I have come to understand that I like to read about other people’s journeys from trauma (of any kind) towards some amount of healing or acceptance. Recommendations requested and welcome.
The first such book I read was The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood [link], which was comforting at a time when nothing could comfort. Now I offer it to anybody coping with child loss. The second survivor story I bought but did not start reading for almost two years, (because it seemed too popular and I thought it was about praying) – then I saw the movie on the TV and finally picked the book. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – still surprises me with the impact it has on me (and on atleast one other mother who loves the book as much) – I am reading it for the second time, reading it slowly, savouring every word. The comfort this book brings is specially unexpected because the book is not about child loss, I was surprised that divorce and heartbreak could hurt this much. How the book ends or the story doesn’t matter – what I love is reading about Elizabeth Gilbert’s experiences as she struggles to find some moments of peace. This struggle to help herself was (is) immensely relatable.
Then a friend recommended Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, and now I have just finished reading and am still feeling overwhelmed with the Girl in the Woods: A Memoir by Aspen Matis.
Aspen Matis is a rape survivor. She decides to hike the same Pacific Crest Trail that the Cheryl Strayed does (in Wild: From Lost to Found).
Each of these books has been an eye opener. I have come to see that loss and trauma affects many of us in nearly the same way. No matter what causes it, atleast for a while, the trauma changes the way the survivors view life and everything else.
Aspen Matis felt nobody ‘gets’ what she was going through, including her mother, “I hated her consistent need to know the list of different foods I’d eaten that day. I remembered how she’d asked me if I’d had a good dinner in the same phone call when I’d told her I’d been raped.”
For a long time after the rape, she doesn’t know what she wants… because what she wanted was not possible. The book made me want to reach out to her, to hug her nineteen year old self and to thank her for her courage in sharing her experience. I was saddened but still thankful to be reading how she felt. When have we ever heard a rape survivor’s side of the story? Such first person accounts should be shared.
I had not thought of what a sexual assault could do to every part of the survivor’s life. Consider what it could do to her self confidence: Did she really ask for it? Could she have prevented it? Did she experience rape or was it not really rape? Was she capable of taking care of herself? Could/should she trust men ever again? Was she safe from further assaults? Would she ever be able to have a normal relationship? All her relationships change forever, including her relationship with herself. Then there was the humiliation, the ‘shame’, the anger and the helplessness. I strongly recommend the book for anybody who would like to understand what a sexual assault can do to a victim. Also, what lack of clarity about one’s rights can do. Why having a voice and knowing one’s rights is more empowering than all the safety alarms and pepper sprays in the world. And how terrifyingly disempowering lack of confidence is. I loved the author’s honesty.
In a society like ours that does not even acknowledge that rape is ‘sex without consent’ – this book could be a beginning. Do read and share.
But why was this book healing for me? It made me see I was not the only one coping with what I couldn’t change. AND it made me want to go for a long, long hike.
And I agree with her when she says, “To victims of sexual assault or any trauma, tell your story. Only then will you find someone who had similar experiences, with whom you can connect and move forward...” [from here – What Girl in the Woods Author Aspen Matis Found on the Trail to Independence:]
A Hiker’s Guide to Healing – Aspen Matis
When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her. —ADRIENNE RICH