Would you like to be a guest speaker?

I’m involved with a non-profit organization called EmpowerSurvivors that supports survivors of childhood sexual abuse and trauma.

EmpowerSurvivors is a peer-run nonprofit organization operated by survivors of childhood sexual abuse for victims of childhood sexual abuse.

We support survivors through individual peer support meetings, classes, workshops and since the pandemic began, we now offer Zoom meetings on Monday evenings at 6:00 pm central time called, Conversations With Evey & Elizabeth.

These interactive conversations focus on topics of interest to survivors of trauma and sexual abuse, no matter where they are on their healing journey.

Our hope is to periodically have a special guest that will volunteer their time to discuss topics such as childhood sexual abuse, healing trauma, types of therapy, what to expect in therapy, suggestions on how to find good therapists, survivor stories of hope & healing, adverse childhood experiences & resilience, victim laws, mindfulness, grounding, PTSD, mental health diagnosis, healing strategies, etc.

We would love to have professionals and survivors of childhood sexual abuse to lead conversations that help survivors better understand themselves, the healing journey, and subjects pertaining to early childhood sexual abuse and healing.

If you are someone with a heart for survivors, helping others heal, or have a skill set that you would like to share please consider being our guest via Zoom.

Together we can help people find hope & healing.

If you are interested in leading a conversation or have any questions, email Elizabeth Sullivan of EmpowerSurvivors at EmpowerSurvivors@gmail.com

Find out more about EmpowerSurvivors at http://www.empowersurvivors.net/

And of course if you are interested in joining the conversations on Monday evenings via Zoom, you are welcome to log on. All we ask is that you keep your camera on since these support meetings are designed to be interactive.

Conversations with Evey and Elizabeth

Inner Landscapes; A Place of Refuge

An inner landscape is a life you lead inside of yourself; a place no one else can go unless invited. Although it looks different for each of us, all inner landscapes have this in common: they are a place of refuge. If you look deep enough, you will be able to find the images in your mind of your inner landscape; your own place of power and peace.

Today is a day where being able to tap into my inner landscape and find peace is how I need to stay grounded.

My inner landscape is multi-dimensional and serves more than one purpose depending on how I need to restore, rest, empower and breathe. One part of my inner landscape is a field of flowers. That’s where I go when I need to feel at peace. It’s a place where I can rest and restore my inner resources because I feel safe and protected there, with very little noise coming from my busy monkey-mind that tends to nag at me during the day.

Mostly my inner landscape is peaceful, warm and sunny; although, I also have a cliff I go to that is rugged and barren. There is one leaf-less tree there with a few wisps of grass growing up around it, but otherwise, it is bare. The cliff is jagged, gray and very rocky with the sound of a turbulent sea splashing thunderous waves against the rocks. That’s the inner landscape I go to when my life is stormy and I’m dealing with challenges that I’m not quite ready to confront.

When I’m there, I hear my inner voice of self-doubt, self-judgment, and shame. It’s a place I go to when I know I need to look at things about myself that are comfortably uncomfortable but I’m not yet ready to change. I sit on the edge of my cliff and listen to the water crashing up against the rocks. Even though it is a place I go to when my life is stormy, I love my rocky cliffs and the crashing water that surrounds me.

My inner landscape is different from my happy place.

My happy place is where I go to help me face the typical stresses of daily life. Sitting in a traffic jam, going to the dentist, standing in a long line sends me to my happy place. That quick take a deep breath to stave off the frustration place that we go to. My inner landscape is a place I go to for reflection. A place where I go deep inside of myself.

Can you visualize your inner landscape, your own place of power and peace?

Photo by Sergei Akulich on Unsplash

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

PTSD and Travel

With the holiday season upon us, there is a lot of traveling going on. Crowds are larger, increased stress around the holidays, delays, weather issues and heightened expectations are just some of the typical stressors many of us contend with, this time of year. If someone you know or love suffers from PTSD or other mental health issues,  perhaps this can shed some light on what they are trying to navigate (on top of the typical stressors) during this travel season.

I love the ocean. The sound of it feeds my soul and grounds me. I can sit and watch the ocean for hours. It touches something deep, deep inside of me. A knowing, a presence, a connectedness.

I live in Minnesota, which is nowhere near the ocean. When I get close to the ocean, and my senses begin to come alive, I know I’m now on vacation. Ahhh, vacation! I was once that person who worked to go on vacation. Road trip? Yep, I was the first person to raise my hand and jump in the car. I love to explore, I love new places, I love new people. I understand that my little corner of the world is not the be-all, end-all, and I want to see the world.

Then I was struck with PTSD and my whole world turned upside down. The things I did without thought have suddenly become a big production. I’m plagued with flashbacks, and my symptoms are easily triggered.

My trauma occurred over a 20-year period in many different places throughout the world. I can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, the way the wind blows, dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback. Sometimes, I get disoriented and anxious, and sometimes it’s just a general feeling of knowing something’s off. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of the many tools in my distress tolerance tool-box to ride out the wave. When I travel, things are unfamiliar and it takes longer to come out of a trigger.

Another symptom of my PTSD is that I become overwhelmed in busy, loud, places — restaurants, for example. It’s very easy for me to get flooded by too many menu choices and a voracious appetite can become non-existent. Before, PTSD, I loved trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have visited in my hometown.

