gate in

order to even get anywhere yeah it is it is
a gatekeeping thing yeah um and i am not okay

with that uh if it is for you fine but i'm
i'm tired of that being um being stated as

like a fact uh it is i loved your section
on forgiveness because it did not have that

message or that vibe at all and the most incredible
um you know like the most important part of

that chapter in your book is forgiveness of
self um and i think that that is something

that resonates uh for for me personally and
that's something that i would say um is actually

pretty like a real game yeah in order to heal
you do have to forgive yourself because it

was not your fault uh and that that is uh
something that you actually do have to do

um yeah i was told that myself and unfortunately
it was a yoga teacher who was so supportive

and helped me get into yoga and get deeper
into yoga he was one that actually even as

wise as he was in certain ways and as compassionate
and generous as he was he was one who emphatically

told me over and over again i had to forgive
my grandfather pissed me off pissed me off

and disappointed me that he would say this
you know because you see people and you kind

of see them one-dimensionally often i'm like
oh he's this you know perfectly wonderful

person and then he would say this to me and
i was like that is okay bs and you know it

just puts all the burden on us and it's like
it no the the only the thing that i realized

was it and i said it took me a long time that
it wasn't my fault and that i had to let that

go i had to let go of the shame of thinking
that somehow i was responsible because there

was always this thing you know as kids this
you know you talk to psychologists and there's

the way that children's minds deal with these
situations that they're out of control they

have no way to stop something somehow they
twist it around and make it that they are

the ones that caused it again it's maybe an
aspect of control it's an aspect of dealing

with an untenable situation but that is the
pattern that human children do so if this

happened to you you are being totally human
and natural that's how little children's brains

work because it doesn't function properly
as an adult to your at least something right

we know that so yeah um and it i had this
vision in my head that came to me because

i was so tired of spending all my energy fighting
and pretty trying to hold abuse memories at

bay and all the negativity that was coming
up i had this imagery of my grandfather was

like this ball and chain and it was heavy
and i couldn't get away from it i kept dragging

and when am i going to get free from this
and i was in misery and another light bulb

went off and it was like take the chain open
and the weight was gone and i was like could

it really be that easy in a way for me to
simply say no i'm not going to focus on the

past i'm not going to be tied to you and what
happened to me i'm not going to put all my

energy in trying to forget or block or whatever
i'm going to let that go i'm not forgiving

him i'm turning my energy away from being
a victim and turning myself into a survivor

and eventually a thriver because i'm putting
the energy into me i'm not defining myself

as the person he abused i am now defining
myself as a person who has overcome or is

overcoming a horrible situation and i'm becoming
the person that i want to be and to me that

was the step of forgiving myself that i had
no responsibility for that and that's on my

book you see the cover of my book i've got
a ball and chain that's broken open and there's

a rose growing up through that and that rose
to me that red rose to me means beauty finding

your own beauty it smells beautiful you know
it's a the color of it the scent of it it's

this beautiful flower but purposely the rose
because it has thorns and i'm not going to

be someone that's going to just lay down and
let people walk over me i'm going to be my

true authentic self and i'm going to have
good boundaries and i'm going to be a healthy

person so that imagery was very purposeful
and came out of that experience of saying

i can just stop being the victim i can transition
and focus give myself forgiveness for something

i had no control over now i also had to forgive
the coping mechanism mechanisms i had developed

to try to deal with what was happening while
it was happening and then after effects we

all have behaviors that we did because we
were trying to deal with all kinds of crap

that was going on in our heads and in our
bodies and we did things whether we medicated

we we our relationships whatever we did that
weren't healthy i had to look at those and

go okay i don't like what i was doing or who
i was but i have to forgive that too because

i understand now i didn't know better and
now i'm going to learn to know better i'm

going to let go of the fact that that stuff
happened make amends where i need to make

amends to myself and others and look to where
i can become a better person and there's so

much you have to be able to say that's in
the past let me learn from it but let it not

define who i'm going to be

oh yes thank you so much for talking about
that and i yeah especially the um the coping

mechanisms because we do especially especially
if we were abused as children you do you use

the tools that you have available to you which
are extremely limited if you're a child uh

you do the best that you can and you do you
have to to let it go and not hold yourself

responsible and just say hey that's okay i
did i did what i could and now i can do better

and a part of that is not punishing myself
or feeling shame for the rest of my life over

ultimately doing the best you could with a
lack of resources and uh and a horrific situation

that was not your fault and you know should
in the end you know usually lies at the the

door of an adult who should have known better
mm-hmm exactly who should have acted right

um you know and you and you talked about that
as well like put put the blame where it belongs

and shift that off of yourself and uh and
let that go that's it's incredibly important

and difficult and uh and profound uh it's
a profound shift in in your healing process

when you do finally reach that point uh that
shift that you're talking about of like no

longer staying in that mindset of you know
being a victim being at that point in time

um you know being under their power and having
your focus there um i've always thought of

it as like still being in the room um and
uh you know in flashbacks are a thing you

may you may return there your brain may you
know kind of boot you back there every every

so often but um but changing your mindset
so that you are not living in the in the room

