Balancing Our Trauma and Creativity

The other day I was having a conversation with a fellow trauma survivor and writer. She posed a question to me.

How do you balance everything you want to do and keep your head together?

There are many blogs about creativity which advise on this subject, and many of them contain very valuable information.  So, I had to answer her from my own personal perspective.  Instead of repeating what is suggested, I wanted to answer her direct question about my daily process specifically.

You see, I am a free-flow creative. Forcing me to follow a set schedule is a sentence for the death of my creativity and passion. It is the driving force that will push me into emotional flat feel. I will strain against the confined system and begin to have a growing irritation towards the control of a schedule until I wither.

Any rigid type of living, for me, is a recipe for depression as I stare at the screen because it’s 1 PM, this is my scheduled time to write, but I don’t want to be writing at the moment. My soul wants to create art, work on other projects or even rest for a while.

Many branding gurus advise to stick to that strict schedule and don’t vary from it. because that is how successful people happen! So it was that I redefined the meaning of success for myself.

Read here to find out makes me feel successful.

Do I pay attention to the marketing side of my brand? Absolutely. I am a lone wolf with a friend who helps me with computer tasks when she can. I have no expectations of her. She has a family and helps me for free. I bow and kiss her feet for that! 95% of my brand is solely controlled and operated by me.

Do I read branding blogs? Absolutely. Following branding bloggers like BadReadheadMedia, by 30 Day Marketing Challenge author Rachel Thompson, have given me excellent information. Partaking in Twitter hashtags like #MondayBlogs, #SexAbuseChat and #NoMoreShame, have helped me connect with some great trauma survivors who are vulnerably baring their souls. Connecting with creative trauma survivors, like artist Liz Ianelli and podcaster Matt Pappas, keep me inspired.

What I don’t do is allow what I read about suggested success methods to pressure me. I glean what feels fitting for my own life and my brand, and I incorporate it. I don’t change the specific routine I have for my-self care, a routine for which no specific schedule really exists. I make a “to do” list almost every day (because 1/2 of it is usually carry over from the prior day), and if there’s a timeline due, I make note of it. In the end, though, I always do things in a rhythm which matches my own positive flow. If something sinks me, it’s not for me.

Being a trauma survivor and a creative can be daunting. When I put too much pressure on myself, I tend to drop into shutdown. My creativity flow is dependent on the state of my mental health.

I always put my mental health and quest to continue being the healthiest before everything.

If two hours is all I have to give to my creativity on some days, that’s what I give. Some days I don’t create at all. Other days I catch a wind and go for hours. All of this is is unpredictable and unknown for me.

My creativity is flowing water at a pace I currently feel happiest following. I cannot re-carve the banks of its river. Instead, I float its calm stretches and row its rapids, staying with the grain of the waves and enjoying the view along the way. To me, this is balance. For me, this is the best route to reach the vast sea of success.

I hope you stay balanced through your creative journey by putting yourself first. I hope you take walks in the trees or lay in the grass and count the clouds. I hope you free flow with yourself, absent of any painful expectation, and know that if you care for the growing plant of your creative well, you are guaranteed to grow into the tallest tree.

P.S. Today I accomplished vacuuming and this blog post. SUCCESS

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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Click the graphic to visit Rachel’s website

In this journey of traveling the grid of the internet, I’ve been privileged to connect with a variety of individuals.  Through these connections, I have learned, found support, grown and joined the ranks of strong survivors who are shamelessly telling our child abuse stories with the intent of helping others.

When I met Rachel Thompson, owner of Bad Redhead Media, on Twitter, I resonated deeply with her writing.  In her books, Broken Pieces and Broken Places, she passionately pours out the rawness of her pain in a writing style akin to painted, language art.  I was immediately hooked.

Being an independent author, I equally latched on to her amazing marketing book, The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge, geared toward toward supporting the budding author in learning how to market on their own.  I took the challenge, and I learned!

I recently had the honor of talking with Rachel on my radio show, Survivor Voices Show.

Click below to listen as she shares her life, her story of child sex abuse, her triumphs and how she masters focusing on self care, writing and growing her brand.

Click to Stream Rachel’s Interview on Spreaker.

Click below to listen to Rachel’s Interview through Survivor Voices Show on YouTube:

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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.

“Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” by Zack Bonnie

 “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Lily Tomlin

Let Me Be

art by Jonathan Weiner, San Francisco, CA 2015

Accented with unique and relevant art by Jonathan Weiner of San Francisco, CA,”Dead Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir“, by Zack Bonnie, reveals with precision the mind bending abuse enacted inside of the youth reform industry. “The Cult That Spawned the Tough-Love Teen Industry”, by Mother Jones, explains the birth of this industry and provides the following graph.  CEDU had roots in Synanon and began in 1967.

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It was indeed an industry of profit as parents were indoctrinated with the belief that any slightly “off” behavior by their teenager was a sign of serious problems, resulting in parents not only giving away their children with the belief they were helping them, but additionally being swindled out of millions of dollars.

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” opens with Bonnie taking a ski trip with his father. Subsequent events find a fourteen-year-old Bonnie checked into a youth reform facility in Idaho. He is tricked, and left there against his will. Thus begins the enactment of Bonnie’s mental shattering. Overnight, he joins the ranks of the large number of throwaway youth in the eighties, who eventually were labeled “Generation X“.

