I Walk With a Limp: My Personal Journey as a Trauma Survivor by Barbara A. Lawrence describes the impact of the physical, sexual, verbal, and psychological abuse she first experienced as a child at the hands of her family. She writes about the PTSD she developed as a result, along with a myriad of other issues including alcoholism and bulimia.
The book is divided into four sections: backstory, living with PTSD, breaking the silence, and a journey of healing. It’s a mixture of narrative and poetry, and also contains pictures from her childhood. Warnings are given at the beginning of chapters in which material may be triggering to readers.
The author sets the scene well, including small details that help the reader to create a strong visual image. While the psychological impact of the horrific physical and sexual abuse she describes might be the most obvious, she also writes about how difficult it was to tackle negative thought patterns that developed from the psychological and emotional abuse, like the intense competitive pressure from her mother. She bravely writes: “One of the challenges I’ve set for myself is to pursue my dreams knowing that I might fail.”
In the book Barbara talks about the various ways that she tried to numb the effects of the trauma she was experiencing, including alcohol and binge eating. Masks projected a false confidence, and she shared how difficult it was to learn to set those masks aside. She also writes about the more adaptive coping strategies that she later learned as she went through therapy, including mindfulness, grounding, gratitude, and forgiveness.
She shares how, after years of silence, she was finally able to begin to open up and share her story by writing poetry and connecting with other survivors, and the benefits that came along with that. Mental illness is hard enough to speak up about, but childhood sexual abuse, particularly incest, often carry even more taboo, so I think it’s so important that people like Barbara are willing to speak up and empower not only themselves but readers as well.
Barbara also tackles the taboo subject of physiological arousal during sexual assault. The body is made to respond automatically to sexual stimulation, and I can only imagine the depths of the shame that victims must experience when that occurs. Particularly being a nurse, I think it is crucial that we understand how the human body works and don’t create false expectations that aren’t consistent with anatomy and physiology.
The book challenges social misconceptions that those of us with mental illness are able to work but choose not to. The author describes the uncertainty of being on disability and never knowing when cuts to Medicare might prevent her from being able to afford necessary treatment. This is definitely an area where more dialogue needs to happen, and where more action is required on the part of government leaders to support people living with chronic illness.
As always, I feel honoured to be able to read a book like this and be allowed so close into the heart and mind of a fellow blogger. Barbara has done an excellent job of capturing her journey, and I would definitely recommend this book.
You can find Barbara on her blog I Walk With a Limp.