Category Archives: As Seen on Other Websites/Blogs

What Are You Willing to be Criticized For?

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and I’ve been playing over and over in my mind a line that the Rector said during the sermon.

“What are you willing to be criticized for?”

This post has been brewing in my head for awhile, months actually. I’ve started and stopped it three times over the last nine months, walking away from it, with just a jumble of thoughts left typed on the page, saved for another day.

This post started after I wrote the piece about Brock Turner, and the dumpster fire that surrounds him and the judge in the case. I revisited it after he was let out of jail, and my piece was syndicated on another website. And then, last week, I went on a rant of thoughts after a piece of mine ran on Scary Mommy.

A month ago, I wrote a piece for Scary Mommy, titled ‘My Grandpa was a Sexual Predator. Thank God My Parents Listened to Me’, and it was published last week.
This piece is the most vulnerable and exposing piece I have ever written about being abused, and I questioned whether or not to even share it on my social media.

The trolls tracked me down and came after me with a vengeance. I have a very strict rule of never reading the comments, and I made the mistake of breaking this necessary rule.

The aftermath of that piece being published is what compelled me to finish writing this post today. So, bear with me, because this rant is long, but important for me to say.

Not only did trolls tear me up, they tore my parents up. Now, I want you to think about this. In order for these trolls to contact me, they had to click on my bio on the Scary Mommy website, go to my blog, find the ‘contact me’ section, click on the email and then write out the email. That’s a lot of effort to email nastiness.

The other phenomenon that has been happening for the last eighteen months, is that every time I write about the abuse, I get a slew of emails offering me advice. I get offers to find me a therapist, offers of hallucinogens to help me move past my trauma, and emails from people smugly telling me that they ‘got over’ their abusive childhoods or when they were raped.

So, I’m going to break alllll of these down for you.

First of all, the details that I have written about are barely a drop in the bucket to what happened. The piece that was published last week had details in it that only my therapists knew, and I was cautious in putting those out there. Frankly, it’s no one’s damn business to know every detail about it unless I want to tell you. I hold some of it back because there are innocent people in my life that I love and am protecting from getting hurt. I don’t have to share details, but I do because there are people out there that need to know that they are not alone in their struggles with the aftermath of abuse.

I also want to be clear that there are only so many details that can be included in an 800 word essay. This abuse and rape that occurred happened more than twenty years ago and some up to thirty years ago. Times are very different, statute of limitations are different, and evidence collection is different.

To clear up all of the readers out there that continue to email me and recommend that I get help, please stop. I retired three therapists and a psychiatrist for goodness sake. I got the help I needed many years ago, which is how I am able to write about what happened to me.

There seems to be some confusion that when people talk about something hard that they have experienced, that they need help. I don’t see it that way at all. I find that the people that need the most help, are the ones who don’t talk about their problems. This does not mean you need to constantly talk about your past. I mean that I am able to have conversations about what happened because I have processed my experiences.

I’ve written extensively about these experiences. About the hurt and the anger. About the eating disorder that followed and my hesitancy to trust others. And yet, I have held back from fear. Fear of what people will think about the recesses of my mind. People are appalled at the fraction I have shared. But if I pulled the curtain back all the way, and the horror show appears, what will happen? Will people think something is wrong with me? The answer is probably and most likely based on the emails and feedback that I have already received.

Envisioning this shame is what has held me back from fully writing what I want to write. From stripping it all back and finishing the next draft of the novel I’ve been working on. I’ve been terrified of what people will think when they see the damage that was actually done.

I’m tired of holding back.

It wasn’t easy to get to who I am. It was HARD. Really damn hard. In addition to the therapists and psychiatrist, there was therapy on the daily, weigh-ins at the doctor, and the entire time feeling the weight of shame for something I did not do. While I left all of the therapy, psychiatrists and weigh-ins behind twenty years ago, the shame is something that has never gone away. I took on shame of someone else’s actions. It’s their shame, not mine. I should feel hurt, and angry, but not shame. I have shame about the aftermath because that was the truly repulsive part. While the abuse and rape were grotesque, the aftermath was the real calamity.

We need to start talking about the chaotic disaster of the aftermath of trauma. Of what actually happens to a person when an intrusion happens to them. We are doing a disservice to people to lead them to believe we can all have a happy ending without trudging through the truly gruesome wreckage that will follow.

People think I can’t get over what happened to me, as if I am paralyzed and can’t move forward because I am telling a part of my story, the story of who I am. We all have parts of our story, how we grew up, who raised us, who was instrumental in shaping our minds, where we went to school and who we hung out with. Experiencing abuse is part of my story, one part that I am not willing to dismiss to make people more comfortable.

