…There have been many moments where I have considered throwing in the towel. Truthfully, what keeps me going on both fronts are the stories and feedback I receive from my readers. Their words have brought me to tears on multiple occasions. They are the reason I keep writing (often in the middle of the night as I homeschool and take care of my daughter full time). Nothing will erase what happened to me, but to know that I have made someone feel understood truly touches my heart. Although my words have helped others, my readers have helped me just as much. I am so grateful to every one of them.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Randi Latzman.
Randi Latzman realized that those who are survivors of abuse have less support and increased isolation due to the pandemic. She bravely decided to share her own story of child abuse through her writing and created her blog, Surviving Mom Blog (www.survivingmomblog.com), in hopes of bringing comfort and awareness to hardships in life, relationships, and motherhood. She also wrote a humorous picture book to bring support and laughter to the journey of parenting and contributes to abuse foundations and numerous publications including The MIGHTY, Morning Lazziness, and Thought Catalog.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thank you for interviewing me! I would be honored to let your readers know more about me.
A warning-my childhood story is not one from which fairy tales are born. I grew up with a mentally unstable mom. At a very young age my role was to listen to my mother’s marital problems, as she and my dad were always arguing (sometimes physically, but most of the time it was screaming at one another). I developed a very unhealthy and codependent relationship with her. I felt it was my job to listen to her problems, support her emotionally, and take care of her. My own well-being and safety were completely contingent on my mother’s well-being. When she was upset or wanted nothing to do with me, I felt worthless.
At the age of 8, my mother started throwing me out of the house when she felt I misbehaved. The first time this happened it was dark outside, and I walked a block to a nearby park and sat on a bench. I felt helpless, unloved, and discarded. This became my mother’s go to way of punishing me. The amount of time I wasn’t allowed inside varied from minutes to many hours. I felt unsafe and incredibly degraded each time she forced me to leave and beg to come back inside. It made me view the world as a very scary place. I had nobody to protect me, and the person who was supposed to look out for me was the one hurting me.
My father was complicit and would follow my mom’s instructions. I always voiced that what was being done to me was wrong, but my mom would tell me that I brought it on myself by not listening to her.
I always felt that what my mom did to me was wrong, but it took adulthood to grasp that what she was doing was abusive. Emotional/psychological abuse is often taboo and harder to recognize by others because the scars are internal. There needs to be more light shined on emotional/psychological abuse so that there is never a doubt that abuse comes in many forms. The lack of openness and education about this made it easier to see my mother as a wacko rather than abusive. There isn’t enough widespread knowledge about the numerous ways abuse can rear its ugly head.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite “Life Lessson Quote” is, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This quote has been instrumental in my life.
I talk a lot about acceptance in my blog. I have a different take on courage; I believe it takes great courage to accept hard truths.
As a child, I was powerless to the abuse that I endured.My mother was abused as a child, and in turn, my mother abused me. I had to accept that I couldn’t change my past, and that nothing I said or did would ever make that okay. That was one of the hardest things to accept and surrendering to that truth has helped me in my road to healing.
As an adult, I had to accept that my mother was never going to be able to give me or my daughter the kind of love and support that we needed and deserved. I had to face that she was going to hurt my daughter just as she hurt me because she is incapable of unconditional love. Although I could not change my mother, I had the power to control who I allowed in my life. That gave me the courage to go no contact with my mother.
I also had to accept that it was up to me to end the cycle of abuse. I couldn’t change my abuse, but I could make sure it stopped with me. I vowed to face every terrible thing that was done to me to ensure that I never did the same thing to my child. It was my responsibility to make sure my daughter knew she was loved unconditionally.
I am happy to say that I was able to keep that promise, and I have a wonderful daughter who I love more than life itself. I am far from perfect, but keeping that vow gave me power in a situation where I was once powerless.
Acceptance was paramount regarding my daughter’s learning issues and diagnosis of ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. What I can change is giving her the support she needs and being her biggest advocate. I fought for her to get an IEP, and this is the second year that I’ve been homeschooling her.
