trauma survivor

The Day I Disappeared

Life Behind the Veil

“Life Behind the Veil” by Vennie Kocsis. Click the photo to view more art.

Click to Listen to the Spoken Version:

https://anchor.fm/e/99f7a0?at=2202210

The day I disappeared and
Became invisible
Was the moment
I became invincible.

I got lost inside
The existence of my absence.
I lost my laughter,
Which had
Trickled in moments
Of hopelessness,
So I could feel and
Deal with the real.

I disappeared and
It brought me here.

Now I stand
Unexpected
Affected and feeling.

I am healing.

It is said the sum
Of the numb means
We have succumbed to
Acceptance.

I call that self-rejecting.

I want to be affected
By the dejected.
I want to hold their fears
In my palms, dip my
Fingers in the ocean to
Release the tears.

I let myself see.
It’s my freedom
To go nowhere
So that I’m always
Somewhere and

Even now as these words
Run through minds
Who question meanings
Of bending time

I fade into the distance.
I am no longer
Resisting the calls to
Explore caves lined with
Files of memories waiting
To fill the gaps and
Bring the rest of the
Memories back.

The day I disappeared,
The world was quiet.
My face never reached a screen
Nor an ear, my screams.
I became an echo of a dream,
A memory slowly fading
Into remnants of words
Melting into the earth.

Vennie Kocsis is the author of Cult Child and hostess of Survivor Voices Show.

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Quiet Compulsions

I have a compulsion that I’m going to reveal.  It’s something that naturally happens in my mind.  It doesn’t stress me out, particularly.  I do it in seconds. I do it every day, all day long.  It doesn’t interfere with my life, as I see it, mainly because I can do it so quickly and as of now, I don’t search out the formula just so I can do it. However, when the formula arrives it is definitely going to happen in my mind. 

A common place I do it this is in traffic or if I have to stand in lines, wait in a doctor’s office, doing it with the magazine from the waiting room, my phone, anywhere that the formula exists to allow the compulsion, it will happen. 

I’ll use a license plate as a simple example: 

XKY369

3 + 6 = 9 + 9 = 18 

1 + 8 = 9 

Single Reduction: 9

Every day, anytime I encounter number series I immediately, within seconds, reduce them to a single number.  There is never a time I will not do it.  I don’t fight the urge to do it.  I suppose the answer would be of what reaction would I have if I tried not to do it.  Why frustrate myself, in my opinion.  Reduce and move on. 

You’re one step further into my brain. 

Do you have quiet compulsions?  Are you comfortable sharing them?

Lost Letters

As I was going through some boxes that have been packed up for some time, I came across a bundle of letters. There were nine of them. They were all dated throughout the year of 1993.

I had just left college in Tennessee and moved to Washington State. I was in a foreign culture and in varying states of emotional trauma. I was pregnant with my youngest son and had a four year old child to care for. I felt alone and scared. Morning sickness was rocking my body. I was in deep need of support. The life I had imagined I was moving to was not as I had pictured.

I sat cross legged on my bed the other night, excited to read the letters. I couldn’t remember their context so they were new to me. During that time was the first that my sister and I had been separated by miles, since we’d left the cult. She was now married and off living her life.

I must have been writing to her about the despair I was in, based on her responses. The first couple of letters from her contained the average “Hi! How are you doing? I am fine.” generic theme.

Then I read on and became internally disturbed. My first irritation rose at her continual referring to my unborn child as “Shanaynay“, due to he/she (the gender of my infant unknown then) is a multicultural child. Every letter had the same line in it at some point.

So how’s Shanaynay doing?”

I cringed every time I read it.

I opened the sixth letter.

Hey Bitch! Relationship this! Relationship that! Don’t you have anything else to write about other than your fucking relationship?”

No, I thought. I didn’t. I was alone in a strange city. I had left my whole life, family and friends in Tennessee. I was in cultural trauma. I was having panic attacks. I was arguing with my partner. Things weren’t as they were supposed to be. I was rocked to my core. I had no one to talk to except her.

