I Stopped Fighting Because I Can’t Win

All my life I’ve had to fight.” Sophia, The Color Purple

One year after leaving an abusive cult where we have spent our childhood merely surviving, my sister and I curl up on a second-hand couch in a mobile home sitting on a Tennessee, small-town trailer park, and we weep together as we watch “The Color Purple.”

It will be the below scene that will stick in our minds forever. When we become adults, we will smile together, softly making fun of ourselves, recalling how real the separation anxiety and fear of abandonment was for us.

This movie scene will make my brother’s face come into my view, time and time again, a nine-year-old little boy clinging to my father’s legs as our mother pulls him away. The sheer helplessness in my father’s eyes will never leave my peripheral vision. I will hear my brother’s screams echoing inside of Sophia’s words. I will see the white blonde of his sweaty hair pasted to his forehead, the redness in his cheeks and the shuddering of his heaving shoulders from so many sobs.

This movie scene will remind me of Prins Samuel, a man from India, who came to the cult in the early 80’s and took a liking to my teenage, older sister. Terrified that she would be taken back to India, I write in my memoir, “Cult Child”, about the afternoon Prins and his travel companion come knocking at our cabin door.

“I pick up my book to read for a while when there is suddenly a loud banging on the door. It’s louder than usual, but I ignore it for Leis to answer. The banging continues so I go to the top of the ladder. Leis is at the door with her back pressed up against it. She signals to me with her finger to her lips.

“Ssssshhh…”

“Who is it?” I say in a loud whisper.

“These two guys from India who are here visiting. Prins and Max. Shhhh! I’ll tell you in a minute.” She whispers back.

We stay silent as the men continue to knock, and I lay flat against the floor of the loft peeking down as one of them cups their eyes with their hands to look inside our cabin through the bay window.”

Cult Child” excerpt

Body memories come in waves, signaled by rapid heart beats and sweaty palms. I recall ducking down the cult compound pathways with my sister and avoiding the men from India at every turn. The days they were visiting seemed endless. We worried. We hid. We were terrified of being separated.

So many moments in an abused child’s life are filled with the anxiety of abandonment and separation. As a child, my sister was my only lifeline. If she was taken away, my last strand of feeling any severance of “protection” would have been erased. In abusive situations, when the children are removed from the abuse environment, keeping children together is crucial, unless one of the children is harming the others, of course. Abused children can create a deep bond with one another; a bond which helps them survive. Separating them becomes an additional wound.

In my song, Capable, I write:

See ever since I arrived I’ve been fighting to keep all the pieces alive; from drowning.”

To live a life of fighting is exhausting for a child. I was already exhausted physically, psychologically and emotionally by the time I was a teenager. This is part of why abuse victims struggle so much when they become adults.

Imagine you begin working at three years old. You rise before dawn to do field work. You work all day until you go to bed at night. Your sleep is often interrupted and limited to 4/5 hours a night. Riddled inside of these grueling work days you are also subjected to physical and emotional abuse, neglect, sexual molestation and extreme mind controlling beliefs. Additionally, you witness this same abuse happening to other children.

Imagine spending your whole childhood fighting to process every moment of your day. In later years, I can tell you, that you will want to sleep for hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes years. You will want to somehow rest your mind, but by the time you get to a place in your life where you can rest, your mind won’t be able to sleep anymore due to its inability to expel the insomnia that years of trauma memories create.

If the first eighteen years of your life are filled with fighting to survive, by the time you enter society after high school, when you should be excited about starting your independent life, you are already very tired. When you reach fifty-years-old, the cusp of your life, you feel as if you are seventy-years-old in spirit. That’s the weariness which sets over the mind, body and soul of an abused human being.

No child should ever begin their life fighting through environmental combat battles day in and day out. They fight to protect their mind until adults break it and fill it with their own ideals. Children fight to have just a voice, a choice, an opinion or any respect in their little lives. They are often brushed off by adults and the system and not even considered an actual “person” until they become eighteen.

Yet, they are people. Children are individual little beings, who have entered this planetary dimension with their own unique DNA.

Everything my siblings and I did was a “representation” of our mother, according to her. When I fucked up and became incarcerated at the age of eighteen, she wept embarrassingly in the visiting room…. EVERY TIME SHE CAME!

Where did I go wrong? How can you do this to me?” My mother lamented.

