Thank you for your continued support of my work. I apologize for being largely absent following the hacking of 5 of my websites, which corrupted nearly 10,000 files, and resulted in being shut down by my webhost and blacklisted by Google.
I am deeply grateful to Malcolm Sargent and Jonah Winters for stepping in to save the site. A special thank you too, to all those who championed me emotionally, spiritually and financially. Your solid endorsement to keep going is heartwarming.
I haven’t been idle since then, though, and am thrilled to announce that 9 of my books are now available in both print and Kindle on Amazon.
You can borrow the Kindle version of each book free for 30 days.
AND when you buy the print version, the Kindle version is available at a reduced rate. I hope that those of you who read the books will share an honest review. A little of your time and a few brief words would go a long way to helping other customers (hopefully followers of all Faiths) make a decision. You can partner with me in this teaching effort.
To highlight my books, my website has a new look, a new name and a new focus. My previous blog content will remain accessible.
For some time, I’ve felt uncomfortable about branding my name, and since I’m publishing under Nine Star Solutions, this seems an ideal time to go forward with the www.ninestarsolutions.com name.
My goal for the new site is to post a single quote from the Bahá’i Writings every day, along with a small meditation on my blog.
I hope that you will post your understanding of the quote, and together we can immerse ourselves in the Ocean of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation. It’s a good way for me to remember my commitment to meditate on the Writings morning and night. I hope it will engage you too.
I celebrate the release of my books with you. I look forward to being able to post to the blog again. May it continue to encourage and inspire you to an ever-deepening connection to our dearly loved Baha’i Faith.
I’m so excited, I could burst! I just had to share this with someone and who better than those who follow me and support and encourage me!
20 Years; 20 Stories; 20 Necklaces
Miranda Britton, a local Artist, developed a collection of necklaces that tell the stories of women impacted by YWCA Muskoka over its 20-year history. The finished pieces will be auctioned off and 100% of the proceeds will go back to the YWCA Muskoka.
The necklace she made from my story, was called “Empower”. It’s been chosen as the logo for the auction! It really looks like the chaos of overwhelm I feel most of the time on both sides and the calm in the centre of the storm in the middle, when empowered by the support I’ve received from the Y. She captured my emotions exactly!
She told me:
“Empower” was the first piece I made for the collection and quite possibly my favourite. Thank you for sharing your experience so honestly.
Here’s what I wrote, which inspired the necklace:
What first brought you to the YWCA?
Ten years ago I moved back to Muskoka and was about to publish my first book. I was excited to learn about the Women in Business course, which had both a business stream and a life skills stream. I learned a lot from the program and ended up creating both a business plan and a life plan that guided me for many years.
Over the years I have benefitted from their many conferences, workshops and networking lunches geared to women entrepreneurs. Recently I was at a crossroads in life and again the Y came through for me, through offering personal and business coaching and support through the Gathering Space.
How has your involvement with the YWCA changed you?
When I first came to the Women in Business Course, I was on a disability pension with anxiety and depression and PTSD. I wanted to use my skills, talents and abilities and get paid for them. The Y helped me learn how to do that in a way that was not overwhelming and whenever I fell back into overwhelm, they were there to support, encourage, nurture and empower.
Is there a story/anecdote that you could share that you feel really illustrates the spirit of the Y?
I had 6 sessions of counselling this past winter and was assessed going in with an anxiety score of 17 (very high). By the end of the 6 sessions it was down to 1! I attribute this directly to the hope and encouragement I gained from all of the staff at the Y, even from those not directly involved with the Gathering Space. When the tasks ahead of me seemed impossible to accomplish, they wouldn’t let me give up. Instead, they helped me break them down into manageable pieces, and filled in the gaps where my knowledge lagged. Even when they didn’t know how to do something, they never gave up, but worked with me to find a solution.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Everything the Y does is 500% helpful! The imagine something and then find the funding to make it happen. My most fervent prayers are that they continue to provide services to the women of Muskoka. They fill a gap that no one else can fill. Thank you to all of you, from the bottom of my heart!
Lost And Found: Susan Gammage Conquered The Impossible… And She’s Smiling Again
Susan Gammage doesn’t identify with the woman in the picture anymore . . .
Every week, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Gammage can’t stop smiling. She can light up a room. It’s an ear-to-ear grin and most of the time she can’t even help it. It escapes out of nowhere and it’s the greatest piece of evidence that she’s truly happy. At long last.