Airports are triggering for me. The noise, the crowds, the upheaval, the lines. The anticipation of sitting in a tiny chair for a four-hour flight. The same anxiety that most others feel at airports is more pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often put me on a plane and sent me all over the world. So just by walking into an airport, it’s triggering. And yet, I love the speediness of getting to your vacation destination by flying, and how wonderful to be in this machine that flies in the sky. It’s part of the travel experience.

My support system is different when I travel. For my family, it’s often a good respite for them when I go out of town for a few days. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them accompanying me. So, a lot of moving parts must happen before I can hop on the plane. My support works together to provide text, phone or FaceTime calls with regular check-ins. I must be mindful and respect the times that are available, especially with a time change. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I require this support.

I just want to jump on a plane, hide out at a beach for a few days and think, write, read and relax. It’s part of my fantasy travel experience. But the extra support is part of the give and take if I’m to travel right now, and I’m grateful for the opportunity and the support.

I understand that traveling with all my PTSD symptoms front and center is a huge challenge. But, I’m determined to have a great time, get my spirit renewed at the ocean, or spend some wonderful girl-time with a good friend. My intention is to look at the beautiful palm trees and fill my senses with the healing ocean air, and for just a few perfect moments, breathe with ease.

Traveling with PTSD is certainly a challenge, but not impossible.


Featured Image -- 1029Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Film Screening

I received an email today asking if I would share this information regarding a film that Jennifer Brea made called, Unrest. Below are the links and a synopsis of the film

Jennifer Brea is an active Harvard PhD student about to marry the love of her life when suddenly her body starts failing her. Hoping to shed light on her strange symptoms, Jennifer grabs a camera and films the darkest moments unfolding before her eyes as she is derailed by M.E. (commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a mysterious illness some still believe is “all in your head.”

In this story of love and loss, newlyweds Jennifer and Omar search for answers as they face unexpected obstacles with great heart. Often confined by her illness to the private space of her bed, Jen is moved to connect with others around the globe. Utilizing Skype and social media, she unlocks a forgotten community with intimate portraits of four other families suffering similarly. Jennifer Brea’s wonderfully honest portrayal asks us to rethink the stigma around an illness that affects millions of people. Unrest is a vulnerable and eloquent personal documentary that is sure to hit closer to home than many could imagine.

How to watch Unrest online: https://www.unrest.film/ digital
How to find a screening of Unrest near you: https://www.unrest.film/ screenings
Unrest images & media: https://www.unrest.film/media/

  • “Astonishing”– BBC
  • “Brilliant” – The Daily Telegraph
  • “Riveting…equal parts medical mystery, science lesson, political advocacy primer and even a love story.” — San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Remarkably intimate, deeply edifying and a stirring call to action…an existential exploration of the meaning of life.” — LA Times
  • ★★★★★ “A sensitive, powerful documentary” that’s “compulsive viewing.” — BritFlicks
  • “An intimate essay” that even feels like “a suspenseful thriller” and “packs a significant emotional punch.” — The Spectator

What do the Caregivers Need?

I’m currently collaborating on a new book. As we were outlining the chapters, we added a chapter addressing the question, What do caregiver’s want and need when living with, caring for, or loving a person with a physical, emotional, mental, or chronic illness? I think it will be a wonderful addition to the book. This group is often left out of the care plan. They are our unsung heroes. The friends, family and support team who, without them, we would flounder.

When I was struck with PTSD  my whole world turned upside down.  As with any illness, it doesn’t just affect me, my illness affects my whole family. My symptoms can be challenging for my family, friends and support team.  They have taken the time to learn about trauma and PTSD and are right there to help me live the most “normal” life I can lead right now. No one, ever, makes me feel like I’m a burden. That’s my own personal demon that I fight and live with on a daily basis.

But what do caregivers need when living with, loving, befriending or working with a person who has a chronic, physical or mental illness?

My husband loves it when I go out of town for a few days. He has respite. People ask why don’t we travel together? Well, really, he needs a break. When I’m gone his worries are less. He deserves all the pizza, late night t.v., just hanging out, no worry days he can get. It’s what he needs so he can recharge. He doesn’t ask me to go out of town, but when a situation arises and he feels comfortable with my traveling companion, he encourages me to go. It’s just a couple of times a year, we stay in contact every day, and he’s thrilled when I come back home,  but he needs that respite.

He also belongs to an online support group for caregivers of someone with PTSD. At first, I will admit, I was fearful that he was talking to other caregivers. I soon realized that it was my own immense guilt I was feeling and transferring to him. I felt like, I drove my husband, who had no interest at all in computers or anything to do with social media into needing support from strangers online. I quickly got over that, because he needs support.  He needs to be speaking to people who get the day-to-day challenges of living with someone with PTSD.

When I ask my family, friends, support system what can I do? What do you need? The answer is always the same, and I think appropriate. They say you don’t need to do anything but keep healing. You’re doing great, you are doing exactly what you need to be doing. I think that’s the best answer to give someone living with an illness because our job is to cope with, heal, and live a contented life within our deficits. We have to trust our caregivers will get the support they need so they can have the same kind of happiness in life.

So, my question is: If you are (or were) a caregiver, family member, part of a support system, or a friend of someone with a physical, mental, emotional or chronic illness, What do you need?


Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph