Guest Blog Post: Discovery and Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri

Exciting books — thoughtful stories — across land and time, into ourselves and others, they take us everywhere!

Author/blogger Maria Alfieri, who lives in Sussex, England, is on a mission. She’s out to create peer support and community when it comes to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Her most powerful tools are reading and writing…

“Freedom.” Photo of Maria Alfieri by Flora Westbrook.

How I Rediscovered Myself through Reading and Writing by Maria Alfieri

I came to collate The Silent Scream Anthology based on my own experiences of struggling silently in dealing with my childhood sexual abuse. I developed anorexia aged 11, for which I was eventually hospitalised aged 12-13. Anorexia was a physical demonstration of a trauma I could not vocalise. I spent many years starving myself and self-harming. My anorexia developed into bulimia. All my reckless and self- destructive behaviours were a way of me yelling to the world ‘I am not okay!”

Despite gaining some control over my eating disorders, I still struggled, sometimes daily, with that inner dialogue, which told me that I wasn’t worthy. That I needed to harm myself. My mind would sometimes take me to dark places, and I would have to talk myself back from the edge.

I found a way to heal through reading, as this was the first step on the ladder to connection with others — something I’d run away from for most of my life. I’d self-isolated much of my life, as many of us do when struggling emotionally. Mostly because of a deep sense of shame and a belief that I was unworthy of belonging. But reading stories similar to mine made me realise that I wasn’t broken and that I wasn’t ‘the only one’ feeling this way. Through stories, either fiction or non-fiction, we share empathetic connections, reaffirming our humanity. They remind us that we are part of a collective. Through reading, and then writing, I came to understand myself better.

Reading and writing are part of the process of connection; firstly, connection with ourselves, and then connection with others. And connection is vital for healing, growth, and change. Writing about my past, in particular, was an extremely cathartic process. Ultimately for me, reading and writing were the tools through which I recovered the person I want to be.

They brought me into this shared community that we created through The Silent Scream Anthology — a community of courageous and inspirational people who empowered me in many ways and helped me to unravel further the depths of my own unhelpful conditioning. It is my greatest wish that The Silent Scream Anthology is the passing of the torch for its readers — the light which sparks hope in moments of darkness and a stepping stone on the path of connection, healing, growth, and change.

As a collection of raw, honest and inspirational memoirs, anecdotes, poems, and artworks about a variety of mental health topics, The Silent Scream Anthology is aimed at anyone who has ever struggled silently, felt trapped by shame and felt alone in their experiences, no matter what those experiences are.

Cover of “The Silent Scream Anthology,” by Maria Alfieri.

Prior to collating The Silent Scream Anthology, I qualified as a teacher and taught English across secondary schools before having my four children. Stories have always been an important part of my life, and today I make it my mission to promote the power of connection through empathetic literature.

More about Maria Alfieri here. Her “The Silent Scream Anthology” is available in hardback here and here, in paperback here, and in both here.

What book or story has made the most impact on you?

Guest Blog Post: Happy International Women’s Day Pt. 2 of 2 by Denzil

1914 International Women’s Day poster.

Happy International Women’s Day!!! Is it celebrated where you live?

1975 International Women’s Day poster.

All days merit celebrating — for the opportunity to find ourselves still players in the game of life. Each of us is of value — if it was up to me, we’d all begin our mornings with a smile, feeling and saying, “happy me, happy you, happy us in this big beautiful world!”

Regarding wonderful women — I recently found this fun book trailer that includes publishing know-how guru-ess, Jane Friedman

Belgian-British blogger Denzil Walton, who’s a guest writer for Happiness Between Tails here and here, and Part 1 of this here, posts about the wonders of Belgium (and writes for hire too!). Included at his site are some incredible Belgian women!…

Discovering Belgium

Observant readers may remember that in my Waterloo Battlefield Walking Tour I stood outside a convent that once had a famous occupant. It’s a story I couldn’t resist. A Catholic nun with a no.1 hit single. Great riches yet great poverty too. A loss of faith and a personal tragedy. This is the story of The Singing Nun.

Who was The Singing Nun?

She was Jeanne-Paule Marie “Jeannine” Deckers, who was born
on 17th October 1933 in Laeken. Educated in a Catholic school in Brussels, at
the age of 15 she had a premonition that she would become a nun. She was an
enthusiastic girl guide, a skilled guitarist and singer, and obtained a diploma
that enabled her to teach sculpture. She did this until she was 26, when she
left the teaching profession and entered the Fichermont Dominican Sisters
Convent (the one I stood outside on the Battlefield of…

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Guest Blog Post: dissociative identity disorder by Mike (And the gang)

Disclaimer: I know virtually nothing about Dissociative identity disorder (DiD). How about you?