or voluntarily right yeah exactly you know
whatever it may be for you maybe it wasn't

a room but you know um if you're listening
um you know and i think that we don't give

ourselves the kindness the self-compassion
that we deserve and i you know i always i'm

constantly trying to improve myself listen
to podcasts learn what i can and what's really

struck me recently is how would you treat
a friend if you had a friend come to you and

said this is my story would you shame blame
treat them like crap no you would be so kind-hearted

and supportive and how can i help you and
that i'm so sorry that happened to you i can

see how much that has hurt you what can i
do to support you you would do all these things

for your best friend that we can't seem to
do for ourselves and part of that is we're

caught in that shame blame milestone but if
we can just think how would i treat someone

else who was my best friend how would my best
friend treat me if they really understood

the situation can't i do that for myself can
i at least try to say i'm going to try to

be kind to myself today maybe that's where
you start if they've got so much going on

can you say can i try to be kind to myself
in my words that i say to myself and i do

some small kindness um you know i love orange
juice i just crave making it up crazy i love

orange juice for breakfast in the morning
let me do that every day i love hot baths

let me do that maybe add some bubble bath
you know really treat myself the smallest

things that you can do i really enjoy taking
a walk whatever it is that's not a medicating

type of behavior right you know coping mechanism
but a healing uh self-supporting kind of thing

even the smallest things like for me it's
like hey another bite of a diet with chocolate

just one bite today is going to get me to
the point that i need and not with guilty

pleasure but simply i deserve to be kind to
myself and this is what i'm going to do to

learn to be kind and to do myself healing
and have my self compassion because it has

you have to learn that i mean we were taught
all the wrong ways to do things so with that

neuroplasticity wonder that we have in our
brain let's just try to be kind to ourselves

and for me i had so much negative language
i had so much negative language i talked out

loud and put myself down to the point my friends
were commenting on it in high school again

when he died all this came out and my friends
noticed it and they were kind to support me

to get away from verbally bashing myself out
loud and then slowly i learned not to do that

and if you can just change the messaging you're
giving yourself inside your head to say that's

okay thank you i appreciate that you want
to keep me safe but i want to hear another

voice now and it's going to be the voice of
kindness and just try to listen to that to

start shifting things if you can learn to
be your own best friend that will help your

healing tremendously yeah i think negative
self-talk is um is a huge obstacle uh for

all of us and i love that you address that
in your book and it is uh yeah that that inner

voice and shifting it um it is such a process
and it is it is so incredibly important um

it's it's a journey yeah and i think you know
it may sound to your listeners like oh god

they want me to do this and they want me to
do that and they got this whole list of things

they want me to do it's like try one thing
try something that is easy for you that resonates

and i don't think our healing journey ever
ends i think that we reach it's kind of like

a spiral you know and sometimes things come
back but each time that things come back into

our lives that are challenging we've gained
resilience we've gained skills we've gained

the ability through our work to handle that
differently and we can look back and see that's

why journalist is so fantastic because you
can look back and see where you were three

months ago and go oh my gosh look how far
i've come i thought i'd put two steps i've

taken 20. it's amazing um but i think you
just have to realize that it's not getting

on the autobahn and zooming down to healing
200 miles an hour it's going to be a slow

process but they're going to be rewards along
the way that'll support you and you'll see

that your life changing and improving and
i like the idea that i can keep becoming a

better human being in my mind that's what
human beings are here for on this planet is

to learn to explore to grow now we've gotten
sort of a kick in the teeth and so we have

this huge plateau to get over to get to the
point we can get on that more quote normal

healing journey so we've got a little more
effort to put in to get to the starting gate

so to speak but if we can do that work then
we can get to a point where healing and learning

and growing is just a natural part of what
we do because we love ourselves and we want

to be the best that we can be and we want
to keep learning how to do that so the first

part of the journey is can you get to the
point where you like yourself you have good

behavior patterns you're happy with how you're
living your life for the most part and then

from there you can go on a different type
of healing journey that's going to keep extending

your human potential and so when people may
read something that i wrote this like you

know it's continuing hearing and jeremy i
think there's kind of these two stages that

you get beyond the past and then you look
to the future and and the open endless possibilities

of where you could go with whatever you're
trying to do yeah and it's if if somebody's

listening and you're right at the beginning
and you're really really raw all of that might

seem like pie in the sky it is totally possible
and it's so beautiful and exciting and you

have that you have that to look forward to
and to to work towards and you got this you

got this and it's it's a beautiful life and
it's yours and uh and it it gets better and

it it just you gotta do the work one step
at a time whatever your pace is and you have

a beautiful life and you 100 deserve that
and oh my gosh and this i'm like i just got

really excited and like inspired when you
were saying that so i i just can't i keep

thinking about like that person that you talked
about in group that was inspiring um to you

and i am so excited uh for some of my listeners
to have you be that person for them to be

like i could do this i'm so excited i could
do this you can yeah you can hear me i get

passionate about it because i want people
to know i i was so stuck in a place especially

when i didn't have any resources that didn't
know where to start and you just feel kind

