I Have Joy


“The big parts of the story take up so much space don’t they? The darkness is in there. It was, and still can be all consuming if I’m not intentional about making choices that keep me well. I left 18 months ago. The initial feeling of safety and freedom was quickly replaced with overwhelm and fear. I felt totally lost, incapable, and afraid of doing life. Everything from choosing my clothes to ordering off a menu felt too big for me. The feeling of hopelessness became all consuming. This was the opposite of what I imagined leaving would bring me. I felt broken, worthless and completely stuck.
I kept on going. A steady ‘three steps forward, and two steps back’ recovery pace was set. It became evident early on that my success would be determined by my willingness to ask for and receive help. I had no choice but to trust the people that I had been so blessed to have come into my life. I was desperate to be well, and never go back to my old life. I’ve done everything that I’ve been told would get me well. A little at a time I’ve crawled my way out of broken, worthless and stuck.
I’m reaching. I’m hopeful. I’m strong. I’m loved.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined being able to make those four statements about myself a short time ago. Gratitude fills me.
All of that is more than enough, more than I’d hoped for when I left. The big parts of my story now take up less of space in my mind. This leaves room now to see the little parts. I see them through cracks mostly….they feel far away. It’s possible that it isn’t that they are so little, as much as it is that they are far. The light is in there. My little girl dreams. My creativity. My sense of humour and adventure. My very big, mushy, loving heart rest in the far away, little parts, beyond the cracks. Every so often a crack quakes open and a moment of clear mindedness fills all of me. It takes over. I observe colour and sound through eyes that have looked through the dull for so long, that the experience of it briefly lifting moves me to tears. I see a tree and really see it. The moon over the water, while canoeing on a northern lake at night time. The sound of water rushing through rapids. I feel a connectedness and belonging during these times. All of this moves me beyond words. I breath and gulp these moments while they are there and then they are gone. They come more and more often. I’ve struggled to explain what is happening to me, and have looked to others to help me understand.
I know. I get it. 
The tears are not sadness. The experiences of clarity and connectedness are not moments of delusion. 
This is what joy is. 
I have joy.”
Shannon L.

Each Friday we share good news from and/or about our clients. Today’s blog post is from Shannon L. It’s deeply moving, beautiful and full of hope. Shannon – thank you for sharing this incredible awakening as you travel along your path.

Please share with others who you think might benefit from reading her words.

The Yellow Dress Project

Torre Marie is a survivor of child sex abuse who started painting as a way to heal from her trauma. She produced a series of paintings called ‘The Yellow Dress Project’. Here she talks about the paintings and their significance.

Why the yellow?

“I’ve been asked this a lot. I’m not really one who tends to be a yellow person. The colour is probably on my least favourite list, well it was. This project has changed my perception of the colour. After considering the choices to represent such a delicate part of myself, yellow happened to ‘fall onto the canvas’ so to speak. The yellow represents my hope. The process of healing can be dark and it can feel lonely. Trauma can sound scary to people on the outside, it creates an uncertainty. Truly though it is just as scary and filled with just as much uncertainty to the person who is experiencing and healing from Trauma. It requires a great deal of hope, trust, and whole lot of faith to consider going through the painful healing process. I will be honest, sometimes I have lost sight of those things and as long as I keep going I find it again. The yellow reminds me that hope exists even though at times it can feel like it doesn’t.”

Why are all the girls silhouettes?

“The answer to this is one that requires delicate words. The easy answer is that the contrast is beautiful. That’s the easy answer though. The truth is that the silhouettes represent the shame. Shame is the I am _____, (unworthy, stupid, undeserving, etc.) It has a tendency to swallow up the uniqueness. It swallows up the talents, dreams, and future in my case. Shame is deeply painful, it occurs in everyone and in many different situations. Shame for survivors of childhood trauma is usually what fuels the silence and fuels the “I’m the only one” mentality. I learned a lot and healed a lot learning about shame. Brene Brown’s book, “I thought it was just me (but it wasn’t)” provided me with insight and understanding into shame that lead to healing breakthroughs, I strongly recommend it. When we shed the blackness of the shame, we can find our uniqueness.

We need the yellow dress to do that though, we need the hope of better, days, nights, tomorrow’s, of health, strength, and love. We need the hope of being worthy of love, compassion, empathy. We simply need hope of good. So when I look at these paintings that’s what I see. That is what I am reminded of.”

Torre Marie

Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Torre Marie. She had travelled to Leduc, Alberta where we were delivering facilitator training and we spent some time after class talking. During the course of the conversation, she expressed to me that there were so many people with stories about child sex abuse that needed to be told. We both recognized that most stories were of famous people and people of means who could afford treatment. We started thinking about how important it was to tell more stories. Stories from the ‘every day’ person. Stories from those who can’t work because of their trauma. Stories from people who have not had support of partners or family or therapists. Stories of incredibly brave people who despite the odds – despite the trauma – despite the lack of support – have found hope. Stories of resilience and courage that would help other survivors know they are not alone. Stories that would educate others as to the significant impact that sexual abuse has on a child.

It simply made sense to me that Torre Marie tell her story.

Filmed in Lethbridge Alberta,  ‘The Yellow Dress – A Story of Hope’ will debut on February 24th, 2017 at our fundraiser. In addition, we will be auctioning off some paintings from The Yellow Dress Project.

Torre Marie will be here – her first trip ever to Eastern Canada. Let’s give her a warm Ottawa welcome (yes, even in February).

See you at the Voicefound [un]gala!