3 page article on self help, suicide, recovery and The Shattered Oak. Click the link below.
Book Review: True story of woman’s abuse is open, honest
“The Shattered Oak: Overcoming Domestic Abuse and a Misdiagnosis of Mental Illness”
By Sherry Genga
By Colin Harrington
“The Shattered Oak: Overcoming Domestic Abuse and a Misdiagnosis of Mental Illness,” by Sherry Genga and published by Safe Goods Publishing in Sheffield, is based on a true story. It is a story of open and honest reflections of personal experience with domestic abuse, the profound realities of recovery and a startling, and ultimately triumphant, resolution.
The story ends well through the interventions of a therapist, a very sharp nurse and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Or. as the story’s hero describes it, “a little slice of heaven carved out just for me.” This is a story of straight-forward disclosure in the first-person narrative that informs, inspires and provides one person’s path through the wilderness of family dysfunction, abusive hardships in the extreme and extraordinary insights.
Narrator Barbara’s “whole life changed” when she married the charming, intelligent and talented man named Innocent. Barbara could not have predicted how horrendously violent and abusive Innocent would become, in spite of how he provided so well for her and her three daughters and created a lovely, upscale home for them. Barbara is “drawn to putting (her) thoughts down on paper.” Her journal entries are a solace and a method of keeping track of reality. With her husband’s lies and her discovery of shocking secrets of his past life, Barbara recalls her past in order to fathom how she finds herself in a relationship with a man who brutally beats her regularly. The fact is, she remembers a childhood without love, extreme poverty and want, and with these revelations, a deeper understanding of herself. She is also well aware that her husband, too, suffered torment and abuse himself while growing up in an alcoholic family.
In spite of the kindness of a therapist and a courageous divorce in which she attains freedom from abuse for herself and her daughters, Barbara cannot shake a profound depression that leads to three suicide attempts. Deeply religious and spiritual, Barbara prays for enlightenment, or at the very least, a release from mental torment. But when she is committed to a mental hospital, she experiences a jolting loss of personal freedom and brutal treatment. It seems that she has gone from a life of torment to a life of torment in a new kind of hell. But through the attentive and kind professionalism of a nurse named Nancy, who notices markings on her body that seem to indicate Barbara has an undiagnosed medical condition, just recently discussed in medical journals, Barbara is released on medical advice to an NIH hospital in Bethesda, Md. It is at that point that her story mercifully changes for the better in her climb to effective treatments for Cushing’s disease, pituitary cancer and a chance to recover her life.
Barbara’s treatments at that time were part of a ground-breaking clinical study. The effects of high degrees of stress are just now being understood when it comes to trauma and abuse. New insights into Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Cushing’s disease are important medical aspects of domestic abuse situations. This book is a good resource for those in need of help and it tells of how one heroic soul faced down extremes of abuse and trauma with love and determination to recover her life.
In her post script, the author writes, “Some stories are meant to be a secret and some stories are meant to be forgotten. Some stories need to be heard to help the survivor live. There is help for women battling domestic violence, child abuse, suicide and Cushing’s disease.” There are links and resources for that kind of help at the end of the book.
Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes readers’ comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This book possessed me” I just received the book in the mail, opened it, glanced inside to see how it begins. Did not move until I finished it. Definitely the author’s narration is hypnotic. It is taking some time to return to my normal state of mind. This may sound weird but I am describing as best I can what I have just experienced. I have been a psychotherapist for more than 30 years and I have written several self-help books. And I have read many, many more. Sherry Genga’s The Shattered Oak is like nothing else I have read with the one exception being the novelist, William Styron. This book is only 120 pages. Regardless of your motivation, I suggest that you read it.-Thom Rutledge, author of Embracing Fear- Tennesee
With suicide you never know what thoughts are racing through the saddened mind. Sometimes we can’t fathom that our friend, sibling, mother or father committed suicide. People around them felt like they were so happy, always laughing and smiling, never revealing signs that they were so depressed. Look at Robin Williams the famous comedian, who was always passing a joke. Suicidal people wear a mask and rarely share their true self or feelings. Whether they are ashamed of their depression or feel alone where they cannot trust anyone, they keep their thoughts a secret. Suicidal people want their privacy and don’t have the courage to ask for help when their mental state manifests the thoughts of choosing death. They may feel like they are in a vacuum, with darkness slowly seeping in and their breathing trending toward hyperventilation. Suicidal minds can feel blurred and even upside down, bringing them to the brink of insanity. In successful attempts, their demise is silent and not very forgiving. I know first-hand as a family member experienced several suicide attempts.