Ah, the sweet scent of martyrdom, almost confessing before blaming me. In my lowest moments, she somehow succeeded in always making them about her own failures, failures she never really ever identified, though. If she walked the edge of accountability, it was only in private and always to her own advantage, vauge and hollow.

To hear my mother tell it, I was the “wild child“; the “black sheep” of the family. I had always been the difficult one, the loud one. You know, the youngest ones usually are, she’d say. Enter her fake lipsticked smile and an invisible hand to the forehead in angst.

In my soon-to-be-released sequel to my memoir, Cult Child, which is entitled Rise Of Sila, the totality of my mother’s psychosis emerges, manifesting sad remnants of a cult that starved her and snatched her mind the moment she stepped foot onto their first compound.

All her life my mother fought. All her life my grandmother fought. Into my Moravian ancestry, women fought to survive, working themselves into death, sick in body and shattered in soul. This is why I decided to stop fighting. I had to break the generational trauma of lives filled with suffering. Why I stopped fighting is a multifaceted thing.

I stopped fighting because I cannot win. I stopped fighting because I don’t want to win.

Who was I fighting? Everyone, including myself.

Why was I fighting? Fear. Fear of abandonment, loss and hurt.

Most humans fight out of sheer fear.

I’m a major Game Of Thrones addict. Arya Stark is one of my favorite characters. The child in me relates to everything about her journey in this series. She was born having to fight. She lived having to fight.

SPOILER ALERT

In one season, Arya finds herself inside of the arena of the faceless man. He teaches her to become no one. She becomes blind so that she can see everything. She spends days, hours, minutes, fighting off her inner demons and rage, and when she is finished, she emerges as a mighty warrior, able to wield her slender sword with exact precisions. She develops the ability to become the very person she must eliminate. She becomes a woman wearing her emotions like a badge of honor, yet still, she understands that being no one is the true way of the warrior.

I am nobody. Nobody is perfect. Therefore I am perfect.

All of my childhood and a large part of my adulthood, I felt like a “nobody”, the kind of nobody who was lower than the swamp. My mind battered my own existence in deep ways. My thoughts told me I was destined to be an overweight food addict all of my life. I believed I was a “Jezebel” just like the cult pedophiles had described us young girls. To myself I was not worthy of anything good. I would never “have” anything good. I would never “be” anything good.

Then one day, I just stopped in my tracks. I had no more energy left to keep fighting. I had to make a choice. I turned to myself. I looked at the “nobody” that I am.

I explored her and I learned so much. What was I trying to win at? Being me? Who was I? I had to go faceless. I was fighting no one. I re-defined my understanding of what it truly meant to be “nobody.”

I dove into myself blindly.

Straight into the bottom of my own nothingness I sank. Do you know what is inside of the dark matter of yourself? Let me tell you, loves. There is infinite possibility. You will fight the darkness fiercely at first. That’s what you’re used to. Fighting. Your whole life you’ve done it. You’ve been separated from yourself, trying to win a war with no one.

The truth is, we are actually ever morphing, infite streams of something. I stopped fighting because without me fighting, I had no one to fight with. Everything I projected outward was really about my innards. Faceless, I roamed my own hallways. I left slain apparitions in the dark corners, lighting them on fire as I passed.

It takes two or more to tango, and so I merged every one of my inner enemies into my nothingness. They evaporated inside of me and became one with my existence. Without me fighting, they don’t have to hide. Together we stand in the Light of truth.

When I accepted that I was no one, I realized I am all of me.

I am everything I observe and absorb. Now, I dance with all of it; the fear, the danger, the anger and the evil. I dance it into my own joy and worth. More can be eliminated in synced-together movements, than in the brutality of battles and war. If this isn’t clear to you yet, stop fighting. Stop trying to win. Be still for a while. Observe yourself.

Stand within your nothingness so you can be all of who you are. Inside the nothingness there is no need for validation. Worry dissipates. Fear gets sucked into your self love. Anger expresses its pain, processing itself inside the brilliance of your confidence.

I ceased fighting, and now, standing in the silence of the nothing, I hear everything.

The Moment I Went Invisible Is The Moment I Became Invincible

Traveling within our own beings we find the universe that we were born to be.
You have universes inside of you.

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.

One Badass Redhead

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 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