Letter eight made me wince even more. It bothered me when she called my unborn child Shanaynay. This reference felt intentional and racist.  I had obviously expressed this to her at one point.

So how’s Shanaynay? (Does that still bother you?)

I sat reading all of the different jobs her husband was going to have.
Refinery. We’ll be in the money!”

Job after job, fake happiness after fake happiness, to the point that she had to continually say it in the midst of my own churning hurtful life.
I am so happy with my husband.”

I sat with the letters in my lap. Twenty five years would pass by. She would call me panicked, vomiting out the years of verbal abuse she had taken from him. She would leave and go back. She would ghost everyone who ever fought for her. She would do it in the same coldness from which she had written these letters.

I sat on my bed realizing why I had held my family at bay in those later years, always feeling different, set apart, standing in the shadows of my own broken heart. She had chosen the other spectrum; the one filled with things that make people feel they have worth, and I chose to face the hurt.

I am wistful for dreams we had of lounging on beaches with drinks. I hurt for the cruel words thrown out in spite and the loss of a sibling who is still alive.

I have come to live in acceptance. I keep my spirit attached to my tribe, growing, healing and expanding. Yet, when she drifts my mind, I wince a bit. The cult broke her into pieces, and she walks behind a mask, unable to gather the shreds of her own greatness.

And I hope. I always hope, that she will return to who she was before they stripped us and tore our family apart.

How to Know When You Are Truly Outgrowing Your Past

Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” Danielle LaPorte

Many people talk the talk, but do they walk the walk?  Many times in my adult life I was a downright hypocrite.   I still have my moments, although now, I root myself in awareness of my behaviors so that my actions align with my words.  I try my best to do what I believe to be right.   Tonight, I was pondering on how a person knows when they are truly outgrowing their past.

I came up with one simple word.

Behavior

Our behaviors, the decisions we make, how we view the world, how we treat others and how we treat ourselves are all indicators of our past conditioning.   I am not a licensed therapist.  I’m a trauma survivor who has attended therapy and spent years reading a whole lot of information trying to figure myself out and understand what had been done to me as a child.

Behaviorally, as an adult, I was a walking ball of confusion.  I had no danger boundaries.  I allowed abusers in my life in both friendship and romantic relationships.  I faltered at being a mother.  I was either overly protective or not setting proper boundaries and sometimes even shut down.   There was a time before I had children that I enjoyed getting into fights.  I was essentially, a mass of anger energy.   Beneath all of that anger and false bravado that I spun to the world in an attempt to appear “normal”, was a deep pain that only seemed to seep out when I wrote poetry.   The rest of the time, it manifested itself in negative behaviors.  I made life decisions that weren’t always the best ones.

In my head I quietly lived in extreme fear of the world, but I didn’t understand why.  I was having numerous panic attacks starting in my late twenties to mid-thirties.   They crippled me.  I would have to leave the store.  There were times I believed I was dying, as my breath faltered and my palms sweat.  Once, I left a whole grocery cart of groceries in the middle of an aisle and high tailed it out of the store.  I didn’t know that I was having panic attacks.   I just knew I felt like the walls were closing in on me, and I was filled with an overwhelming panic to get out and to safety, even if it was my car.

My child abuse also manifested itself in irritation and lashing out behaviors.  For example, if my sons wanted to do something that involved an immense amount of people and/or noise, I would become agitated; begin having fear at the thought of the noisy and child filled environment, even though at the time, I had no clue that was why I was irritated. Noise levels affected my hearing.  Too many humans affected my moods.  I wavered, and I am sure for my sons I just appeared to be a mean mother.   Meanwhile, I continued either spoiling them when I could, in the hope of remedying my failures, or I gave far too much freedom to both of them, which unknown to me, was a recipe for creating a disastrous parent/child relationship.  What did I know of that?  I only had a childhood on a cult and a narcissistic mother to pattern my parenting by.