of alone and helpless but you're not whoever's
listening you're not alone and there's people

who are there to help you and make connections
to what you need whatever it is you need to

heal and just do the work a little bit by
little and just really appreciate when things

start to shift no matter how small and accept
that as a huge victory because you deserve

to have whatever you want in your life you
deserve that and you can work towards that

and you may just feel there's no thing in
my world beyond the pain and suffering but

a little bit of work you crack open a window
the sunshine and the air start flowing and

then you're going to start feeling that that
and just i just you know it's not your fault

what happened and you deserve the best for
yourself and you can work towards that and

you have support and you have resources to
help you get there yeah

i would love to [Music] uh ask you about your
meditation practice uh and just uh what what

place that holds in in your life i started
off fairly simple because i it seemed a little

overwhelming to jump into it and there weren't
a lot of resources in the area where i was

that i could connect with so i actually started
with guided meditations titnathon is a beautiful

person to to listen to his talks he's so gentle
and so kind and i listened to his inspiring

meditation talks um john kevitz in i listened
to his i've gotten a lot out of tara barack

and jack cornfield some of these long long
term buddhist meditation practitioners and

just listening to the guided meditations because
there was so much going on in my body in my

head that i just couldn't do a silent meditation
and so i needed someone's voice to guide me

through and that was what got me started in
the meditation practice and then we moved

to atlanta around that point in time and there
was a buddhist meditation center that i started

attending because i wanted to get meditation
instruction in a group experience and got

instructed and is basically working with your
breath following your breath just trying to

be present in your body following your breath
i was fortunate that i had spent a number

of years doing yoga because one it that's
really what yoga was developed for was to

get your body prepared to sit long times in
meditation that was its original purpose so

i had the body uh flexibility and strengthened
and to do this the seated meditation but i

also had that experience with yoga to help
settle my mind quite a bit so i got to a place

where the meditation wasn't as challenging
for me physically or mentally but some people

it is very hard when you first start sitting
to not have your brain go crazy because you're

used to the distraction of the phone the television
your you know your various tablets and things

that are constantly in our face and we don't
realize how much is really going on in our

head because you're so busy focusing outward
and when you put those devices aside and you

sit down and you try to be quiet a lot of
people say oh my gosh it's that louder what

i why would i want to do this well you're
just realizing what's going on all the time

and eventually if you do meditation practice
it's like taking a a glass and you have dirt

dropped into it you stir it up a lot stir
it up a lot and there's all this mess happening

and eventually given time and stillness it
all settles down and there's clarity now it

doesn't happen overnight obviously and it's
not something that you're going to be the

perfect meditation person if you do x number
hours every moment that you sit down and try

to do meditation is going to be different
for you every day could be different depending

what's going on but for me it's even if you
can do one minute a day or five minutes whatever

you can do whatever you can do it the morning's
a good time the evening at lunch whatever

works just to try to be still now for some
people again that the the monkey chatter of

the brain is too much so it's can you pay
attention to what you're hearing can you work

with your five senses can you be present because
that's what meditation is about is being present

but can you be present and go through your
sense what am i feeling on my skin right now

can i be aware of that what am i hearing what
am i smelling and for those of us that deal

with anxiety and and trauma-induced anxiety
this is a great way of getting out of the

anxiety is being present with your senses
i use this often myself when i have anxiety

moments is can i what am i hearing what am
i feeling what am i seeing you know look at

five things in your environment so there's
lots of different ways you can be present

and mindful without necessarily having to
be still and quiet you know i i encourage

people to do walking meditation which is just
trying to be present with your body as it's

moving through a particular space that's a
great way to get out in nature you can do

guided meditations you can follow your breath
there can be words that you repeat mantras

you repeat you can listen to music whatever
it is to help you really be present for just

a point in time where you can be still bodily
and just breathe and try to let things happen

and you know things are going to come up you
just kind of let them go away um and you know

some days i'm like oh this is the greatest
meditation i've ever had and the next day

it's like i wasn't here one minute of that
meditation my brain was in the past and in

the future but it's like anything that you
try to build up those neural pathways right

repetition is key and for me it's the simplest
thing is either a guided meditation or just

trying to be quiet follow my breath be aware
of my senses give myself down time really

disconnect from all the different devices
try to disconnect from the past and future

you know we can get so caught up in our our
childhoods especially the trauma we can be

so anticipatory of bad things coming in the
into the future really hypersensitive if we

can release those slowly and just try to be
present in whatever way you can whether it's

following your different senses following
the breath whatever and just give your brain

a chance to relax because what we're trying
to do is train our brains to have a little

more equilibrium equanimity be a little more
settled so when we go out in the world we're

not so reactive we give ourselves a chance
to recognize a situation and say i have an

opportunity to do something different so instead
of those coping mechanisms getting triggered

every time my brain has been given some space
that it can make a decision to do something

different and to me that's what meditation's
really powerful for is not only giving you

some peace on the cushion but it's giving
you the capability to respond differently

more kindly more gently more respectfully
more aware and mindful in your life breeding

that into your life to be part of how you're
living in the world even if it's just a little

bit of space that you can get before you create
the storm that you normally would can i create

