These Fists Should Be Raised in Anger / Early Recovery Writing


Throwback Thursday, Early Recovery Writing, Raw

Drafted first in 1993


These fists should be raised in anger.

This voice should breathe a cry.

Tears shed should bring relief

but the teardrops are my eyes.


Healing is too good a word, too soft for agony.

Inhaled in a nightmare, I always grip the wall.

Heavenly heights never help me now –

hell has been raised too far.


I run water in the bathroom,

force myself in scalding steam.

I watch with pleasure as my skin looks hot,

gets redder – I pretend I can boil myself clean.



An incest survivor, I am sexless,

androgynous with pain.

I need anger, vital –

feel nothing but the steady blows of shame.




My own body was a memory even as I lived.

A figure I saw but couldn’t feel or help

floating face down and naked –

in a pool of blood.


A child in the deep end, too far, who couldn’t swim.

Treading water to stay alive in my own bed.

How many days did I wake up dead

from holding my breath?


How to come back to life before school

with no one to help and nowhere to wash

the fingerprints of evidence all over my skin

that felt visible.


I loved school and hated home and despised summer and vacations

I couldn’t wait for the cage of relief

where I’d return to be protected

by desks and thoughts and bells.


I was the boy in the plastic bubble,

poisoned by the air of his world.

My truth caught in the frozen space between

of a hot tongue on a cold, wet pole.


I was too afraid to try a word.

Afraid I would

or would not

be heard.


My fists should be raised in anger.

My voice should breathe a cry.

Tears shed should bring relief

but the teardrops are my eyes.


The worst pain is always silent.

The loudest rage whispered in the mind.

I ache for God or Mother,

pray to the falling stars.


My innocence,

a stolen watch

I have learned to live without –

but how will I make up the time?



touh enough to handle childhood

Note: (picture to left from a decade or two ago).

I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was in my twenties. I started getting anxiety attacks after a cluster of trying life events. My step-father died and I saw two of my three perpetrators. My grandmother was battling ovarian cancer and I was helping to take care of her. A college friend took his life and my sister met the biological father we had not seen since we were toddlers. And he was drunk, homeless and unwell.

Now I can look back at how intense that time period was and how much I was struggling and grieving and trying to keep my shit together going to school and work and managing bills and the emotions which felt like tsunamis.

What I forgot is how directly I wrote about incest and how angry – no pissed off – I was.

It felt like I was fighting for my life then. I was fighting for my life. It felt that the pain was smothering me. Back then, it seemed I was weak and couldn’t carry my pain well. Now, I can’t believe I coped as well as I did.

And that even then I sought out other survivors and felt relief from writing. I joined a feminist writing collective at the Cambridge Women’s Center and wrote for a tiny newsletter. It was called For Crying Out Loud and it was for adults abused as children.

For Crying Out Loud.

Isn’t that name great?

The writing was mostly for my own catharsis and to help verbalize what I was going through. There were no books at the time and so reading the writing of other collective members was life support.

Actual life support.

I’m grateful For Crying Out Loud existed because it put me in touch with other survivors. But back then –  it felt radical – secret and shameful to be a survivor. There was no pride or sharing our writing widely. There was no using my real name or noting this contribution to such a literary effort giving voice to women on any resumes.

How things have changed.

I’m just amazed and so glad and HOPE it means young women find one another earlier and gather together more often.

And that those of us who are older share what we are learning, have learned and our experiences. Always.

You Matter Mantras

  • Trauma sucks. You don't.
  • Write to express not to impress.
  • It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
  • Breathing isn't optional.

You Are Invited Too & To:


  1. Thanks for this. I remember going to a support group soon after i had exposed the incest in my house. I watched and listened to the people cry.
    When it came my turn to speak i didn’t cry.
    I raged. I was furious. I remember thinking, at that time, that there was no way i would ever cry after I’d been hurt so badly. I would fight.
    My mother was actually present that night. I remember the shock on her face.
    Thank you for this.

    • Thank YOU so much for writing. For sharing. There are so many negative associations with anger and rage but it is entirely appropriate and healthy at times. And also, we are all different. There is no ONE way or ONE right way. Thank YOU for this!

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