I See You

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Liz Ianelli

I met her online, but I feel like I have known her forever. We have conversations like sisters, laughing and saying whatever we want.  We understand each other’s brash language and sarcastic thinking.  I feel so happy to have this connection.  Child abuse survivors understand other child abuse survivors.  We have our own way of conversing.  We joke about off color things. We find the macabre fascinating and nerd out on unexpected subjects.

Liz Ianelli was sent away as a teenager.  For 993 days she suffered.  Now, she rises out of the ashes to speak for those who cannot.  Liz sat down with me and shared her story on my radio show, Survivor Voices Show.

Click below to listen:

Liz’s story and incredible artwork was recently featured in ICSA Today’s 2017 Fall Quarterly Journal. After over 80 deaths of her fellow survivors, many of them suicides, Liz decided to begin the #ISeeYou campaign to inspire others and let them know they are not alone in their struggle. She rallied up her fellow survivors to make videos sharing their stories and what we deal with on a day to day basis as a result of being abused. Soon, survivors were sharing their stories. Liz hopes to continue rallying survivors, asking them to make videos as they feel comfortable.

I proudly stand with Liz in the #ISeeYou campaign. We have to continue reminding each other that we are real, authentic and here to share with vulnerability. We will not live in shame. I see you.

Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and the hostess of Survivor Voices Show and her live Sunday broadcast Off the Cuff. She is an advocate, poet and artist.

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Why You Need To Make This Small Investment In Your Life

I’ve been through some of the worse a child can endure; torture, sexual abuse, child labor and more. Cult life was excruciating, daunting and extremely emotionally isolated.

My healing journal has been difficult as well. Being diagnosed with mental impairments thrust me into shame and despair for a long time.

So, how did I get through? Fifteen years of hard work and a big mirror reflecting back at me.

This brought me to a place of wanting to share my journey with others. One of the excruciating parts of talking to survivors, is how many are alone, can’t afford therapy and are just struggling to be heard.

So, I started a channel where I can listen and share. Through videos and posts, you, the subscriber, can come to understand more about mental health struggles. I am currently doing a video series on Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I am in love with this channel. Subscribers are private unless you choose to comment or openly participate. I can garauntee a constant stream of information and so, so much more.

Click to join:  My Private Channel

Five Tips For Surviving Holiday Gatherings

Let’s face it, for many people the holiday season is a reminder of past and current emotional and/or physical abuse, missing family members, the gathering together of dysfunctional family, even abusers, alcohol consumption and more.

So, how does one get through a day which may possibly have to be spent surrounded by dysfunctional behaviors?

1. Remember that other people’s behaviors are not yours. If it becomes projected toward you, you get to get up and walk away. You get to gather your brood and keys, respectfully say your goodbyes and simply leave. On this day, and every day, you have the right to self preserve and exit from toxic environments. If you feel you may end up in an abusive encounter, arrange a way to be able to leave as soon as you can.

2. We live in an age of pressure. We worry over judgment and backlash. Not attending a family function can create an arena of hurt. We don’t want the family to be upset at us. We don’t want to have to rehash grudges still being held against us. We don’t want to experience any new wounds. Remember that your peace of mind belongs to you. If you feel it is safer for you not to attend, then you don’t have to. If you do decide to attend gatherings though, for yourself, focus on any moments of positive laughter and conversation.  Focus on the familial connections which feel positive for you.

3. If you encounter triggers such as passive aggressive comments made toward you, skewed stories told that are meant to make you feel bad or humiliated or other audio invasions such as high noise levels, remember to use some grounding tools. Have headphones with you to temporarily block out the noise and negative conversation. Not only does it silently make the statement that you are unwilling to participate in toxicity, it also allows you a temporary mental escape as you listen to soothing music on your phone. If you feel yourself dissociating, silently name five red, green, white or black items in the room. Grab some ice water. Run your hand over the couch material or a solid object beside you, focusing in on its texture in your mind to bring you present into the room . If there are children around ask one of them if they want to play catch. Toss a stuffie or ball or any small item back and forth with them. These tools can all help to bring you back into the present.

4. Stay sober. Try not to drink in an attempt to relax. Keep your mind aware and focused. Concentrate on breathing. Visualize a protective barrier between you and those who you are not comfortable being around.

5. Set a time limit on your visit, and have an exit strategy. If three hours is all you feel you can handle, then try and time your visit so that the family meal is starting and wrapping up within your time frame. Be okay with taking a “to go” plate to enjoy later when you are back in your own safe space.

In essence, please remember to not be guilted into placing yourself in anxious or stressful familial situations. Even if your family doesn’t understand you, or doesn’t try to, know that you have the right to reserve your own comfort zone.

Remember to stay in the present.

Remember that if you feel triggered you have the right to ground or leave.

Remember that many people are not mindful of others’ needs, so prepare a self care list that you can glance at if you feel your mind can’t focus on its own. Looking at a list of ways to ground yourself can, in itself, also bring you into the present.

To my fellow abuse survivors who struggle through the holidays, I am with you in my heart. Here’s to the passing of another year and the start of a new one.

Vennie Kocsis is a child abuse survivor and the author of “Cult Child“. She is an outspoken advocate for trauma survivors.

A Poster Child for Shame

There’s a duality existing when what we long for finally arrives. In that moment we are tasked with facing it. Now, I am going back inside. I am choosing this journey. While still somewhat tired from writing “Cult Child”, I want to keep myself surfing this wave lest it all disappear.

As I am writing “Rise of Sila” I am facing some extremely harsh realities. I am diving into teenage stories that bring more realizations of the emotional intensity and aftermath being an abused child  had formed.

