Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Addiction Abuse Connection: Part One A Shattered Childhood

Trigger Warning: abuse, including sexual abuse. Also sex and sexual assault. (I don't believe in trigger warnings, but include them because I don't want to deal with getting into discussions about how an essay I wrote triggered you).

Me age 10.

When I was about 9 or 10 my mother's 2nd husband molested me for the first time.

I don't actually remember if they were married yet. We had all recently moved from the Tri-Cities of Washington state to Oakland, CA after he, a scientist, had gotten a job at a lab in Berkeley. They married a few months after we moved.

There was something about him that gave me the creeps from the moment I met him but I desperately wanted a father figure and male approval, so I worked hard to push away the intuition that this guy was dangerous in spite of the fact that he terrified me.

He and my mother were remodeling the Victorian house we lived in. One day he and I were home alone. I don't remember where my mother & brother were. I had come into the kitchen in search of a snack. He was there. I don't recall how, but somehow instead of a normal hug, he got me so I was standing with my back to him. He started touching my body everywhere, commenting on how developed it was getting. At the time I had zero knowledge or understanding of sex, or how men came on to women but something about his behavior and tone of voice made me feel ill. I somehow squirmed out of his embrace and quickly left the room.

Because he had fondled me and not raped me or removed any clothes, at the time I didn't even know I'd been molested. I just knew it felt wrong. I didn't tell anybody because I didn't think any adult would take it seriously since in my mind nothing sexual had happened and I just had a bad feeling about how he was acting, talking and touching me. Plus nothing that happened matched any of the after school specials or movies of the week on sexual abuse which were then in vogue on television. In those the girl was always raped by a family member, or neighbor. Usually violence or a long grooming period was involved, coupled with threats of harm if the girl told anyone. 

My ex-stepfather didn't do any of that. He just acted without talking about it. It was as if what he was doing was perfectly natural and normal. Maybe in his warped mind it was.

After that I avoided him as much as I could for several months. This hurt his feelings. He would get upset with me for not hugging him anymore unless my mother reminded me to. Eventually I minimized the incident and my need for fatherly affection and attention took over. I started feeling bad for not being nice to him. 

Me age 9

Because he was a scientist, we had a computer and modem at home before most people did so he could connect to the computers at the lab from home. I guess you could say we had the Internet before it was the internet. Besides the projects the lab worked on, there were a couple early, text based computer games on the lab computers. There was one that was a fantasy quest game with wizards, dwarves and elves that I loved to play. Of course to play it, my ex-stepfather had to log us onto the lab's computers via our desktop. 

He used this game to molest me again. I had come into the den where the computer was working because I wanted to ask to play the game. He must have told me yes and I must have forgotten enough of our creepy encounter to trust him because he got me to sit on his lap. It never occurred to me in my innocent, child mind that I was being manipulated again into something sexual. While I typed my commands for the games, he started stroking my waist & tummy. Then he moved his hands to try fondling my genitals. I immediately got up and said I needed the bathroom. 

From that day, I never went near him. I tried telling myself I imagined what happened, or that he maybe he'd accidentally touched me where he shouldn't have, but could never convince myself of that. Over the years he became increasingly hurt that I wouldn't hug him or speak much to him. 

Me age 16/17

I again didn't tell any adults. Even when I was in therapy at 16, I didn't tell. I told my therapist about his alcohol use, his verbal and emotional abuse, but never about that. I slept with scissors under my pillow in case he decided to rape me. I fantasized about poisoning him with Anise in cookies I would bake since he was very allergic to it. There were no epipens in those days. His throat would have closed immediately and that would be it. 

Fondling is a really evil abuse. If that's the method of abuse and control used against you, it's so easy to minimize and deny. For years into my 30's, I felt shame and guilt for not being able to get over it. I continued to wonder if I'd imagined it or if I was making a big deal out of nothing. I had friends who'd been beaten and raped repeatedly by a family member or members. What happened to me was nothing compared to that, right? 

