Surviving Abuse, Boshemia's Story

My whole life has been an adventure and I don't plan on stopping any time soon.
You will detect a Survivor theme in nearly all that I do. I am what I am and I embrace it. That is not a bad thing. It's time to bring those skeletons out of the closet and make them dance!
My Survivor Spirit just so happens to have her own name. Boshemia has led me down some pretty wild roads, and I fear she isn't done with me yet. I am very much at her mercy.
It wasn't always this way you know.

I was molested for the first time when I was 4 years old. By the time I was twelve, 8 different sexual abusers had left their marks on my life. As I entered my teen and adult years, the abuse became emotional, verbal and even physical. Just a few months after leaving my ex, I went to a party and I was almost raped. His other victims weren't lucky enough to have witnessed to interrupt. 

My life was on a downward spiral. 

But then, I found Boshemia. Boshemia is a very real manifestation of my Survivor Spirit. 

Another facet of surviving abuse that is still rarely talked about is PTGS, or Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome. First noted in Holocaust survivors and their offspring, it is perhaps the most important difference between the victim and the survivor.
Survivors live through their experiences.
About ten years ago I went to our local advocacy center, the San Miguel Resource Center, as a victim. I went to them to talk about the rape, but along the way we ended up talking about my entire life.
Domestic violence, emotional abuse, neglect, and a childhood full of sexual abuse beginning at the age of four.Frequent changes of caregiver... Twenty-two different schools... My life has been a bit of a mess.

Trauma. 

I didn't call it abuse back then, I didn't know that's what it was.

I have worked with them from then on. First as a client, and later as an advocate. They helped me navigate the rough waters from Victim, to Survivor, to Thriver. I had to redefine love. I had to redefine abuse. I had to learn to redefine a lot of words, to build a whole new vocabulary while working with the SMRC. The San Miguel Resource Center had to help me redefine normal...