some calm instead of a storm can i find that
connect with it and recreate that in my connections

with other people and connection with myself
that's to me what meditation is building i

don't want to be a perfect meditation person
on the cushion i want to train my mind so

that i have a better experience in the world
we always talk about this imagery of the ripple

as a fact you drop a stone in the in a pond
a still pond and the ripples go away it's

almost like running that imagery in reverse
that you're taking the ripples and you're

calming them down you know and and the ripple
of calm is what you're trying to get because

if you engage with your family your friends
your co-workers from a place of calm and kindness

you know that's what i told myself today i
want to be kind to other people and i want

to be gentle with myself that's sort of my
mantra for the day that that's if i can accomplish

nothing else if i have come from a place of
kindness to others and gentleness to myself

no matter what happens i'm doing the best
that i can and that then i've nailed it for

the day and it's amazing if you are kind to
other people you can calm down there them

a little bit and that gets paid forward to
other people you can have a ripple of gentleness

kindness com you know calmness that you can
create simply by bringing that with you wherever

you go and so we have this immense power to
influence other people in a really positive

way just by being our our authentic gentle
kind compassionate selves find that however

you can connect with that find that and spread
that by being that in your world that to me

is what meditation yoga whatever practices
you do that's what my goal is is to find that

space and be that space well said when you
actually get to see that ripple happening

it is um it's it's incredible um

yeah and it changes it changes your life it
changes the way you act it does and there

is a challenge with that though if as and
which we should acknowledge for your listeners

you're going to be working hard on yourselves
because you see the opportunity to get past

where you've been and there's going to be
times where that's going to be particularly

hard because people who know you whether it's
your family or friends etc they know the old

you they respond to the old you they react
to the old you they're prepared for the old

you and when you show up as a new person that
might be challenging to them might take them

a while to understand and relate to it and
some of those people will not like that they

like who you were no matter how miserable
unhappy and healthy you might have been there's

something about that that works for them and
yeah when you show up as your new improved

you that you want to be there's some painful
lessons and some painful letting go and that's

the inevitable part of the process you get
to decide now who do i want my life i talk

a lot about that in my book who do i want
in my life who is worthy of the new me who

will support the new me some people need a
little bit of time to adjust some people never

will so you have to kind of decide and you
get to choose you know you don't have to just

accept or not and it's hard when it's your
family and if you have to be around your family

you decide how much energy you're going to
give to them how much time you actually give

them but some people just are going to leave
your life because they're not going to want

to support where you're going and that's okay
it hurts it's sad but in the long run you

want people around you who see that you believe
and you support you and you shouldn't waste

your energy on people who won't do that and
that's a tough thing for me to say it's a

tough thing to do but that's a warning for
your journey that that's going to happen but

there's also an opportunity that you people
who move out of your life who aren't good

for you make space for the people who are
to enter your life incredibly important thank

you so much for bringing that up uh so many
feelings because you are 100 correct uh yes

there are people that you will have to let
go um yeah so i would love to um to ask a

little bit about creativity and there was
um something that i was really drawn to you

talked about beauty and ugliness uh in the
section about creativity and i would that

really resonated uh with me and i'd like to
talk to just ask you about the role that creativity

plays in your life and in your healing process
um and about uh beauty and and ugliness and

that replacement process yeah so i i think
i mentioned earlier that i was a writer as

a kid and i drew something a little more than
stick figures but not much beyond that i had

a friend who was a true artist and i was like
ah my stuff never compares um is it so i did

because of that i never really thought of
myself as an artist even though i was creative

funny how we label ourselves as not something
as much as is something but i i really have

always felt like i was a creative person i
am and i wasn't one that was creative like

dancing and that sort of thing but the writing
and the visual arts um but that kind of got

taken away from me with the abuse i lost track
of that i lost connection with that for a

long time um outside of what was required
for school and then i think it was when i

was in grad school after i had done some therapy
in college and i was in grad school my dad

gave me his old camera and that was using
black and white film and i just started going

out with it and taking pictures and really
got into taking pictures of nature and exploring

i didn't know what i was doing i didn't know
anything about the camera but i was enjoying

it and i think that connecting that creativity
with the nature is really what started to

solidify that for me and then i when i was
in atlanta and i joined the meditation group

they had a contemplative arts program that
was part of the buddhist tradition there and

i started learning about ikebana flower arranging
and they offered a contemplative photography

course and i'm like i'm not sure what that
is but it sounds interesting i like photography

and i absolutely fell in love with it it was
really very complementary to a meditation

practice with your camera slowing down being
present connecting directly with the beauty

of the world and opening our eyes to all the
beauty that can be found even in our daily

lives and that became one of my primary practice
was that and i fell in love with it so much

i eventually got certified to teach a couple
of different levels of that practice which

i've done over the years and then i got back
into writing again you know my friend was

writing his novel i was doing what we call
novel club where i get to read a chapter that

he'd write and we talk about it and so i got
inspired by his efforts to self-publish to

try to do something for me and that's when
i started that book i mentioned before where

it was the story of my abuse where the main
character was me as a heroine but um i just

