Born in Providence

 I was born in Providence. We have to start somewhere. I’d put it off for a while and dove face first into the messy middle. Thankfully wholeness hunts us down, slowly drawing us up and out. I didn’t want to talk about it till I’d found love, forgiveness and more than a little safety. Once we have all that it’s hard to go on lying. Your life starts to feel like one long excuse, a string of apologies under which is all this joy. Hiding took more energy than I’d previously realized. So, hello world.

I’m a writer, artist and researcher recovering from an acute episode of life. 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 wolves were somehow part of the plan. Everywhere I went looking for answers, which was most often in books, 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 forest creature to ensure my safety through the wicked wilderness to a happy ending…Since Bigfoot never showed up, I became a shrink.

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’ve since moved into an advocacy position after learning about The Sanctuary Model of trauma-informed care 8 years ago while working on a psych unit. Destroying Sanctuary 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 help try to fix it. I mentioned The Sanctuary Model in an interview, calling it a blueprint for world peace. It is. Things are moving forward but that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

I’d remained on the fence about full transparency with my story for a long time. The lack of clarity associated with people in the helping profession having and talking about their own experiences remained murky at best. 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. We’re so nice to each other in the ‘helping’ field. Marsha Linehan talked about her hesitation in an interview with the New York Times in 2011. She waited for years to essentially come out as a member of the human species. I’d once been invited to speak on a panel with several other healthcare professionals who’d overcome various hardships. The workshop got cancelled. No one signed up. 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; that’s a title for other kinds of people. I tried running from myself for years. Thankfully, I finally surrendered and spilled my guts to a journalist. Surreal thing, having a total stranger call and ask you to tell them your life story. I’d always skipped chances to give a testimony in youth groups because my parents were often there as volunteers. Learning to be with and embrace truth, however ugly or beautiful it might be, continues to offer the peace and substance I’d previously looked for in all the wrong places. I’m not 100% perfectly healed but I know who I am and where I come from. I don’t think we get perfect here. Instead, life offers opportunities to practice patience, forgiveness, persistence, compassion, listening, taking the high road, eating enough fiber and other hard, grown-up stuff. 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 own thoughts, feelings and needs. I know how to care for 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 assaulted; crickets

Someone told me I’m too self-protective. Trust and timing are an intuitive process for butterflies and bird-revelations alike. 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. I’m an introvert by nature which means I might someday write better than I speak. 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), you don’t make any sense. You stare at the floor whispering movie quotes to a carpet instead of speaking up. 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 and humans is learning from and teaching each other how to compassionately own all the parts of our lives to encourage collective growth. Really be the change. The truth is ultimately safer, lighter and more reliable. It’s how we all get free.

I’m Christian. Don’t run away; I actually love people and have studied all kinds of beliefs, noticing the majority of faith practices connect us to a moral compass and source of unconditional love. Each creation story is dressed up in different languages, customs, rituals, songs, foods 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. My source of unconditional love is something I value deeply, but I also respect all the other sources of spiritual teaching. Without getting into the weeds just know I don’t use Jesus as a weapon. I love him and the way he loved people. That’s all.

The boring facts are I was literally born in Providence Rhode Island; an evolving city. Though my name suggests otherwise, my family lived in a housing project in Woonsocket the first 6 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 colorful 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 our experiences 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. Your life has all the right ingredients. 

Maybe we’re all born in providence and pain is somehow part of the deal. I don’t think God intends for us to suffer; but it does seems like life is some kind of spiritual education disguised as family dysfunction. My brother likes to joke that somewhere some people really are sitting on a picnic bench by a lake with boats, eating noodle salad. That sounds nice but I’m guessing eventually our bums get numb from being benched and we get called in to play. Don’t worry if you’re stuck in left field. We all get to run home eventually. And look! There’s daisies. 

I’m a white woman who grew up and through real, often invalidated American poverty, complex trauma, an ongoing dance with anorexia, anxiety, PTSD and body image dysmorphia. I like the F word, Nat Shermans, kale juice and refuse to 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’m happily married to a man who’s obsessed with bikes and has turned our dining room into a garage. We’re permanently, radically, intentionally, politically and peacefully child-free. This is my blog which I hope to someday publish as a book. Thank you for reading it.

