By Amy Batista, Special Writer
HIGHTSTOWN – A local resident is the author of a fictionalized memoir dedicated to survivors of childhood abuse.
“I Am Sunshine: One Woman’s Journey to Heal from Childhood Sexual Abuse,” is a book by Trish Egan about her heroine, Idalia, who was sexually abused as a child. As a consequence, Idalia developed coping and survival strategies that made her life appear perfect on the outside, yet she felt emotionally disconnected and empty inside.
“Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I had always had a need to get my pent-up emotions out of me,” said Ms. Egan. “Journaling had satisfied me for years, but my desire to write increased due to the heightened hormones associated with having a baby.”
She said she never realized giving birth would trigger emotions in her stemming from the abuse.
“Fear being the ultimate emotion,” she said. “So, writing became a really good outlet.”
The book is about Idalia Nolic as she boldly embarks on her journey to find a more authentic life. After turning her perfect world upside down and starting over, she confronts the demons from her past, takes risks, and goes against the norm. When she learns to believe in herself and trust her intuition, she is able to find her life’s purpose, according to amazon.com.
Ms. Egan sheds light on the behavioral disorders that can develop following a traumatic childhood event. Commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), these behaviors often go unnoticed because they are developed at a young age as a form of survival and eventually become a part of our common beliefs. If we were traumatized as children, our PTSD mannerisms are often negative and troublesome behaviors. But when we address the painful experiences from the past, we are able to identify these behaviors that may be holding us back from reaching a more genuine life filled with purpose and passion, according to the book’s description on amazon.com.
Ms. Egan began writing the book in January 2009.
“At the time, I was unemployed and a fairly new stay-at-home mom,” she said, adding that her son, Colin was 5-months-old at the time. “During the day, I was busy with my new baby. However, once Colin and Dennis, my husband, would fall asleep, I would stay up for hours writing. The urge to write was so strong, but, I didn’t have a clue it would take me down this path.”
She said that she finished the book this past summer.
“The entire process was enlightening and an amazing experience,” she said. “I worked with a mentor, a published author. He really forced me to find my ‘voice’ by pushing me outside of my comfort zone.”
She said she also worked with a woman at a small publishing company who really guided her along.
“She was often brutally honest with me, forcing me to rewrite it,” she said. “My book could have been printed years ago, but she recommended I go back and make it better. She also put me in touch with a great editor in California who helped me to fine-tune my writing,” said Ms. Egan.
“I realized very early on that I wasn’t the expert at many things surrounding the creation of my book, and asking for help didn’t make me weak, it made me smart,” she said. “I also knew all the constructive criticism from the experts would help make my story better. I was writing for a cause and not just my personal achievement.”
She said that throughout the six years, the book went through many iterations, which were read by abuse survivors for feedback.
“This was another amazing experience as I realized how alike we survivors all are, and how cathartic the interaction was for us,” she said. “As the book began to take shape, my urge to write grew even stronger, becoming more of a mission. I wanted to put a face and a voice to my story and share it with survivors, so they would know they weren’t alone and that it is possible to heal from a traumatic event.”
She said that the book and what she believes it can accomplish has become her life’s mission andr purpose.
“That is, bringing more light to a dark subject and, most of all, helping others,” she said. “When I made the decision to seek help, I found it very difficult to find local support groups and retreats.”
Additionally, the expense associated with seeking help was substantial, and neither the support groups nor retreats were covered by her insurance.
“For those people who can’t afford it, I want to be able to subsidize these expenses,” she said. “I want to make it easier for survivors to find acceptable resources to help them heal.”
She said that money would come from a fund that she will establish or a donation that she would make to an established non-profit focused on helping survivors.
There are many highlights related to writing this book, she added.
“One personal highlight is I finished it,” she said. “Two, I encountered many divine experiences, which forced me to continue writing the book when I wanted to quit.”
She said that throughout the process she felt completely inadequate, thinking she wasn’t the right person to get this message out.
“But, as I have learned, God uses the least likely people and He reminded me of this every time I balked,” she said. “I have also learned He will give us what we need, when we need it as I have witnessed the right person walking into my life at precisely the right time.”
Ms. Egan also has another book project in mind, now that this one is finished.
“I tested it out several years ago and it did get some positive feedback,” she said, adding the idea was inspired by an author named Frank Warren.
He created a mail art project allowing people to mail their secrets anonymously to him on postcards, which he then turned into a book titled “PostSecret,” she said.
“Reading the book, I was amazed to see what people were willing to share,” she said. “I decided to follow the same format asking survivors to write a letter to their abuser(s), but I gave them the option to write it anonymously or signed.”
She said that in many cases, this act is the first opportunity survivors have to express themselves, giving them a much needed release.
“I posted my request on Craigslist and dropped postcards at area train stations,” she said. “Within a short period of time, I had five responses from people I had never met.”
One survivor in fact lives in Canada,” she said.
“Though this wasn’t my intention, she and I have become friends,” she said. “I ended up putting this project on hold so that I could concentrate on ‘I Am Sunshine: One Woman’s Journey to Heal from Childhood Sexual Abuse’ but, it is definitely something that will be resurrected.”
By Amy Batista, Special Writer