always liked trying to express something about
what i was imagining i was really into fantasy

and sci-fi books since i back in the day when
they had the mail order book clubs the science

fiction book club i was in fifth grade and
i was a member and i would get science fiction

books showing up at my door every every month
you know uh and i loved it i think i loved

being able to read and and go out into these
worlds that were places that were not my miserable

life you know that i could go and explore
and get excited about magic and potential

things that were happening and then that i
could bring that and actually create my own

worlds that i could write about was was fun
but there was something about connecting with

that again something that was sort of felt
like it was stolen for a while after the abuse

that i think everybody's creative in some
way whether it's gardening or cooking or woodworking

or a traditional acknowledged visual arts
literary arts whatever it is we're all creative

and that is what brings us alive that is to
me part of what makes life worth living is

that expression to me that's an expression
of the creativity of the universe that we

have this amazing capability to do that in
some way and to me obviously it brings me

alive and to tap into that again after it
being dead and stolen from me was really important

part of my healing that it again trying to
find a way back to my authentic self and just

that feeling of being able to express myself
have a voice to express um and it whether

it was written or visual or however it came
out and that was really healing for me to

be creative and to express in any way i want
and i love taking art courses to learn new

things i may not ever do that block printing
again but boy it was fun to learn about it

paper making whatever and so to me it's always
how can i be creative and expressive and it's

not about the end product it's not about the
recognition it's great to share on social

media or whatever but it's the process of
being creative being in that moment being

that flow whether it's by myself or with groups
it's life it's bringing life to your life

and i can't imagine it not being expressive
in some way going forward because it's just

healing and so critical to you know how i
live my life now yeah

and i loved um i loved the way you talked
about um trauma and there being uh relating

that to ugliness that had been in your life
and about creating beauty and replacing that

so infusing your future and uh the life that
you chose to live moving forward with more

and more beauty and creating that and seeking
that out um and i thought that was a really

beautiful way to look at it um because it's
yeah i think i think we all get um you know

the the message um that like creativity good
you should have creativity um and it's it's

easy to say and especially if someone is has
never been uh you know i if you're not identified

as a creative kid um you tend to to move away
from uh from certain activities and be and

say like oh well i'm not good at this i'm
not creative i'm not i'm i i'm a bad at drawing

so i'm not gonna do it i you know i'm tone
deaf so i'm not gonna sing um and so you i

think that it's really sad how so many so
many people are given the message in some

way that they're not creative when i i think
all human beings are inherently creative in

some way and it just may not be one of those
as you say like one of those things that's

tagged as creativity um yeah and i tried what
works for you the broadest sweep possible

like i said anything where you're making something
if you're sewing you're knitting you're cursing

you're being creative you know if you're woodworking
or building or doing whatever being creative

and i'm not gender specifying any of that
anybody can do any of those things yeah you

know whatever's showing up for you cooking
gardening um it you know just anything you

can imagine if you're sitting down and doing
the adult coloring books that's being creative

yeah you're bringing your own expression to
that and i i think that we can move away from

needing the label i try not to use a label
artist because that is just so weighted what

i just try to focus on is creative we have
that spark in us and it's just nurturing it

and i think we're afraid to not be good enough
to be embarrassed to be compared and for me

it's like can you play can you be curious
can you go and try something thinking i made

absolutely psych and fail at this by some
standard that i might try to give myself but

i'm gonna do it because i want to learn about
it and i've gone into art classes where it's

turned out i fell in love with it and i learned
so much about it i can teach it now you know

and even if it was it i do my own thing here
that no one else sees but boy doing it makes

me feel fantastic that's enough we don't have
to take it beyond that if we don't need want

to so don't define creativity by someone else's
response to what you're doing define it by

what your response is to what you're doing
and that's where we can define creativity

for ourselves and even don't tell anybody
that you're doing it it's okay you know you

can make christmas presents for people or
you can have a closet full of whatever you

made it doesn't matter again it's the process
it's the expression that it's it's acknowledging

that there's something that is in you that
wants to be expressed and it's okay to do

it in a way that makes sense to you yeah without
worry you know to me i just say can you be

curious that's kind of my new catchword for
my approach to the world it's like can i be

curious about that because when things come
as a challenge or you know it might frustrate

me it might have all these sort of negative
emotions that want to respond to it i'm trying

to rethink it and say can i be curious about
what i'm hearing what i'm feeling without

labeling it and so you can take that into
your creative experience can i be curious

and explore and give my permission to try
things knowing that maybe that's just not

a good fit for me but i never know i may find
my passion by accident because i was willing

to explore the possibilities so don't deny
yourself a passion because you haven't tried

be willing to try it and see and if it doesn't
work out like you thought who cares onto the

next thing that might be just as fun i 100
agree and that is curiosity is one of those

traits that i hold in extremely high esteem
and i think is uh not nourished and i i mean

oftentimes uh discouraged and uh cauterized
as we're as we're children especially like

in you know those of us who have been through
like public education a lot of us have had

experiences like that um you gotta forget
everything public education taught you at

this point it's like whatever they told you
they were lying to you yeah just that was