When my husband started drinking and abusing pills, I had to accept that I could not save him or make him sober. I had to cut my codependent tendencies and focus on what I could change, which was myself.
I found a marriage counselor who specialized in addiction, and I made a promise to myself that I would take my daughter and leave if he didn’t get help. My husband made the decision to check himself into an outpatient program. I am very proud of him, but it is his choice and responsibility to stay clean and sober, although I will always support him.
Having the wisdom to know what to accept and what to change was pivotal when I made the decision to use my voice to share my story. I have faced many hardships in life. I cannot rewrite my trauma and struggles, but I can have the courage of conviction to stand up and support others. My past will never change, but my hope is that I can perhaps change someone’s present or future.
Most importantly, I know what it is like to grow up and have people treat you like you don’t matter. What starts off as other people’s words soon become the words you tell yourself. My greatest hope is that each of us can accept that we cannot change what others think or believe about us. What we can do is stand up and have the courage to believe in ourselves.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book, It Wasn’t Your Fault: Freeing Yourself from the Shame of Childhood Abuse with the Power of Self-Compassion by Beverly Engel, resonated with me tremendously. Beverly Engel is a psychotherapist who specializes in working with victims of childhood abuse, and she was also a victim of childhood abuse. Reading a story about a woman who was a victim of abuse, but more importantly, who had the courage and strength to heal from her trauma and use her own pain to help others, was incredibly inspiring.
The message of the book is also incredibly helpful and impactful for anyone who is struggling with trauma. I spent most of my life feeling intense shame for what happened to me. As an adult, I had the same feelings of sadness and anxiousness that I did from my childhood. I felt embarrassed that I was scared about so many things, angry that things that came easier to others were so hard for me, and self-loathing that I couldn’t just let go of my feelings of sadness about my mother and about my childhood.
I tried all kinds of therapeutic and self-help treatments. I implemented every suggestion and tool, but my feelings never went away. I was desperate to figure out how to make those symptoms go away. With each failed attempt I asked myself, “What is wrong with me?” and, “Will I ever get better?”
I had endless compassion during my husband’s journey of sobriety. I felt nothing but compassion for my daughter’s struggles, and when she felt badly about herself because of her learning issues, I told her that she might learn in a different way, but that doesn’t define who she is a person . I reminded her that who she is as a person is what defines her. I even had compassion for my mother because her own mother had been abusive to her. I had compassion for everyone else, but I couldn’t give myself that same support and understanding.
I was told by more than one therapist that the road to healing can only happen if you accept who you are, but that made no sense to me. I was seeking professional help because I wanted things about me to change, so how could I accept them? This was the ultimate catch-22. I needed to accept the parts of me that I disliked in order to heal the parts of me that I disliked? I couldn’t wrap my mind around that.
It took me some time, but I finally discovered the answer to that question, just as Beverly Engel brilliantly explains in her book. I spent so many years trying to “fix” myself, that it never occurred to me that maybe giving myself permission to feel however I needed to feel would set me free.
This book sends the same message to survivors; we need to show ourselves compassion and understanding in order to free ourselves from the shame and self-loathing.
I started to rewrite the narrative I told myself. What if I defined myself based on who I am as a person, and had compassion for my struggles? What if I understood that it was perfectly understandable for me to feel the way I feel based on my life’s circumstances? Even crazier, what if I recognized that what I went through would affect anyone? What if instead of judging myself and feeling shame, I applauded myself for being the person I am, despite all the terrible things that happened to me?
Just as I told my daughter that she is defined by the person she is, I now understand that labels don’t define me. Who I am as a person is what defines me. I can show compassion for my struggles and by doing so, leave space for healing. I have learned that not only am I okay with who I am, I am proud of who I am, flaws and all.
No matter what cards life has dealt us, we all have struggles. Everyday life, and especially life during a pandemic, is a world filled with uncertainty, hardships, and confusion. My hope is that now, more than ever, instead of beating ourselves up, we are able to lift ourselves up. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but if we have compassion for ourselves, maybe, just maybe, we can be better equipped to handle whatever comes our way.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Truthfully, I had no career before the pandemic began. Prior to having my daughter, I was a Speech-Language-Pathologist with the preschool population. When I had my daughter in 2012, I became a Stay-at-Home-Mom. I spent the first four years of my daughter’s life taking care of her by myself, as my husband struggled with addiction.