No, I’m not ‘over it’, but I am living the life of my choosing, and I moved forward many years ago. If you tell me that you got ‘over’ abuse, you are lying and doing a disservice to anyone who experiences abuse. Stop it with this narrative. No one ‘gets over’ it. Science tells us that brains are fundamentally changed after trauma. When you tell someone they should get over it, you are telling them that if they can’t, they should feel shame for experiencing valid feelings.

I have a lot of people tell me ‘but you look so happy’. I look happy because I am happy. I chose to accept that the aftermath is a disgusting mess, but if I went through it, that I could have my happily ever after. So, I went through it, I worked my butt off, with the goal in mind that I would spend the rest of my days on my terms. When we do not give people permission to acknowledge the hardest part of their story, the aftermath, they can’t get to their happy. Happy endings don’t happen by accident, they happen when you blindingly claw out of the black abyss, claw mark by claw mark.

When I talk about my unsightly aftermath, I talk about it because I know my strength. I have no question that there is nothing that I cannot handle, because I have looked evil in the face and decided how my story would end. I have never felt more confident in my strength than I do today, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes others feel. I will continue to write my truth because there are others that need to hear that you can have the life of your own choosing after trauma.

To the trolls who continue to send me hate mail and question why I write, I say this: You are the reason victims do not report. You are the reason that the cycle of shame continues because when a victim shares details of THEIR story, you question their behavior and not the perpetrator. When you are nasty to people who are willing to tell their story, the victims around you keep their mouths shut because of your judgment and you are implicit in the cycle of abuse continuing.

So, to end this long rant, I end it with saying I know what I am willing to be criticized for. After the hate mail I got last week, I wondered if writing my truth was worth the criticism and hate. It is worth it, and the sign I needed, I heard in church yesterday. I, and I alone, own the ending to my story. I will continue to write my truth and I will continue to talk about the ugly aftermath. It’s important that someone does so that when someone else is in the midst of their terrible truth, they know that they can choose their own ending, too.

Living a Life Free of Regret Through Gratitude


Have you ever been completely honest with yourself about regret? As in, have you ever indexed all of the things you wish you didn’t say or didn’t do?

What about the things you didn’t say when you had the chance?

I had a notoriously tough childhood. Sexual abuse fed an eating disorder, and then I was raped. I was an angry person, and gratitude seemed to be something for the favored people, the ones with the perfect lives. In retrospect, as a forgiving adult, I understand the why behind this sentiment.

Years of therapy helped me target turning points in my life that helped to steer me in a healthier direction. One such turning point was my Aunt Josephine, a woman I only met once and yet that is the singular defining moment in my childhood that made me question the difference between “good” and “evil” people.

During a particularly dark time in my childhood, I attended a rare family event. While there, Aunt Josephine smiled down at me, with light from the windows shining behind her, casting the shadow of an angel, and gifted me with an enameled daisy chain bracelet, with no expectation of anything in return.

I held onto that bracelet and then regrettably lost it in years later in one of my many moves. I became obsessed with finding the bracelet and searched vintage stores, then eBay and Etsy, to no avail. I was obsessed because I wanted to tell her thank you. Thank you for showing me that not all adults are evil and that people are inherently good and want to give with no ulterior intent.

Years went by, 30 years, actually, and the bracelet crossed my mind every few months. I need to write her and tell her thank you, I would think in a fleeting moment, but I never did.

Then, I was driving one day when I got the phone call that she had died. I had to pull over because I was overcome with regret. Why the hell did I let 30 years pass without telling someone I was grateful for their influence in my life? It’s something she likely had no recollection of, but that five-minute interaction made me question everything.

This is what regret looks like: a gnawing feeling that you need to fix something that won’t go away. I couldn’t fix that I never properly thanked Aunt Josephine, but I could start to make an intentional effort to thank the people in my life that make a difference, big and small.

That November, I sat down and started writing thank you notes. I wrote about 15 that year. Some were for big things, such as, “Thank you for believing in me years ago and helping me discover my path.” Others were small, such as, “Thank you for being so kind on a day that I was struggling and no one else knew about it.’

Around the same time that I started writing the thank you notes, my parents were able to track down an identical version of the daisy chain bracelet I had so desperately been searching for.

This was a few years ago, and it has quickly become my favorite Thanksgiving tradition. This past year, however, made evident the importance of tradition in my life and the importance of expressing my gratitude.

Last November, I had a stack of about 10 cards. I don’t remember who all was in that stack, but I remember one in particular was addressed to a close acquaintance of mine whose advice and opinions had been influential in certain decisions I had made the previous year. We briefly had a conversation about the card the next time we spoke, and the reason I send them out. He told me it made him make a more conscious effort to thank people in his life.