a lot of propaganda yeah it was a lot of confused
stuff happening you know and as adults we

could choose that's what i think is so great
to finally be an adult and be able to say

i get used but i want my life what i you know
obviously we have to do certain things to

get along with other people blah blah blah
but i mean beyond that basic living stuff

i get to choose how i spend my time my energy
who i have in my life and what i do that i

find fulfilling and bring brings me joy that
is one of the big things i say in my book

what brings you joy figure it out find it
keep doing it because we denied ourselves

for so long and lived in a space of misery
that joy was a foreign language to us i think

to me healing needs to focus on joy what is
that where can we get that how do i continue

to tap into that how can i give that to myself
and rewire my brain we want a joyful brain

that's what we're going for [Music] oh 100
um i wanted to also ask you you talked a lot

about partners in your book and i love that
you talked about partners you gave a lot of

beautiful resources and options for partners
to participate whether it's in joining you

for uh for therapy or reading certain materials
and i love that you discussed um yeah that

that they can be a part of it that it's not
just you healing that if you have a partnership

that they will be involved in in a certain
way um you know because it affects them and

they affect you and it's it matters your partnership
was it was very present in the book in a really

beautiful way and i was just wondering if
you could talk about your partnership and

uh and how your partner was involved in your
healing process um you know did you go to

therapy together how what was that like yeah
i was very very fortunate to to find my husband

um funny story about that too but um very
fortunate he's a very sensitive person thoughtful

person deep thinker he's what kills me is
i'm like going on this path of exploration

and thinking and and trying to make myself
a good person i come with what i feel is a

revelation of these deep thoughts and we're
talking and i'm like oh pooh he's already

done this work he already has been here you
know he's not overtly meditating he's not

overtly doing yogi's but he's thinking deeply
and has he's a big old guy he's a grizzly

bear on the outside and a teddy bear on the
inside and when you talk about yin yang he's

more feminine i'm more masculine so it works
you know it works but um just incredibly fortunate

to find him so caring and sensitive and supportive
he never pushed which was critical for me

again we were you know so tied up in what
other people are thinking about us and their

expectations and he was always supportive
and he would say you know he saw how much

i enjoyed yoga and how much i got out of it
and he would say sometimes honey i you haven't

gone to yoga recently i know it really makes
you feel good and it's really good for you

do you think maybe you might want to try going
to a class again and be like oh yeah i have

kind of skipped it you know so he'd be really
gentle about what he would do he wouldn't

demand i do things he wouldn't tell me what
i should be doing you know like he had it

all figured out he would pay attention to
what i was doing in my healing process and

try to find ways to support me in that we
did go to therapy together um just one brief

time when we were getting married because
we were trying to figure out some some things

that weren't exactly clicking and i when you
go to a therapist you're kind of telling your

side of the story and i wanted her to really
be able to talk to him about some of the things

the behaviors between us because i wanted
her to understand the most accurate part of

it i didn't want to drag him in and say well
he's the problem you know because i'm like

i think we need to both be here so you can
tell us what's going on it was a little intimidating

for him right because he kind of felt like
he was going to get pointed out but he came

and we did a few weeks months of work together
to kind of figure out going into our marriage

how to set things up properly we had actually
when i was in grad school

he and i had been together and it didn't work
out i was you know not in a healed place he

was going through some rough times career-wise
we were both pretty young uh mentally and

emotionally if not physically both pretty
young and it didn't work out and then the

way life came around eventually we found ourselves
getting together again more mature more growth

that happened and we became the second time
around we became really good friends first

the first time around it was like fireworks
physicality attraction and we didn't really

do the groundwork to build a relationship
and that's why it really didn't work when

things got tough but this time we got to be
very good friends and my parents when they

realized that he and i were going to be getting
back together were distraught like oh my gosh

you went through this crazy stuff before and
i'm like when i have something exciting i

want to share with some someone when i have
something really hard i want to share with

someone he's the first person i want to share
it with that to me means that we want to be

together now it wasn't roses and rainbows
and puppy dogs it never is that's a you know

way relationships are but i know that he is
always going to be supportive of whatever

i try to do that i need to try to heal like
this writing this book he was the first person

to bring it up he was he never forced me to
do it you know pushed me to do it he encouraged

me to do it he was always encouraging and
understanding when i'm said i'm not ready

just he never pushed the boundaries of when
i said no he was always said okay i'll meet

you there and that's okay but i'm going to
stay here in case you need me to lean on me

for that um and so that's kind of been the
way that we've worked through things and you

know he's appreciative obviously of when i'm
healing and better and better express myself

feel better about myself because that brings
the energy level of our relationship up and

things are easier um but he supports all my
crazy adventures with art and teaching photography

and you know whatever i'm trying he's just
like okay cool you know just just keep doing

it we actually the funnest thing that we had
done together is and i haven't been able to

find something like this since but we did
a couple's yoga class together where they

were doing poses it wasn't you were doing
the same poses you were doing the poses together

oh i know what you're talking about the uh
it's not it's not called acrobatic yoga is

it but but yeah where you're supporting each
other yeah and it's not crazy poses it's on

