Dusana Michaels

Author of "Chopping the Onion"

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Frozen No More

I finally saw the Disney movie Frozen a couple of weeks ago. As I don’t live entirely in the dark, I had been aware of the existence of the song, Let It Go. I saw it performed at the Academy Awards but was too busy laughing at John Travolta’s butchering of Idina Menzel’s name to pay close attention to it. I did notice the phrasing about letting the perfect girl go. I recognized that that phrase and song could have become a reoccurring mantra for my healing.

When I watched Frozen, I listened more intently to Let It Go. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel a power being called from deep within to the surface of my life. I have lived through that part of my recovery journey and must have integrated it fully into my life not to be affected by the powerful words. I acknowledged the distance I have come.

As I wrote about in another blog, throughout my healing journey I have found my latent strength, or other emotional needs, in characters, songs or sayings. They held attitudes I needed to find and develop within myself. I can see how Frozen holds a powerful message for breaking out of the confines put upon us as a means of survival. There comes a time when new coping skills are needed to be learned and the real person hidden deep within needs to be expressed in the world.

I’ve been listening for the new messages in the outer world that act as signposts for the next steps on my journey. I know them when I start to cry. I know them when I feel scared. I know them because I don’t know the outcomes that will occur when I learn the new skills. I am being called to grow and become a more complete version of myself.  The world is awaiting the new discoveries I find to share with others.


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It does get better

I am a reluctant social media user. I’d rather have face to face interactions than those that take place over the internet. Over the past twenty years and as part of the times, I’ve tried various means of communication that the internet has offered. Some have been quite positive and I’ve felt close to the people I was communicating with. Others were a case of learning where reality started and where my hopes had gotten the best of me. Some friendships have waned as people chose to communicate more and more often through Facebook than picking up the phone.

With writing and promoting a book, I knew I’d have to delve once again into the world of social media. I’m not on Twitter and Facebook as often as recommended but I do peruse a couple times a week. My feelings that there are so many more things I could be doing have changed to an appreciation.

There are a couple people/organizations that I follow a little more closely than others. I can see how this form of support could have been useful at the beginning of my healing journey from childhood incest. At that time I tried support groups and many of the people in the groups seemed to have gotten stuck in their stories and the pain. I too was experiencing great pain but I knew I didn’t want to stay there. I wanted to keep on growing and healing.

As I read the post or blogs, I also appreciate that life does get better as you transverse the path of recovery. Even when I get triggered yet again, it’s never quite as bad as it was in the beginning. I have more coping skills and have learned how to manage the pain. I’ve learned to meet each occurrence with an attitude of willingness and wonder. I wonder what message I’m needing to learn this time and I’m willing to sit with the pain to get through it. In over twenty years of healing I’ve never learned a quicker method over the pain than through it.

You have to make some sort of friend from it. It visits, it has a purpose, and though it still sucks, the more you can listen to what it is offering you in the character building department, the more compassion, empathy and wisdom you have to offer others. We are all living the human condition and it is tough. Though I haven’t always appreciated the lessons as I was going through them, I’m glad I’ve had the dedication and tenacity to be on this side of the learning. It does get better.

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The Unknown

“On an unknown path, every step is slow” *

Healing, and becoming an improved version of yourself, is a giant step into the unknown. You see the prototypes in people you admire and who might be your heroes or just the ordinary person next door. You feel the twinge inside when encountering situations that you inherently know are not authentic. You need to let go of your life as you’ve known it and trust in the intangible world of discovery. None of this happens overnight.

Many people have passed through my life that played the role of being guideposts on the path to wholeness. My yoga instructor many years ago who introduced me to the concept of being in my body and not a numbed out puppet going through the motions of a life. From her I learned assertiveness, honesty, power, and the messages my body held of what I had been through and the strength I needed to face the pain. Never as quickly as I’d like, but what I needed always came in time. From the brief time of studying with her I learned there were unknown forces and concepts in the world that I embarked on discovering. Many more people have helped to shape the person I am today.

I have gotten to a place in my life where I am having a difficult time putting on the mask and playing the game. I just don’t have the energy anymore. One of the places I lived while growing up was a huge influence on how I didn’t want to be. I felt like such an outsider as a child as I sat and watched the interactions between the people. Internally I cringed as I saw the competition and false caring. It was about being the best at the expense of another. The knife being shoved in your back as a friend embraces you. The narrow road of what was considered appropriate behavior. I didn’t understand it and literally can’t stomach the behavior anymore. I have changed so much over the years and discovered many new ways of being. The last time I visited I felt sadness for the people for whom so much had remained the same while I went out and learned to fly. What was right for them caged me to the point of screaming to be free.

Though I was screaming on the inside, I have had to grieve the only life I knew. I didn’t know what was to come but I knew I couldn’t stay. I have had to hold both loving people dearly and admitting to myself, your version of the world is not enough for me. I wondered who I thought I was to expect better treatment and a bigger life. Whenever I step into the unknown, I still wonder this. But I knew there was another way to be in the world. I  have had to risk losing everything in order to gain an unknown future.

As I am coming out of a few months of being more internal, as the proverbial caterpillar changes within the chrysalis to become the butterfly, I am once again walking into a new unknown. I have less internal worrying questions about what I should be doing and am concentrating on how to be with the moment at hand. A re-reading of The New Earth and The Power of Now have helped with my newest journey into the unknown. People are commenting that I’m more peaceful and there’s a glow about me but, to me, that’s not even the point. I am just being. I am grateful for the person I have discovered along my journey of recovery. I didn’t know where the path would take me as I faced the darkness but I took each step along the way that led me to today. Once again I can acknowledge, I have survived.

