Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Childhood PTSD

The Watchers

Uninvited and hovering
Spirits of the living dead
Fill air space
Drowning me in female shame
For this my body

In vain I cover my face
Hide from myself
And this present moment
Made mad by
Prying eyes and ears
Of a thousand intrusions
On this my body broken –
Now gasping for air

The feeling of being watched was more than a feeling when I was growing up. It was the norm. When I married and moved with D to our first home, I didn’t have a clue how much baggage I brought to our marriage.

Some of my baggage was easily dumped. No problem! Glad to be rid of it.

And yet…other things had taken root in me. Especially those intrusive, internalized, incessant monitors making sure I didn’t do anything a Good Girl wouldn’t do. Or worse, the feeling of being watched by intruders no matter what I was doing.

I don’t know how to talk about this publicly. I do, however, know many of us struggle with internal feelings and habits we never chose to internalize. Things we thought we could leave behind when we left home.

D and I have now renovated/reclaimed five major areas in our current home. Our bedroom is next, thanks to our leaking waterbed. It’s high time. In fact, I have the great leak to thank for prompting me to rethink what’s happening with Our Bedroom. Which, just to be clear, belongs to Us, not to Them.

Happy Monday, and Happy Reclamation Projects!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 August 2019
Found at


My feet ache
relieved and resting
The humidifier hums
in the background
Soft cotton
envelopes each leg

Pajamas are my
evening friend
holding me close

Wrapped in
my mother’s shawl
breath comes
and goes easy

The old house creaks
beneath D’s feet

Whatever today
was about slips
away with each
exhaled breath
cleansing this
body I call home
sweet home

Today I went to see my Lucy Pacemaker heart doctor. As expected, my irregular heartbeat is growing with each passing year. I don’t like it. I am, however, grateful for each day and night I’m given.

While sitting in the doctor’s office I reviewed my recent journal entries. Then I read and reread a chapter from Upstream, a collection of Mary Oliver’s essays and poems. She describes how she moved beyond difficult situations of her childhood. Her solution was twofold: immersion in the natural world, and in the world of literature. As she describes it, these were “the gates through which I vanished from a difficult place” (p. 14).

So here I am, near the end of my life, finding myself living more and more in the worlds of music and writing. My own and that of others. My pared-down yet equally exciting (to me) version of upstream living. Leaving behind, yet drawing on the unsolvable puzzle of my childhood almost without noticing it.

I wrote the poem above just before Christmas. There’s something magical about capturing in words the simple wonders of my life. I might enjoy wandering in a forest somewhere. However, I choose to stay close to home. Close to D and Smudge. Close to the bone. Close to this last fling. Close to my journal and my heart.

Thanks for reading and listening.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 February 2019
Photo of Milky Way Night Sky found on pixabay

The Shape of Healing

Describing the unspeakable
Welcoming the unbearable
Embracing the unimaginable

These phrases came to mind this morning when I saw the Daily Prompt. They capture what recovery looks like for me, an adult survivor of childhood trauma within my family.

No erasing the past, no magic pills, no overnight miracles, no shortcuts and no looking back. Sometimes I think I’m finally ready to be born. Or maybe it happened somewhere back there on the road to recovery, and I’m now an adolescent?

Today I’m working on the last piece of my series on The Shape of Forgiveness. I can scarcely believe I’ve lived to see this day. Much less write about it.

This week I’ve recalled seemingly random circumstances in the last 30 years of my life. I’m stunned by the way pieces came together. People, programs, books, articles, blog posts, conversations, life circumstances and more. They reinforced each other and kept me, inch by inch, moving in a direction, one trembling step of faith at a time.

Am I there yet? It doesn’t matter. Though the process is demanding, the payoff makes it all worthwhile. I’d rather write and rewrite my Grown Up Girl Rules than keep Daddy’s Good Girl Rules any day.

I think about you out there, on the other side of whatever I’ve posted. You’ve been my public audience at each step. The twists and turns of life will continue, as will my healing. Today I celebrate where I am right now. And you, my dear readers.

Have a lovely Sabbath!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 April 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Heal

The Shape of Forgiveness | Part 2

“Forgiving is a journey; the deeper the wound, the longer the journey”
“We do not forgive because we are supposed to; we forgive when we are ready to be healed.”
Lewis Smedes, in The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don’t Know How, published by Moorings, 1996

When I was a child, my father required me to beg forgiveness from him and from God. Most often after a beating, or as the so-called resolution of a sisterly argument about an alleged offence. This was often tricky, because I knew the facts as presented weren’t quite all the facts.