When my daughter was four, she was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. I took her to occupational therapy for almost two years, but her hyperactivity and lack of emotional regulation were still a huge concern. After advocating for more support for my daughter when she was in kindergarten, I made the decision to take her out of school and homeschool her. I then fought for her to get further testing, and an IEP confirmed my suspicions that she also has ADHD and auditory processing issues. I have continued to homeschool my daughter, while looking for schools that will be able to give her the type of support she needs.
Most of my life, I felt it was my job to take care of others. That was my “career.” I spent my entire childhood feeling my identity was taking care of my mother. I managed to break free from that, but somewhere along the way I forgot who I was besides being a wife and mother. The pandemic changed all that….
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
During the pandemic we lost my husband’s grandmother to COVID. My husband’s parents also got COVID and continue to show symptoms (they are known as longhaulers).
The pandemic has brought us a world of sadness, fear, and isolation. Writing has always been an outlet for me, but it never occurred to me to use the power of writing to help others. I thought about all the abuse and trauma survivors who have less support because of the pandemic. A lightbulb went off in my head that I wanted to reach out to foundations for abuse survivors and use my love of writing to try and help others.
I wanted to provide comfort and validation to others by sharing my experiences. I realized I had a story to tell, and I wanted to support as many people as possible. I decided to start a blog and hold nothing back. I continue to be a regular contributor for abuse foundations, but starting a blog has given me more flexibility and reach.
I also decided to use my writing to bring some light and humor into the world. I started (and finished) writing a humorous picture book told through the eyes of a young child. Each day centers around a typical event in a child’s life. The main character responds to these events in true toddler fashion, causing complete havoc while shortening her mother’s life span.
The book is inspired by many actual circumstances that took place with my daughter. Seeing the happiness and joy (and chaos) my daughter experiences each day allows me to see the good in the world, and I am excited to find the right agent and publisher to bring this manuscript to life.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I was watching a movie with my husband called Just Mercy. The movie is starring Michael B. Jordan, and is a true story based on Bryan Stevenson. This remarkable man overcame immense diversity, and he went from living in the projects to graduating from Harvard Law School.
Instead of working at a fancy law firm, Bryan decided to use his knowledge to create a non-profit to help others. He got an innocent man off death row, and he went on to save many others from the criminal injustices so many people face.
I cry at most movies (and commercials, but that is a story for a different day), but something about this story deeply touched my heart. I saw a man who chose to try to do good in the world and who kept getting up and fighting for others.
Something about watching this story unravel and seeing this lawyer’s determination made something inside of my head click. It was truly an “aha” moment. I felt an immense desire to use my horrific circumstances to fight for others in my own way. I can never change what happened to me, but if I can use it to make others feel less alone in this world than something good can come from it.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Thank you for asking! Truthfully, it was terrifying to start my blog and put my story out into cyberspace. I’m actually a very private person, and each time I hit the “publish” button I have trepidation.
I have learned that in life, sometimes we must step out of our own way. My blog was just ranked #26 in the top 100 Stay-at-Home-Mom Blogs on Feedspot. I nearly fell off my seat when I heard the news! My blog has also been read in nearly every state and in numerous countries. It is very humbling that people around the world are reading my words.
I have covered numerous topics such as abuse, parenting, self-care, codependency, addiction, emotional regulation, and tips for children with ADHD and special needs. I have also shared humorous stories regarding life and parenting.
I now realize there is a lot more to writing than just writing! Besides the technical aspects of blogging, which I knew nothing about, figuring out the intricacies of blogging has not been an easy task. Between marketing, search engine optimization, making your posts aesthetically pleasing, and coming up with new content, blogging is a job within a job within a job. I take my hat off to each and every blogger!
