A writing career is no place to be timid. I must put myself out there.
Private vs Public Writing
Yes, I can write, and even be a writer, in isolation, but I write for more than my own healing. I write to help others out of their dark days of abuse. I write to build community for survivors with PTSD from domestic violence.
I know my writing can help a lot of people, but that will never happen if only a handful of people are reading it.
I wrote a few weeks ago about gathering the courage to promote And Be Happy, A Memoir of Beginning. There’s more to it than promoting my book and my blog posts. I need to pitch separate articles to other publications.
I know this, yet I found pitching my articles emotionally difficult.
Pitching is a Head-Game
Writers often speak of an inner sensor that challenges them with negative talk: “Who are you to write this? Who would care about what you have to say? You don’t know what you’re doing.” Those thoughts don’t disturb me while drafting. They flood my mind when I think of soliciting for publication.
I was thinking about it the wrong way. I had researched, and I had studied, and I thought I needed to pitch articles like other businesses. I want my writing to bring in enough to support me, so I can dedicate more time to it, but I don’t have to take a standard approach.
This Author Finds Her Way
I found a baby-step. I will donate articles to women’s centers. Offering an article for an organization’s monthly newsletter will be easy for me. I don’t have to get over my fear of assigning value to myself (though my work), but I don’t give up building a readership. A developed readership will be important once I get over that fear.
I’m excited about soliciting my work this way. I wanted to help people. This will deliver my writing to the eyes of my target audience.
I would love to get my monthly article into as many domestic violence recovery organizations’ newsletters and websites as possible. Please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any contact info you have on your favorite organizations working with survivors. Thank you for your help spreading the word: healing happens after domestic violence!
Be Kind to Yourself
Most people in my life know I have an extreme sensitivity to cigarette smoke. What don’t a lot of them know? I used to be a chain-smoker. In February 2018, I celebrated my 7th anniversary of being tobacco free.
Colleagues and acquaintances often make self-deprecating remarks when they excuse themselves for a smoke. I have started making a point of telling them to be kinder to themselves. They ask why, and I tell them that judging themselves is not going to help anything.
“I used to smoke three packs a day.”
They look at me with shock. They just know me as the lady who can’t walk on the same block as a lit cigarette without an effect on her breathing.
I Had Given Up On Quitting
I tell them that I smoked anywhere from one and a half to three packs a day. “That’s right, my ‘light smoking’ days involved about 30 cigarettes.”
I had all the excuses. I dismissed the severity of my addiction with jokes. I said my non-filter cigarettes meant I couldn’t smoke as much of my cigarette as someone with a filter on theirs. I recalled that when I started smoking, accelerants were not yet banned in tobacco, so they burned faster than smokes of present day.
The truth was, I had given up on ever quitting. I’ve hated myself for a lot of reasons, and my inability to go without tobacco was a big one. I had tried to quit smoking more times than I could count. I often didn’t last more than a few hours.
Leaving My Abuser Allowed Me to Quit Smoking
My abuser, a smoker, punished me for using healthy coping skills, but I could smoke without recourse.
I couldn’t take a bath or paint my nails to relax. I would have been in trouble for being lazy or selfish and accused of preparing to “whore around.” I wasn’t allowed to talk about my situation, so I couldn’t get emotional support from friends or family. I couldn’t even journal honestly because any entries would have to be able to pass my abuser’s eyes without showing that I didn’t agree with or support him.
Once free of that abuse, I realized that smoking was the only coping skill I had been allowed for seven awful years. (No wonder I used the hell out of it!) That realization came with another epiphany: my life had completely changed. I could do ANYTHING I wanted. I had friends I could call. I could draw a bath and soak to my heart’s content. I could cry without punishment. I could go for a walk or treat myself at a café without accusations and more pain. I could even veg in front of the TV if I wanted to.
I've Gained More Than Physical Health
Quitting smoking has done more than make me physically healthier; it has given me the space to hone emotionally healthy coping skills. It has also inspired others to quit. I’m proud of that reach out to anyone quitting. I usually offer a digital excerpt from chapter 32 of And Be Happy that tells the story of when I quit cigarettes.
Regaining Courage in Recovery from Domestic Violence
As I continue saying no in support of my success, I have the time and energy to work on what is important to me. Accompanying my education, my writing career is at the top of the list.
One of the bits of fallout from my depression and losing so much self-confidence last year was giving into fear about promoting the book I published. I was afraid to ask for book reviews from readers. I was uncomfortable reaching out to women’s centers where I hadn’t been a client. I chickened out when it came to scheduling readings and signings.
I still feel scared of those tasks, but I if I want my writing to have an impact, I must complete them. With my newly cleared priorities, I’m getting my ducks in a row, so the people who can be helped by my book will find it.
I started asking for reviews from readers. I decided I would ask at least one reader a week. So far, I have asked for and received two reviews. Amazon’s algorithms for book promotion kick in around fifty reviews, so my slow pace isn’t ideal. It is, however, a start.
I’m compiling a list of events, groups, and businesses where a reading from And Be Happy would be appropriate. I had received great feedback about book readings and signings last year, but without Henry I wasn’t positioned to schedule much of what was available.
Little Steps are a Big Deal
Those two efforts look small now that I write them, but they sure do feel big when I do them. Working on book reviews and book readings have taken their own share of saying “no.” I constantly say “no” to the fear that tells me I am asking too much of readers by requesting a review. I say “no” to the fear that my reading would be an intrusion on the venue or group I solicit. I say “no” to the self-deprecation that tells me I’m not good enough.