In some ways, we became a predator as a teenager and young adult. I wasn’t brought to that realization until today, talking with my therapist about teenage moments that as I write, I realize are filled with an incredible amount of shame.

Gottamn, that fucking hurts. It makes me angry. It makes me wince. How dare they.

I sat talking with my therapist, and she was so beautifully raw with me. Softly facing it. She asked me, “What would you know right now, today, do if you met a teenager like the one who sometimes came out in you? How would you treat her?”

I know what I would do today. I would empathize with her, hold her and do everything for her that I was screaming for. I would want to know what happened to cause her so much pain. I would see the need for love. I would reach out and give her a voice. I would believe her. I wouldn’t judge her.

“Then as you write your teenage experiences, that’s how you treat yourself. With understanding.”

Is this what I am tasked for in this life cycle? Is this why I took this mission; to stand in the footsteps of the shame, holding the highs and the lows of every human who experiences child abuse, teenage wildness and criminal behavior; standing firmly inside of owning it? Am I to be a split open example of how painful it is to heal? Am I to be a warrior of the journey of human mind control survival?

When the switch happened as a young girl, I didn’t realize the totality of its many manifestations, until I sat down to it write it out. I didn’t know until I looked back, how formed we had become and how utterly out of control the wheel had been spun.

As I drove home today, I thought to myself, I know why Lot told his wife not to look back. It had nothing to do with religion or the tale of a sinful city. It was a metaphor that sometimes going back can grind us to salt if we’re not strong enough. Lot’s wife wasn’t strong enough, so she crumbled.

I hope I am strong enough.

I believe that I am.

Ethereal Strings

but if you don’t want it, the full heart and the thriving; if you are wound tightly inside the cusp of your victimoness, afraid that if you shine no one will notice, your hands will grow bruises and your fingers will become weak from gripping so deeply to the pain. change has to rise in you with the strength of infinite passion. you must make the decision to find out who you are beneath the fog and clouds which continuously drift inside your energy.  introspection is an art. it is when you say this day belongs to no one else but you. it’s when you only listen to the blues for the rhythms not the tears, because you have chosen colorful moments that reconnect you to your own ethereal existence.  it’s when you choose you.    ~Vennie~

On the Merry Go ‘Round

I’ve felt so much upheaval in the beginning of this year. the last month has been an up and down battle of struggles and survival. Things have shifted and changed multiple times. I’ve been forced in positions to face more parts of myself and accept the reality of others. My process feels unsure at times. I take it day by day.

Unexpected moments happen. I spent last week head deep into finishing an art piece. I enjoyed some moments of rare sunshine. I am working on writing my sequel. I’m in my own space right now. Life is twirling. I’m in the middle of a move. I have moments of feeling overwhelmed. I have moments of “freak out my life is going to explode in one big agoraphobic poof”.

Today, a family member ended up in the hospital for the next few weeks. Today has been a day of realizations of where my personal focus should be. Today my support system shifted and redirected unexpectedly.

There isn’t a possibility for us to predict life or what will happen. After today, I have taken one step further into myself. I am learning more and more to stand in acceptance of what is and to give love where I can while holding to my own boundaries.

I will always be a work in progress. Every loss becomes a lesson and a tighter boundary on my life. To be truly understood; to find authentic empathy and intelligent, open minds in this world has become a rare gem for me. I must spend my time cherishing what I have felt I was losing.

The moment I cease sharing my life, my journey, my knowledge, and the moment I cease learning and becoming more than I am today, is the moment I take my last breath.

A Moment In the Mind of a Mother With DID

I stand still in my slippered feet. The girls are at the table coloring. My youngest son is visiting from college and is recalling a childhood moment with me.

“You took me to watch The Grinch, remember?” He asks. His eyebrows are furrowed.

“I did?” I am flipping through the years like micro film, trying to bring up the memory.

“Oh my gosh, mom! How can you not remember that?” He exclaims. I drown in his frustration.

I am on the spot standing in shame. How careless I must seem to not remember an experience that is so obviously a fond memory for him. What kind of mother would not remember that moment? What kind of mother doesn’t remember special memories with her children?

A mother with DID. I want to say this as he continues on, his brother joining him, but they don’t pause to let words in, and they’re certainly not seemingly interested.

“You DO know who the Grinch is, right?” My eldest asks.

“Of course I do.” I reply.

And they go on to tell me of the movie, and I remember Jim Carey’s antics and sparkly green fur. I just don’t remember seeing it at a theater.

But I can’t say it right now, with granddaughters happily coloring away in their coloring books and my sons in their own energy, laughing and remembering.

I can’t say how I will claw away at the particles of blank spaces trying to find this moment. I can’t let out the lump in my throat that outside of those who understand my cult aftermath, I will stand judged and misunderstood more than not. There will be no room for explanation or conversations that open doorways to understanding.

I can only quietly walk away and wish I could switch minds with them for a day. Then maybe we could understand each other. I could see myself from their perspective. I could understand them more if I could see me like they do.

It’s not their responsibility, but it’s mine to remember. I walk away wincing the ache of failure. How can I ever explain to them the maze that is my brain? How can I draw out blank spaces, pain and the exhausting  strain of remembering?

I accept that only those who have suffered similarly to me can feel with me. Only those who have experienced the fragmented pieces that are the aftermath of a complex childhood filled with physical, sexual and mental torture, can truly understand what we become, who arrives to help us through, and why we stand staring, akwardly on the spot, holding blank spaces in our palms.