The same goes with writing a book. I naively thought that coming up with a topic, writing it, and editing it were going to be the most difficult parts. I couldn’t be more wrong! Writing a manuscript is only a manuscript unless you can get it published.
Although many of my articles have gotten published, I am new to the world of book publishing. Finding an agent is incredibly difficult, and I have had to learn to have a thick skin. Rejection is inevitable along the journey. I can only continue to persevere and have faith that my hard work and determination will pay off.
There have been many moments where I have considered throwing in the towel. Truthfully, what keeps me going on both fronts are the stories and feedback I receive from my readers. Their words have brought me to tears on multiple occasions. They are the reason I keep writing (often in the middle of the night as I homeschool and take care of my daughter full time). Nothing will erase what happened to me, but to know that I have made someone feel understood truly touches my heart. Although my words have helped others, my readers have helped me just as much. I am so grateful to every one of them.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I owe a huge thanks to my husband for his endless support. When I came to him with my idea about starting a blog, I expected him to dissuade me. Between homeschooling my daughter, taking time each day to be a mom and not just a teacher, and having little to no free time to begin with, I thought he would say that it was simply not possible at the moment.
To my amazement, he immediately started looking into hosting providers for my blog. He helped me format, create social media accounts, and proofread my articles.
He has shown the same support towards my book. He tells me all the time that he thinks my book is wonderful and that it is just a matter of time before I find representation. He encourages me to keep sending query letters to agents and reminds me to never give up on myself or my dreams.
The amount of time I spend on these endeavors is quite time consuming, and it takes time away from the two of us. He’s had to remind to take a break and to take a step (or ten) away from the computer, but he understands why these projects are so important to me, and his faith in what I am trying to achieve is unwavering.
Whenever I feel doubt, he cheers me on. When I lack faith in myself, he believes in me. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive husband throughout this entire roller coaster of a ride.
I also wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my daughter. She is the reason why I get out of bed every morning. I have learned so much about myself through being a mother. She has taught me patience (which I lacked greatly prior to becoming a mother), hope, perseverance, self-acceptance, and the true meaning of unconditional love.
Most of all, I learned that love is the antidote for fear. I have done things I never thought I was possible of doing out of love for my daughter. Loving my daughter gives me strength I didn’t think I possessed. Being her mother has helped me to be a greater person, and she has given me the courage to believe in myself and my dreams.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
One of my favorite/interesting stories is that I got a PM on Facebook from a woman at 3 in the morning. I was very confused as to why someone would be on social media at such a late hour, until I realized that she lives in South Africa!
She had messaged me to let me know how much she appreciated that I shared my story about child abuse, and that she had printed it out and put it on her refrigerator to remind herself that she isn’t alone. I burst into tears instantly upon reading this. I printed out her response as a reminder to myself that I was able to help one person, and that makes it all worth it.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Building an audience doesn’t happen overnight. I remember when I started that first week only about 10 people read my first two posts. They were all my family and close friends. Even having subscribers doesn’t guarantee that those people will read all your posts. It takes a lot of time and patience to grow consistent readers.
- SEO is crucial when blogging. To be honest, when I started writing I didn’t know what SEO was or why it was needed. I wrote posts and didn’t have any idea about keywords or google ranking. I have had to redo every one of my almost 40 articles to make it more “keyword friendly.” It also takes time for google to pick up on your posts. Patience is necessary, which is very difficult for me!
- No matter the effort or quality, some people are just not going to read what you write. I honestly pour my heart and soul into every post that I write. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to write about all the things that I have gone through. It’s very disheartening when I write about things that come from the deepest recesses of my soul and 50 people read it in a week. The truth is that some topics make people uncomfortable, and you can’t force people to lean into things that make them feel that way. Some of my favorite posts are ones that are not popular. I am still learning that views aren’t always an accurate measure.