Through feedback from readers, I know And Be Happy offers valuable help for other domestic violence survivors. I remind myself of that as often as I can by using printed- out emails and displayed notes. Instead of denying the existence of my fear, I remind myself that feelings aren’t facts. I can feel the fear without believing I can’t move past it.
Facing Your Fears
Where are you facing your fears? What takes all the courage you can muster though it might look like small potatoes to an outsider? I’d love the chance to feel like we’re in this together. I’d also love to give you some encouragement on commitments to yourself you may feel are too trivial to bring up in your day-to-day conversations.
Update: Operation Say “No”
I Learn to Say "No"
Operation Say "No" is going strong. Some of the “no’s” are small; some are more substantial. I think every bit helps.
On the small side, I decline receipts and pamphlets I don’t need. This is new for me, and I’ve saved myself time cleaning out my wallet and purse each week.
Saying “No” to New Bad Habits
A step up from there, I have said no to doing everything the long way. I had started eating badly because I didn’t have the time to prep all the veggies in my fridge. It wasn’t all bad; I still had my bananas, apples, almonds and walnuts, but cookies had become a staple. When I have the stress of a lot to do, eating provides an outlet for my nervous energy and helps me feel focused. I munched on cookies during hours of math and economics study. Thing is, I am just as happy eating carrot or celery sticks. I simply run out of time to prep them and end up supplementing with cookies.
My sister suggested I buy ready-to-eat vegetables. Not wash and chop my own vegetables? The thought had never occurred to me. I have lived and worked on farms; I make efforts to minimize my waste; I reuse my produce bags for months or more, but I suppose packages of baby carrots and of washed green beans can have a place in my life while I finish my degree.
Saying “No” to Others
The most challenging times I’ve said “no” have been when I said “no” to helping others. I’ve developed a way to help myself with this. When I find myself thinking so-and-so needs my help, I say to myself with as much compassion and gusto as I can, “I really need me right now. I need my help.” It’s true, and it reminds me that I’m not being selfish by spending the necessary time on my school work, business, and general self-care.
You Need Yourself
Can you relate to the struggle to help yourself when you need to? Leave a comment below with any sayings or other reminders of how important you are to yourself. I’d love to learn from what keeps you from overextending yourself for others.
My depression last year started with a sense of being haunted, haunted by the abuse of my past. In January 2017, I was injured. The injury technically occurred while practicing martial arts, but my ribs had been weakened by past abuse.
Haunted by Past Abuse
I heard his threats echo over the distance I had gained from my time as his victim. “Even if you leave me and think you can have some other life, I’ll be there. Just when you feel nice and safe, I’ll come knocking at your back door.”
There I was, feeling like he still had a say in my life, seven years after the last time he had attacked me. The happiness and sense of self I had worked so hard to establish fell away.
Due to my new physical injuries, I dropped out of my university classes and stopped working. My ghost of marriage-past was soon joined by the ghost of childhood trauma. By the start of summer, I moved twice and had a couple stress-filled trips to CA. A family issue had gone to court, and I wanted to offer what support I could. There, I was all-too-reminded of my father’s belief that he owns me.
By late summer, I wasn’t taking care of myself financially. I struggled to get back into the workforce, and I wasn’t in school. Echoes from my past filled each moment of every day. “You’re worse than worthless. You’re a taker.”
By the time I got back to working, Henry wasn’t in running order. I walked or bussed over an hour each way for work shifts. Every part of my day took everything I had to keep myself from completely breaking down as well.
I felt hopeless.
The ghosts told me I would never truly be free from my abusers regardless of how much time had passed or how hard I worked to heal from abuse.
My new primary care physician quickly realized my depression was severe. She encouraged me to consider a pharmaceutical anti-depressant. I didn’t think anything would help, and I was accustomed to being told I was a statistical outlier in many situations. I feared the worst side effects with no relief from the depression. I rejected antidepressants for months.
Another Part of My Past
Catching up with an acquaintance, I cried when she asked about my plans to return to school. I didn’t know when, or even if, I would be able to go back. Later that day, I realized that if I was that upset about not doing something (i.e. finishing my degree), then I needed to find a way to do it. My first mantra I made for myself back when I started therapy through the California Victim’s Compensation Program called out over all the ghosts haunting me. “I am willing to change in ways I cannot foresee.” That mantra gave me courage to get my life back.
“I am willing to change in ways I cannot foresee.”
I made appointments with academic advisors at my school and with my primary care physician. I told my doctor I had reconsidered trying an antidepressant. I was scared, but I had to try whatever I could.
That was over three months ago. I have had some side effects that passed, but most important, the deep depression has lifted. Now, I’m wrapping up my first term back in school, and I’m determined to graduate in March 2019.
Depression Kept Me from Seeing Myself
Therapy has taught me my abuse was not normal. In my depression, I didn’t see myself as someone who could get relief in such a normal, expected way. I had lost my ability to see myself as a college graduate. For a lot of 2017, I didn’t see myself being able to truly move on from my past abuse. But my mantra reminded me that lack of vision didn’t have to stop me. I could change in ways I had never imagined before.
Rebecca encourages survivors of domestic to speak about their experiences and to lean on each other for support.