Thanks to Mike and his inner family’s courageous blog (which includes informative posts like this), I’ve gratefully gained a bit of awareness. Perhaps you, dear reader, will take the time to learn too…

Mike (And the gang) blog from the Northeast U.S.. They say of their site: “We live with Dissociative Identity Disorder. We are a close-knit family system whose mission is to educate and entertain others about the reality of what it means to live with DiD. We invite you to our website and to learn more about us! You can interact us with there, as well, if you like. Most in our family love making new friends.”

According to them, “…every human on Earth has multiple personalities. We all talk to ourselves; Have internal dialogues.”

In trying to understand, I asked what they thought of this mainstream online definition of DiD. They answered, “The descriptions of DiD are always…”Sterile.” Describing DiD from a medical perspective is completely different from the subjective experiencing of it. While science claims that alters are defense mechanisms, living with alters and becoming them – they aren’t defense mechanisms. They are individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, agendas, and disposition(s). It’s much more complicated and delicate than what’s being described in medically sterile terms….1% of the population? We would say those numbers are wrong, a bit high. Many people who claim to have DiD are actually misdiagnosed by doctors who don’t understand the disorder. Also, many therapists will erroneously suggest DiD or alters to a patient.”

Mike (And the gang)’s daughter, Katy Mae, describes the experience of a dominant split, “which can be a terrifying and mystifying experience to have,” here…

Image by Mike (And the gang) of Kayleigh with her pigtails in.

“Streetlights” by Katy Mae

Streetlights pass but time stands still; Mouths move but with no sound,

There are no longer, my memories, to hold on to; Disappeared in the night.

Not able to shiver, not able to cry,

This night is different but there have been many like it.

A blank stare, a whisper in the night,

lights pass in the night; Mouths move but there aren’t words -Just noise.

Who are we now, with no destination; no place to call home,

red lights pass in a blur; my own comfort to a place unknown.

There are no longer dreams, no more nightmares in this place

memories slip away while faster cars pass.

Who are we now and why must we go,

another stop away from nowhere.

The radio plays, my favorite song whose title I can’t recall,

not that it matters; My former life is now gone.

Replaced with a ghost whose name no one knows,

There’s no time to breathe, no time to whisper for help.

No longer awake, no longer asleep; Who are we now?

life, oh life, it comes to a halt while I still breathe.

Where are we now; I’ve forgotten my name again,

remember it, whoever I become; Whom I fear the most.

No one to hug as we travel alone in our world; This cold, lonely place,

still someone speaks; Still, just noise and static.

I’d rather stare ahead and forget who I am becoming,

please don’t stop; The passing lights are an illusion of escape.

Who are we now and where are we going; your voice has changed,

the sun is rising and I can’t remember my name,

How did I end up in this cold dark car,

and why with you; Who are you?

Does Your Light Frighten You? by da-AL

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson, activist/author of, “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A COURSE IN MIRACLES,”
Marianne Williamson, activist/author of “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A COURSE IN MIRACLES”– Photo by Supearnesh – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

This famous quote — which surely Williamson is proud of however zillion times it’s attributed to Nelson Mandela — reminds me of how sneaky my fear of success can be. As a kid, I worried that setting myself apart would invite criticism, jealousy, and ostracism. My ultimate goal, I was firmly instructed when my imagination soared, was predetermined. Girls must be cute and sweet so they’d be attractive to boys. Women, I was told, were born to be wives and mothers.

Fears continue to gnaw at me. Now they’re sophisticated, requiring constant vigilance to upend them. Art begs an audience. When art is personal, it’s difficult to not give a damn what others might think, not to mention how wicked my own self-doubt can be. An hour after I was awarded an Emmy, a stranger asked me how the honor felt. My reply was blather. He reminded me that I had indeed won it…

Williamson is correct to point that that being our best benefits everyone. When I’m upset about my goals, I remind myself of her wise words.

Do you ever hold yourself back?

Linear Amplitude: I’m in an art installation! by da-AL

da-AL modeling for Connie DK Lane's Linear Amplitude art installation
Here I am, modeling for my friend’s upcoming show.

Yeah! My friend, artist Connie DK Lane, is having another show (this was an earlier show — and this is another I performed in). Please join us. Below are her official info and description…

Info for Connie DK Lane's Linear Amplitude art installation

“Connie DK Lane’s work is born of her emigration from Hong Kong and evolved from contemplations on belonging, memory, and being. By combining aspects of lived experience and creative imagination, Lane’s art beckons viewers to meditate on their own complexities. Artist reception March 23, 2 to 5 p.m. with a performance at 3 p.m. The show runs through April 29.”

What’s the last art show you attended?…

Guest Blog Post: “Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t” by Caz

My inner cynic can loom monstrous enough to be laughable. When it skulks, it can be harder to address. Caz, who lives in England, understands that emotions are part of being human. Without being syrupy, without promoting denial, she offers practical help. Her Invisibly Me site deals with living with invisible chronic pain, including living with an ileostomy (not to be confused with a colostomy). Here’s a sample of her best advice…

Graphic: Focus On What You Can Do. Not What You Can't.

Photo of blogger Caz of InvisiblyMe.com
Caz made her first website when she was 13!

I wrote this with chronic illness in mind, but it also applies to other spheres of life, from living arrangements to your financial situation. 

Focussing on what you can’t do. It can become a vicious cycle, leaving us exhausted and disheartened before we even begin. It can happen for various reasons. Looking at how things used to be in the past, such as before chronic illness took hold. It may be from social pressures concerning what we ‘should’ be doing at this point in our lives. It may be from comparing your life to how you thought it would look, or comparing your situation to that of your peers.

For whatever reason, it’s good to work on acknowledging and accepting the situation and what you can’t necessarily change right now. Then, redefine what’s important to you, not what you feel you ‘should’ value or want. Write your own rules. Find new paths to explore and get creative to find ways to get there. Maybe you can’t do certain things, but there will always be options and alternatives. There are always small changes you can make and actions to take to improve your situation or live your best life. You may just have to look a little harder to find them.

It’s also about readjusting expectations and making them more realistic and manageable. Take note of the things you can be grateful for that often get lost in the midst of pain and illness, or stress and worry. It’s about looking at the things you’re good at and the positives you can eek out of your situation and experiences. You’ve become stronger and more resilient. Perhaps you’ve met new people in person or online, such as through blogging or support groups. Maybe you’re more compassionate, empathic, have found a new skill or have become more appreciative of the small joys in life.

When we focus on the negatives, the limitations or the things we can’t change, we give up our power. By honing in on those things you can’t do or have, or the ways in which you feel constrained, it limits your perspective and experiences even more so.

By focusing on the can’t-dos, you’re reducing yourself & your life. You are more than just the things you can’t do. 

Empower yourself by looking at what you can do, no matter how small. Look at the things you can change, the tasks you can accomplish, the things you can choose to do. 

Instead of ‘I can’t do…’, change it to ‘but I can do…’.

You’re doing the best you can, with the cards you’ve been dealt and the situation you find yourself in. A little jiggle of perspective can make a big difference. Don’t close yourself off from possibilities. Instead, think outside the box and take back some control over your life. You may just find that you’re capable of more than you imagined.

– Caz

Visit Caz at her blog and her facebook page and her Instagram.

Blogger Caz of InvisiblyMe.comInvisiblyMe.com logo graphic

How do you deal with invisible pain?…

 

Happy 2019 New Year from 1919 by da-AL

vintage photo from Argentina of a New Year's celebration
1919 New Year’s, my grandmother celebrating with friends and family. Abuela sits in the middle with flowers in her hair.

A lovely cousin recently gave me a copy of this photo of my grandmother, Julia Vaccaro who was an Italian-Argentine of Buenos Aires — ringing in 1919 with family and friends! Like the United States and so many other places, Argentina is a country of immigrants.

My grandmother's mother, dressed in a dark dress, stands in the middle.
My grandmother’s mother, Rosa, dressed in a dark dress, stands in the middle.

It fascinates me to see such an old photo where everyone appears relaxed and candid. The man who’s wearing pajamas in the tree — did he just wake from a nap in what could be a hammock to his left? Is the woman below worried he’ll fall or does she think he’s crazy? At the bottom, the man toasting looks comfy in his socks. That young boy who seems to have skinned his face is my cousin’s dad. The large woman in the dark dress is my great grandmother. Whatever the woman told the flapper in the middle, it’s given her pause for thought…

Close-up of my grandmother, 1919 New Year's celebration.
Close-up of my grandmother, 1919 New Year’s celebration.

Wishing each of you, dear readers, a New Year filled with joy, vibrancy, love, and good fortune!

With optimism and love,

da-Al