Untangled: A story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph
Book Review and Interview with Alexis Rose
AMAZON BOOK DESCRIPTION: Recalling her life, the author takes us on a journey of unimaginable abuse with continued explicit threats that eventually led to her being sent overseas on an impossible mission. She repressed the memories of her past until a family tragedy forced her to face what her life had been. A history of abuse, torture, and threats to maintain her silence or be killed could no longer be denied. This is the story of facing the truth and risking the consequences of breaking the silence. The author learns to accept the effects of the trauma that echo through her daily life as PTSD.Through years of self-exploration, she learns to live her life fearlessly, with eyes wide open. Ultimately this book is about resilience; hope for victims who have suffered trauma and for the people who support them.
Rose Gluck’s Book Review
Untangled is a heartbreaking yet fascinating read. The narrative has a paradoxical quality. While Alexis Rose tells her story chronologically, taking the reader from early ritual abuse to later more nefarious victimization and finally to a self possessed adulthood, the story emerges through the her retrospective self-enlightenment. Rose is a natural story teller and has a command over language. The book was honest and intimate. The type of abuse Rose survived is rarely discussed. She sheds light on victimization involving the body and the mind. The mind control and programming imposed on her t left an unsettled impression. The dark sub-societies responsible for her abuse at first seemed confined to her parents’ circle of religious affiliates some of which were high standing community members. Things turn as she approaches adolescence. Her life becomes an uncertain existence, one minute hanging out with school friends and the next sent alone on a flight to face mind control and prostitution. As a young adult, the web of deceit and moral malignancy spans across the United States and later into other countries. Rose is careful in her presentation of these traumatic recollections. Instead of detailed descriptions of abuse and exploitation, she is an enlightened tour guide leading us back into her past traumas. Despite the severity of abuse, Untangled was highly readable and uplifting. Rose only grazes the accounts of abuse, yet maintains a suspenseful accounting of her psychological states throughout her trauma. Rose’s strength is the backbone of the story and carries us through terrifying terrain.
The story is both captivating and sincere. The author repeatedly turned to the epicenter of this destruction—her own mother—for safety. Most heartbreaking of all was Rose’s mother’s toxic narcissism and inability to feel compassion for her children. It’s hard to imagine one’s mother as orchestrator of such horrific trauma, yet repeatedly her mother set her up, negotiating and facilitating the conditions of her daughter’s abuse.
Rose finds a way out of the abuse but the effects of complex post traumatic stress disorder are enduring. The second half of the book describes the many influences trauma exerts on her adult life. While her resilience persisted and she found a loving partner and went on to have two children, her suppression of the traumatic events both haunt and threaten her psychologically. Juggling many roles Rose parlays her strength and ability to deny and repress her emotions. Despite her efforts, life becomes increasingly difficult to manage during her children’s teenage years when near tragedy strikes. Towards the end of the book Rose shares her healing through work with an acupuncturist and a trauma therapist.
Untangled is a fascinating case study of complex post traumatic stress disorder. It is also a portrait of personal fortitude and resilience. Alexis Rose is a highly likable narrator. Despite her complicated and painful early experiences she is admirable and relatable.
Interview with Author Alexis Rose
I am so honored that Alexis Rose shared her book and life experiences with me. We exchanged emails before the interview and tossed around a few ideas for interview topics. We decided to focus on parenting and PTSD. As a mother and a survivor of childhood trauma I shared Alexis’s opinion that there is very little information out there on this very important subject. Thank you so much, Alexis for your story and wisdom! In addition to Untangled, Alexis Rose has authored three inspirational books inspired by the role of meditation in her spiritual and personal journey, Of Earth and Sky, A Painted Journey, and Inner Landscapes. I’ve included pages from her book Of Earth and Sky.
Q: How did the trauma effect your parenting before and after you started having flashbacks / PTSD (when your daughter was in a car accident as a teenager).
When my kids were younger I had the same fears of other new parents. But I also was silently trying to figure out how to keep a protective bubble around them from my perpetrators. I wasn’t having active flashbacks, it was simply the effects of my trauma and lack of trust in anyone’s intentions but my own.
At some level I knew I was being unreasonable and overprotective with my children. When I got together with other parents, I could clearly see that they loved and wanted to protect their kids as much as I did, but they weren’t constantly looking around corners for the same threats that I felt I needed to shield Cody and Aria from. The only time I could relax was when they were sound asleep.
I attended Early Childhood Family Education classes and made sure that the kids had plenty of play dates. I worked in daycare so they were near me as I kept a sharp eye out for danger. At first I talked with other parents so I could get some ideas on how they kept their kids safe, but I quickly saw that they didn’t share my fears. They had the “normal” fears most parents had for their children. They child-proofed their houses and taught their kids not to touch hot stoves, to look both ways before crossing the street, and to not go off with strangers.
No one could relate to my fear that my two children might be taken off to another country at any moment. At first I thought, “What’s wrong with these parents?” Then I realized that I was the one that was going overboard. I sat back and watched how other parents interacted with their kids. I was great at reading social cues and quickly learned how typical parents saw the world, so I wouldn’t smother my kids with with my own fears.
I could put on a great public face. I was outgoing in small group settings where I felt at ease and in control, but I was extremely uncomfortable in larger groups. I’m sure I came across as shy and aloof. The truth was that in a crowd of people, I had a hard time reading all the social cues and non-verbal communication. I’d get agitated at losing control over my surroundings. Going into a crowded room I would always check for exits, so I could quickly leave if I needed to. I was always trying to discern who was dangerous from who was safe, so functioning in large group settings was exhausting.
