Archive for April, 2013

Using Wurtzel’s Story to Promote an Anti Choice Agenda?

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013


A few readers have commented to me (via personal email) that Elizabeth Wurtzel’s abortion I wrote about in my previous post had no relationship to her addictions and depression.   The trauma and loss in her childhood are the real reasons for her drug use and promiscuous, childless lifestyle…and that given her history and age at the time, abortion was a wise decision.  The abortion would have only further complicated her already complicated life and any child born to her.

As one reader, shared:

“You’re just using her story to promote your anti-choice agenda!” 

Let me respond to this common misunderstanding about the role of abortion in depression, addiction and other symptoms when there is a history of abuse and trauma prior to the abortion. 

It is fair to say that Wurtzel had childhood issues that would likely have led to some level of depression and the other symptoms we see in her life regardless of the abortion.  However look more closely at her background and you will find a powerful connection to that abortion experience and the public unfolding of her life story as a writer and journalist.

In Prozac Nation we learn that Wurtzel experienced a painful divorce as a child that led to a difficult life with her single mother after the loss of her father.  She shares:  “My mother sent me [to summer camp] for an eight week reprieve from single motherhood.” (Page 14 Prozac Nation)  When she was only 10 years old, her father thought it helpful to share with Elizabeth that her mother “wanted to have an abortion, that she’d gotten as far as the gynecologist’s office and was all set to have a D and C, and that he physically restrained her to prevent the process.  Later, when I told my mother about that conversation, she began to cry and said that the opposite was true.” (pg. 28).   No child wants to feel unloved and rejected.  We know this leaves a deep and damaging wound on the child’s soul and psyche.

Raised in such an environment, it is not surprising that we would later see the symptoms of relational instability, promiscuity and fear of commitment.  In addition, we read of Wurtzel in college after her own personal abortion becoming a virtual counselor/escort for the area abortion business by accompanying countless friends to their abortion appointments…so much so that she comes to see “it’s practically a rite of passage” for her fellow classmates. (Pg.194)

So with that background from her book, let’s look again at the criticism that we are using her story and the abortion to advance an anti-choice agenda.

Those that support abortion rights would see Wurtzel’s childhood as confirming the necessity of “safe and legal abortion” for young woman with her background facing an unplanned pregnancy.  However if you look at the life experience of many of these women years after the procedure you would see that there can be a very high price paid for their “choice.”

Peoples circumstances, emotions and the pressures they face when facing an unplanned pregnancy are much more complicated than the clever reductive slogans we use to package them into some ideological agenda like “choice.”

Wurtzel felt unwanted…her mother appears to have wanted to abort her well along in the pregnancy.  Like many emotionally needy young women, wounded and vulnerable, she becomes sexually involved well before she has the maturity to handle the intensity this brings to a relationship without commitment.

As an innocent child she found herself unwanted, unloved, and almost aborted.  When she has the abortion, she rejects the innocent, vulnerable unborn child in her womb. Wurtzel’s mother and father were unable to protect their daughter from the toxic emotional fallout from their divorce.  Wurtzel was unable to protect her unborn son or daughter from an even more lethal rejection and abandonment.  Worse Wurtzel is the vehicle of the child’s rejection and eventual destruction.

For men and women with trauma and abuse in their childhood, there is a powerful connection between their wounded inner child…and the innocent child that they abort.  They can share powerful and confusing emotional connections with the vulnerability of that unborn child.  But because they participate in the death of that child, the shame and pain of their own abuse become intensified in a kind of toxic synergy that often is turned inward and/or acted-out, leading to depression, drug abuse and other painful and self destructive symptoms and behaviors.

As with other trauma, abuse and loss, you need to work through the emotions and memories of an abortion experience.  Otherwise women may repeat the themes of their childhood and abortion traumas in their relationships and experience repeat abortions (nearly half of all abortions are repeat procedures.)  We can understand Wurtzel’s role after her abortion in becoming an abortion clinic escort for her friends as a type of re-enactment of her own abortion trauma.  She is trying to understand and process her own emotional experience of abortion, not understanding its deep roots in her own aborted-childhood. 

