How Writing Another Person’s Journey to Recovery
Helped Me Turn Toward the Sun
It’s been six years since I completed writing the first draft of the last book in The Patience Trilogy, a series about fifteen year old Ashley, who has been removed from her mother and stepfather’s home because her stepfather has been sexually abusing the girl since she was nine.
Over the course of the previous six years, 2004-2010, I was in therapy, working on recovering from the sexual abuse that I endured at the hands of my stepfather. Writing The Patience Trilogy—looking at the experience of recovery as an observer and not solely as a person mostly crippled by pain the first couple of years—was incredibly healing. I wrote all three books: Courage, Hope, and Truth, through the course of getting well.
I had to learn to manage the myriad of disorders I have as a result of what I endured at my stepfather’s hands, and the deliberate indifference practiced by my mother. To this day, she refuses to know the depth of what happened to me. And because she refuses to know it, we do not have a relationship. I will not accept “crumbs” from anyone or be treated as if my life does not matter. The first 38 years of my life were spent doing that. No more.
I was suicidal the first year or so of therapy. I thought the grief would destroy me. I suffered through PTSD flashbacks so severe that I ended up in the emergency room, my body wracked with spasms when I remembered incidents my mind had blocked until I could handle them.
Over many, many hard-won months, then years, of healing, the fog of pain lifted as my therapist reparented me. My husband, daughters, and I grew even stronger in our love for one another. We were made whole by living in the Light of Truth, even when getting to “whole” was an excruciating journey for all of us.
My husband and therapist’s tough determination and love, coupled with the fierce love I have for my children that kept me tethered to Earth, are why I survived the journey to recovery.
I know that I’m one of the lucky ones.
On August 10, 2010—the day of my last therapy session, I knew without a doubt that I had emerged from a six-year “gestation” period to become the person I am today.
I am so very, very unlike the terrified woman-child who entered therapy on November 4, 2004, and I am surely unrecognizable as the broken soul in early 2005 who had to white-knuckle it past every bridge column I approached in my car, because I knew I would slam my car full-speed into it if I did not picture my children in my mind constantly.
At some point over the course of a journey my therapist compared to a barefoot journey from Texas to Alaska and back, I no longer cared why my mother refuses to recognize the depth of damage that occurred on her watch. I was, and am, so surrounded by people who love me unconditionally and accept me as I am, that I no longer need the answer to the question of “Why did this happen to me?”
Because there is no answer that could ever justify it. There is never justification for a child to be sexually abused.
Although my publishing career hit a bit of a bump when my first two publishers went out of business, and Truth in Patience is only being released now (April 19, 2016, actually), I was given the gift of the unique opportunity to rewrite all three books from the perspective of who I am now: a pretty-much-healed person.
I think I needed to be as healed as I am before the last book in the Trilogy, Truth in Patience, could see the light of day. The main character, Ashley, comes so far from where she was in the first book, Courage in Patience, and she continues to grow stronger through Book 2, Hope in Patience. But in Truth in Patience, she is like a flower opening to the sun.
And I know exactly how that feels.
The Patience Trilogy: Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience, are the story of a fifteen-year-old girl’s rocky path to recovery from a childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. I was inspired to write them by the therapist I worked with for six years as I fought to recover from a traumatic childhood with the same experiences.
I had been writing short stories and poems and sharing them with my doctor, and one day he suggested that I try writing a novel. I was struggling mightily to pull myself out of my grief, rage, and sense of disbelief at the fact that my mother turned her back on me–and it took about four months of stopping and starting, always ending up in the same place: asking “Why did this happen to me?!” and of course finding no answer.
I imagined what it would have been like if I had made an outcry when I was a teenager instead of keeping the secret for years until I broke, unable to manage my life any longer. (A better way to put it is this: I was batsh*t crazy, honey.)
Then I imagined a girl, Ashley, who had never known her biological father, and I created a situation in which the girl is removed from her abusive home and placed with this man. The only impression Ashley has of him is the horror stories she’s heard from her mother about his violent temper and alcoholism.
Ashley was unaware that her father, David, stopped drinking the day Ashley’s mother left him when Ashley was three months old, and that he carried great shame within himself for abdicating his duty as her father. When he finds out that his ex-wife’s husband is sexually abusing his daughter, he steps up and meets Ashley then brings her home to Patience, Texas.
That’s when Ashley’s path to recovery begins.
People are often surprised when they read The Patience Trilogy and find a lot of humor in the pages. I know, I know: how could I even think of anything funny related to Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA)?
There is nothing funny about CSA, to be sure, but humans are funny creatures, and I populated fictional Patience, Texas with eccentric characters for comic relief.
There’s Billy Ray Sublett, Ashley’s classmate Dub’s stepfather, who has a racing lawnmower named “Bubba’s Dream.”
Kevin Cooper, another of Ashley’s classmates, is a mountain of a boy with a baby face, thinning blonde hair, a heart of gold (especially when it comes to his girlfriend, Roxanne Blake), but not a whole lot going on upstairs. That’s why Roxanne’s ready to kill him in Truth in Patience, when he whips out his wallet and shows everyone the condom he carries “just in case” when dating and relationships are the topic in Human Ecology class.
- C. Williamson, newly moved to Patience in Hope in Patience, has a mom who recently acquired a Bejeweler machine, which she uses, to K.C.’s horror, to create a sequined diaper on K.C.’s classic Nirvana t-shirt depicting the Nevermind album cover that features a nude baby boy in a swimming pool. Mrs. Williamson thinks the rainbow symbols K.C. collects are related to her loving her My Little Pony doll when she was little. But then, again, she also thinks that if she subs at the high school enough and keeps an eye on her daughter, K.C. won’t “keep” being gay.
Marvella Brown, the Patience High School secretary, can’t stand Mr. Walden, the principal, so whenever he does something especially repugnant or boneheaded, Marvella calls her friend, a newspaper reporter, and gets the story splashed on the front page.
Ashley’s best friend, Zaquoiah “Z.Z.” Freeman, is five-and-a-half feet of solid rock. Her beaded braids sound like rattlers when she’s especially put out with Pam Littlejohn, who acts as if she’s the only girl on their track team able to win. Pam will be lucky if Z.Z. doesn’t knock her upside the head, unless someone else does it first.
Ashley’s stepbrother, Ben, wears Christmas boxers all year round, and he and his cousin, Steven, conspire with Steven’s dad, Frank, to blow a toilet skyward with Fourth of July fireworks.
Finally, Ashley may be a mess, and she may have a long way to go, but she’s equipped with a dry sense of humor and perseverance that won’t quit. She’s not a sad sack, and the people in her life wouldn’t allow her to be one if she was so inclined. Ashley’s got a sharp sense of humor about her mental problems, for example, she wonders, when completing a school assignment about self-identity, if she can just list her disorders instead of personality traits that make her who she is. (Those of you with disorders are hearing a rim-shot (ba-dum-bum!) just about now. Hopefully.)
These are just some of the characters inhabiting Patience, Texas. I hope you’ll love them as much as I do, and find yourself laughing out loud at them the way I did when I wrote their stories.
Hope you didn’t have too much trouble finding me here. This is what happens when I get too busy & forget to renew my domain on bethfehlbaumbooks.com: somebody snaked it out from under me and everything is g-o-n-e.
So, welcome to bethfehlbaumbooks.INFO…see what I did there? Mm-hmm.
Have a look around; under “My Books,” you’ll find excerpts of Big Fat Disaster & The Patience Trilogy: Courage, Hope, & Truth.
So check it out! I’ve spent a ton of time and uttered a lot of profanity while building this site, so I hope you like what you find!