With every phone call monitored and Bonnie’s parents receiving false reports of his progress, he becomes trapped in an intricately woven scheme of abuse.  He has no means of escape.  He is unable to relay his alarming conditions to anyone.  Forced through bizarre, psychological techniques to become emotionally naked, Bonnie is often left confused about what is real in his mind.  The children are left unsure of what a right answer to staff questions should be.  They are love bombed, then verbally abused, with severely psychotic mind control rituals. The CEDU facilitators often use the children’s personal family dynamics to manipulate them.

“To not share would be to betray them and the confidences that they shared.  I said the most innermost things that made my voice tremble to admit, bringing an ancient anger and self-hatred to the surface.  It wasn’t just the situation; it was where it was taking me, inside myself.

I’m useless.”

Who used to say that to you?” Keith’s soft voice back at me.

My father.”

Your father called you useless?”

Yeah.

Had he really? Yes, he had.

Say it again. ‘My father said I’m useless.’ Good. It hurt you? Yeah. You can say that again, that’s riiiigth.”

Tess and Keith repeated what we said a lot. Just about every time a kid in my group said something, Jasper, Tess, or Keith was there to repeat it. This is how we always seemed to get roped into going deeper within ourselves.

Rituals involve teenagers verbally confronting themselves and each other.  Every detail of their life is invited to be shared as their overseeing handlers note them to use against the children later.  Rounded into groups, they are put through almost daily, mind bending sessions of unimaginable attacks as staff strategically controls the children into turning on one another.

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art by Jonathan Weiner, San Francisco, CA 2015

Zack describes session after session, as every part of the children’s emotions are controlled and manipulated.

Bianca, what do you remember about your mom? She used to have a name for you, too, didn’t she?”

I guess so.” Bianca Taylor picked up her cue from Tess.

Yeah. What was her favorite nickname for that beautiful little tyke? Can you remember for me?

She used to call me Rainbow...” Bianca started crying. I wanted to start crying from watching Bianca, who I’d never really even talked to. Seeing raw sadness like that felt like a punch to the solar plexus.

Toughen up.

The berating of kids is a carefully crafted tool.  Broken down into nothing, with their self-image lost and lacking any emotional worth, the children become easier for the staff to manipulate.  Using every piece of their fragile lives, the staff takes as many opportunities as possible to verbally abuse the children.

I can’t hear you, Bianca. A spoiled little bitch? Spoiled little bitch. LITTLE BITCH! Why did he call you that? That’s right, let me hear you.”

Go for it, Wally…GET IT OUT, PEOPLE. That’s RIGHT!”

A SLUT! Who said that to little Daphne? You really let that little girl down, didn’t you?

Yeah? When? After the abortion? Say that again, Narissa – you’ve got to stop being that girl with the reputation? Look at her!

Here’s some tissues, Bianca. Let it go.”

Catch terms such as “bans“, when children are forbidden to speak to one another, and “bad rapping“, children saying bad things about each other, are among a plethora of rituals used to manipulate the minds of vulnerable teenagers.  Meanwhile, the children are allowed to smoke cigarettes and other self-harming behaviors, geared to feed into their anxiety, which grows, the longer they are forced to remain inside of the program.

Bonnie’s writing style allows his reader to easily flow between what he is forced to witness happening to other children and the silent thoughts he is disallowed to ever let leave his lips lest there be intense punishment.  The children are trained to adhere to a system filled with mistrust and expected betrayal of one another.  They are strip searched upon admittance to the program.  They are heavily worked.  They are humiliated in front of one another.

Yet, even trapped inside such a sordid system of complicated tier goals, systematic punishments, humiliation and anger, Bonnie’s resilience becomes his counter weight as he journals.

“Guess what I went through my truth prophet August 9 & 10 and I found out that I basically I was a dick at home. I have been mulling it over in my mind and I know the point of raps and prophets.  Just to make you cry a lot so naturally being the way I am I didn’t cry. – Author journal entry, 11 August 1988 (one month at RMA)”

Through this writing, Bonnie brilliantly flows between descriptive enactment of the program and his attempt to retain a critical thinking mind.  Bonnie takes his reader’s hand and pulls them directly into the center of his deeply intense experiences.

Bonnie navigates the CEDU system until he can no longer withstand the thin line between the reality in his mind and the constant psychological belittlement he daily endures.  One day Bonnie decides to go on the run.  Will he make it out?

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” reveals the sadistic truth of the youth reform’s use of mental and physical abuse to control children.  Never has a book had an impact on my own teenage memories since I was a young person reading “Run, Baby, Run” by Nicky Cruz. The detail through which Bonnie brings his story to life is exceptionally mapped out.

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” is guaranteed to make you intensely feel. You will be outraged. You will ask why and how a human being can do such things to children. You will laugh, and you will cry. You will cheer for the incredible strength and courage Zack journeys into as he brings his teenage memories to life on the pages of this exceptional book.

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Zack Bonnie

Zack Bonnie is in the process of re-launching his website, complete with an audio-book of  DEAD, INSANE OR IN JAIL: A CEDU MEMOIR, which is available in paperback and e-book. Additionally, he is beginning the publishing submission process for the sequel, entitled: DIJ: OVERWRITTEN.   All of Zack’s work can be explored at his WEBSITE.

To subscribe and stay informed as Zack continues developing his literature, please sign up for his NEWSLETTER.  You may also follow Zack on Facebook and Twitter.

Personal Note: Sometimes a book is so well written, it sinks into the skin of a trauma survivor like me, who found incredible familiarity in the words I read.  This author touched my heart deeply when I met him. The ache in his eyes was familiar. The strength was admirable. The energy was filled with the passion for advocacy. So, dear Zack, please forgive my delay in this long overdue review of your book. I truly wanted to give you the honor you so rightly deserve. Love, Vennie Kocsis 

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