New ways to define the experiences I had always simply thought of as "normal." 
Trying to cope with a rape in a small town was bad enough. We reported it, and the stalking began. He was driving past us at work and at home, chasing our vehicles down on country back-roads watching our children play...
There were three of us that came forward, the other victims refused. The investigation was hell on all of us, it lasted three years but it went nowhere. Not a single rape charge was ever filed. Cops, judges, district attorneys, and just about everybody else we turned to for help laughed in our faces.
In a small town is that there is nowhere to go when things get bad. We were on our own. We were hiding in our homes, afraid to go anywhere alone. Eventually, the other girls left.
I am still here.
It was kind of okay for me. I have suffered life long social anxieties, and could quite happily go weeks without stepping off of my own property. I kind of like hiding in my own little bubble, keeping my secrets from the world.
But Boshemia was always there it seems, singing Rent's La Vie Boheme in the back of my brain. "The opposite of war isn't peace, its creation..."
"So, create already."
Boshemia is totally a Maureen, by the way.
I had my writing. Hidden in notebooks and file folders, and tucked away on dusty old hard drives. That wasn't for them, it was for me. I was happy hiding it away. It was my secret guilty pleasure nothing more. Boshemia didn't care.
Every word that I write only fuels Boshemia's lusts further. She was anxious to get my writing out of the closet and into the light for her own reasons I suppose, but eventually I had plenty of reasons of my own.
A financial storm hit our family in 2007. Ed, my husband, (aka my Darth Edsilius) was drunk the night that he was arrested on his second domestic violence related offense and we separated. He stopped drinking that night but we lived apart for eighteen months.
While we were considering divorce he blew out his knee twice in four months, requiring one expensive surgery we couldn't pay for. Nobody would even discuss the second surgery that he needed, so we looked for assistance for over a year. Both of us were disabled, we lost our home, our truck was repossessed with nine payments left. Almost $200k in debt.
It was pretty grim.
I had been bedridden for almost six months by then, with a mysterious illness. The doctors told me that it was probably Fibromyalgia, but there was no known cause for my condition, and no known cure.
They were wrong, but we'll get to that.
If it weren't for my husband and kids I never would have made it. We were dead broke, but we kept going. We pieced our family back together through therapy, hard work, and a whole lot of love.
Meanwhile Boshemia was stepping forward full force.
With my husbands full support. I became the 2009 Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Victims Advocate of the Year for our area. In my spare time I started on a very special book that outlined the lessons that I had learned (and am still learning) along the way from victim, to survivor, to thriver.
Ed and I signed up with a vocational rehabilitation program to get back on our feet. They told me that they didn't fund writers so I had to work around it. I chose graphic design. Ed and I built avatars for a store in the game Second Life, while I wrote on the side and he learned to tattoo. 
By the end, Second Life no longer paid the bills and desperation set in. Voc Rehab did eventually  fund my first attempt at Sister, Survivor, it had to be written to complete the program, but there was so much missing.  It wasn't the celebration of the Survivor Spirit that I had dreamed of.
I was never really happy with it.
Boshemia on the other hand hated it.
My contract with vocational rehabilitation complete, Boshemia forced me to start over. Two years, no less than twelve rewrites, three editors, and 295 more gray hairs later, she has finally let go of it. Maybe.
Sister, Survivor: Finding Your Survivor Spirit is nearly finished. This is the handbook that I needed all of those years ago.
Sister, Survivor is an in-depth look at the tools we need to stop the cycle of abuse in our lives for good. There are over 200 names of abuse survivors throughout my book, some famous others infamous, but Survivors every one. People we can learn from, strength to lean on when we have no more of our own.
We must recognize the patterns of abuse in our pasts, in our families, in our cultures. I am a fourth generation abuse Survivor, I was blessed with so many strong women in my own life but they were still victims of abuse. Something had to change to stop that cycle for good.
That something was ME.
I couldn't just make it go away, I had to learn to live around it. I had to learn to live through it.
Left untreated over the long term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder disrupts our proper stress response and weakens our adrenals. Weakened adrenals can give us the symptoms many Survivors experience that have sometimes been labeled as Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, Bipolar Depression and PTSD.
I saw twelve different types of specialists and most were unaware of the simple link between abuse and the all too common emotional and physical complaints from survivors. It took several years and the right doctors to finally help me piece it all together.
More studies are coming out every day saying that these all may be manifestations of the same thing. Our bodies natural reactions to trauma.
My diagnosis still varies depending on the doctor, but in short (take a deep breath anyway) repeated trauma beginning at a young age caused chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder presenting as ADHD. My body stayed in hyperdrive for long periods of time and crashed causing a bipolar state, eventually resulting in adrenal fatigue causing bouts of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia symptoms.
Even shorter? PTSD.
Like a car with the gas pedal stuck to the floor, I cycled like that for nearly forty years. Go until I couldn't go anymore
My body, mind, and spirit were exhausted but I had too much adreneline to stop.
After a time, our brains can be wired to react in certain ways, and continue to do so long after the dangers have passed. Life its fine, but we are still in fight, flight or flee mode. It can keep our relationships in turmoil. It can affect our work, and our families, it can even destroy our lives.
They talk more about PTSD now than ever before, but it is still deeply misunderstood. It took me getting sick and nearly dying to understand the relationship between stress and the adrenals. My body was in constant overdrive and I just didn't have the tools to stop it.
I do now.
I also have a companion ebook in the works detailing not only the causes of the mysterious illnesses that trauma survivors often suffer from but the natural treatments for it. Vitamins, hormone balance, stress management, and in states where legal, medical marijuana. It is expected to be released in the next month too.
I am planning to self publish Sister, Survivor: Finding Your Survivor Spirit again this month. It will hopefully appear on Amazon.com next month if my life doesn't implode in between.
I would wait, but I do not know how much time I really have.
Part self-help, part memoir, and part adventure, my book is dedicated to my friend Elizabeth Alraune who is on her own journey to Survivor as we speak.

I hope to complete my partly written autobiography The Adventures of Invisible Girl this year as well. This is the book you will see me writing in the film Uranium Drive-In.

I am still a mother of four, with two dogs and two cats to keep me busy. I'll get there when I get there :)

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