How Writing Another Person’s Journey to Recovery Helped Me Turn Toward the Sun
By Beth Fehlbaum
It’s been six years since I completed writing the first draft of the last book in The Patience Trilogy, a series about fifteen year old Ashley, who has been removed from her mother and stepfather’s home because her stepfather has been sexually abusing the girl since she was nine.
Over the course of the previous six years, 2004-2010, I was in therapy, working on recovering from the sexual abuse that I endured at the hands of my stepfather. Writing The Patience Trilogy—looking at the experience of recovery as an observer and not solely as a person mostly crippled by pain the first couple of years—was incredibly healing. I wrote all three books: Courage, Hope, and Truth, through the course of getting well.
I had to learn to manage the myriad of disorders I have as a result of what I endured at my stepfather’s hands, and the deliberate indifference practiced by my mother. To this day, she refuses to know the depth of what happened to me. And because she refuses to know it, we do not have a relationship. I will not accept “crumbs” from anyone or be treated as if my life does not matter. The first 38 years of my life were spent doing that. No more.
I was suicidal the first year or so of therapy. I thought the grief would destroy me. I suffered through PTSD flashbacks so severe that I ended up in the emergency room, my body wracked with spasms when I remembered incidents my mind had blocked until I could handle them.
Over many, many hard-won months, then years, of healing, the fog of pain lifted as my therapist reparented me. My husband, daughters, and I grew even stronger in our love for one another. We were made whole by living in the Light of Truth, even when getting to “whole” was an excruciating journey for all of us.
My husband and therapist’s tough determination and love, coupled with the fierce love I have for my children that kept me tethered to Earth, are why I survived the journey to recovery.
I know that I’m one of the lucky ones.
On August 10, 2010—the day of my last therapy session, I knew without a doubt that I had emerged from a six-year “gestation” period to become the person I am today.
I am so very, very unlike the terrified woman-child who entered therapy on November 4, 2004, and I am surely unrecognizable as the broken soul in early 2005 who had to white-knuckle it past every bridge column I approached in my car, because I knew I would slam my car full-speed into it if I did not picture my children in my mind constantly.
At some point over the course of a journey my therapist compared to a barefoot journey from Texas to Alaska and back, I no longer cared why my mother refuses to recognize the depth of damage that occurred on her watch. I was, and am, so surrounded by people who love me unconditionally and accept me as I am, that I no longer need the answer to the question of “Why did this happen to me?”
Because there is no answer that could ever justify it. There is never justification for a child to be sexually abused.
Although my publishing career hit a bit of a bump when my first two publishers went out of business, and Truth in Patience is only being released now (April 19, 2016, actually), I was given the gift of the unique opportunity to rewrite all three books from the perspective of who I am now: a pretty-much-healed person.
I think I needed to be as healed as I am before the last book in the Trilogy, Truth in Patience, could see the light of day. The main character, Ashley, comes so far from where she was in the first book, Courage in Patience, and she continues to grow stronger through Book 2, Hope in Patience. But in Truth in Patience, she is like a flower opening to the sun.
And I know exactly how that feels.
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In addition to writing Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Beth Fehlbaum is a high school English-Language Arts teacher who frequently draws on her experience as an educator to write her books. She has a B.A. in English, Minor in Secondary Education, and an M.Ed. in Reading.
Beth is a featured author on the 2015-2016 Spirit of Texas Reading List- High School for the Kirkus Starred Reviewed Big Fat Disaster (Merit Press/F+W Media, March 2014) and The Patience Trilogy: Courage (1), Hope (2), and Truth (3) (Steady On Books, April 2016).
Beth is a member of the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) Speakers’ Bureau. She has a following in the young adult literature world and also among survivors of sexual abuse because of her work with victims’ advocacy groups.
She has been the keynote speaker at the National Crime Victims’ Week Commemoration Ceremony at the Hall of State in Dallas, Texas and a presenter for Greater Texas Community Partners, where she addressed a group of social workers and foster children on the subject of “Hope.”
Beth is in-demand as a panelist, having presented/appeared at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference, the American Library Association’s annual conference, YALSA, and N.C.T.E./ALAN, and she is also the founder/administrator of UncommonYA, a thirty-member-strong marketing group and website for authors of edgy YA fiction. Beth is a member of The Author’s Guild.
She is a survivor of a traumatic childhood, like Ashley in The Patience Trilogy, and the day-to-day manager of an eating disorder much like Colby’s in Big Fat Disaster. These life experiences give her a unique perspective, and she writes her characters’ stories in a way meant to inspire hope.
Beth lives with her family in the woods of East Texas.
You can find Beth online at http:www.bethfehlbaumbooks.com, http://www.uncommonya.com, on Facebook, and on https://twitter.com/bethfehlbaum.