Our book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, features a fictional character named Felicia who experienced attempted sexual assault at age 14. For two decades she lived in constant fear and avoidance, developing unhealthy habits along the way. She finally seeks treatment after 20 years because attempts to avoid the constant day-to-day pain of a past event had taken control of her life. Along the way, Felicia tried her best to hide the details of her abusive history because that’s what the shame of sexual assault does to people. It makes them hide the truth. Her story of recovery is outlined in detail as she begins to get support for authentically facing the trauma of the past. The bravery we wrote into Felicia’s story seems to be mirrored in the actual headlines of today as a woman courageously faces decades old demons from her own past. The unfolding story of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of attempt rape by a man nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States is an all-too-common narrative in current society.
Twenty percent of woman have been sexually assaulted. They live with the crushing aftermath, often feeling powerless to do anything about their constant symptoms. Felicia is a fictional character in our book, but her story of finally seeking treatment and growing confidence in her ability to overcome the past illustrates a need to authentically confront the power and insensitivity of abusive men. The trauma of sexual assault stays with the victim, 24/7, even when they have “well-adjusted” lives. It rears its head sporadically but usually triggered by direct or oblique contact with the perpetrator. Are we to react accusatorily to these victims? No, we should try to hear them and help them.
When Beth, a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse, speaks to groups about the
effect of being sexually abused, she compares it the perpetrator pouring a five-gallon bucket of paint labeled “Shame” over his victim. Every day upon awakening, the onset of awareness brings with it anxiety and dread, even when the victim can’t quite put her finger on why she’s feeling that way. Shame coats, infuses every cell in her body, from the top of her head to the soles of her feet, as well as every inch of her existence. AND: it doesn’t matter how long ago the assault occurred. As long as the secret is kept and help is not sought, the paint never dries, the bucket never empties. Rest assured, there’s always more where that came from.
With regard to questions about Ford’s delayed reporting of the sexual assault (both as a teen and later as an adult), psychologist Anne Meltzer told The Washington Post, “The vast majority of sexual abuse victims delay disclosing what happened. It’s one of the most common features of child sex abuse. Most victims of child sexual abuse fear retaliation, that they won’t be believed or that their family may be angry. There are often very intense feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation. Statistically, teenagers are less likely than younger children to tell authorities about an assault. Particularly concerned with how others view them, teenagers often feel like ‘damaged goods.’”
Christine Blasey Ford came forward to tell her story in spite of her certainty that she would be annihilated because she sees an already powerful man on the verge of being 1 of 9 of the most powerful people in our nation. In our book, Felicia told her secret because she saw her perpetrator, a powerful man in her family, on the verge of inflicting her young cousins with the scars she bears. These are heroic women who experienced assault at the hands of another, and finally were brave enough to tell and seek help to overcome it: a journey in need of a guide, for sure. And when they saw others at risk, they spoke up even when the threat of loss for themselves was great.
Believe survivors. The Light of Truth shines where once there was shame. They should be heard, not silenced. Believed, not doubted.
For more information on how one recovers from this kind of trauma, consider pre-ordering Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt . You can find out more about the authors and the book on our website, drmattbook.com, and blog, drmattbookblog.com
Something I’m thankful for: my writing partner and the book we wrote together. I’m sharing the cover with you. It’s the first time it’s been posted publicly.
My co-author, Matt, and I really like this cover because of the light coming into the group therapy circle: providing the light of hope in the face of the indescribable darkness that is being “stuck” in mental illness and desperation.
I think it was spring of 2016 that Matt Jaremko and I discussed writing a book to help trauma survivors. It took us a bit to find our writing groove in terms of both how we could best communicate what we wanted to say that would extend hope and model the power of resilience for traumatized people, AND for us to find the most efficient way for us to write together without becoming frustrated…we initially tried using Google Docs, and, never having co-written with anyone else, I didn’t realize we couldn’t be in the document at the same time. So I was working and Matt was, too, and the page was jumping all over the place…it was not fun. So we dispensed with that pretty quickly and moved to Word and Track Changes, which is the industry standard for working with editors.
Once we found our way to work together by exchanging the manuscript (“The book is now in your hands. I will not touch it until you send the manuscript back to me”), our book began to take shape in a meaningful, rewarding way. Matt and I have such a strong respect for each others’ strengths and abilities. He is, without a doubt, one of the two smartest, most compassionate and caring men I know, with the other being my husband, Daniel. Not coincidentally, these 2 men also comprised my primary support system when I was broken.
I rank our book, “Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims With PTSD,” as one of my “heart” books. What this means, for you non-writer types, is that this book is one of the most personally meaningful to me. It is defining. It IS to come full circle. While I love all 4 of the YA fiction novels I’ve written, 3 of them: Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience, are the most precious to me because I wrote them while in recovery when I was working with Matt Jaremko, many years ago. They are the arc of Ashley, a teen girl who is entering recovery after being abused by her stepdad and neglected by her mom through deliberate indifference. Ashley’s biggest hurdle is facing the truth about her life–about her worth as a person, in spite of being discarded by the person who should have loved her most. She is removed from her stepdad & mom’s home & placed with her father, David, who she does not know at all.