As my sons grew older, it became very difficult to say no, unless I was feeling anger and/or at a snapping point.  I had no boundaries allowing me to critically think through some of my parental situations.  I loved my sons and was often over-protective of them when they were little.  I worried constantly that someone would sexually abuse them or kidnap them.   I ruminated on fear which often drove my own mind into a state of frenzy that I wasn’t equipped to handle.  That is just one example of how trauma not only affects the person who suffered it, but also their future generations.

Fast forward years later, after counseling, which I now don’t foresee myself ever giving up, just for the sheer support of it, and I realize that things which used to make me exceedingly angry or even hurt, I now have the ability to observe from an adult perspective.  This is how I know that I’m partway into outgrowing my abuse.  My behavior no longer manifests my moods.  I am not always perfect.  Trust me, I can snap and be NOT nice at all when I am pushed in that direction.  I am a work in progress.  However, my pushing pattern has immensely changed.  Where the old self used to flash very quickly, the new self simply moves with action.  Actions truly do speak loudly.

We make mistakes in life.  There are times I snapped and said fucked up things to or around my kids; things I can never take back.  The guilt which builds up in a parent can be smothering.  It can cause parents to become enabling.  It can also be manipulated, if our children get wind of it.   When that guilt no longer exists, I can stand in my place, owning my life experiences, saying, yes, my childhood damaged me.  Yes, that also affected my sons, the third generation children of a cult survivor.

There will never be accountability for me from my own mother.  I can’t sit around waiting for someone to say “I’m sorry”, or come rescue me, in order to change my life or my future.   I am ultimately responsible for me and my decisions.  I can make boundaries and firmly stand by them.  I get to decide my journey.   I get to say no to anyone who doesn’t respect me.  I get to drop people out of my life who have no empathy for those who have been through trauma.  I can do it any way I choose if it feels safe and right.  I get to outgrow my trauma.

It doesn’t mean the trauma doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t mean the past doesn’t love to keep its grimy fingers dug into our flesh.  For me, the very first step to outgrowing my trauma was to accept that it happened and then to accept I can never change the past.   The next step was to then, with vulnerability and no shame, look at my own behaviors and assess what I could change about myself.   Then I had to be willing to do the work.  Part of that work includes learning to be alright with saying no, and putting your well-being at the forefront of your life.   It’s not easy work, but like climbing a mountain, when at the top you see that beautiful view, it’s worth every step.

I feel alright with where I am right now.  I listen to people everywhere complaining about life, and I just think about how many people feel truly lucky just to be alive.  I am one of those people.  I am lucky as fuck to be alive.   It doesn’t mean I don’t cry sometimes or don’t feel the totality of the apathy that’s rampant in the world.  It just means that I am in acceptance of the reality that I can only change myself.   Only I can outgrow my abuse by eliminating behaviors which were once ruled by it.   I don’t wait for someone else to take accountability.  I don’t wait for tomorrow.  Awareness is a state of being; a way of life.  Mindfulness becomes second nature.  Self-love begins to feel good instead of selfish.   We learn what we can and cannot do, and that becomes our boundary line.  We then learn to hold that line like a warrior.

When Writing Out Trauma Is Crippling

A wise person once said, “There are three things you should never share; your relationship, your finances and your next move.”

It has become a mantra for my life.   Years of being both vulnerable and held back at the wrong times have left me speculating my own judgment.  Being alone is safer, away from the possibility of re-victimization.

I learned harsh lessons as I grew up. With no boundaries to define danger or relationships I was tossed out of a childhood that had been riddled with abuse straight into the very society I had been trained to fear, hate and one day even war against in the name of God.

With blinders on, I ran towards everything I’d been taught was sin.  I bathed in it.  I dove inside of it like it was a swimming pool.  I became prey, a seal pup in an ocean full of sharks.

A couple of nights ago, while working on “Rise of Sila“, the sequel to “Cult Child“, I had to write a trauma memory.  I had to get into the details of it, part of them being a time my sister wore long sleeves to hide the bruises her rapist left on her upper arms.    When I was finished with the section, nausea swept through me quickly, suddenly and filled my mouth with water to the point I had to curl up on my bed and do focus breathing until it passed.

