PEOPLE TO KNOW: MICHELLE STEVENS

Known for

  • Founding Post-Traumatic Success

  • Finding a unique way to combine a personal story of trauma with psychological knowledge about trauma, so people can understand from the outside in and the inside out

  • Activism on behalf of survivors

Michelle Stevens saw a need. Working as a high school teacher, she noticed that when her students discussed the book A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer, they kept asking “why.” Why did the mother hurt the little boy? Why didn’t she hurt the other kids? Why didn’t the father stop the abuse?

The same thing had happened in Stevens’s ninth grade class when they discussed Elie Wiesel’s Night. While the kids were mesmerized and moved by the story, they wanted to know why the Nazis had imprisoned the Jews, why other Germans went along with it, why the Jews didn’t run away or fight back.

Right then and there, Stevens decided something: If she ever wrote the story of her life, she was going to make sure it answered the question why.

Considering Stevens extraordinary and unusual life, she had a lot of things to explain. As a child, Stevens had been victimized in a child sex ring where she was trafficked into prostitution and pornography. As a result of the abuse, she grew mentally ill and struggled for years with depression, PTSD, and Dissociative Identity Disorder. In order to help herself heal, Stevens began to study psychology–first informally and later in a doctoral program. Eventually, she left teaching to become a psychologist.

It was then that Stevens began to write her story. The result, Scared Selfless: My Journey from Abuse and Madness to Surviving and Thriving, is a hybrid between a memoir and a self-help book. It offers a gripping personal account of abuse, mental illness, and healing.  But, along the way, it also answers the question why–as well as other questions. Why do people molest and hurt children? How do they get away with it? Why don’t the children tell anyone? Why is human trafficking and child pornography so prevalent? How does abuse and trauma affect victims? How does a person heal?

While writing the book, Stevens also noticed another need: She found that survivors of trauma were desperately searching for information about abuse, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and dissociation, as well as inspiration to keep going. To answer this need, she started the non-profit Post-Traumatic Success, which offers education and inspiration to those affected by psychological trauma.

Nowadays, Stevens is an outspoken advocate for all kinds of survivors–encouraging them to face their demons and fight for better lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Michelle,
    I have just finished your amazing book. The title, Scared Selfless drew me to it. I was diagnosed with PTSD in my thirties. I have spent my adult life trying to piece together the threads from my childhood trauma. I have traumatic amnesia around childhood sexual abuse, however all of my life I have remembered events “around” the abuse. Like locking myself in bathrooms for hours and hiding in the woods or closet. Enough of those memories to cause me to search for answers. Why was I hiding? Why do I remember being successful at hiding but have no memory of what happened if I wasn’t?
    The memories have slowly returned in bits over the last thirty or so years. Some very recently. Your book – the candid way you told your story – in many ways was mine. I related to many of the behaviors you describe. For the first time in my 57 years, your words made me feel less crazy, less ashamed, less damaged.
    The futility of seeking therapy to make sense of events you can’t remember…. How your body reacted in seemingly unrelated ways. (I remember waking night after night to throw up at 2:00am) Reading The Courage to Heal as an adult. Just, so much of your story touched mine. I thank you sincerely for writing such a powerful book on such a difficult subject. Reading it has been the most therapeutic source I have found to date.

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