Ashley is a frightened victim at the outset, a person beginning to realize her value in the middle, and a strong survivor capable of advocating for herself at the conclusion. That’s why the books are called Courage (1), Hope (2), and Truth (3). They are set in the small E. Texas town of Patience, and the girl’s therapist is Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews. Guess who he’s modeled after?
When Matt and I decided to take 2 of my characters–Ashley and Dr. Matt– and place them in a group setting in order to facilitate the combination of fiction and teaching about resilience, we took Ashley, aged her from 15/16 to 19, and made her a member of Dr. Matt’s Thursday evening Therapy Group for Victims, Survivors, and Righteously Indignant Angry Folks. Then we imagined the other members:
Hunter, age 32, who woke on the ground in the dark after a rain-wrapped tornado destroyed his mobile home, critically injuring his toddler daughter;
Felicia, age 34, who, at age 14, was nearly raped by her brother’s friend; 20 years later, she is still haunted by it, but needs to come to realize an even darker truth about her youth;
Ben, age 20, who saw combat horrors in the Middle East and returned home a fundamentally different person;
Patty, age 47, who lost control of her car, with her husband being killed when they hit a semi-truck;
Jake, age 30, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who responded to a hate crime-shooting at a local church’s Wednesday night prayer service. The son of a preacher, Jake lost his faith as a result of what he saw.
Darrell, age 35, who served time in prison for armed robbery. When he was released, he entered therapy to seek solutions for the frequent rages that overtook his decision-making abilities. Through his work with Dr. Matt, Darrell learned new ways of interacting with others. He joined the Black Lives Matter movement and discovered his passion for making a difference through teaching young African-Americans about non-violent protest.
Betty, age 40. Her family-of-origin abandoned her when she began coming to terms with the sexual abuse perpetrated on her from a young age. Betty worked with Dr. Matt and gradually found the strength to rebuild her life. She entered college as a non-traditional student and became a bilingual education teacher, where she puts her native Spanish to work.
We wrapped our manuscript in July, began seeking a publisher in late summer, and by October–and this is remarkably fast to find a publishing “home”–we were offered a publishing contract with a “Mind-Body-Soul” imprint, Ayni Books, and our book will come out in late spring/early summer 2018. The book will have international distribution and be available in both print and e-book.
We began sharing the manuscript with others, asking for blurbs, and we were blown out of the water by what our readers said. Check ’em out.
We invite you to read the Prologue: The Internal Dialogue of a New Patient Being Sick and Tired of Being Afraid and Stuck.
I wrote this Prologue from the memory of where I was when I entered treatment to recover from Childhood Sexual Abuse. At that time, I was 38 years old, the mother of 3 teen girls, and I broke. I could no longer pretend that the stuff I’d gone through as a child and young adult, and in many ways continued to endure as an adult, were not killing me. The pretending was killing me. I was slowly killing myself through binge eating. Efforts to deal with the never-ending anxiety I lived with night and day were futile. Prior to working with Matt, I never stuck with therapy once I was nudged toward being authentic and honest with myself and others about how broken I was. I “clicked” with him and, after Daniel, Matt is the first man I ever truly trusted. Until that time, my understanding of men was that they would abuse me once I began to let my guard down.
This prologue is thoughts of the person prior to entering a therapist’s building when the choice at that time is either get better or die. These are exactly what it was like to be in my head at that time.
Facing the truth about one’s life is a soul-searing experience. For me, the journey to REAL, and WHOLE, was much like the process of birthing a child. It was exhausting, but without a doubt, learning to be resilient and authentic was the most gratifying experience of my life.
This is what we hope will be the result for those who read our book.
Please help us spread the word about our Facebook page. “Like”/”Follow” us, and you won’t miss out on the journey.
I am beyond thrilled to tell you that Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, a creative non-fiction book written by Dr. Matt E. Jaremko and me, has found a publisher, Ayni Books. Our book should release in early summer, 2018.
The best way to describe it to you is to borrow from our book proposal:
“This book is a starting place for hurting people who are seeking healing, either on their own or in partnership with a therapist or other helping person. Dr. Matt E. Jaremko maximizes readers’ understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by explaining its origins in easy-to-understand language and offering insight into the process of reclaiming a life from trauma. Beth Fehlbaum shares her insight from the perspective of a person who experienced trauma, was once scared to death about going into therapy, and is now recovered.
Most powerfully, Dr. Jaremko and Beth created characters: a psychologist, Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews, and his ongoing therapy group, to illustrate how recovery can and does happen. The situations these characters survive; their struggles and triumphs of reclaiming their lives, and their potential for thriving are all realistic. We reassure people who are terrified of trying therapy by providing them with a “fly on the wall” perspective of observing the recovery process.”
Read more about Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, here.
Those of you who have read (and have affection for) The Patience Trilogy (Courage, Hope, and Truth), likely recognize “Dr. Matt”’s name, and you will be pleased to know that Ashley is in Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt! She’s now 19 and about to leave for college. I hope you’re as pleased with Ash’s progress as I am.
Watch this space for the latest and greatest as we move forward in the publication of a book that Matt and I hope will have a far-reaching positive effect for traumatized individuals by providing a light in the darkness: hope.