Susan is surprisingly open about her horrific past, and that is exactly what makes her an inspiring and admirable person. She’ll talk about anything. Aside from having an infectious grin, she happens to be a great conversationalist as well.
“Cult,” says Susan when I ask her to give me one word that comes to her mind when she thinks of her childhood. It’s dead silence for a few seconds. I’m not sure what to say. Then I tell her that’s definitely not a typical answer when you ask someone to reflect on their childhood. Then she sighs before saying, “It was a horrific thing. I don’t even really connect with my childhood.”
The circumstances surrounding her youth were tragic. She grew up in a small town in Alberta. Both of her parents were heavily involved in a cult. Susan was subjected to ritualistic abuse – physical, sexual and emotional. That was a daily aspect of her life. When her father raped her and she became pregnant with his child at around 13, a backwoods abortion was the solution. I didn’t think I needed her to expand on what exactly that meant because I had a pretty good idea that it entailed heinous measures. She told me about how she watched her father murder her brother and how she longed to run away but couldn’t out of fear that they would find her. She endured things no child should ever have to go through.
The first 17 years of my life were absolute hell but from 18 to 55 it was worse. I was continuing to abuse myself with all these things I was putting in my hamster wheels. Flashbacks, anger, bitterness… It was eating away at me. I had to learn how to forgive. There’s been so much healing since then and forgiveness of my parents.
She tells me they have both passed away. I tell her I’m not so sure I would be so forgiving. “I have this sense that I’m free now. I’m not going to be hurt anymore. I’m more interested in living in the present and trying to do some good in the world.”
Local author Susan Gammage has published more than 15 books as part of her journey to healing.
For years, though, she lived in fear and was plagued by feelings that she was not good enough, for anything, really: not to laugh and have fun, not to look at herself as wholesome and beautiful, and not to love and be loved. She sought therapy and counselling and was on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. She chose the natural route as well – homeopathy, acupuncture, meditation, core belief engineering, and iridology.
But it was when she came across the Bahá’í writings that she really started to merge onto the road to healing. “I truly believe the Bahá’í faith and writings are God’s message for humanity,” she says. “When I started taking the writings more seriously and applied them to my life, things started to change.”
The first thing she did was make a list. A long list. Of every single instance where she was hurt, mentally, physically and emotionally. She had to forgive herself for believing she was worthless. And then she had to work on forgiving her parents for what they did to her. In order to claim her life and accept what happened, she had to believe it wasn’t her fault.
“This was central to my healing. Forgiving my parents didn’t mean what happened to me was right, it meant I was letting go of that attachment, of poison, of bitterness.”
She’s come a long way from her first sessions in therapy when she would literally pull a coat over her head and write down her answers so the therapist couldn’t see her. She wanted to talk to other people who had similar experiences. She needed to know that there was light at the end of the tunnel. She wanted to believe there was hope. But no one was able to do that. So, she made a commitment that if there was hope at the end of the day and light at the end of the tunnel, she would show people that.
See that smile? People comment on it all the time. It took decades before she found it.
Susan started writing because it helped put things in perspective. It’s been a driving force to achieving clarity and acceptance and brings her a deep sense of accomplishment. She doesn’t do it for the money. She’s fulfilling the end of a bargain she made to herself. She’s letting people know they’re not alone. Because at one point, a long time ago, she thought that she was.
“People are finding me from all over the world. Every single day of the week I get fan mail from someone telling me they’ve been touched by my story. It’s very gratifying and that keeps me going.”
I’m still not sure how she manages to smile as much as she does. I guess she’s where she wants to be in life. The happiness she exudes sure says a lot about the strength of the human spirit. And Susan’s seems unbreakable.
Recently someone asked me: how did you unblock your memories? I would like to do that. I think I am ready.
This is a great question!
It was totally through the grace of God. Every year of my son’s life, brought back everything that happened to me at the same age. I don’t recommend it as an approach, since I had to live through it twice, at the expense of his childhood!
At the time, I had a very gifted therapist, who explained that memories come back 4 ways. It’s called the BASK model. It looks something like this:
Behaviour: Sometimes you react to things in a way which is out of proportion to the situation – the classic one is a Vietnam vet diving for cover when a car backfires. Tonight, for me, I reacted in a way that was over the top when I saw a child at the dinner table point a smoking pistol on his Blackberry towards his Dad. It looked all the world like a real gun shooting his Dad. It sent me into a full blown panic attack. If I didn’t know about my own childhood gun trauma, I wouldn’t understand why I react a certain way when I’m triggered. Another example is that I wouldn’t wear a white wedding dress, because I had been defiled by the sexual abuse. I didn’t understand it at the time, but once I got the memories back, it all made sense.
