Ruth Long works with me in my Trauma Program in Dallas, Texas. The people who come for treatment there have many different mental health problems and most have had traumatic and stressful childhoods. They have experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, family violence, neglect, loss of primary caretakers, and extremely dysfunctional family dynamics. Their mental health problems include depression, dissociative disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, self-mutilation, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Ruth understands survivors of childhood trauma very well. She understands the self-blame and self-hatred that come from being treated like you don't count, like an object, like a burden and disappointment, or like you're invisible. These messages are ingrained in the child's head over and over for years, through the speech, actions and attitudes of their caretakers. Fred would understand.
In Fred's Story, Ruth captures the conflicts and problems of the abused and neglected child in a vivid yet simple fashion. It is a child's story for adults, one that can be read by children as well. Setting the story in a circus, and in the suffering of an elephant, is a wonderful way to draw the reader in, to create empathy, and thereby to teach at both an intellectual and an emotional level.
When I arrive at the Trauma Program in the morning, and Ruth is there in the nursing station writing her notes, or preparing for a therapy session, I sometimes ask, "How's Fred today?"
I feel like Fred is a real elephant and a real person, someone I know, someone whose struggles I have watched and experienced. When you read Fred's Story, I think you will feel the same way. It is a story of trauma, suffering, healing, hope and recovery. Fred's attachment to his chain is a moving and subtle dramatization of the conflicted, ambivalent attachment to the perpetrator experienced by many abused and neglected children. The workbook that accompanies Fred's Story is a set of exercises that capture much of the work of recovery. I think that survivors will find them useful, and will appreciate knowing that someone else - Fred - has gone through what they have gone through, and come out the other side.