Nature and Love Are Crucial To My Mental Health

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I am heady from the smell of ocean. I walk slowly to the vast, rolling surges of white foam.  My son, the cinematographer, snaps photos of my bliss, following silently as I dance and skip. Life becomes different when I am with the sea. It is humbling for me. It is reminding me that I am small within the realm of infinite reality.

I am surrounded by my family. Babies toddle about, smashing sand into hollow, plastic turtles, their faces giggling.  This joy that has emerged from the depths of my ancestral traumas and struggle, has instilled in me a deep appreciation for the small nuances of life.  You see, this journey has been a scattered learning curve filled with crashes and burns. I have been into the depths of its darkness and risen into the brilliance of its light. I will not fall again.

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I press my toes into the sand, aware of the soft scrub of the grains against my feet. I enjoy the firmness of this beach, impacted, forcing me to dig into and be present with the awareness of this feeling. Grounded inside the sensation, I let the earth infuse with my skin, sending her energy into my spirit.  She is soft and firm.  I am safe above her.  There is no rumbling of engines or honking of horns.  I am here in this moment completely alone.

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The wind lifts my dress. I am in surround sound with the soft roar of the waves. They are a symphony rising and falling, reminding me that in an instance, swells can turn. She reassures me, that even if pulled into here tidal arms, sleep will be cool and peaceful. I feel every cell filling each drop of her endless depths move inside my skin. We resonate together, as even the seagulls crying out to the fish become a faded echo.  On this shore, I see dimensions I’ve never traveled before.  I see possibility.  I see me in the sea.

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I wonder what happens inside of the mind and spirit when a human just walks into the sea? Eventually the body becomes numb from the dropped temperature. I imagine there is scramble and a struggle against the pulling of the waves as the limbs lose the ability to fight.  An acceptance washes over when the mind realizes it will never return to shore. The eyes close and gulping in the salt, the waves become one with the spirit here. Inside this liquid world, beings exist, the same as me; different environment; Otherkin.  It is not a walk I desire.  It is a wonder, a curiosity, a movement of my mind.

I am grateful for my life. It is big within this smallness. It is filled with surviving and thriving. It sings the songs of promise. It tells me to hold on, keep fighting and stay strong.

I stand inside this diminutive yet immense piece of planet; one so beautiful, yet filled with abominations beyond the imagination. I must return to the reality of my mission; my dedication, to make a difference. But just for today, I escape, just me and the waves.  I am infused by the sea and my family.  This is where I am balanced; when all is calm; where there is no storm; when we drift gently and in harmony with the tides.

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Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and other publications.  She is a also a poet and hostess of the podcast Survivor Voices Show.

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.

Lost Letters

As I was going through some boxes that have been packed up for some time, I came across a bundle of letters. There were nine of them. They were all dated throughout the year of 1993.

I had just left college in Tennessee and moved to Washington State. I was in a foreign culture and in varying states of emotional trauma. I was pregnant with my youngest son and had a four year old child to care for. I felt alone and scared. Morning sickness was rocking my body. I was in deep need of support. The life I had imagined I was moving to was not as I had pictured.

I sat cross legged on my bed the other night, excited to read the letters. I couldn’t remember their context so they were new to me. During that time was the first that my sister and I had been separated by miles, since we’d left the cult. She was now married and off living her life.

I must have been writing to her about the despair I was in, based on her responses. The first couple of letters from her contained the average “Hi! How are you doing? I am fine.” generic theme.

Then I read on and became internally disturbed. My first irritation rose at her continual referring to my unborn child as “Shanaynay“, due to he/she (the gender of my infant unknown then) is a multicultural child. Every letter had the same line in it at some point.

So how’s Shanaynay doing?”

I cringed every time I read it.

I opened the sixth letter.

Hey Bitch! Relationship this! Relationship that! Don’t you have anything else to write about other than your fucking relationship?”

No, I thought. I didn’t. I was alone in a strange city. I had left my whole life, family and friends in Tennessee. I was in cultural trauma. I was having panic attacks. I was arguing with my partner. Things weren’t as they were supposed to be. I was rocked to my core. I had no one to talk to except her.

Letter eight made me wince even more. It bothered me when she called my unborn child Shanaynay. This reference felt intentional and racist.  I had obviously expressed this to her at one point.

So how’s Shanaynay? (Does that still bother you?)

I sat reading all of the different jobs her husband was going to have.
Refinery. We’ll be in the money!”

Job after job, fake happiness after fake happiness, to the point that she had to continually say it in the midst of my own churning hurtful life.
I am so happy with my husband.”

I sat with the letters in my lap. Twenty five years would pass by. She would call me panicked, vomiting out the years of verbal abuse she had taken from him. She would leave and go back. She would ghost everyone who ever fought for her. She would do it in the same coldness from which she had written these letters.

I sat on my bed realizing why I had held my family at bay in those later years, always feeling different, set apart, standing in the shadows of my own broken heart. She had chosen the other spectrum; the one filled with things that make people feel they have worth, and I chose to face the hurt.

I am wistful for dreams we had of lounging on beaches with drinks. I hurt for the cruel words thrown out in spite and the loss of a sibling who is still alive.

I have come to live in acceptance. I keep my spirit attached to my tribe, growing, healing and expanding. Yet, when she drifts my mind, I wince a bit. The cult broke her into pieces, and she walks behind a mask, unable to gather the shreds of her own greatness.

And I hope. I always hope, that she will return to who she was before they stripped us and tore our family apart.

Does Your Tribe Consist Of Warriors?

I am rising. So the people in my circle must be warriors. To be close to me one must contain and maintain the passion to fight for me just as I adhere myself close to you. I will go to battle to protect you.

My army is small, yet impenetrable. Everyone outside of it is a molecular extension. Loyalty is pertinent during these times. To be accepted into the most sacred of my innner space one must be ascended and vetted, mind, body and spirit.

I look around me. I am there. Each person inside of my life loves me loyally. Each person would say no, she is good, she is my friend, my mother, my sister and my daughter.

There is no dramaturgy playing violin strings or symphonies. All are at peace with being. Each who we are. Witch. Warlock. Children of the Stars. Daughters of the Moon. Sisters to the tree leaves. Shapeshifters. Love Givers. Moniceptors. Otherkin. Indigos. Crystals. We are at differing levels of growth actualization. We are varying age dimensions. We are a wise and skilled tribe.

There is a summer awaiting fingers debating word phrases as I disengage from the grid and go in. In the meantime, I hold you at distances. Not because I don’t love you. It is because I don’t trust you. “Who me?” If you’d like to apply it feel free. Trust is not given. It is earned. The world can burn tomorrow, and the hollow earth can explode. Wars can be waged and chemicals sprayed. Who will be there to hold you?

You will know, when at your worst you become your best. So observe the words returned, the lines unspoken, the invisible fences which rush electricity through your stomach without warning.

In these signs of the times who will be by your side? Only you decide.

Growth Sometimes Comes In Small Packages

It’s been a long run with me being a parent. I was a young mother at twenty. The parenting skills I knew, I acquired from my own mother, and well, anyone who has read “Cult Child” knows that her parenting skills were sub par.

There were things I hoped I would never do; like make mistakes. No one ever told me that was okay. No one ever told me that I was a flawed human being.

My eldest son went straight into parenthood at a young age. He is a warrior child, and while his personality is… Virgo, fact based, ready to make a move and sometimes difficult, I admire the tenacity with which he figures out supporting his family.

This is where I feel I failed as a mother. I didn’t have the best of life skills in my earlier days and because of that, my eldest especially, suffered with the same.

When his little daughter was born last week, 6 weeks before time, just a mere 3.5lbs, in the ICU, but doing so well, nothing in the past mattered for me. We sprung into action. I realize that while I cannot do everything, like be a nanny, I can be the best YaYa to these beautiful grandchildren and support my family emotionally while still maintaining my own mental health boundaries.

We are growing. I am learning. My sons are teaching me that I have to let go; that I will always be mom and they will be brothers who have secrets and moments in which I am not included. That hurts sometimes, triggering me back to being a child on the cult, shunned for some infraction. Yet, I bring my critical thinking into the forefront and remember that this is not the same. This is two brothers loving each other, and they deserve that special bond.

In this experience, through help from friends and my counselor, I’m learning my place as mom; that I cannot fix everything. I cannot rescue everyone. I can support without exhausting myself. That is my responsibility to maintain.

I am thankful today for these lessons, and I take them with me, adding to my infinite growth.

Odd Girl Out

I never felt like I belonged to my family. I lived their dynamic hovering on the outside looking in. Mom and sister always seemed to have secrets between them that I never seemed good enough to know. I didn’t feel included or chosen. I was often told to go away, things were none of my business that I was just a kid.

Years of abuse in a cult weren’t the only aspect of my childhood that would chart my future relationships. I would feel like an outsider in almost every part of my life. Even now I often feel the same way; either unnoticed, misunderstood or both. Highschool was often a filmy dissociation. I hover in most of my memories, seeing my life from a third perspective view.

Living on the edge of cloudy hazes turns loneliness into a quiet craving to always be alone. Just as a prisoner becomes accustomed to their cell, I have become accustomed to solitude and absent intimacy. If I wish for anything, it is to be beautifully courted, slowly, with time, respect and patience where I am whisked into lands of surprises by eyes telling me that I am accepted and loved. i know, but a woman can wish.

I feel as if I am stepping over a milestone where I won’t be able to turn back. Aloneness will have settled in so deeply, I will make the outskirts my permanent home.

From around eight until I was a teenager, my mother, sister and brother all told me that my father wasn’t quite sure that I was his. I spent many a day examining my siblings’ features in comparison to mine. I was tall and lanky, while they were shorter and stockier. My lips were more plump. Hmmm.

I picked it all apart, adding to the story, which confirmed in my own head that I was in fact the product of my mother’s alleged affair. I even spent some years wondering how I could find my “real” dad until finally, in my adulthood, I posed the question openly. It was greeted with laughter by my siblings and mother. What a joke, they said. How could I believe something so silly?

How could I not? How could they tell a child their father wasn’t their real father? Since when did “I cheated and got you” become a joke?

At 38 years old, I finally got a chance to ask my father, if he ever doubted that I was his.

“Absolutely not.” He said firmly and without a second of hesitation. “I always knew you were special and undoubtedly mine.”

There was a slight quiver in his voice, and a pause filled with emotion. Pain. A man hurting. That’s what those three seconds told me. My whole body felt his loss.

My father had loved me, but I was ripped from him, then taken into a sick world where I would always be the ghost girl, drifting on walls, watching other people’s movie screens. I’d be the girl who grew into the shadow of a woman, still fragile beneath a shell.

I am a woman remotely viewing human lives, sitting on the outside. I watch lips mouth lies to one another. I see lovers gazing at each other. I tap my pen against my cheek. I am conditioned for being different.

It is sometimes a rabid duality, to both crave togetherness and aloneness, all in the same breath. Somewhere, someone understands the balance some of us need between together and alone. I only hope one day to meet them.

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.