So yes there were many factors in Wurtzel’s life that contribute to some of the themes we found in her piece in The AtlanticBut if you think “pay no attention to Wurtzel’s abortion, it has nothing to do with her life story!” you would be way off the mark.  Abortion is a powerful life changing event that intensified the pain and rejection of her childhood and young adulthood.

As the title of my earlier blog post  suggested…once you understand the role of abortion in Wurtzel’s life (keeping in mind the over 50 million abortions since 1973) and prevalence of depression and anti depressant medication use, you might agree that rather than the Prozac Nation Wurtzel wrote of in the 90’s, we are more accurately, Abortion Nation.

Elizabeth Wurtzel: Abortion Nation?

Monday, April 15th, 2013

 Prozac Nation

Elizabeth Wurtzel is a graduate of Yale Law School, journalist and author of the best-selling Prozac Nation.  In a recent column in The Atlantic Wurtzel shares the joys of a successful modern woman who is free to choose career over children and enjoy the pleasure of multiple male sexual partners.  I originally came upon this piece on Rod Dreher’s excellent blog over at American Conservative.  Rod and others rightly point to the narcissistic spirit of her little personal manifesto.

But is there is something darker lurking beneath her casual and seemingly self-centered musings? :

 I went to a party in Williamsburg, where I definitely do not live, and was 50 percent older than anyone else. When I told a gentleman that I am 45, he was shocked. He wondered what I know that Ponce de Leon did not. Mainly it is a refusal to be a grown-up…I have never been married, which has spared me the unhappiness of that, and the misery of a divorce. Or two. Or three. I don’t have kids…Evasion and avoidance are hallmarks of youth…I have been very promiscuous, sometimes with men I get to know better and sometimes with men I never see again, but the pleasure is mine. I did too many drugs until enough was enough, but I would not have missed it for all the drugs I haven’t done since… 

 Much of my professional life as a Licensed Social Worker has involved an immersion in the area of post abortion studies and practice.   But the finest education on this subject won’t be found in any psychology graduate program.  It is best accomplished by entering the lives of those who have experienced the procedure.  Serving as a co founder and therapist with Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries I have listened to countless life stories of those who have been intimately connected to an abortion decision and procedure.

So when I read Wurtzel’s column, I quickly thought…there’s a good chance she’s had an abortion…probably more than one.

What are some of the clues in her story?  A refusal to be a grown-up; a fear of commitment and children; promiscuity; drug abuse to name of few.

Some read Wurtzel and think…narcissist.  Those of us in abortion recovery programs think…abortion and likely other abuse and losses in her life.  This is a woman in need of a healing of that complicated grief and loss usually deeply repressed after the procedure.

As it turns out there appears to be at least one abortion in Wurtzel’s past.  She publicly shares about it in her book  More, Now, and Again: A Memoir of Addiction    Wurtzel writes of her difficult experience of abortion, and reflects after  the procedure of the challenges of being an independent highly accomplished career woman and yet also struggling with emotional vulnerability and dependence.  She concludes in that section on her abortion:

That’s why I do drugs: they fill the lacuna between who I am and who I want to be; what I think and what I feel.  (Page 298 A Memoir of Addiction)

That division in her identity, in her thoughts and feeling reflects a deeper wound that lies in her heart and soul… the Forbidden Grief of abortion.   But for a woman who has embraced modern feminism, and one of its core tenets abortion rights, it is very difficult to find friends or colleagues to sympathize with this very intimate experience of loss and help you sort through the feelings and symptoms that are common after the procedure.

So it’s not surprising to read in Wurtzel’s memoir of drug abuse and failed relationships after her abortion and the transition over time to a childless, promiscuous lifestyle in her Atlantic piece.  Sadly, this is often a predictable progression reflecting some common themes of women and men struggling to come to terms with abortion loss.

Her article suggests on the surface that she has made peace with her life and proclaims liberation from typical female convention.  An added bonus…as a result of her choices she continues to reflect the beauty and vibrancy of youth!

But those of us in post abortion ministry neither celebrate nor condemn Wurtzel’s life.  We would invite her to visit the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and listen to the stories of other women and men who lost children to abortion.   As she hears their stories she will likely begin to connect some of her actions, behaviors, addictions and relationships to her own abortion loss.   Most importantly, she can listen to their messages of hope and healing.

Perhaps Elizabeth Wurtzel may then discover that quiet voice in her own heart that yearns for the peace that only God can provide.