the basic pose like down dog and things but
it was this uh couple of a man and woman yoga

teachers and we did this in atlanta and it
was the funnest thing and we'd be looking

around we had the best time we were laughing
and it wasn't perfect but we're having a good

time we're looking around at these other couples
some um same-sex some heterosexual couples

and you could tell the relationship status
by how they were doing the yoga they were

yelling at each other or getting grumpy with
each other we'd be like oh my gosh they're

not having any fun at all they're not very
happy you know but that was we've never been

able to find that sense but that we we look
on that so finally the best time just trying

it you know again the curiosity and not being
perfect and if we you know being supportive

and because i'm really flexible he's really
strong so it was an interesting thing but

that no i think sums it up it was like entering
the world in a space where you're together

and your strengths and weaknesses are balanced
and you're heading into it with curiosity

and exploration and we've been through a lot
in our marriage with challenges with jobs

challenges with health we got flooded multiple
times i mean it's it's been crazy but we always

come to the point of our mantra is we'll figure
it out we'll figure it out together we'll

get through this together and with the support
of family obviously but we've got each other's

backs and i know that he

now i'm getting teared up here he was never
afraid of what had happened to me

he was never afraid of that he was never put
off by it never ashamed of it never judging

it never

never afraid of what happened to me and that
unconditional acceptance for that gave me

the container the environment the space to
bring that and internalize that for myself

i think that was probably just talking about
it out loud is probably the greatest gift

that he gave me yeah was he he loved me and
accepted me and it didn't matter what someone

had done to me it mattered that he saw the
person he saw them authentic me better and

sooner than i saw myself and he empowered
me to be able to find her and connect with

her because he believed in me he saw that
and he was willing to be there until i can

do that myself

beautifully said

i'm thinking so i'm going to have to make
him listen to this oh my gosh you've got to

listen all the way to answer all the great
things i said about you and i want to tell

them about all the things that irritate the
crap out of me but yeah there's that there's

always that in a relationship you know 100
yes no oh it's it's so true um and thank you

for for speaking about that because it sounds
like you have the relationship that you know

everyone seeks and it's very difficult for
survivors especially if you're raw to imagine

that they're capable of it there's this you
know the negative talk there's this belief

that because of what's happened to you there's
this they're unworthy i won't be capable of

a healthy relationship it's not possible for
me i'm broken uh i'm defective um you know

i'm damaged goods yeah the hell's gonna want
me yeah right you know and and this this uh

this belief that your baggage your trauma
uh is too much uh you know too much and and

specifically the wrong kind and uh and it
is you know there are all these damaging beliefs

and messages um and ultimately it they are
not true they are not true you can have a

healthy relationship you can have not only
a healthy relationship but a beautiful partnership

but i caution people i absolutely agree with
what you said i'm i'm living proof of it but

i caution your listeners what worked for me
was i had to heal and like myself and be okay

with who i was before i could get into relationship
that reflected that because if i was not healthy

if i was not you know doing my work i would
be finding unhealthy people that were attracted

to me you know and i gave up for a while i
said you know what it doesn't matter i want

love more than anybody on the planet to validate
me but i need to learn to love myself i need

to give myself space and so i didn't date
for a number of years because i just i knew

i couldn't deal with it i was getting into
the wrong kind of relationships like i'm tired

of being around with this situation obviously
i need to change some things about myself

let's focus on myself and then the good relationship
started coming because i was in a place where

i could connect with that kind of person so
it's okay if you need the space it's not that

you're going to be in alone forever it's just
you need space to heal to get to a good place

so that you can attract and relate to and
get into an intimate physical emotional relationship

with someone who you can trust who's going
to support you i wasn't very far along well

you know heck i wasn't even started in my
healing process when i first met my husband

you know so it doesn't have to happen that
way but what what i found and of course as

i mentioned we were together it fell apart
and then came back um and it fell apart because

i wasn't healed and i came had that space
and time to heal and when he came back we

were in a position that we could have the
relationship we had now but i could never

have had this relationship with him before
i fully heal it was not possible for me to

show up in that way to be okay in that relationship
so be gentle again as always i say be gentle

give your space yourself space and time and
then the relationships were fine i had given

up i'm like okay i'm gonna be alone that's
okay i kind of like myself this is okay space

all of a sudden there's oh hello nice guy
here's a relationship i didn't expect and

that's really nice you know so i think it
happens it will happen but you gotta give

yourself some time to become more of the person
you want to be and then you'll be able to

connect with those kind of people who can
be that wonderful partner for you um and and

who you are attracted to and who is attracted
to you will shift we talked about people have

to leave your life sometimes to make room
for the people you want to be in your life

to show up there you go this is that time
to give yourself space and don't think that

there's anything wrong with you that you need
some time to heal and to find yourself that's

just part of what we go through so that we
can be the better person and and have the

right people show up in our lives yeah sometimes
you need periods of time where the relationship

that you focus on is your relationship with
yourself in order to you know reach a point

in time where you can make room for having
a relationship not only with yourself but

uh but that you know and and making room for
having a relationship with someone else i