I’m grateful forgiveness isn’t a required event. Especially forgiveness of my father.

I didn’t know it then, but my process of forgiveness began the day I confronted my now-deceased parents about being shamed, humiliated and silenced. The process isn’t yet completed, but I’ve made unexpected, life-giving progress.

The meeting I set up with my parents took place the eve of my 50th birthday in 1993, more than 23 years ago. During the meeting I asked for my father’s apology, with no expectation that he would apologize. My husband, my sister Diane, my mother, and a trusted pastor witnessed the conversation between my father and me. It lasted for 1 ½ hours.

My father refused to apologize for anything. He wasn’t interested in revisiting what happened between the two of us or between him and my sisters. He’d already done all his business with God, privately. Nothing I said or did would change his mind.

I was on my own, without my father’s blessing. Disappointed but not surprised. Still determined to work on my healing.

We say punishment should fit the crime. Even so, I believe forgiveness must fit each situation, especially those with life-changing consequences. This isn’t about mistakes or forgetfulness. It’s about the Big Stuff we wish had never happened to us.

Forgiving my father has been a long, sometimes painful process. I’m not yet there. Still, looking back, I see several areas of progress. Sometimes with lightening-speed insight; most of the time with determination, grit and courage to take the next painful look at him and at myself.

Since that historic meeting in 1993, I’ve made progress in at least the following areas.

  • Acceptance of the life-changing enormity of what his behavior meant for me then and now
  • Interest in my father’s life story
  • Appreciation for his wounds, including his determination not to ask for help
  • Awareness of his deeply rooted shame
  • Compassion for him as another human being

I was surprised at how much more comfortable I became around my father, even though his opinions about me never changed. I enjoyed being in interview mode, though I didn’t always like what I heard. I was also comfortable being in the compassion mode. Especially because he carried many griefs, sorrows and disappointments similar to mine.

Nonetheless, I knew this change for the better wasn’t yet forgiveness, much less reconciliation. It was more like a cessation of warfare and a sometimes uneasy truce. I still had work to do.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 April 2017

Interrupt and Replace

I woke up this morning feeling down, weary and discouraged. ‘Dis-couraged.’ An interesting word. It means I had courage ‘back there,’ and now I perceive a deficit. How can this be?

If I go back to my childhood and teenage years, I know when dis-couragement happened and why I need to attend to it, lest I lose my voice or become an enabler.

As a young girl I knew when the flames started licking around my legs, weakening my focus and my courage. Back then I persistently carried focus and courage into every punishing situation inflicted upon me. First by my father, and later by men with power to inflict punishment on me as a professional. It’s called bully behavior.

One gift of being a childhood survivor with PTSD is the ability to feel when certain dynamics are in the air. Dynamics neither we nor the person in control are necessarily able to change.

The behavior we’ve seen thus far from our new president is the behavior we’ll most likely see for the next years of his tenure. We already saw it in the presidential election cycle. Nothing has changed except this: the power of the office of President of the United States of America now protects him.

So here I am today, feeling dis-couraged by the events of this past week.

What can I do to change things? I can’t change or replace him. Nor can I change or replace myself.

Back to my father. As a child I was powerless. There was no way I could replace him with a different father. Nor could I interrupt his agenda for me. Especially when he determined I needed to be punished.

I’m an adult now. I’ve done my homework. I’ve learned not just to interrupt and replace the internal voices that mess with me, but the voice of my father talking about himself. He died in 2010.

Now there’s Mr. Trump. I want to interrupt him. The presidency isn’t all about him. Nor is it a platform for bully-talk toward and about others. One painful example will do: his language and behavior toward women who are, apparently, there to serve the desires of his heart.

So how can I do my bit to interrupt Mr. Trump’s monologue and replace it with contrasting voices? Not in debate form, but as a proactive, fearless way to change the conversation, the topic, and the outcomes. The Women’s March is an example of other mass interruptions that changed the topic, the political conversation, and the outcomes.

I want to be part of a movement to interrupt political bully talk and replace it with dialogues that make a difference. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about. Or how your courage is holding up.

Thanks for listening!


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 January 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Replacement

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