*Quote is from 8,789 Words of Wisdom by Barbara Ann Kipfer (2001) Workman Publishing, New York.


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Finding your power

Any kind of abuse, boundary violation, bullying, or just plain disrespect is about one person attempting to have power over another. It’s why the word empowerment has been a mantra for me through the years. Empowerment both for myself and helping others find their own sense of power also.

I found my sense of power through the heroes I admired as I grew more whole. These heroes were brought to me in different forms as I learned healthier ways to be in the world. Sometimes I found them in a book. Other times I saw them in a movie or TV show. Friends and other people in my life displayed traits that I wanted to learn and incorporate into my repertoire of empowered behavior. Seeing it outside myself first, I was then able to find it within. Everything I see in another is a possibility within myself. It became my choice which behavior I wanted to emulate depending whether that behavior was more positive or negative in my eyes.

One of the most important forms of expression which spoke to me has been music. Records I listened to over and over again as an adolescent. Songs that make me tear up and remember the younger version of myself that listened and learned. Some help me see where I’ve been diverted away from truths I knew when I was younger. I can then acknowledge where I’ve been the one to abandon myself and find my way back to a more truthful existence. Music has been the soundtrack that allows me to grieve, laugh, be silly, celebrate, kick ass, and overcome. It touches something deep and eternal within my soul.

I thank the people who have gone before me to pave the way towards wholeness. I also know I hold that place in the lives of others who cross my path. We never truly know how we affect those around us, both close by and those that are barely acknowledged as we go about our day. I remember reading years ago, what if the smile I give someone is the only one that person gets that day. It’s a brief encounter but it could make a difference.

As I prepare to go out into my life today, I am grateful for the kindness that has been extended to me. It is within my power to give it to another.

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How Long?

As I peruse different sights of social media, one question I see asked is ‘how long will it take to heal?’ I remember wondering that same question early on in my recovery. I thought I was conquering a mountain as a one time thing. I’m glad no one has asked me that question to my face. I’m afraid I’d start laughing.

Those first couple of years are tough. You are trying to make sense of what was done to you and understand how someone could have taken advantage of your innocence. You are trying to ferret out healthy behaviors from unhealthy ones. You are trying to find coping skills that don’t harm yourself or the people around you who are doing their best to help. You are trying to manage the deep, intense pain. You are trying to find a new way to live.

It does get better with time. All of the above does get figured out. You learn to find peace and joy again. You live a normal life and attain the goals you’ve set for yourself.

And then you’re triggered again. All the feelings are never as bad as those first couple of years but it never does go away. You learn to live with it but you’re never fully healed from it. You learn how to have the abuse take up a portion of your life but not your whole life. I know it’s something I need to give attention to from time to time. If I ignore it for too long, it’ll get my attention again.

I listen to the voice that directs me toward the greatest truth about myself. I am loved and can give that love to those I choose. I am beautiful and allow that beauty to flow into what I do in the world. I am trusting and give that trust to people who have earned it. I am forgiving and give the peace that comes from it back to myself. I see things accurately and accept the facts of a situation. I am strong and act accordingly. I may lose these truths for a while but never forever. They always find their way back into my consciousness.

How long does it take to heal? Longer than you want to know. There’s always more to learn and grow and heal. The journey is tough but worthwhile. You’ll like and love the person you find.

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5 ways to cope with dissociation

1. Notice you are not grounded in your body, feeling spacey or not fully available to respond to the moment

2. Take a deep breath, take another deep breath, feel the breath entering the body, feel the breath exiting the body, keep breathing deeply while you do the following:

3. Look around and mentally name three things you see

4. Listen and mentally name three things you can hear

5. Feel your feet on the floor or your bum on the chair, bring your attention into your hands-make a fist, shake them, press them against something


You are safe, you can take care of the problem at hand, you can trust your instinct, you know what you need to do

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Mother’s Day

I am at peace this Mother’s Day. I am grateful for this peaceful feeling as I think of the different women in my life who have been mother figures to me. The women who have taught me about love and understanding. I love the acceptance they have shown me which helped me to then accept myself. I appreciate their listening skills without the need to rescue me, change me, pity me, or deny my interpretation of the situation I found myself in. I felt their trust in my ability to make it through to the other side, whatever that ended up meaning or looking like in the outer presentation of life circumstances.

I’m at peace with never having a child of my own. There have been many Mother’s Days where I cried and grieved for this life circumstance. This year, I think instead of the many children in my life who I get the opportunity to practice my mothering skills upon. I love them and accept them. I get to listen to their versions of life. I guide as needed or challenge when appropriate. I share my own past mistakes and let them know it was part of my overall development and growth. Mainly, I enjoy the moment and accept who they are at the time, knowing it’s not who they will always be. I trust their ability to walk their path that is unfolding in life.

I am at peace with my relationship with my own mother. While she was not my ideal version of the archetype, what mother ever is, she helped me grow into the woman I am now. I learned a lot of what not to do in order to find my own version of motherhood within. I grew into the mother I wanted as a child. I marvel at how different I am in that role than she was with me. I connect and interact and accept the mess of life. I play and am silly. I listen and stop to see the person in front of me. I appreciate the strengths my mother had and the ways I am like her. I have changed the things I didn’t like and grew into a woman I can be proud to share with the people in my life.

There were so many mothers I’ve learned from through the years. So many children that have crossed my path. I appreciate the part they have played in the unfolding of my life.

Today is an opportunity to honor the feminine expression of creativity that is motherhood. What will I give birth to next? What is wanting to be born? I walk forward in life to the next adventure that awaits me.