Affect: Is when you feel feelings and you have no idea why. For example, you might be filled with sadness or rage for no apparent reason. You might cry easily, again for no apparent reason. As a result of what happened to me tonight, I am feeling tremendous sadness and powerlessness; and rage at the father whose response was “boys will be boys”. I’m feeling the feelings associated with my own childhood gun trauma; not the feelings of what happened tonight. If I didn’t know what happened to me, I wouldn’t have a framework for dealing with the emotions.
Senses: You might be triggered by something you see, hear, taste, touch or smell. For example, my family used Ivory bar soap when I was growing up, so I associate the smell with them. I can’t have it in my house, or use it if I’m at someone else’s house (well I can now, I just choose not to!). For example, there’s been a lot of it at the food bank lately and I get it for my son, but I don’t use any of it. Other people have told me they can’t eat anything white and creamy (rice pudding, tapioca pudding, ice cream . . . ) because of its obvious associations with semen. For a long time I couldn’t give or receive a hug from a man or a woman because I believed “if you touch me, I have to have sex with you.” I always avoided situations where people were hugging (and even now, when I have a context to put it in, I’m still often uncomfortable being touched).
Knowledge: is the conscious knowledge of the memories. For me, this was the last thing to come back and when it did, it explained so much, because I’d already had the experience with behaviour, affect and senses. It helped me believe my story.
So if you’re experiencing behaviour, affect or sensory triggers, you’re already well on your way to recovering your memories!
Finally, even though I had all of that, I still had trouble believing what I know to be true. I kept coming back to “maybe it didn’t happen”, because denial was a much easier place to be! I found this quote from the Bahá’í Writings really helpful in keeping me grounded in my truth:
Consequently, it has become evident that the four criteria standards of judgment by which the human mind reaches its conclusions (senses, intellect, traditional or scriptural and inspiration) are faulty and inaccurate. All of them are liable to mistake and error in conclusions. But a statement presented to the mind, accompanied by proofs which the senses can perceive to be correct, which the faculty of reason can accept, which is in accord with traditional authority and sanctioned by the promptings of the heart, can be adjudged and relied upon as perfectly correct, for it has been proved and tested by all the standards of judgment and found to be complete. When we apply but one test, there are possibilities of mistake. This is self-evident and manifest. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 255)
For me this is similar to the BASK model – it just goes a little further.
How have you unblocked your memories? Post your comments here:
When I first discovered the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh’s version of a New World Order, with the family at the centre, as a nation in miniature was an exciting concept for me. I understood instantly the importance of shaping such a unit, but being able to implement it was quite another thing.
It made sense that many people who have experienced great injustice in their lives would be attracted to a Faith based on justice. However, once I became a Bahá’ís I noticed that no one talked about how to apply the Writings to personal problems or spoke aloud the questions which might arise from the deepest parts of their souls.
No one was saying out loud:
My family didn’t look anything like the Bahá’í teachings and I don’t know how to implement these concepts
I can’t trust so I can’t consult
God has let me down – so why pray? – or Fast? _ or give to the Fund?
Obeying loving parents resulted in injustice and oppression – so why should I obey laws that look oppressive?
My behaviour is moderate, or acceptable under the law of the land, so surely this Bahá’í law doesn’t apply to me.
I am angry and I can’t instantly forgive.
If these are questions you have pondered too, I want to honor you, and acknowledge your bravery for searching for answers. I found all the answers I was looking for (and more), from the Bahá’í Teachings and I know you will too.
I have been through a significant amount of trauma in my life but have found solutions, hope and healing when turning to the Bahá’í Writings and striving to apply them in my life. I would like to share my story so that you will better understand where I am coming from and why this topic is so significant to me. It originally appeared in “Parenting in the New World Order”, March 1993, and was published with the permission of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada.
I invite you to read it as a clear demonstration of the healing power of the Word of God and to witness the positive effects it has had in my life. I apologize if it is too explicit and warn you that it may be triggering for some people. If you think this is you, please make sure you have some support when reading it.
I grew up in a middle class, professional family, in an environment of alcoholism, neglect and physical, emotional and sexual abuse. My father was an alcoholic but had a responsible position in a Western Canadian city. In his industry, he was highly renowned and respected for his integrity and high moral standards. At home, he was a very volatile, violent man, who beat his wife and children, sexually abused my brothers and I and took us on camping trips, which involved satanic cult activities including bestiality, murder, rape and cannibalism.