As I described in the book, The Shattered Oak, the victim was a recipient of domestic abuse from her husband. She took solace under the strong oak tree in her front yard. As she sunk further into mental illness, the oak too became distress and ill. In Barbara’s case she was lucky by surviving three suicide attempts. As we know some aren’t so lucky. I think most of us do occasionally struggle with depression but most filter it back out and let it go. Sometimes struggling makes us a stronger and gives us perspective to let go of our past and absorb our mistakes along the way. Most of us struggle with self-worth issues, but normally we rise to the occasion and succeeded. Depression can intervene in the thought process and cause us to focus on the negative. Psychologists continually try to understand why a person’s negative view of their situation outweighs their desire to live. Clinical studies have shown that stressful situations can actually bring on a form of mental illness where the person is not totally in control of their decisions. For the families of those victims many questions go unanswered.
Surviving suicide attempts and addressing mental illness can alter our viewpoint. Life is meant to present choices from our experiences that can change us for the positive. Barbara recovered after living through heartaches and burdens that transformed her future. Even this of us who live relatively normal lives, can learn that we have the sole capability to make beneficial choices in life. It’s how we elect to see, digest and live our lives that matters. The survival of the victim and her family in The Shattered Oak inspires us and reminds us that if we are struggling from thoughts of suicide from domestic abuse there are resources available. Family members should watch for the warning signs and not let the victim distance themselves from everyone. Suicide is on the rise and it is time we looked more closely at the link to stress from variety of conditions including domestic abuse, as a primary trigger. http://www.theshatteredoak.com
My last strategy for healthy wellbeing is easy and free to provide. I really try and make others smile because when I smile they smile and all their quiet sadness escapes them for a while. A smile is contagious and infectious the best medicine for the soul, changing the grey clouds to shinning blue skies changing their mood.
Asa part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to normalize the focus on mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Sherry Genga. Sherry is the owner and founder of Spring-eze women shoe inserts. Sherry’s entrepreneurship evolved from her current 25-year career in the High Roller lounge at Foxwoods Resort and Casino. She has spoken in classrooms to young entrepreneurs at local colleges. Inspiring them with the skills and resources on how to invent and develop a new product. This philosophy led her to the Connecticut Manufacturing Resource Center program, which helps small and midsize businesses in areas such as supplier development and securing a manufacturer for their product. Sherry is married to Jason Genga and has two children, Justin and Nicole. She resides in her small town in Connecticut where she grew up.
Thank you so much for joining us Sherry! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up with someone really close to me who was fighting mental illness inspired me to write this book, The Shattered Oak. My character “Barbara” had the courage and determination to give her the strength to move forward. Her powerful story needed to be told to help others like her fight domestic violence, depression, suicide and a misdiagnosis of mental illness that led her to an institution. A quote from her physician is compellingly saying, “We as physicians, must always question that the obvious answer may not be correct. Medicine is a career of learning, unlearning and learning anew as new diseases and cures are discovered. We should avoid questioning a diagnosis or treatment as was well demonstrated by this book.-Mark Tuttle, MD
According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
Mental illness can still be used as a dirty word. Emotional and physical abuse are still something we hide. You put these two words together and you enter the explosive narrative that is in Barbara’s world described in The Shattered Oak. Her incarceration of a mental institution created the stigma of guilt, failure, and shame.
Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?
The Shattered Oak story is based on a true story leading readers to discover that the past can ultimately affect the present. Past neglect, the stress of child abuse, and abandonment feelings in early adolescence can carry deep emotions through our adulthoods lives. Even though Barbara attempted to commit suicide three times, she was unaware of the underlining medical cause of her depression. Sometimes stress can play major roles in making us ill. Even though our psychologists may deem some minds mentally unstable, there may be an underlying condition affecting the patients’ behavior. Some people are not lucky enough to discover that they are not mentally unstable but ultimately their mind may be convoluted because of a disease.
Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?
The story I want to be told is to help others cope with mental illness by inspiring them with courage and the ability to move forward with determination without feeling alone. By reading Barbara’s story in The Shattered Oak I want to empower those to stay strong by embracing their stance with two feet on the ground. This will fuel their survival with the power of faith.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
We as individuals can play a huge part in society by listening to what we hear. Everyone wants to be heard. We all need is to look for the warning signs. Sometimes we can’t fathom that our friend, sibling, mother or father committed suicide. People around them felt like they were so happy, always laughing and smiling, never revealing signs that they were so depressed. Look at Robin Williams the famous comedian, who was always passing a joke. Suicidal people often wear a mask and rarely share their depression or feel alone where they cannot trust anyone, and they keep their thoughts a secret. Suicidal people want their privacy and don’t have the courage to ask for help when their mental state manifests the thoughts of choosing death. They feel like they are in a vacuum, with darkness slowly seeping in and their breathing trending towards hyperventilation. Suicidal minds can feel blurred and even upside down, bringing them to the brink of insanity. In successful attempts, their demise is silent and not very forgiving. I know first-hand as having a family member who experienced several suicide attempts.