Four months later, I spoke to him on a Friday afternoon. At the end of the conversation, I asked him how everything was going in his personal life, since the conversation up until that point was professional. He said, “You know, for the first time in a really long time, I can say that I’m really good and really grateful. I’m happy at work, the wife is good, and the kids are happy. And they all know I am thankful for them.”

The next day, he was in a car accident and died later in the week from his injuries.

I really struggled, and still struggle, with the reasoning of the universe. Why does bad stuff happen?

Later that week, for probably the 10th time, I was discussing this with my husband. He finally stopped me. “He was happy, he knew he was loved, and I think he probably died without regret.”

He was right. And I didn’t wait until this Thanksgiving to write thank you notes. I started writing them furiously shortly after that conversation. I won’t miss out on another opportunity to tell someone thank you for being a positive light in my life. As much as this exercise helps me to be mindful and keep me grounded in gratitude, what if that person needs to hear what you have to say? That what you do and say actually matters, no matter how tiny the gesture? And that, in turn, through your gesture of gratitude, helps them?

I implore you to put your gratitude out into your world. Days of gratitude on social media is a start, but personal thank-yous and direct expressions of gratitude are what will keep the regret for words left unsaid away.

This was originally published on Scary Mommy, ©2015.

3 Things I Want to Tell My Friend Whose Child Was Just Diagnosed with Special Needs

3 Things I Want to Tell My Friend Whose Child Was Just Diagnosed With Special Needs

My husband and I have two boys, ages 8 and 10, both of whom are on the Autism spectrum. Every time a friend or acquaintance comes to me and tells me their child has been diagnosed with autism or another special need, my heart aches just a little bit more. Because I know things, and the path their new life will take will be rewarding, but exceptionally difficult at the same time. Here are three things I want them to know, things I learned the hard way:

  1. Advocacy is a nice by-product, but it’s not your job to make stupid people understand. Listen, some people are stupid, plain and simple. Either they intend to be mean, because they’re assholes, or they have no intention of understanding because it’s just not a priority to them.

Years ago, right after our oldest was diagnosed, I was in a fast food restaurant and I ran into an old friend of the family. She wanted to know how therapy was going, and was asking questions about the boys and their therapy. I walked into the play area, and a stranger followed behind me. It started off innocently enough:

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,” she started, “but I heard you talking to that woman about your kid having autism.”

I smiled. “Yes.”

“I don’t mean to judge, but did you vaccinate your children?”

I should’ve stopped her right there, and told her to shove it, but I was naïve and believe in teaching opportunities.

“We did, yes.”

“You know that’s what caused their autism. Have you researched this? Is your husband OK with you abusing your children? He must not be educated.”

“My husband is a physician, actually, and we made the decision to vaccinate with our pediatrician,” I said, trying to remain calm.

“Oh, well that explains it. Your husband gets paid by the pharmaceutical companies.”

This lunatic had no intention of learning about what autism means to our family. She came in with the sole intention of making me feel bad about my mothering skills. People like this can suck the life out of you, but it is not your job to make them understand what you and your child are going through. It is your job to be your child’s mom.

  1. You are going to lose friends, and at times, you will feel lonely. This is an unfortunate by-product of this life you are embarking on. I’ve yet to know someone with a child with special needs who hasn’t lost a friend or two because of it. Maybe it’s because of their own insecurities. Maybe it holds a mirror up to their imperfect life. Who knows? But the less time you focus on the people who step back and more you focus on the people that step forward, the better off you’ll be.

Even the well-meaning friend will say insensitive things to you. Nothing makes me angrier than people telling me I needed to ‘grieve the child I wanted.’ I always hold back from responding, ‘no, you grieve the child you think I should have.’ We have the children we are supposed to have, regardless of what others may think.

While people will disappoint you with their behavior, the friends that step up and stick by you are the ones you will keep forever, because they get it. These are the golden ones; hold onto them tight.

  1. Everyone can and will Monday morning quarterback your decisions, but they’re not living this life, you are. Acceptance needs to be your new mantra for yourself. You are going to make mistakes. Accept this now, and it will be less painful when you screw up. There is no playbook for your life. Even with research, fabulous therapists, and brilliant doctors, straightforward solutions are usually not the first answer.

You will get angry and frustrated, but that is a waste of your precious time and energy. When our first child was diagnosed, I got into the tub and cried, because I didn’t know what I was up against or what the hell I was doing. When the second child was diagnosed, I crawled back into that tub and cried, because I knew what I was up against. I can’t change the way their brains are wired, just like I can’t change their eye or hair color. It’s what makes them them. While I dragged them to therapy multiple times a week, I used the rest of the time to focus on their gifts and strengths.

What you do need to do is throw all of your expectations out of the window while you drive towards a new destination. This is the life you are living. Embrace it.

© 2015 Audrey Hayworth, as first published on Scary Mommy.