How (My Story of) Trauma/ACEs Unexpectedly Snuck Its Way Into My Memoir

 

Long before I heard of ACEs or the phrase “childhood adversity,” I started to write a book; my first. Now, hot off the press, my memoir isn’t the book I set out to write. But who am I kidding? It’s exactly the book that had to be written. It finally gnawed at me, dared me, to excavate for truth.

My book was supposed to be about walking the Camino de Santiago Compostela in 2013. After I’d hiked nearly 1000 kms of trails across Spain, I told my family and friends that I would write a book about that walk: about the jaw-dropping landscapes, the delicacies, the other pilgrims I met along the way. I knew that I would also write about my struggle to walk up to (or more than) 20 kms a day, despite physical impairments and chronic pain. It all seemed so clear, straightforward - and predictable.

Somewhere along the way, I got stuck. I’d jot down an anecdote, then find myself unable to write any more. This grinding happened frequently enough that I shelved the manuscript countless times. One day, early last year, I started to wade into what felt like an impenetrable jungle - of pain, shame, self-loathing and family secrets. At first, I tried to ignore those tugs, plugging away, and determined to stick to the plan. Even though I meant to write a pretty book, about pretty people and pretty sunflowers and meadows, truth got in the way: I had to pull up the weeds and mangled roots.

Long submerged, my trauma (her)story had to come up for air.

Some asked me: What happened? Why did you veer off-course?

Metoo (Part II) happened. TimesUp happened. Women were standing up, naming their assault (and abusers). ACEs happened too (for me), prompting me to move ever closer to honesty. A quiet but colossal pivot happened. I stood up too – because I could no longer sit (this one) down.

Courage begets courage.

I crept out of my lair and tapped away on my laptop keys, deep into the nights. The words spilled out, and found their rightful place among the pages of my book. There was no looking back. But I felt stilted. Imbalanced. Nervous about what lay ahead. Fallout. Accusations. Anger. Can I? Should I? What will happen? She is still alive

With trepidation, I stepped into an unknown. I laid bare the shaky foundations of my life – while excising the anger. Decades of tumult and turmoil strained to exhale. These things happen (I wanted my book to shout out) even in the lives of otherwise ‘normal’ and seemingly ‘contented’ families. Who was I to render the invisible, visible; stubborn life-stains and all? I would do it, not just for myself, but for others who wanted courage to step out of the darkness. And so, I did.

“The only thing that mattered in that flash of recognition, was that she might begin to find a way back to herself. She had been found by a book, by a single word, as if it was the only word in the entire universe that could tell her what she was about, even when she had no words for it herself—This, this is how you have lived and coped. Dissociation. That, that word, the one word that brought the thick red ruby velvet curtain separating her from the world, tumbling down, made all the difference…” ~ excerpt from (Un)Bound, Together.

Then, I sent her those excerpts. There was shock, anger, disbelief, unexpressed shame. We had discussions. Negotiations. Tears. Talk of truth – and consequences. Passages that had the power to cause further pain and alienation. I snipped some, revised others, tamed a few more. It was a balancing act, tempering stories of cruelty while unwilling to abandon the truth. She is still alive

In between the emotional grit and grime, I said to her: I have to believe that good will come of this. Even if I have no idea what this is - other than an invisible centrifugal force sending ripples outwards from my pages.

Rising from the ACEs, I wait; as much for the expected, impending fallout, as for the unfolding of mystery, grace and good things.

 

(Un)Bound, Together: A Journey to the End of the Earth (and Beyond), a memoir of personal and spiritual pilgrimage, is now available on Amazon. A list of C-PTSD / ACEs resources appears at the back of the book. I’m at work on my second book. If hope stands a chance of transcending anger and a sense of betrayal… I will write it with her.

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Your article is very interesting on how you couldn't write what you intended to write but your ACEs keep eating at you until you wrote what you had to.I had a similar experience in writing my book which was intended to be a book about the loss of two of my children ,one of whom was kidnapped. It was as if I was guided spiritually and realized that my story is really about my journey as a father which as we all know starts with our own experiences growing up.After I wrote my manuscript ,turned into my publisher and released my book  ,I found out about ACEs of which I found that I have 6 ACEs when I took the test.As "I just wrote " I told my story of three generations of  chronic adversity and without really knowing but thinking that my parents must've had some ACEs up their sleeves also.

           I am eager to read your book (Un)Bound,Together. I am anxious to see how you tied such a story of your physical hiking journey to you ACEs.Very interesting!

              Fred Fruehan author of "Off The Grid",A father's Journey.

Donna Jenson posted:

Bravo, Amit. Bravo for telling your story. Bravo for writing your book. Bravo for being in this world. As a sister survivor I send you thanks and gratitude.

Regards,

Donna

Donna:
I love this post and encouragement, not only to Amit (but go Amit) but also to all sister survivors! Cis

Elizabeth Perry posted:

Sounds great. Adding to my wish list. Good for you for just doing it. I'm at that point now. 

Elizabeth, apropos your words: For a while at least, I remember invoking "Just Do It" to push myself through the hardest pieces of writing, rather than shrinking back. It was such tough going in parts, but once I felt compelled to stand UP and write from TRUTH, there really was no turning back. I never imagined that the Nike brand would one day impact me so...

Cissy White (ACEs Connection Staff) posted:

Amit;

The writing is beautiful. I’d  love to hear more. You have me curious hooked about the inner and outer terrain!!!!

 Please keep posting and sharing photos and let us know how the journey continues!!! Cissy 

Thank you Cissy! The journey indeed continues - including my first book launch this coming Saturday  

I feel so blessed to have stumbled upon (really, quite so) the realm of ACEs, which has opened doors to validation, wisdom, insight, and hope. So.. thank YOU for your role in bringing these understandings to light.

Donna Jenson posted:

Bravo, Amit. Bravo for telling your story. Bravo for writing your book. Bravo for being in this world. As a sister survivor I send you thanks and gratitude.

Regards,

Donna

Thank you so much for your words and enthusiasm, Donna!

Teri Wellbrock posted:

Oh, how I love the way you write. I find myself lost in your words. Even in our email exchanges! Such a soulful expression and poetic. Thank you for writing your book. I LOVED our podcast interview and am excited to put it out into the universe for all to watch/listen in on. I am also excited to get my hands on your book and dive in . . . to those delicacies as well as the courageous ventures. 

Peace to you, my friend,

Teri

I too LOVED our chat / interview - you made it so easy and fun(!); I too look forward to sharing it with the world. I hope you'll send me feedback after you've read my book...

I feel such deep gratitude for ALL that you are (and do) for us who seek to stand, bravely, in our light; you're a true inspiration!

Oh, how I love the way you write. I find myself lost in your words. Even in our email exchanges! Such a soulful expression and poetic. Thank you for writing your book. I LOVED our podcast interview and am excited to put it out into the universe for all to watch/listen in on. I am also excited to get my hands on your book and dive in . . . to those delicacies as well as the courageous ventures. 

Peace to you, my friend,

Teri

Elizabeth Perry posted:

Sounds great. Adding to my wish list. Good for you for just doing it. I'm at that point now. 

I'm curious to hear, Elizabeth, more... are you writing a memoir yourself? And thanks for your comment!

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