Book Review: We Have Come Far

“We Have Come Far:  Gifts of Healing from Survivors of Extreme Trauma”
Ani Rose Whaleswan, Editor
Sojourn Press, 2014
http://www.amazon.com/We-Have-Come-Far-survivors/dp/0692213252/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402244950&sr=1-1&keywords=whaleswan

This summer brings us three important books — a cornucopia of information and support, more than we have had in the whole past year. Just for fun, I’ll keep the titles of the other two secret until I review them. You are welcome to guess in the comments section. That way, I may discover a fourth or even a fifth and a sixth.

As far as I know, this is the only anthology of writing about healing by survivors and only the second anthology of survivor writings, period. The first one came out in 1995. Can you imagine! There had been nothing for almost twenty years and then somebody saw the need, responded to it, and invited others to respond to it. Hooray!

Ani Rose sees the book as a collective endeavor and honors each person’s point of view and voice. She doesn’t footnote, explain, or change wording, she just lets each person’s wisdom shine in words that come straight from the heart. Although the stories and poems and styles are very different, all twenty-one chapters have truth, hope, and courage in common. Each is truly inspiring.

You may recognize some of the names: among them are Wanda Karriker, Lynn Schirmer, Alikina, Janet Thomas, Ani Rose, and me. Others will be new to you. You will find that they have every bit as much to say as the more well-known authors. Many of the entries are full of ideas I never thought of. Many are intensely spiritual and brought me to the verge of tears. All of them touched me deeply and will stay with me for a long, long time.

I’ll end by quoting from Ani Rose’s introduction.

“We have come far, and we will continue on – as we always have. May the real life experiences here inspire you with the knowledge that you are not alone as a survivor or a professional or a friend, and encourage you to continue on, to share your own stories when and where you can, to educate, to whistleblow and advocate safely, and to always remember that we are always strong – and we are stronger together. A braver, kinder world is possible, and we are helping to create it, globally.

It is when we connect that we are strongest. Abuse is always about isolation, about power-over, about difference. But life itself, and living it fully (perhaps the best definition of “healing”) is about connection, power-with, and what we all have in common.”

May you never again believe that you are alone.”

Growth

My daughter came to visit me. I looked at her and noticed that she had some grey hair. That night I dreamed I was buying her new clothes. She was about four and she loudly didn’t like any of them. That was my real kid!!! She had morphed from a kid to an adult right under my eyes and I never even noticed. I have to compare snapshots or memories of her from years apart to notice the changes.

We visited Muir Woods together and there was an exhibit of a cross section of a redwood about four feet wide. Each growth ring was as thin as a pencil line but 1,117 of them sure add up. Growth of trees and kids is slow but sure.

So it is with my healing. I don’t feel healed at all; I don’t feel I have done much of anything. I don’t think I am changing or that I will be any different next year than I am this year. It feels like I am warehousing myself. It’s only when I look back that I can see how I have grown.

Back in 2005, my arthritis was so bad that I was using crutches and a walker. I was in constant pain and I was grouchy morning, noon, and night. First I had a lot of physical therapy and exercised in the water. Then I got brave and had a knee replaced. Now I am in much less pain and I gave away my crutches. My face is relaxed and I smile again, simply because I am not constantly bathed in pain.

Four years ago I was a slow but terrible driver. Most people were scared to ride with me, and I was often scared to ride with myself. It was weird, though, because every so often I would drive really fast (and badly) and sometimes I even drove well. I figured out that I had different groups of alters driving at different times. Rather than telling them which group could drive and which group couldn’t, I told them how I wanted them to drive, and let them decide who would like to. Now I am not nearly as bad, except for backing out of the garage.

And if I look all the way back to when I first realized I had Satanism in my background, I can see tremendous changes. I was damn close to psychotic then, in tears most of the time, and I had body memories that lasted three months apiece. I had so many intrusive thoughts that there was no room for regular thoughts. I hated myself, I was suicidal, I had strong urges to cut myself, and I felt deeply guilty over everything. And the pain! I never knew I could feel so much emotional pain. It doubled me over.

Today I still feel guilty over inconsequential things and I still put myself down sometimes. But I recognize it and know where it is coming from. I’m no longer obsessed with suicide and self-harm and, boy, life is a lot better. But I have no idea when or how these changes happened. They just did, and I didn’t see them at the time.

There was one major change that I did keep track of. At first, in order not to feel crazy, I had to have regular validation that Satanism did, indeed, exist. That’s why I read so much on the subject and that’s why I sought out other survivors. Otherwise I couldn’t retain the concept and I drifted off into denial. Little by little I became able to hold onto my own truth without constant validation. First it was a matter of hours, then a couple of days. Today I can go at least two weeks, probably a lot longer. The reason I saw this change was that each time I traveled away from my home base I was scared that I would go nuts. I spent a lot of time worrying about how long I could hold out and reassured myself by remembering how long I’d lasted the other times.

I try to look back often so that I can keep this perspective. It makes me realize that the thought “I will never change” is a lie, because I have already changed immensely. I wouldn’t mind having the rate of change speed up, but the direction is perfectly fine.