-Elizabeth Bouvier-Fitzgerald 

aka e

*If you’re in need of professional help I sincerely encourage you to seek it.

**Please note mostly all names have been changed, some words will occasionally be misspelled, some metaphors will crumble into run-on sentences that make zero sense, all photos are my own unless otherwise stated and I don’t brush my teeth before bed

Born in Providence and the contents of this blog are protected under copyright through the Library of Congress. I paid $55. I have an official paper and everything. 

46 thoughts on “Born in Providence

    • Yes! It’s a shame to see it within the profession. But Anna Freud said it is a function of ego-protection for many survivors of mental illness, addiction and abuse to become therapists and use their professional identity as a protective shield. Other things I’ve seen are simply well-intended ‘nice’ people with no lived experience of trauma become healthcare professionals and cast shame, blame and other forms of judgement onto survivors of trauma. I hope to be a voice of advocacy and change.

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  1. I have so much to say and simultaneously have no idea what to say after reading your about page. I’m a writer, so I should be able to organize this all into words. First, I would like to say that I honor what you are doing. It is both brave, really brave for you, but also so important for others. I don’t often see people do something so death-defyingly brave with their writing. I even less frequently see people dealing with such large things who are able to be so considerate of others and other ways of thinking and be open and…I don’t even know. You seem WISE and STRONG and I’m sure you are still stumbling through parts of this life thing but I consider that part of the previous mentioned capitalized adjectives. I really look forward to reading more of your blog and I will follow it, for sure, even though I am pretty darn sure some of what I read will be scary and uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s worth it to read, or for me write, something that doesn’t cause growth and yet it takes a lot to make that happen. Thank you for writing this and I hope you have a good support system for yourself as you write this. Writing it all out can be quite a shock to the system. <3!!

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  2. I agree that the stigma around mental illness needs to be removed and slowly it is beginning to happen but there is a long way to go. Thanks for sharing and thank you for your like on my post. Peace and blessings! πŸ™‚

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  3. Your profile is so interesting. I don’t know if you have seen my blog but it took me 50 years before I was able to get therapy. It didn’t go so well, but writing my memoir cleansed me and God healed me through it. It is nice to meet you. I will be checking out more of your blog as time permits. God bless, Nancy

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s so wonderful to meet you! After reading this, I feel like I have been blessed to connect with someone else in this amazing world of blogging who I can relate to in many ways. I am so happy you found and followed my blog. It is relieving to have a place where introverts, as ourselves, can communicate and express our thoughts!❀~Anne

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  5. A wonderful way to meet you with humor, and so courageous to admit that you ‘rarely brush your teeth before bed’. That takes guts! Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. πŸ™‚

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  6. This is a beautiful sharing. Thank you – I love what you wrote about your love of your own prophet and how you respect others’ beliefs. Your loving comes through your words, and I appreciate that! Thanks also for following my blog. Your presence is so welcome. Rumi’s quote (do you know it?) on meeting beyond the ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing is a key for what I practice with forgiveness, best I can. ❀

    Sending you blessings πŸ™‚
    Debbie

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    • Thank you for this thought thoughtful comment Debbie. I’m not familiar with that particular Rumi quote but I’m a fan of his sayings. Respect, forgiveness, love; that’s what it’s all about. πŸ™πŸΌ

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  7. Elizabeth, you’re right that it’s easier to say, I broke my leg than saying I have depression or PTSD. I do volunteer counseling after I retired. I had a degree in counseling but the teaching job came by so I grabbed the job and catching up with credentials. Please continue to write and do what you believe is right for you. Miriam

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such a deeply honest and thoughtful about. That is the way to reach out and touch others, those of us who need it most. And who doesn’t. I so relate to your introversion. I definitely express myself better in writing than speaking but have been using my latter years to move more to the middle of the I-E scale. I look forward to reading you more often and gleaning wisdom from your posts. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment Victoria. Always nice to hear our writing offered something helpful or good. Fellow introverts unite, alone, together haha. I recently watched a YouTube interview with Joan Didion who I’m just now starting to read. She had a very difficult time speaking and remarked on it, saying she’s always found writing easier than speaking. I was so happy! I thought, oh there’s hope after all, haha. The middle sounds like a healthy place to discover. Thanks again for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

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