Fuck.”  I thought.  “It’s starting.”

This is what happened while I was writing “Cult Child“.  The trauma surfaced in waves, and with it came years of sporadic vomiting, night terrors, migraines, days in bed weeping, high peaks of anxiety and agoraphobia and a lot of deep isolation.

I smiled in selfies to post on the Internet. I spun on the positivity pole as if I was the poster child of survival, and I hid the reality of how crippling writing trauma is for me.

I thought I would feel some kind of relief after getting “Cult Child” out.   Yet, I didn’t.  I felt incredibly proud of myself that I had accomplished the project.  I also felt an extreme exhaustion that still lingers as I continue on.   I feel weakened.  I feel that I have only spilled out a sliver of the truth about the reality that was my childhood.

Last night I had a dream which rocked me. When I woke up this morning, the emotions of the dream came hazily with it bringing short, flash images of children milling about, a lot of confusion and an inability to grasp the rest of the images.  There are no worse dreams for me to have, than the ones which involve children.  They take the longest to shake from my eyes and the hardest to re-balance my heart from.   [Click here to visit my Dreamscape category where I document them.]

I am pushing myself, because this story must be told.  It has to be left behind so my sons and lineage will have documentation of their ancestral life.  I have to tell the truth for myself, hoping that maybe, just maybe, after I am finished, there will be some reprieve.

But, right now, in this moment, I just feel like avoiding.

Sea Angel

This video of “Sea Angel” is an audio poem from my poetry book and accompanying spoken word cd, “Dusted Shelves”, which I published in 2011. This particular poem was written during a time when I was deeply depressed. I was in the cusp of writing out childhood trauma in “Cult Child”, my memoir. I listen to this piece now and what strikes me is that my suffering was so debilitating, the thought of being taken under by the sea felt like a comfort to me. Yet, life and hope have always called, and so the emotion became this piece instead. To those who suffer with depression, PTSD, anxiety and more, keep fighting. I remember you daily.

Stream Of Consciousness 6.5|15

What kept you silent, mother? Was it the denial of the screams echoing down the hallway every time the abusers’ belts landed a blow to me? Did your heart really belong to their ministry? There are secrets that you shared without even speaking. Infectious connections I’m quickly uncovering. You are all earth and upturned stone.

What will remain when the truth is regained; when we find out what is left behind? We were test subjects for the mind.

I’m staring them in their faces, mama. They are victim blaming and apathetic. Were they not this pathetic to you? Where did you ever see truth in such blatant illusion? What depth there must have been to your confusion.

I’m strong. Throwing bricks. The layers are thick, but we’ll get to the heart of this sickness. Control and Ego. It’s all gotta go.

They run rabid like dogs feeding off the hearts of innocent survivors; grab your pocketbook, write a check, this one needs therapy again. It’s a racket from start to finish; one claiming extremist; the other peace. All ritualistic and damaging, both are the same, just presented in different packaging.

We discovered each other, mother. Did you ever expect that? We are here tracing our steps back. What we are finding is spellbinding, a circle of explicit deviance wrapped in a bow of reverence and deliverance.

Yet, none can save the soul but the one who owns it. There is no atonement for their deeds. They hope and wish but the truth is, what awaits them after death… is nothingness. You went back to the gray and so will they, pompous court jesters with wounds that fester deeper than ours.

But they don’t wear their scars as proud. They don’t shout as loud. They drop names and hope for fame; score coin without shame at the expense of the wounded. It is a circus of psychology and ideology. They dont see us following behind, warriors prepared to reveal their crimes.

Meanwhile, we are freely thinking and unleashing an unearthing. We are re-birthing ways brand new, and these unchivalrous tyrants aren’t sure just what to do. Their masks have fallen. Truth is calling, and their exuses have become useless.

And so we dig into the deepest parts of it, because this pit’s not bottomless and we arent the type to quit.