Emotional Quicksand

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Emotional Quicksand: The Hidden Pain of Men

   Emotional Quicksand

Michael Addis, Ph.D., writing in the December 2012 online issue of Atlantic magazine reveals a life threatening problem for men. You are probably thinking… prostate cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes? These are all serious health concerns and while there is still much more to do, we have seen an increase in education and awareness.

But Dr. Addis writes of a different kind of disease that can strike men. This sickness lies deep in the recesses of the male psyche that features a self inflicted shame-based silence. This silence leaves men isolated and vulnerable to choosing death rather than revealing their secret areas of pain to a family member, colleague or friend.

Read more



Phillies Pitcher Roy Halladay Consoled by the Love of His Son

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Roy Halladay

For many years Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Roy Halladay was at the top of his game. Fans and pundits alike agree that Halladay, a perennial Cy Young award contender has been one of the elite pitchers in baseball.

Every athlete who has the talent to compete at a professional level at some point has the very painful experience of “hitting a wall.” Sometimes it’s just part of the ups and downs of any career…something you need to ride through and hopefully learn from. But there is that point where the body through the natural aging process can no longer perform at the high level pro athletes have taken for granted since childhood.

Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly. After his recent 7-2 loss to the Mets and a 0-2 start to the new season Halladay appeared not as the invincible warrior but a reeling prize fighter:

He’s groping. Like an aged world champion fighter who can’t accept reality. They can’t get out of the way of a punch anymore. Their feet don’t move when their mind wants it. And no one in baseball has had a stronger, more keen, diligent intellect when it comes to pitching, and pitching mechanics, than Halladay has over the last decade…Halladay has taken a pounding. Emotionally. Psychologically. He may be hurting. He’d never publicly admit it. It’s not in his nature to quit or question.

Halladay was philosophical and reflective at times during the post game press conference. Perhaps unwittingly, he revealed how deeply shaken he is by sharing that despite the challenges he is facing, there are more important things: “I got a text from my son saying that I am his hero”, Halladay said. “That means allot.”

Halladay may be reeling professionally and personally with the decline in his performance which began last season. But he rightly returns to the foundation of what is important in life and long after baseball ends…a loving relationship with his son and the foundation of family. This will serve as an anchor for him with the changes that he may face in the days ahead.

Most of us at some point in our lives can relate to what Halladay is going through. Maybe we have hit a similar wall in our lives after many years of success in our work, and we lose momentum, face a job loss, or another colleague gets that raise or promotion we had been hoping for.

For other men, the wall they hit is the realization that the previous ways they coped with emotional pain, grief and loss, by throwing themselves into work, drugs, alcohol, pornography or gambling to deal with those things they would just rather not deal with…are no longer working…and exacting a high price in their personal and professional lives.

Like Roy Halladay, sometimes we can’t avoid facing the pain and the loss. The things we have always used don’t work anymore and we either go down for the count, or hit the wall that leads to humility and reach out for the help we need. It can be hard for men to reach out for help. For a man who has had great success, who has felt in control of his game, at the top of their field, this can be especially challenging.

But you can’t find a door to the other side of that pain, and the strength and the courage to walk through that door and face what’s on the other side…without help from others who understand what you are going through, and can walk with you to recovery. This is especially true for men who have been part of an abortion decision, and lost a child to abortion.

The key is to see this time as not just “hitting a wall,” but also a golden opportunity to attend to those areas of the heart and soul that have been crying out for attention, for resolution and healing. For many men, a previous abortion loss can provide such an opportunity to find such resolution and peace from something that likely causes a secret shame and an elusive but ever-present grief.

I have seen many men come through healing programs for recovery from abortion loss and discover that while they had to face some painful stuff, they also discovered that they are now as a result of “walking through that door,” better men, better fathers and husbands. New possibilities have emerged in their personal and work lives. (If you have experienced abortion loss, you can find help here )

Just as Roy Halladay found great consolation in the love of his son during this time, fathers who have been part of an abortion decision can, with healing, discover a similar consolation. They find that while they may always regret their missed opportunities for lost fatherhood, they now have a spiritual relationship with their unborn son or daughter. With their hearts free to love that child now with the Lord, they find new meaning as they face the unavoidable changes and losses of this life.