mean that's incredibly important i i do want
to say um i i don't i don't want anyone to

take uh the the message away that you have
to be air quotes completely healed before

you can have a healthy relationship uh in
in your life um because healing is a process

and uh and and also there's this uh there's
this really damaging uh meme that goes around

in in like survivor or uh or like positivity
um you know spiritual circles which is um

no one no one can love you until you learn
to love yourself uh and that especially if

you have trauma and you really struggle with
self-love there's this you know this this

twisted kind of warped understanding of that
if i have any problem or i'm still struggling

with self-love it means that i'm not worthy
or i'm not capable of um of other people loving

me um and it just gets uh kind of twisted
and and you know and and kind of uh is demonizing

to uh to people who do struggle with uh with
mental health um and with certain certain

mental health things and so you know just
just staying

yeah i i just want to say like you can you
can still struggle with self-love like you

can be in process with that healing journey
of finding that self-love uh and still be

working on that and finds uh a a beautiful
partnership um and it's yeah if you're taking

the steps in the right direction i think that
you're on your way and things start to happen

it's when we're you're stagnant or focused
on the past that yes you're not going to be

able to find it as soon as you you refocus
bring your energy into yourself and where

you want to go let whatever shows up show
up and then just be be aware self-aware to

see if what shows up is something that's good
for you and supports you and that you brings

you joy you know you've got to start checking
in with yourself about these things you know

we've got to be grown-ups we gotta say is
i gotta look at this and self-reflect is this

good for me hell yeah okay then i'm going
for it now you know we shouldn't deny ourselves

things because we're just like you said you
started on the practice but we should ask

ourselves the hard questions to make sure
that that's going to continue to support what

we're trying to do and that we have to also
acknowledge that we may have someone come

in our lives for a short amount of time that
was necessary for that season of where we

are and we appreciate that we can love them
in whatever way we do and sometimes they stay

sometimes they change their relationship with
us sometimes they go away so don't feel like

everyone that comes into your life you it's
either life or death you know it's like here

let me enjoy what's happening and appreciate
that this person may be my forever soul mate

or they may be my friend for the moment that
is a beautiful thing and i'm going to just

have gratitude for whatever shows up yeah
maybe you have certain things to learn from

each other and you're moving in the same direction
for a while and then and then the time will

come when you move apart to to find whatever
may be in the future for both of you yes that's

uh there is there is that focus on on the
forever person and uh we don't make space

for the importance of um of those other relationships
they matter yeah and it's okay it's okay if

it doesn't last forever yeah i mean if it
brings you joy and it's good for you that's

fine i we have to i'm such an all or none
black or white thinker i have to really be

conscious aware of when i'm going into that
space and then especially coming out of the

trauma it was totally black or white so we
gotta loosen up that grip a little bit and

say okay it doesn't have to be all or none
it can be somewhere in between and that's

okay that's that's where we need to again
that gentleness towards ourselves let's let's

practice that yeah is there anything that
you would like to talk about that we haven't

talked about i just wanted to check in no
i think we've covered quite a bit uh together

so thank you so much for all your your wonderful
questions and your your sensitive thoughts

around these topics i really appreciate that
my goodness you too i'm i'm really excited

about this episode and i think it's going
to help a lot of people and and i'm so excited

about the book and i think i think it's going
to be an incredible resource that's going

to help a lot of people um and my last question
is just uh do you have anything to say to

the survivors that are listening i'd like
to bring back some of the things that we talked

about for sure that it's not your fault what
happened and that you can discover for yourself

what is going to be your healing journey what
is going to support you what's going to help

you get started what will support you who
can support you and you will find a way step

by step little bit by little bit growing into
the person that you really want to be and

find what you want in your life that brings
you joy so do whatever you need to make it

there commit to yourself because you deserve
that in your life

thank you thank you so much for being here
thank you so much for joining me and uh and

thank you for for reaching out so that uh
i knew about your book that i got to read

it it feels like such a gift and uh and i
just i appreciate you and your time and uh

and all of your beautiful thoughts and and
uh contributions uh i'm i just feel so honored

and blessed to get to talk to you and i just
so deeply appreciate you thank you i appreciate

you um because i really think you have an
audience of people that i really want to reach

out to and connect with so the opportunity
is is really fabulous to hopefully inspire

some of your listeners hopefully many of your
listeners so yes i i'm so excited for them

to get to meet you and for them to uh to get
to read your book so uh yeah and and if you're

listening please please read the book and
please review authors love reviews review

i'm on amazon i'm on goodreads please share
the word spread through her your heart is

a muscle size of your fist keep on loving
keep on fighting and hold on and hold on hold

on for your life for your life [Music]



Denise BossarteProfile Photo

Denise Bossarte

Author / Artist / IT Professional

Denise Bossarte is an award-winning writer, poet, photographer, and artist. Denise is a certified meditation facilitator and contemplative arts teacher. She is an information technology (IT) professional working for a large urban school district. Denise holds a BA in chemistry, an MS in computer science, and a PhD in developmental neuroscience. And she is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Denise lives in Texas with her husband, Randy, and literary cat, Sapphira.