The boring facts are, I was literally born in Providence Rhode Island. Though my name suggests otherwise, my family lived in a housing project in Woonsocket the first six years of my life. Dynomite! Google it. Dynamites are a delicious Woonsocket tradition. We moved into a partially condemned apartment building to get out and things just kept getting better from there, meaning life has offered many colorful lessons. Thirteen years of those lessons took place on Martha’s Vineyard, though it’s generally not associated with children of a lesser god. Rich people need their houses cleaned, kids watched, lawns mowed and trash picked up. My family was happy to oblige and the view didn’t suck. Society tries to polarize us as all good or all bad. Real life recipies are made up of everything; sweet, salty, fancy and sometimes old boxes of Jello collecting dust behind the food coloring in the empty baking cabinet.
I’m a white woman who grew up and through real, often invalidated American poverty and complex trauma that includes roughly a decade of sexual abuse, intermittent homelessness, parental substance use, physical abuse, passive neglect, sexual assault, bullying, exposure to community violence, witnessing a fatality before I could read, an ongoing waltz with anorexia, OCD, PTSD and body image dysmorphia. I like the F word, smokes, kale juice, yoga, writing, dreaming, music, YouTube and don’t own a tv. Aside from being darkly introspective and socially awkward, I use humor to cope and refuse to take myself too seriously unless confronted by a pan of frosted brownies. I am permanently, radically, intentionally, politically and peacefully child-free. This is my blog which helped me write my first book. Stay tuned.
Finding common threads of growing from adversity in fairy tales, creation stories and scripture left me assuming the blown-down houses, hysterical rulers and predatory demons were somehow part of the plan. Everywhere I went looking for answers revealed hardships were part and parcel to having a heartbeat and, if we persevered, a gift, lesson or ability would reveal itself.
I liked reading in closets, where it was safe, treating stories like life-class; Tragic beginning. Check. Child on a solo, uncharted mission. Check. Talking animal to ensure my safety through the haunted forest to a happy ending…Since Bigfoot never showed up, I became a therapist.
I practiced for nearly 10 years in community mental health and hospitals, which is one of the reasons I initially chose to write anonymously. I then moved into an administrative position after learning about The Sanctuary Model of trauma-informed care ten years ago while working on a psych unit. Destroying Sanctuary, the first book in a trilogy, validated every painful frustration I’d witnessed for clients and staff the first seven years of my career. The system was broken so I thought I’d try to help fix it. I mentioned Sanctuary in an interview, calling it a blueprint for world peace. Sadly, the old guard wasn’t ready to leave his fiercely defended position so I saved him the trouble of tolerating my light by leaving.
I’d remained on the fence about full transparency with my story for a very long time. The lack of clarity associated with people in the helping profession having and talking about their own experiences remained murky at best. Partly because it’s rare. Some have been harshly criticized, ridiculed and laughed out of the profession. Others have been stripped of integrity, labeled unstable, selfish or accused of having poor boundaries. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT, talked about her hesitation in speaking publicly about her mental health issues in an interview with the New York Times in 2011. She waited half a lifetime to essentially come out as human.
Anna Freud suggested many join the profession to retain an illusion of power, using the title of ‘expert’ to distance ourselves from any lingering or unattended personal wounds. The letters after our name and certifications we earn act as a kind of shield. I’ve never seen myself as an expert. I became a therapist by default; being a parentified child gave me an over-functioning edge. Thank god for codependent recovery. Fear of getting fired for being poor was my greatest barrier to freedom, not maintaining some title. I ran from myself for years. Surrender and opportunity collided in 2018 when I spilled my guts to a journalist. Surreal, humbling, liberating thing having a total stranger call and ask you to tell them your life story. Despite feeling tokenized and frustrated by the media’s ignorance, learning to be with and embrace my reality, however ugly or beautiful it might be, continues to offer the peace, freedom and substance I’d previously looked for in all the wrong places.
News flash: I’m not 100% perfectly healed. Who is? I don’t think we get perfect here. Instead, life offers us opportunities to practice patience, forgiveness, persistence, compassion, listening, taking the high road, eating enough fiber, drinking water and other hard, grown-up stuff. The human experience is, quite simply, our path to rediscovering and returning to Love.
What I notice about western culture is we have no formal system for learning how to do life, deal with each other, deal with our thoughts, feelings and unmet needs as spiritual beings attempting to enjoy this plane. I know how to take care of my teeth without being a dentist, but depression and oppression get treated like hot potatoes. What do I do with this? Ooo! Oww! Ahh! It’s all your fault! Drop it! If someone gets sick we show up with a casserole and a get well card. Tell someone you have P.T.S.D or were sexually abused for a decade; crickets.
Someone once told me I’m too self-protective which I wish to distinguish from being fragile. I have fought mercilessly for my life. Trust and timing about sharing our story is an intuitive process. Early in my career I wrote an anonymous advocacy piece. When a colleague was told I’d written it, they laughed. She’s not that smart. Trauma has a way of stealing our voice and masking our identity in a fog of apologies. When you’re constantly censoring yourself for fear that what you might say will be too much for people to handle or will get you thrown out into the street (cause it did once) you don’t make any sense. You stare at the floor whispering movie quotes to a carpet instead of washing your face and doing a Tedtalk about what a strong woman you are. #strongwoman #bebrave #ugh
I was afraid of troubling people or embarrassing myself; as if I’d been the one who abused me. Hiding gives power away to shame. Keeping secrets is like feeding an impenetrable fence of electric anxiety, behind which we remain a prisoner. Codependence, ego or moral crisis? Probably all of the above. The final piece about hiding was how much the hypocrisy was bothering me. Part of our work as helpers, healers and humans is learning from each other how to compassionately own all the parts of our experiences; that’s how we grow. The truth is ultimately safer, lighter and more reliable.
I’ve studied all kinds of religions, noticing the majority of faith practices help us explain the mystery of the infinite universe while connecting us to a moral compass and source of unconditional love. Each creation story is dressed up in different languages, customs, rituals, songs, food and clothes. Since I’m not omnipotent, I can’t say which prophet is the real Slim Shady of the universe. Maybe there’s more than one right answer. All those holy wars; seems silly to fight about love but it’s the epic, eternal battle. Prophets are life guides who love us; although I’ve started to question everything again. Without getting into the weeds, just know I don’t use Jesus as a weapon. He seemed like a nice guy. The Bible is an interesting book. I’m also a fan of Buddha and witches. I can’t do life without God and… this blog has been the place where I explore all these big ideas until one day, maybe soon, I get to bring my book to life.
Until then, xo
This site and its contents are the thoughts, experiences and opinions of Elizabeth Bouvier and in no way represent the thoughts, experiences or opinions of any of her employers.
If you’re in need of professional help you are sincerely encouraged to seek it.
Please note some names have been changed, some words will occasionally be misspelled, some metaphors will crumble into run-on sentences that make zero sense, all photos and artwork are my own unless otherwise stated and I never put myself to bed on time.
Born in Providence and the contents of this site are protected under copyright through the Library of Congress. I paid $55. I have an official paper and everything.