But sexual trauma is sexual trauma no matter what form the sexual abuse took. The effect is the same. The shame is there. The secret and the pain get stored in the body and the mind. The fear is real. How a person's sexuality develops into adulthood is altered, becomes unhealthy.
I know it subconsciously influenced my in interpretation of male behavior and played a part in the types of situations I've been involved in as an adult, including my own sex addiction.

To be continued in Part Two next month. 

Here are some resources on Childhood Sexual Buse if you or anyone you know needs help:

RAINN, national resources for sexual assault survivors and their loved ones.

Darkness to Light, national resources related to childhood sexual abuse.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

There are lots of resources. Note although this article is written from the point of view of a woman about her experience with sexual abuse as a girl, childhood sexual abuse of boys is equally as common as abuse of girls.

Editor's Note: This week's article was originally scheduled to be the premier article in Crazed!'s new monthly interview series, as well as the introduction of the monthly schedule of weekly posts. However in light of recent current events, I've decided to introduce my editorial column instead. This week's column is the first in a multiple part series on childhood sexual trauma and sexual addiction. My interview with Jimmy O of JoBlo will appear next week instead. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What Does It Feel Like to Be Crazy?

"We've all been crazy lately. My friends are there, rolling 'round the basement floor." --Elton John

Why is this blog called Crazed? What does it feel like to be crazy anyway? Am I crazy? Are you crazy? 

Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory

Lately it feels like the whole world is crazy. I've been called crazy by other people, usually because they're being abusive or mean and gaslighting me in some way. Full disclosure: I do have anxiety, depression and PTSD. But is that crazy? I'm not sure. Plus it's not the reason for the blog.

Image from

I call this site Crazed! because besides being my forum for some of my personal essays and other writing, I want it to be a place to showcase the talents of others too. I want it to be a place where I can write about arts and entertainment
 that's by and/or about other interesting people, other people who are fearless, who are original, who are "crazed."

Photo of author/poet Janet Frame with quote.

I am owning my crazy and re-terming
 it crazed. I view the term crazed
 to be the good kind of crazy. Being crazed means being yourself, being authentic, being honest, being free no matter what others say. 

Most of us who are crazed have had people tell us we can't do or we can't be whatever it is we are doing or being. Some of us became successful in spite of them. Some of us are still working at it.

 Artist Camille Claudel

In the coming weeks, I hope to be posting interviews, reviews and articles featuring other people who are doing and creating things their way, who fit the Crazed! brand. 

I don't know what it feels like to be crazy. But I am crazed. If you are too, welcome. If you aren't, well why not? What are you afraid of?

Me as a child on my favorite toy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Conducting a Job Search in the Age of Branding

Branding "you're a fine girl..."

So recently I decided it was finally time to change careers. I'm in my 40's, and no longer happy at work. I'd become burned out and began to question whether I was anywhere close to what my original goals and dreams had been when I was in college and my 20's. The answer was a big NO!

Me circa 1988. Copyright:Annette Sugden

Back in what now feels like the ancient past, I was an aspiring writer, artist, filmmaker, actor with an interest in advertising and marketing as a related back up career. By my late 20's, I'd worked in independent film and on a couple "Hollywood" projects. I'd written my first freelance article for a now long dead magazine, and an art gallery had shown some possible interest in some of my art work. My day job was as a project administrator at a large San Franchsco architecture firm.

Me circa 1997. I'm bottom row, in the middle. Copyright: Annette Sugden

It was at this point that I decided to move to London, UK to work as an Au Pair while I figured out which direction I wanted my writing and artistic life to go in. Then by accident I became a therapist, tutor to children on the autism spectrum. I've been that for the past 17 years. Granted I also became a performance poet, one who became published in a few journals, wrote articles on poetry, literature and art for an online journal, eventually becoming managing editor there. But the job that barely paid my bills, behavioral therapist, shadow, habilitator, took over a lot of my life.

