Dusana Michaels

Author of "Chopping the Onion"

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I am a nobody

One reason I decided to publish independently under the print by demand option is because I am an ordinary person living my life to the best of my ability. My story is important to me and a handful of people. Admittedly, the majority of the world will not care.

An inner voice has been compelling me to write it nonetheless. My life has been a journey that I have faced as consciously as I can with the hope that healing from incest can be better understood by other survivors and the people who have the heartbreaking task of witnessing our path. My hope is that others can find themselves in my repeated struggles through the years. They can see how faith brings about peace. There is always a deeper level of unconditional love for yourself and others to discover after the latest dark night of the soul has passed.

I thought healing from incest was a one time event, like a mountain to be climbed. With time I have realized it is a process of recovery that gets triggered through daily living. Some triggers are painful and other fill my heart so full that tears can’t help but spill out as my heart bursts with love and gratitude. I would never have been able to find the moments of beautiful perfection without seeing the horrors the deepest sorrows brought. Gut wrenching pain does end with the balance of contentment from grace.

My story is my journey through the confusion of what I had lived through and the healing that could come only from within. It is not the story of how every survivor needs to face their own recovery, but it is the path I was led down with my sanity intact. I was never insane, what I lived through was insane.



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One day more

Facing the day when recovering from any kind of obstacle or challenge becomes an exercise in willingness. It’s about being willing to get up and try again, even when every bone in your body wants to stay in bed or give up.

It’s about living in the moment and accepting it as it comes and not worrying about changing it, fixing it or being rescued from it.

It’s about trusting that the obstacle is bringing you information you need to become your most complete self.

It’s about being raw and vulnerable and allowing appropriate people to share it with you.

It’s about making a commitment to yourself over the long haul.

It’s about celebrating the good and appreciating the fullness of life.

It’s about listening to the quiet voice that urges you on towards health.

It’s about accepting that you won’t always face the process as wisely and perfectly as you’d hope on your best day.

It’s about being willing to live one day more.


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Revisiting the decades

Last year, when I realized it was time to write about my experiences with healing from sexual abuse as a child, I once again visited how to present it. I felt I had been writing it in my head over the years. As part of my writing process, I had started the book many times. As I looked back on what I had down, I saw that there were different points of view or voices pertaining to my relationship with the abuse and my healing process. Some were from within the healing process and others were more of a third person account. Every time I thought about my need to pen a book, it was always from the intention of presenting my experiences in such a way that others could benefit from what I’ve been through. It’s such a common theme, to share in order to help at least one other person.

I had kept my journals through the years and started to read them. I re-experienced my pain and examined my confusing thoughts about relationships and life. I saw the spiritual strength I possessed that allowed me to ever continue my journey forward. Themes were repeated as I learned new ways to relate to what I had been through. And throughout the recovery process, I met what life was bringing me with an attitude of, ‘okay, now what do I need to learn’?

In my journals I found truth, vulnerability, rawness and the human struggle displayed through the years. I decided it was the place to start for my book and offer the very personal passages for others to find themselves within them too. Life is not about having everyday be sunshine, rainbows, and smooth sailing. But about what you do when every ounce of your being wants to quit. How do you find it within yourself to get up once more and take a step? How do you face inconceivable pain and struggles with dignity and grace until faith and strength can be found in your character? How do you share this with another person who is lost but you know has it within them an unwavering power that answers, yes you can.

I have found that by facing my pain I can appreciate beauty more completely and simply. It is the quiet acknowledgement that for a moment, life is perfect the way it is.

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Why now?

As I was writing Chopping the Onion, one of the questions a reader of it asked was, ‘why now’? The answer for that spans over the past twenty years.

As I started to heal I wanted to do it in the most complete way possible. I wanted to find every memory and feel every heartbreak associated with it. I wanted to feel the betrayal and anger and sadness and confusion and fear. Anything associated with the abuse I wanted to feel. I thought I could move past it all and just get on with my life. I wanted to do my healing in such a complete way that, maybe, wherever this relationship pattern was coming from could be made extinct. I hoped if I felt every emotion something would change for someone else and they wouldn’t have to go through the hell I was living. With the intention to go through the process as consciously as I could, I kept having a feeling that I needed to share my story. I needed to write a book.

Years went by and I lived my life incorporating the recovery from incest into my life. Struggles and celebrations were my means for healing the wounds of childhood. They became my way of learning to love more, trust more and find some semblance of peace with the confusion.

The path has not always been smooth and many times I felt I didn’t do it, the healing, right the first time around. As the years have gone by, I’ve realized that it’s part of the recovery process. The issues will keep presenting themselves in different ways so I can hear the message behind them to become a more whole and loving person.

A few years ago when I knew I needed to make a change in life I made a vision board for myself. On it were a keyboard and a typewriter. While I knew the message was it was time to write, I ignored it. I went down my own path. As this choice played out in my life, the struggles became increasingly more difficult until I could no longer ignore the message of: IT’S TIME TO WRITE.

Chopping the Onion is the result of my listening to this message. I needed to do something productive with the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing. I believe it is a universal theme for healing and people will be able to find themselves in my struggles and celebrations. I chose to reveal the most intimate details of my thoughts and emotions through the recovery process because of the repetition of issues and the way my life has presented the same issue in a new form so I could heal another part of myself that was lost as I survived. While some of the writing alludes to the details of the abuse, the book does not go into graphic detail of what was done to me. This book is about healing.

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Having a voice or being silent

Dylan Farrow is in the news talking about having to see Woody Allen being lauded for his work while what he did to her as a child is ignored. Once again, survivors have the chance to watch and see what happens. Is she believed and supported? Is she attacked and ridiculed? We have the opportunity to live through the experiences of another survivor and imagine what we would do in a similar situation. Do we risk talking or do we remain silent? The question that is repeatedly asked throughout our lives.

The trust that is taken away by abuse has to be relearned over and over again. While going through life, survivors have to choose what to say and to whom. I learned that incest is not a part of my life that I share with everyone. In fact, most people don’t know what happened to me as a child. Many factors go into when and why I share and each survivor must answer these questions for himself.

When child abuse is in the news, it can be another chance for being triggered or an opportunity for healing. It can be a reminder of what happened or how you were treated. It can reaffirm your decisions for having a voice or being silent. You can feel part of a larger community or feel isolated in your pain. It helps to guide the next steps on the path to recovery as the wound is touched once more.

Her brother Ronan spoke up about the molestation after the Golden Globes tribute to Woody Allen. I wept as one brother stood up for his sister. I healed a little part of myself that was not given that experience from my own siblings.

I feel stronger as I move forward as a survivor choosing to have a voice also. I know I am not alone with my stuggles.