- Writing takes a toll on you emotionally, physically, and psychologically. I’ve had many readers say that they hope my articles are cathartic and help with my healing. The truth is, every time I write something it takes a lot out of me, and I often have nightmares. As much as I have spoken, written and thought about what I’ve endured, it is incredibly painful to share those experiences with the world. At one point I was writing three articles a week in addition to writing on other websites and querying agents. I was getting no sleep, I was exhausted all the time, and I got really depressed. I learned that moderation is crucial in all aspects of life, and this is no exception. Rome wasn’t built overnight, and I can’t rush this process. I have to take my own advice and give myself permission to enjoy life and not just write about it!
- Blogging is its own reward.; do not do this if you think you’re going to make money quickly. I spend a minimum of 20 hours a week working on the blog, on top of the time I spend querying agents. I literally get pennies on the dollar for ads, so I am very much in the negative. It’s tough to not get any monetary compensation when you have put your blood, sweat and tears into something. I am doing this to make a difference. If I weren’t, I would have no reason to keep writing.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I think that self-care is a wonderful strategy to optimize mental wellness. I wrote a post comprised of numerous self-care suggestions because it often gets neglected. We can’t pour from an empty cup, so taking the time for our emotional well-being is essential.
I make sure to take a minimum of ten minutes a day to journal. I use that time to write about my feelings, struggles, and areas of growth that I’d like to improve. Getting my private feelings and anxiety on paper help me to see my thought patterns and the underlying stories I’m telling myself regarding those thoughts.
I also do relaxation exercises every day. My favorite one is where I start at my feet and take a deep breath, contrast my feet for eight seconds, and then relax them on the exhale. I continue doing this with my legs, pelvis, stomach, chest, shoulders, arms, hand, and then my head. I finally take a deep breath and contrast everything at the same time and then let my entire body relax on the exhalation. Now, more than ever, we each must take the time for self-care.
I also think that during this time of uncertainty and fear, staying connected to loved ones helps us stay grounded. We literally do not know what tomorrow will bring, so I try to focus on what is truly important and not sweat the small stuff. It’s a struggle for me, but thinking about all the loss and tragedy in this world helps put things in perspective. My suggestion is to tell your family how much you love them, send your friend a text to say you are thinking of them, and cuddle with your children.
Lastly, I try to devote time each day doing things I enjoy. Moderation is such a struggle for me, and if I don’t stop to take a breath and do the small things that make me happy I will eventually fall apart. I take time each day to read a few pages of my latest book, watch TV, and/or play a board game. Even if it’s only for five minutes, do something that brings you joy!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
There is not enough awareness about emotional and psychological abuse. There were people who knew what was happening to me as a child, but nobody thought to do anything about it because of the lack of knowledge. People don’t understand abuse is not only defined by external scars. Abandonment, neglect, narcissism, manipulation, lies, and a lack of emotional safely are all abusive, and no child should have to live like that. There needs to be more awareness and education about emotional abuse so that there is never a doubt that a child can get abused without a parent leaving a physical mark.
Linked to abuse is the occurrence of CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which is what happens due to prolonged trauma. I spent years not knowing that my anxiety and depression were because I had CPTSD. Even worse, therapists misdiagnosed me due to lack of knowledge about CPTSD.
Abuse and CPTSD are often topics that are associated with shame. Victims are afraid to speak about their abuse because they don’t feel others will understand due to the lack of awareness and the discomfort. With more awareness and education, there can be support, understanding and encouragement for survivors.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would LOVE to have lunch with Mo Willems and Doreen Cronin. They are both such brilliant, funny writers, and their books enthrall adults along with children. I enjoy reading their books just as much as my daughter does and laughing together with my daughter while reading is priceless.
Mo Willems and Doreen Cronin were the two children’s book writers who inspired my picture book. I hope that my words will bring humor to children and the parents whose hair turns grayer with each passing day. If I could have lunch with them, I would be so starstruck that I’d probably be speechless (which if you ask my husband, is a nearly impossible task). I’m giddy at the thought of it!
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me on Facebook: Surviving Mom Blog: Motherhood, Relationships, Wellness and Self-Care
You can also go onto my website (www.survivingmomblog.com) and subscribe to get all my posts delivered to your inbox!
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you so much, and a big thank you to your readers! I hope to connect with you!