My mother also held senior positions in the companies she worked for. She was also extremely violent, sexually abusive and active in preparing me for participating in cult activities. I was terrified of both of them, all the time.
I was sent to religious private schools for my education and was sexually abused by the female teachers at two of the schools I attended. I was brought up in the . . . church and the “Church of Satan” simultaneously. It was very confusing because many of the same people were involved in both places.
I was also sexually abused by an uncle, a grandfather and the husband of one of our baby-sitters. In one way, I was fortunate because I grew up distrusting men and women equally. So now, as I heal, I can see the need for all of us to work together to overcome the effects of such oppression and abuse.
As is typical of people who have experiences such trauma, I developed many coping mechanisms which kept me alive through experiences which no adult could survive.
I’ve envied the martyrs in the Bahá’í Faith, whose torture was relatively short-lived and ended in death for something they believed in. The torture I endured lasted for seventeen years, but the effects have lingered another eighteen and will be with me for the rest of my life.
Rest assured in the protection of God. He will preserve His own children under all circumstances. Be ye not afraid nor be ye agitated. He holds the scepter of power in His hand, and like unto a hen He gathereth His chickens under His wings. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Star of the West, vol. 22, p. 248)
I was close to being killed at least three times – once in fact I had been bound and gagged and placed on a stone alter, “chosen” to be “fed to the fire.” I was only four years old, and had already been raped and violated by men and women many times. I was prepared to die. I was ready to die, but at the last minute, as the flames were getting closer, somebody came and I was thrown off and rolled away as the adults pretended they were picnicking and playing volleyball.
I married when I was eighteen, to a man who was thirty-seven; a man who brought his gun and knife collection into our bedroom. He never had to get angry with me – I always did what I thought he wanted. The guns and knives were a silent threat.
Having a family was always my dream. Having a marriage last was another I wanted more than anything else to be “normal”.
Several miracles occurred out of my experiences. When I was a child, I had a strong relationship with God, I prayed frequently – especially for the abuse to stop. When it didn’t, I stopped believing in God. God knows how I became a Bahá’í – I certainly don’t – but my son is now eight years old and I am raising him as a Bahá’í, and not in the cult, and I am not sexually abusing him. I’ve broken two multi-generational patterns, so my prayers were answered, just not in the way or in the time frame I had imagined.
I have been in therapy for many years trying to sort out my experiences and trying to use the Bahá’í teachings in my recovery. I struggle daily to bring my life into the standards of the Faith.
Concepts such as institutions as “loving parents” are difficult for me to understand (what is a loving parent?!) – but I’ve tested the concept twice and I’m beginning to learn. I went to the Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assembly of . . . to request their input into the terms of my divorce, and I wrote to the Universal House of Justice, asking what my obligations were to my family. Both consultations were very powerful, and have been tremendous forces in my personal growth.
I love ‘Abdul-Bahá’s writing:
My home is the home of peace . . .
And I try to use it as a guideline, but I’m not always successful. It’s hard to live life in the present when anything can trigger a frightening memory.
I’ve come to realize that I have lived most of my life from the perspective of a terrified four-year-old, whose turn it is to die, wanting to die, and now it’s time to choose to live. Reclaiming memories of my childhood, committing myself to live life consciously, recognizing oppression when it is happening and choosing to deal with it head on instead of avoiding it, are all part of my healing process.
Much of the time I felt that my son was being parented by an adult body with the feelings and experiences of a four year old.
Many times I am confronted with situations that my role models simply didn’t prepare me to deal with – so when my son was little and I wanted to take out my frustrations on him, I took him in my arms and held him close and said or sang the prayer:
Is there any remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants and all abide by His bidding. (The Báb, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 28)
over and over while the feeling passed and an opportunity presented itself – and it always did.
So often I feel that my son is teaching me how to parent. He often can see a solution that just makes sense. Sometimes, when my self-esteem is low, I remind myself that the Bahá’í Writings are very clear that the parent is to be in charge, but I always trust the Bahá’u’lláh is guiding my life on the right path, and is teaching me through my son.
I pray for him and with him often, and although he has always vigorously opposed prayer and reading the Writings and calling himself to account daily, I’m hoping that these things will stay with him.
Recently I decided to write to the Universal House of Justice for their guidance. Their response has had a profound effect on my healing and I thought it might be of assistance to others in similar situations.
