Ashes of Abuse: On the Bookshelf

I have loved reading for as long as I can remember.  I read for fun, of course, but I have also always read when I wanted to learn something.  As a kid when I wanted to know about “the birds and the bees”, I was too embarrassed to ask my parents we didn’t talk about that sort of thing and I guessed my friends didn’t really know much more about it than I did…I found a medical book and read about it…complete with illustrations!  When I wanted to learn to knit…I got a book.  When I started having serious health issues (all of them are much better right now), I turned to the Internet and read about it.  So, naturally, with this new challenge in my life, I have a million questions so I turned to my old standby….reading.  Of course, reading does not and should not replace therapy but while it is not the “main course” for my healing, it is a good “side dish”.

The Body Remembers by Babette Rothschild

When I first started therapy it was for anxiety.  One day I was telling my therapist about the anxiety that I get at the dentist and that I had figured out that it was not the needles or the drill, but the CHAIR.  I hate the chair.  It makes me feel very vunerable, and that is an uncomfortable feeling.  I told him I feel the same way about his couch.  “My couch?” he asked confused.  Well, yeah, in the movies people always lie down on their therapist’s couch.  That made him laugh and he promised he would never ask me to do that.  Then he added, “Don’t do it, but in your mind’s eye imagine you are lying on the couch and pay attention to how your body feels.”  I did and instant anxiety…shortness of breath, dizziness etc.  Wow!  Anxiety on cue.  I was amazed by that but my therapist wasn’t.  He simply said, “Your body knows why you are uncomfortable with the couch.”  I was astonished by this.  How could my body know something my mind didn’t.  I pondered this a lot and later at home I asked myself how this could be. 

Then one night in one of those moments between being awake and asleep a voice in my mind said, “if you really want to know, imagine yourself as a child lying on the couch.”  I did and OH! My first flashback!  I won’t give you the details.  It was awful.  It felt as if I was there with all the physical feelings and emotions (read: fear) of that moment.  I wanted to know more about how “body memories” work so I started googling and came across this book.

Though it is scientific, I also found it to be quite readable for a “lay person” like myself. She explains body memories, PTSD, somatic pain and other related issues. Highly Recommended.

The Stranger in the Mirror by Marlene Steinberg

I’ll never forget the day my therapist started asking me some questions that I could tell were intended to see if I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously called Multiple Personality Disorder.)  This disorder is more common than I thought affecting approx. 10,000 people in the US.  As I understand it, it is generally not as “sensational” as what Sybil experienced.  After all the whole “system” works to hide the memories of the abuse from the person themself and the multiplicity from the public.  More about this in another review.

Anyway, I didn’t think that I had DID, and my therapist later told me that he doesn’t think I have DID either, but I do “dissociate”.  Of course, I was then driven to learn everything I could about dissociation.  That is how I found this book.  It was an answer to prayer and answered my questions very well!

She explains clearly what dissociation is, the different ways it affects us and because we all dissociate to some degree, what is mild, moderate, or severe dissociation. It is scientific, but readable for us “lay people”.  Highly recommended!

Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

When I first realized what my ‘real’ issue was, not anxiety but childhood sexual abuse, I had a million questions surrounding “what will healing be like and how long will this take?”  This book has been a wonderful resource for giving me an idea what to expect, and comforting me that what I am feeling is normal.  Though I am a huge fan of the library (my bookshelves are already overflowing with beloved’s nice to have the library ‘store’ books for me!), this is one I will need to purchase.  It is not something you just sit down and read through but rather a book that you read in parts, and refer back to it as a resource in healing at different times and different stops on the journey.  Highly recommended

A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder by Robert Oxnam

Though I do not have DID, I now find myself with a fascination with this topic.  As I mentioned before, not all DID cases are as ‘sensationalized’ as the story of Sybil.  When I saw this book about Robert Oxnam who was an international authority on China, I had to read it!  After all, how does one become so highly educated and appear so “normal” with this disorder.  I had to know.  The book, a courageous offering on the part of Mr. Oxnam, was fascinating, enlightening and touching.  At the end, I wanted to meet this amazing man and give him a hug!  Hearing his story, and vicariously sharing in his healing, gave me hope that my symptoms of dissociation, which are not as severe, can be healed as well.  Highly recommended, thank you for having the courage to share Mr. Oxnam!

I should have named this post “On the Bookshelf and the Favorites List” but that title would be too long!

I like blogs (obviously since I write one). So recently I got an idea to look for blogs written by others who are dealing with the challenges I am (both to hear their stories, and to find people who might be interested in what I am writing.) And wowzer, you can find most anything you want on the internet! I found the perfect thing…a blog carnival!

A blog carnival, in case you are not familiar with the term, is basically a blog post that listed a bunch of other blogs they think their readers might be interested in. This particular blog carnival is published by various volunteers, once a month. They have been doing it for four years. All you have to do to join the carnival is write them and ask to be included, so you will see that I have an entry there too. I found a few new “favorite” blogs there.  Check it out!

What’s on your healing bookshelf?


  1. Kudos to you for being willing to talk about your challenges publicly! I think it helps others when we are brave enough to be candid about our struggles.I went through some therapy a couple years ago and my favorite book was "Toxic Parents," by Susan Forward. I totally agree with you about books being a good side dish to be consumed with a main course of speaking with a therapist.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Leslie. A few years back, while my mother and son were both on chemotherapy, "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Dideon struck a nerve of how our mind adapts to help us through some situations. And, of course, "Tuesdays With Morrie," my annual read. Great post.

  3. A book that really helped me (though it may seem unrelated), is "True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart" by Thich Nhat Hanh.Two things that have helped me tremendously in the last couple of years have been, "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie (I listened to the CD set and I recommend it HIGHLY). I think you will really like it very much! The other is the Showtime series "The United States of Tara." I thought I was watching it for fun but it has been very insightful and therapeutic for me, as I come from a very abusive and dysfunctional family. It is about a woman with DID and her family and how they deal with these issues. It's raw at times but is very intelligently and compassionately written.Much love, a.

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