Me circa 2000 in Arles, France 
Copyright: Annette Sugden

At some point, I stopped creating. I went to work, got into petty arguments on Facebook and other social media, and laughed at funny cat videos like everybody else. I posted rants, and complaints, and hit share with no thought of any consequences. It was as if social media were my journal dumped out, shook up, and put on display. I was the hypersensitive, mean high school bitch at age 40 that I could never relate to when I actually was in high school. Who was this person? Was this my true brand? Was this me? 


Of course I had no idea I was creating a brand, or that anybody really noticed. I think that's how most of us are. The idea of having an online persona, a personal brand, of needing to worry about public image in this way is not something the average person thinks about. The idea that strangers, employers, prospective bosses are googling us as if we're a Taylor Swift or a Kanye West never enters our minds. Personal brands are things only celebrities, professional athletes and politicians have, right? WRONG!

When I was actively promoting my art, and playing around with html and that old program known as PageMaker, I did create my own website which is still hosted on Tripod. (
I recently brought it up on Google. I didn't even know Tripod still existed. I haven't updated it since 2007ish. Now I have a problem.

Mixed Media Collage
Copyright: Annette Sugden

Is this website, even not updated, something I want as part of my 
brand? I'm working on changing careers to advertising and marketing, but this time digital marketing, content marketing and social media specifically. Is the fact that I designed, developed, and wrote copy for a website even one I temporarily abandoned show skill or inconsistency? This website is so old it has link page! Link pages have been out as far as digital marketing is concerned for years now. In fact link exchange is actually now considered bad marketing. Even if I do nothing else, I need to delete that page. 

What about my livejournal page? (
Remember livejournal folks? I have a profile there that I never deleted. Do I include it on my resume and LinkedIn profile? I don't have much of a marketing portfolio since I haven't worked in digital marketing yet, but I have personal projects from a few years ago. That's more than somebody who had zero. So for now the website and my livejournal are on LinkedIn.

Me circa 2010 with generic female professional hair.
Copyright Annette Sugden

I don't post without thinking on Facebook anymore. That means I don't post or share as much as I used to. But most of my posts on Facebook are only to my friends. My public personal brand is currently mostly limited to Twitter, LinkedIn, and this blog. Although as I continue to update my social media marketing technical skill set, I will set up Instagram and Snapchat profiles and presences as part of my brand.

Now MySpace, no way. I deleted that profile several years ago. Although you never know. It could make a comeback. 

My MySpace profile pic, me circa 2004
Copyright: Annette Sugden

SEO you next week.

If you're curious, my active social media urls are:

Monday, August 1, 2016

Name Change...again!

Over the years, since starting this personal blog, I've changed the name a few times. This blog has been called "Fat Girl in Los Angeles," "Dancing Through Aspergers," other names I can't remember when I first started it, and now "Crazed."

Why do bloggers change the name of a personal blog? I don't know. The reasons I've changed titles are to do with working on improving my blog as I learn more about digital content and how to market my personal brand, changes in my life and goals that no longer are described or served by the name of my blog, or just plain realizing that the title is no good.

When I renamed the blog "Dancing With Aspergers," I was going through a time where I was considering whether or not I have Aspergers and/or ADHD and was coming to terms with what that meant to me. I thought that it meant I needed to start my own autism specific blog and vlog since I'm creative, a writer and artist, with a background in film and an interest in new media and social media. But I couldn't connect to fully committing to that plan.

Now that things have settled and I'm more grounded in myself and who I am with or without a label, my blog is going back to being a regular personal blog again. Plus I'm using it as a learning tool as I study digital marketing and content marketing with the goal of changing careers from being a therapist to becoming a savy, innovative marketing guru. 

I've got a lot of learning to do. Sometimes life is overwhelming and I feel crazed, but every transition, every change has me reminding myself that at the beginning of every past new endeavor, I felt anxious and insecure. And yet, every time I quickly became highly competent in each new skill. That's been true of film, poetry, writing, and of being a therapist in the autism field. I'm confident that marketing will be the same. I have a vast amount of experience and once I learn the jargon and the methods involved in marketing, that experience and my creative thinking skills coupled with my critical thinking skills will make me unstoppable. I'm ready. I'm excited. I'm crazed!