Holidays have always been difficult times for me, but since I confronted my parents with the sexual abuse, they’ve been especially difficult. They have chosen to deny their involvement and I have been unwilling to engage in a relationship with them that is not based on truth. I have no contact with them and until I got a letter from the Universal House of Justice, I assumed this meant that I was being a bad daughter, and an unforgiving Bahá’í. The Universal House of Justice wrote:
. . . being prudent in deciding upon the appropriate amount of contact with your parents, in reaching your decision, you should be guided by such factors as:
their degree of remorse over what they inflicted on you in the past
the extent of their present involvement in practices which are so contrary to Bahá’í Teachings and
the level of vulnerability you perceive within yourself to being influenced adversely by them.”
When I first started my healing journey, I went to the Bahá’í Writings for guidance and found:
Thy name is my healing . . .
God is sufficient . . .
Seek no other helper . . .
So I felt guilty looking for a therapist. God wasn’t sufficient in the sense I thought it meant, but He was sufficient in showing me the right people at the right time. The Universal House of Justice confirmed this in their letter, writing:
. . . you may well find it useful to seek the advice of experts such as your therapist.
I used to feel that I was a bad Bahá’í for not being able to instantly forgive my parents, but the Universal House of Justice wrote:
You are urged to strive to develop forgiveness in your heart toward your parents who have abused you in so disgraceful a manner, and to attain a level of insight which sees them as captives of their lower nature . . .
For me, this means that I may never get there, and as long as I continue to strive, I’m doing the right thing.
Nowhere in the letter from the Universal House of Justice does it say I should stop looking at the memories and dwelling on the past, as I have been told by many well-meaning friends. Instead, the Universal House of Justice writes:
You are truly blessed to have been enabled to accept Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God for this Age, and to have access to the limitless spiritual powers with which His life-giving Revelations is infused. You can draw on these powers by your prayers, as well as your participation in the work of the Faith and in the life of the Bahá’í community; through this effort and through your consultation with competent professionals having expertise in your area of need, you can promote your healing from the damaging effects of your past experiences, and can find happiness and tranquility.
So I’m not sure what this has to say to parents looking for ideas on raising their children – except I know that there are many people out there who are struggling with similar experiences and are wondering what the Bahá’í approach to recovery might be.
I’m sure that because of the shame and the need for perfectionism that many of us just struggle with, we will continue to find the Writings to “beat” ourselves with instead of the ones which will heal.
Having had such a clear letter from the Universal House of Justice has validated my struggle and helped me to know that I am on the right track – and I know that if I work on becoming a better person, my parenting sills are bound to improve too.
None of use grew up in the kind of families Bahá’u’lláh calls us to create, and as adults, we need to take a close look at who we are and where we came from. We need to make conscious decision to change the patterns we don’t like. And we need to trust the guidance we’ve been given in the Bahá’í Writings. Sometimes this may mean having to create a family of choice as we leave behind our family of anger. God will guide us and protect us on our parenting journey. All we have to do is ask.
I believe that all of the answers we need are in the Bahá’í Writings and that we just need to learn to use them to assist us. Particular assistance came to me from the letter from the Universal House of Justice, for example the ideas that:
healing is not expected to be instantaneous or absolute, but can be “promoted”.
I am not expected to instantly forgive my parents “To strive to develop forgiveness’ seems to acknowledge that it may never be achieved in this lifetime.
I am not obligated to see, spend time with or take care of my parents in their old age. I am encouraged to be “prudent in the deciding upon the appropriate amount of contact with your parents.”
It’s OK to feel vulnerable and “to seek the advice of experts such as your therapist”
The letter from the world Center closes with the following:
The House of Justice offers you its abundant sympathy at what you have suffered, it’s loving concern for your welfare, and its encouragement to you to look to the future with confidence and optimism. You are urged to ponder these reassuring words of Bahá’u’lláh: “O my Servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will no doubt, attain.”
I am happy to send copies of the Universal House of Justice letter to anyone who wants it, and I’m happy to share my journey with anyone who needs to talk about being a Bahá’í and having less than ‘Abdul-Bahá-like responses to the injustices thy have had.
Local Assemblies who require guidance in dealing with cases involving abuse should contact their National Spiritual Assembly.
There is a great document put out by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, called: Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence which is helpful for anyone dealing with issues arising from violence and abuse of any kind. You can download it from: www.bahai.us/system/files/DVGuidelines.pdf