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How I'm Using My Voice for Myself and Other Trauma Survivors

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In a trauma survivor’s world, life can be unpredictable. A certain smell, song or situation can suddenly propel you into uncharted emotional territory. It usually happens without warning.

• What is PTSD?

Today is a big day. I am more than nervous. During the pandemic I haven’t done much of anything other than healing, writing and household duties. To be fair healing is a full-time job. So is learning to be a writer at 54.

I’m in the car with my emotional support husband, Jack. He has taken the day off to drive me to Exploria Stadium. I’ve been asked to sing for a recording of the national anthem, for my favorite soccer team, The Orlando City Lions. It’s a familiar place. I’ve performed the anthem there at least a dozen times. This is my place. These are my people. I get out my mirror and start fussing with my purple wig. Wearing it seemed like a good idea. Now I am regretting my decision to don the team’s colors in such a bold fashion. I’m 54 years old. Do I look ridiculous?

“Take that off now, You look like an idiot!”

“Who are you trying to kid? ”

“Your time is over.”

”Typical, always seeking attention.”

The voices are harsh, merciless. My stomach starts to burn. My heart flutters. I begin to sweat. Suddenly I want to run.

She’s a tiny lady. It looks like she’s had some work done. Her hair is perfectly coiffed. It’s hard to tell how old she is. I sit spellbound in my living room, listening to that warm Hungarian voice telling the tale of her journey through hell and back. Dr. Edith Eva Eger, psychologist, author, speaker, is 91 and a survivor of Auschwitz. She was 16 when evil interrupted her normal teenage life. Without warning, her family found themselves on a train, rolling towards the unknown. Eva‘s mother held her daughter close and whispered the most important words her daughter would ever hear:

“No one can take away what you put in your own mind.”

“Maybe I’m not losing my skin, maybe I am only stretching, Stretching to encompass every aspect of who I am — and have been — and can become.”
– Dr. Edith Eva Eger, The Choice

“I don’t know why I said yes, Jack!”

“I’m clearly unqualified!”

“Look at me!”

“I can’t even think straight!”

My exasperated husband reassures me from across the room, “Naome, you’ve got this. You know the subject matter. All you have to do is write a paragraph about it, or you can just speak from the heart. Relax.”

I cannot do what my loving husband is asking of me. I have become emotionally reactive. I am now a child. I am a little girl who can never please her father. Intellectually I understand what’s happening. That does nothing to stop it. I hate being out of control. I’m safe here. My husband loves me. He even took a day off to help me. My father is not here. I’m a strong, intelligent, capable woman. Today has been a trying day. Jack made sure I made it through the anthem taping in one piece. Now we’re back at home sitting in his office as I prepare to speak for two minutes at a fundraising launch party for the film I’m working on. My friend and writing mentor, Aaron Sanders, and his fiancée, Linda Balaban, invited me to be an associate producer on their movie, Garage. The movie is about living with untreated trauma, something I know a lot about.

Step one is raising the funds to get the movie made. Something I know nothing about. I am often emotionally overwhelmed when trying new things, especially if they mean a lot to me. I get disproportionately humiliated by making a small mistake and begin to audibly berate myself mercilessly. My husband looks on helplessly as I tear into myself. Afraid to offer much assistance, lest I tear into him next.

I am more than passionate about the topic of untreated childhood trauma and its effects. If I speak from the heart,  I can speak for hours. I can’t remember that now. Jack suggests I just wing it. I glare at him.

When it was all said and done, my husband ended up being right. I completely ignored the paragraph I spent two hours worrying about. I spoke instinctually and eloquently from my heart. A true triumph over my emotions.

Every time I hear her speak, I learn something new. Dr. Edith Eva Eger is my latest obsession.

This gentle woman has every right to be angry. So do I. We both could spend the rest of our lives loudly condemning our tormentors and it would be completely understandable. Instead of choosing to be a victim, Edith chose the path of love and understanding. There is a choice. I wanna be just like Edith when I grow up.

“Do I have what it takes to make a difference? Can I pass on my strength, instead of my loss? My love instead of hatred?”
– Dr. Edith Eva Eger, The Choice

“Oh my goodness, I cannot believe it’s already  5 o’clock!” I laugh. Slightly out of breath, I hop into the car for a store run with my youngest daughter. I’m wearing full makeup, purple hair and a big smile.

I’ve just returned home after being gone for three hours. In that time, my friend Jana, Tuddle and I made a podcast episode, recorded vocal tracks and shot a video of us rolling, singing and dancing to the song,“Everyday People,” by Sly and the Family Stone. Then we went Live on Facebook to promote

As I describe my day, my youngest daughter starts to laugh. I turn to her in the passenger seat and say, “WHAT!?” with an exaggerated grin.

“Who ARE you?!” she sings. Now we’re both laughing.

“Whatever do you mean?!” I say, batting my eyelashes. But we both know what she means. Three months ago I was sitting around the house doing nothing but laundry. I was feeling scared and uncertain of my path. 22,000 words of my life story were written by hand in a journal. I felt stuck and overwhelmed. A book seemed an impossible undertaking.

I could’ve given up. Today, I’m a writer, an associate producer, and most importantly, a voice for other trauma survivors. I speak for those who can’t. Because I can.

Image via contributor

Originally published: January 28, 2020
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