Rewriting Harmful Narratives: Love and Creativity Turn a Trigger into Source of Empowerment

(More pics below, please scroll down and look at the captions!)

A little over a year ago, someone intervened with my mental health by using hypnosis and BDSM to try to have me to adopt a “submissive/slave” lifestyle full-time to help address my “past trauma” after I had expressed an interest in BDSM.

The story in and of itself is a big one, and while I do not wish to delve into the details here, I will say that this is something that I have been working out extensively in weekly therapy. I’ve also had three psychiatric hospitalizations since this person harmed me with his methods. Something I never needed previously.

The point of this post is not to talk about everything this person did or about how dangerous it is to practice medicine without a license (newsflash: it is), the point of this is to talk about the love and healing that came with regards to a specific image this person had used against me.

When I was in a deep hypnotic trance, or highly suggestible state, he used frightening imagery on me. Specifically, he said I was a “gazelle” that he could “sink his teeth into.” This imagery of a lion and gazelle became a huge trauma trigger for me.

A short while after he did this and after he had put me under hypnosis without bringing me out of trance (which is not safe at all), I woke up feeling like a gazelle.

I was scared.

I wanted to run.

I was prey.

Gazelle with Fihankra Symbol by M. Scott Hammond
“Gazelle” with Fihankra Symbol by M. Scott Hammond

My husband was so confused as to what was happening to me. I kept talking about feeling like a gazelle and being scared. I talked about it so much that he even drew a picture of a gazelle with a rock with the West African symbol Fihankra (meaning “safe” or “secure”) to try to alleviate my fears.

As time passed, and after a couple hospitalizations and therapy over the course of several months, a dear friend of mine, Tammy, offered to help me address the issue I had with the gazelle/lion narrative that was still haunting me and my thoughts.

I don’t literally believe in magic per se, but my beautiful friend Tammy is a wizard with her photography. She empowered me by finding makeup artists and dressing my husband and I up as a lion and a gazelle.

But in our little story, it was the gazelle that needed to be feared.

Not the lion.

In high school I took a drama class. I have always loved theater, so this opportunity brought much joy to me. I’m going to share some of the photos from the shoot. Please consider visiting my friend Tammy’s photography facebook page and “liking” it. Her work is amazing and she recently started her business.

Now on to the photos! (Check it! I even made a story using captions on the pics!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m laughing a little now, because recently, someone tried to bring up the gazelle/lion narrative I had been dealing with as a mean-spirited way of casting ad hominem on me and trying to gaslight me.

What this person fails to understand is that that narrative no longer hurts me. It gives me POWER.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is a prophetic film, and the Magic Book that the characters use to rewrite their realities is, I believe, a real and an available tool within us all. We are all capable of rewriting the harmful narratives that others and (more importantly) we tell ourselves.

Magic Book from SpongeBob Out of Water
Source: http://spongebob.wikia.com/wiki/Magic_Book

Also, I love the shit out of my friends, and once a drama geek, ALWAYS a drama geek.

THESPIAN PRIDE FOREVA.

(I love you, Scott and Tammy!)

Why I Ditched My Pen Names

“If you want people to love you for who you are, take the mask off.” – Quetzal

Writers have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to publishing their work. The name they choose to use can be a big one. I understand why pseudonyms exist, and I don’t have a problem with anyone using one. But I realized recently that my personal reasons for having a pen name were unhealthy and blocking my creativity.

I have had a couple of pseudonyms over the years. There was a time when I blogged under a pen name about leaving my former faith. It was immensely freeing to speak honestly about my struggles with Mormonism without fear of being disciplined by church leaders or hurting family who had not yet known about my faith crisis. It gave me an outlet to process what was going on in my mind and to connect with others who were going through something similar.

Later, I used a pen name to publish a personal story involving religious abuse. This time I was more worried about protecting someone who had emotionally abused me. And I think that’s where I started to realize that maybe this was unhealthy.

Protecting people who’ve hurt me is something that I’ve done throughout my life. I’ve always struggled with emotional boundaries, and I empathize to the point of being unable to be an advocate for myself for fear of upsetting the other person. Because throughout my life, my needs were labeled as ‘selfish’ or hurtful.

I also had this silly fear that if I wrote something and someone would read it, then *gasp* they would know it was me. It was like I wanted to share something with the world, but I didn’t want anyone to know I was sharing it. It made me feel like I wasn’t truly connecting with my readers.

There was also a concern that people I admired or respected might read and dislike my work. But I’ve since come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like my writing. Not everyone is going to like me. And that’s ok. True friends will be there for me regardless of the quality of my writing.

It always felt like a weird tug of war between valuing authenticity while at the same time being afraid of it.

Eventually, because my reasons for using a pseudonym were based in shame and fear, I discovered that it was emotionally stifling to write under a different name.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

When it comes to publishing, attending writer groups, conventions, etc., it’s just a lot easier to have one name for people to associate with you. I tried going to a convention with two names on my badge once and it just didn’t feel right. And, in the end, the writing is the important thing, not the name.

Plus, I’m fond of my name. Larissa means ‘cheerful.’ My last name is my husband’s. And while I don’t believe that women are obligated to adopt their husband’s surname, in my case I’ve come to cherish his as my own. When I found him, I felt like I found home, so it just feels right to me.

So I’m lucky enough to like my name as it is. And if that’s the case, why on earth would I use a pseudonym?