Julie Coons requested me several months back to review her book ‘This Does Not Leave This House’. I accepted the book and got a chance to read her auto-biography. I was, put simply, awed by her struggles and more importantly, by her endurance and resilience. This book touches a lot of important issues and is a really personal book. Coons has showed us herself in the most vulnerable, the most raw state through her book. The primary message that she wanted to give through her book was to break ‘the cycles of abuse’, very much like her.
It was after this book that I decided that I shouldn’t ‘review’ non-fiction books on my blog. I felt that it would be unfair and unrealistic for me to judge someone’s life, let alone review it. I still wanted to get the word out about this book and decided that the best course would be to interview the protagonist herself, Julie Coons!
Welcome to Musings of a Confuzzled Reader, Julie and thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. My first question is that in your book, you have laid bare several deep and dark secrets of your family. I, for example, would feel extremely uncomfortable talking about something that I feel would slander my family’s name in public. How did you build up the courage to write this? How did you convince yourself?
This is a very good question. It wasn’t even my idea to write my book. I was meeting with a medium one day because I have certain “abilities” I have struggled with since my near death experience at the age of 15. Since the age of 16 I could see and hear spirits. You might even call me a “reluctant psychic.” I needed help from an expert because not all spirits are nice and at the time I had a dark spirit scaring me inside my home. The medium told me she had a message for me from my own spirit guides. She told me I needed to write a book and share my story with the world. Well, of course my first response was…no way. I didn’t want to write about my life because I didn’t want to relive all the pain. But then she said, “Julie, they are telling me your book could really help people.” With that I decided I had to write my book. How do you say no to a spirit? This was my very first visit with the medium and she didn’t even know me or my story. I felt she was really getting a message from my spirit guides. I also felt that if I could help even one person it would make all the hell I have been through worth it. I had to tell my story in a completely honest way so I could then share how I survived and how I was successful at breaking the cycle of abuse for my own family. To me, that’s a huge deal and I want to inspire positive change like this to the whole world. What could possibly be better than to change something so negative that might have been in your family for generations, centuries even, to something positive. So many people will benefit from this in my family for generations to come and it started with me. How amazing would that feel? This is why I shared my story. I hope and I pray that my story will motivate others to make positive changes in their families and heal their own wounds along the way. Be the hero in your family and generations long after you are gone will benefit. What better gift would there be than this to give to your family?
Have any of your family members or friends read the book? What was their reaction to it?
My husband and my daughter are very proud of me for writing my book. My daughter has even thanked me for breaking the cycle of abuse for her. She has her own daughter now and I am blessed to see the positive result with my granddaughter. Life is a beautiful thing when there isn’t any abuse in it. My friends were blown away. None of my friends knew the hell I lived behind the closed doors of my childhood home. The title of my book, “This Does Not Leave This House” is actually a direct quote from my father. I was threatened into silence and I never told anyone. Not even my closest friends knew a thing.
Do you feel that people treat you differently when they read your book?
Not really. I just tell people that the last thing I want is pity. I want to be looked at as a strong survivor who was brave enough to take a chance to share my story in order to help others. I have been told by many who know me it was a tough book to read. They know me as a much different person than the young girl inside my book. I probably should have included a disclaimer in the first page of my book. I should tell people I’m ok now and this is just a guide to help them along their own journey to end abuse.
You were born at a time when mental illness wasn’t a recognized form of disease and was often frowned upon. Do you think your situation, particularly with your mom, would have been different if you were born now? Has the society’s perception of mental illness changed over time?
I think it would be hugely different if it happened today. So much more is known about mental illness and I think I would have been able to have found more support. My father never lifted a finger to help us. My brother and I begged him to get our mother help but over time we realized our father was probably as much, if not more afraid of her than we were. He didn’t want her anger turned on him so he allowed us to endure it alone. When I grew up and was about to become a mother myself, I was the one who finally got her into treatment. I told her if she would agree to go get the help she needed and get healthy then I would allow her to have a relationship with her grandchild. If not then I couldn’t risk her doing the things to my child that she did to us. That might seem cruel to some but I had an obligation to protect my daughter. However, I still felt it was important for my child to have a relationship with her grandparents. But, only if it could be a healthy and safe relationship. I am proud to say I accomplished this and my daughter had a wonderful relationship with both her grandparents. My mother got the mental health treatment she desperately needed and was given medication to help her… but unfortunately it was hard keeping her on her medication. I knew every time she went of it because she changed. There were times I had to keep my child away and it was a constant struggle to keep my mother mentally healthy. Unfortunately, it only gave us a few good years.
You were forced into an abusive marriage and successfully broke free of that toxic relationship. If you could give one advice to women who willingly choose to
tolerate abusive relationships, what would that be?
Get out of the relationship. Don’t believe him when he abuses you and then later says he’s sorry and it will never happen again. Of course it will happen again, it always happens again. If he is threatening your life believe him and find a plan to escape as soon as possible. Tell someone you trust and get outside resources to help you. It took me a year to escape because he told me he would kill me if I ever left him and I believed he meant it. I waited for the right time to leave but I probably had many opportunities to leave sooner but was too afraid. There are many more resources today for abused women and I hope this is also true in India. Reach out and get help and make life better for you and for your children. Don’t accept abuse as being an ok way to live your life because your children will grow up and marry an abuser too, just like I did.
You stressed in your book the fact that you never raised hand on Stephanie, your child. Coming from my culture and experience, parents often deem it okay, and sometimes even important, to hit their child in order to teach them. How important do you think your stand is to never hit your child?
It breaks my heart to think that parents still deem it necessary to hit a child. Like the old saying, “spare the rod, spoil the child.” What a bunch of nonsense. Sorry but it really is. There is so much research out there denouncing spanking as appropriate. I’m saying there are many more effective ways to discipline that don’t require physically hitting a child. The problem with spanking a child is many times parents discipline out of anger, and when you do that you lose control and then it becomes abuse. Spanking a child also makes a child fear their parent. I know that some people will say then how do I discipline without hitting? There are so many more ways to discipline that actually work a lot better and don’t scare the child in the process. A few examples could be: Learn what your child’s favorite toy is and take it away for a period of time. Or you could try doing the time out method. It’s one minute per age. So for example, if your child is three years old their time out should last three minutes. Put them in an area apart from others and let them be alone. Keep working on this and please above everything else, do not hit your child. I know most parents probably don’t want to have to hit their children, but people repeat what they know. Here is an opportunity to break yet another cycle.
At the end of it all, what is the most important lesson life has taught you? Do you regret being chosen to endure so much in your life?
Not at all. I mean, of course I wish life had been a little more gentle for me. However, I have already had some people reach out to me and tell me they lived a very similar life as mine and my book helped them to not feel so alone. I also was able to help a girl in the emergency room calm down after a brutal rape on a College campus. I could honestly tell her I could relate and she wasn’t alone. She actually calmed down and allowed me to help her get through it. There is power in strength and understanding…and power in helping others. I would go through it all over again if it meant I could be of service to others. My most important lesson in life… just how important it is to break the cycle of abuse in families. Not many people have been successful yet but hopefully that is soon to change. I want to leave this world in a better place and if my story is successful I know I will accomplish just that. My motto is: Take Life As It Happens, But Make It Happen The Way You Want To Take It.