The survival of the victim and her family in The Shattered Oak inspires us and reminds us that if we are struggling with thoughts of suicide there are resources available. Family members should watch for the warning signs and not let the victim distance themselves from everyone. Suicide is on the rise and it is time we looked more closely at the link to stress from a variety of conditions.
As far as government policies go, I feel they can play a role to make sure insurance cover patients with mental illness. Without insurance, many people suffer silently and alone with no choice because they cannot afford to get the professional help they need.
What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1. First, I always remind myself to be grateful. Gratefulness gets me through a bad day. On my way to work if I pass a homeless person, sadness engulfs me and my heart sinks. There is always something we can find in our lives small or big to be grateful for. When our minds in that perspective fill us up inside, wonderful things happen.
2. A huge role in my personality is to stay focused on the positive. In any given situation there are always two ways to look at life; a positive force and a negative. Negative thoughts just wear you down to the brink of insanity, so I try and shed light on the positive. My own confidence gets stronger and I have healthier, happier wellbeing.
3. With positivity running through my mind I try and stay focused and try to surround myself with positive people as much as possible. The people you associate with can influence your self-worth. By having a good friend, coworkers or groups this can make you feel worthy and grounded to help you through your own difficult times.
4. I get inspired and enjoy that I tend to gravitate towards the wise person of the group, creating that feeling of warmth and inspiration that helps me to grow. We do learn from the environment that we choose to surround ourselves with. This will instill me the courage to be united and strong.
5. Daily exercise for me is a dose of medicine. I need this to release toxins and unload my stress. The harder I work the more I exercise. It feels like my dose of vitamins to me. Nature and fresh air enhance my wellbeing. The smell of the ocean and the moss of the trees find me great peace and serenity, raising my endorphins and lowering my cortisol levels from stress.
6. My last strategy for healthy wellbeing is easy and free to provide. I really try and make others smile because when I smile they smile and all their quiet sadness escapes them for a while. A smile is contagious and infectious the best medicine for the soul, changing the grey clouds to shinning blue skies changing their mood.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
My favorite books are two memoirs The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. Their emotional journey these women take to remind me vividly of Barbara in The Shattered Oak. Their similarities show tremendous strength and courage.Authority Magazine
Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.
Growing up in a small town in Connecticut, I am a firm believer of everything happens for a reason. My new story has a profound stance on the world. The more I share my story, the more I see a strong perspective of healing the delicate minds that are so unbalanced. If I knew I could not fail, I would spread the word on paper and post it on every oak tree, every bulletin board and every ear willing to listen. I have learned so much about writing Barbara’s story and feeling her emotional pain that I have mapped out my own path for a more positive life. Our thoughts are like looking at our reflection in the water glimmering, smeared, blurred and even upside down. Sometimes effecting our minds to the brink of insanity. Our visions need to stay clear and only reflect on what is important without focusing on the negative. Valuable knowledge can be extracted from our past by absorbing our mistakes along the way. Life is meant to grasp at our experiences, learning how our impressions can change us for the positive after living through our heartaches and burdens that transform our future into proud accomplishments. I have learned that I have the capability to make my own choices in life. It’s how I elect to see, digest and live my life that matters. Realizing laughter and smiles can inspire us to get through our deepest darkest days and free our souls from depression. Domestic abuse, suicide, and mental illness all can be managed with the right resources if we are all willing to help inspire those who are in need. Barbara needs her oak tree to stay strong through the story. Just like her, I find my peace and serenity in nature. The calmness in the air helps me to understand how I can respect myself by discovering my clever spirit along the way and unearthing my inner peace.
To learn the story go to www.theshatteredoak.com
“This book possessed me” I just received the book in the mail, opened it, glanced inside to see how it begins. Did not move until I finished it. Definitely the author’s narration is hypnotic. It is taking some time to return to my normal state of mind. This may sound weird but I am describing as best I can what I have just experienced. I have been a psychotherapist for more than 30 years and I have written several self-help books. And I have read many, many more. Sherry Genga’s The Shattered Oak is like nothing else I have read with the one exception being the novelist, William Styron. This book is only 120 pages. Regardless of your motivation, I suggest that you read it.-Thom Rutledge, author of Embracing Fear. Tennesee