Q: As someone who experiences PTSD how do you think you are different from parents who haven’t experienced trauma?
I had no role models in my life to help me with parenting questions, nor did I have any positive adult figures in my life growing up. In my life, there were no adults who were safe in any capacity. When my husband and I decided to have children we immediately went to counseling to consciously break the cycle of abuse we had both experienced growing up. I also made an active decision to never treat my children how I was treated. I knew what it felt like to never feel love, to know that no one cared about me (except for what I could do for them) and to never feel safety in my surroundings or entertain hopes or dreams. There was never a future dream for me, only survival to the next time I needed to survive something else. I was resolute my children, or any child who came into our home would ever feel anything like that.
I believe that is where the difference ends. I want to believe that parents who have been through trauma and parents who had “typical” upbringings want to ensure unconditional love, have their children feel cared about and know there is a feathered nest for them to land whatever their age.
I know that may not always be the case, and there are many children who aren’t raised that way. My hope is for children who don’t have that experience because parents are unable or unwilling to provide that security, that those kids (or adults) find connection from others in their lives, no matter what their age.
As with many people who have gone through extensive trauma, I had severe attachment issues. One of my therapist’s roles was to provide a “parental” attachment. The first one I ever experienced in my life. I call him, My Rhesus Monkey Mom.
Q: Are there special qualities as a parent that you have and pass on to your kids as a survivor of abuse?
I’m not sure if I have special qualities that I passed on to my kids. I actively tried to teach them kindness, compassion and empathy for others. My assumption is that other parents’ do the same. I don’t guilt or shame my kids, and just always had the expectation that they will be the best person they can be.
I want them to go to sleep at night, or look in the mirror knowing that they are the kind of person they strive to be. If they hurt someone, apologize, when they make a mistake learn from it, have self-compassion and understand that the words that come out of their mouth matter.
As with most parents, I made a lot of mistakes while raising my children. I also apologized when it was appropriate to do so. I tried to be super mom, super wife, super employee, super friend, and because I wasn’t super anything but human, I got crabby, tired, short-tempered and frustrated at times. But, I also apologized, when it was warranted. When they did things that were hurtful, they were taught to apologize and I wanted to role-model the same behavior. Humor is important to me, and there were times that I would say, “well, I guess you will have something to tell your therapist when you get older.”
I tried to instill in them that the world is a big place with lots of different people, religions, ways of life and beliefs. Choose what keeps you grounded, get out explore the world and hear another person’s point of view before passing judgement.
Q: How much do your children know about your past experiences with trauma?
My kids didn’t know much of anything before I got sick. They knew my mother and decided at very young ages that they didn’t want to be around her, and I let them make that decision. I don’t have any extended family who live in the same state so my kids don’t know my siblings.
My only goal was to protect my children, while actively repressing my past so they didn’t know the extent of the trauma. I talked to them when Untangled was ready to be published, asked them if they wanted to read the book. They both said yes, so that’s the time when they learned the extent of my trauma. You can imagine how difficult it was for them to know these things happened to their mom, and it rocked their world for quite a while.
The symptoms of my PTSD have profoundly affected my family. I went from the grounded beacon of the family to becoming almost totally dependent on them. I have been able to maintain a “mom role” and thank goodness, my children are now in their twenties, but it’s difficult to know that my daughter is not only my daughter but one of my caregivers. She is the one who can tell right away if I am having a “bad day.” Among other things, she knows where I can look on a menu so I don’t get overwhelmed by choices, she can tell if I am in over my head and can tell if I’m triggered. My son, who I think had the biggest problem adjusting because mom wasn’t mom anymore, has grown into taking the responsibility of managing anything that is concrete and sequential. He’s a teacher by profession and he feels best when he can problem solve a problem for me.
It’s all okay, and it’s all not okay. My family dynamic has changed, and that happens. When you are the reason for the change it’s a slippery slope from feeling like a burden to feeling like this is what happens in life and we adjust. I also want to be honest when I speak and write on living with courage and resilience, like any disease, PTSD doesn’t just affect one person, it affects all those in your life who care about you and love you. It’s something I’m aware of everyday, it’s something my family and my close friends are aware of and it can be an uncomfortable, but never dull life. I’m sure if asked, my family may pick dull….but maybe not.
My son calls it the New Normal
I can’t go to the grocery store alone, can’t cook like I used to, can’t drive anytime anywhere on a whim…I need to be mindful about where and when I go, I’m unable to work and I can’t be alone for long periods of time without someone checking in on me. All those things were a huge adjustment and a big change.
My son says. “it used to be a weird – now we don’t think about it, it’s just regular old life.
Alexis Rose lives in the mid-west with her husband and two children. Besides writing Untangled, she has collaborated on three inspirational books, working with photographers and watercolor artists to bring inspiring and motivational messages for the heart and soul.
Alexis writes about PTSD, Mental Health and Trauma and is an experienced speaker on the topic of living with courage and resilience in the face of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She has also presented multiple interactive workshops using writing as a tool for healing and personal growth.
You can purchase her memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph through the links below on Amazon.com
Connect with Alexis via her blog.https://atribeuntangled.com/blog