An Invisible Prison: A True Story Of Survival
Susan Armstrong Author Interview
Sunday October 22, 2006
Live Author Interview at www.WomensSelfesteem.com
To Buy "An Invisible Prison: A true story of survival", Click the book cover above!
This interview with Susan Armstrong got started pretty quickly with just a few introductions and before you knew it, the interview questions were flying. Here's how it went:
Susan_Armstrong Thank you Dorothy, this is cool! I'm glad to be here.
dorothy Why don`t you start by telling us a bit about yourself.
dorothy Like where you were born and a bit about your family.
Susan_Armstrong Well, I'm from England and now live in Canada but in-between have lived in Florida for many years. The book actually takes place in all three places even though the names of towns have been changed. I am now married to a police officer (which is very ironic) and I have two step-sons that live with us full time.
dorothy Do you have any hobbies besides being a wife and a mother
Susan_Armstrong Writing is defintely a hobby and my husband and I scuba dive. I'm also a black belt in shopping!
dorothy LOL I like that one about the black belt.
Susan_Armstrong Oh yeah, and I love my work - that is my hobby too. It's nice that it can also pay the bills.
dorothy I luv to see the word Canada...my home land also!
dorothy I hear you there
dorothy Susan when did you decide to write your story and what prompted you to?
Susan_Armstrong I have had one of those nagging feelings for years about writing the book but I'm a speaker, not a writer so I never considered it seriously. Then finally the inside voice just got too loud so I thought I'd write the book to shut it up. It took me a long time to publish it. I wasn't sure anyone would want to read it and if they did, I was afraid they would'nt want to talk to me anymore.
dorothy I can totally understand that.
dorothy So you have been involved in speaking long before you attempted to write your story?
Susan_Armstrong I kept my past hidden carefully for many years.
Susan_Armstrong Yes, I've been speaking about and teaching sales and customer service for almost 15 years now. The book is really a departure from what I usually do but it's far more fulfilling and I really think there is a need out there. The self-esteem issue is a big one these days!
dorothy I was almost going to ask you if it was a therapy of some form that was recommended to you.
dorothy Self-esteem issues are horrific actually.
dorothy I can definitely be a judge on that debate.
dorothy The cover of your book is quite interesting, did you design it?
Susan_Armstrong No. Definitely not thereapy. I never went for therapy. I was too afraid to tell anyone what had happened to me.
Susan_Armstrong Yes, I had the help of a graphic artist but the image is exactly what I wanted. I created a really strong prison inside my head that I lived in. My favourite saying is "a lifetime of worthlessness builds strong walls". I wanted to call the book "A lifetime of worthlessness" but it sounded like such a sad title.
dorothy I agree. What about the title of your book?
dorothy Was that your idea also?
Susan_Armstrong Yes. It's taken me years to realize that this is what I did to myself. And the worst part is, that there are others who do this to! The title is a way to reach them. Everyone I tell says "oh, yeah, I need to read that" which tells me they can identify even if it's just with the title.
dorothy That is so correct, again I can be a very good judge on the subject just by the stories and research I do within my site.
dorothy Was there anyone else involved in putting your story into a book form?
Susan_Armstrong Yes, I had a really good editor. Carol Clarke whose name is on the cover also. It was really important to me to ensure that this story was told in a simple and readable way. It was orginally 150,000 words, Carol helped me get it down to a reasonable amount and helped me make it palatable. It could have been very gruesome but she was great about making even the worst incidents readable.
dorothy Well I think that the rough draft would probably have been a bit too much for most of your readers. Carol did a great job.
dorothy Are you self published?
Susan_Armstrong Yes, print on demand. There are a couple of mainstream publishers interested but then the James Frey thing happened and everyone shied away from this type of story so I decided to do it on my own.
dorothy Well, then we should do what we can to expose your story and make sure it is heard. :)
dorothy Susan how much of this book is reality?
Susan_Armstrong All of it. There is nothing in the book that is made up. If anything, I'm guilty of toning it down some so it's not so horrific. Kind of the opposite of James Frey I guess.
dorothy I cannot even imagine that this was an easy story to tell, but was there any one part that was particularily hard for you to put inot words?
Susan_Armstrong Oh, I should say that I did change peoples names and the names of places to protect myself and others.
Susan_Armstrong Yes, there were many parts. Writing the story gave me nightmares because I had to go back there emotionally. There are too many pieces to say. My father telling me "no man will ever want you" still hurts. When I think about "Rick", how much I loved him and how much he hurt me. It's hard. I still think about him all the time even now and it's been years. He invades my dreams at night.
dorothy Thats is what abuse does, the abuser wins even after the fact just by the fact that he is in your memory.
dorothy It is a very sad situation.
dorothy You mentioned a book on self help for families, do you remember the name of it?
Susan_Armstrong Yes, but now I have won. I know this because it used to be that in my dreams I would give in or bow down to "Rick", now when he comes I stand my ground. I'm happy about that, I think I'm finally healing.
dorothy That my dear girl is a true sign of your strength.
Susan_Armstrong The book about self-help for families is right on the tip of my tongue and I can't remember the name! I hate that. Bradshaw...John Bradshaw. He does work around healing from family of origin issues. It's one of the first I read when trying to heal myself.
dorothy Are there any other books that you would consider that have had any influence on you?
Susan_Armstrong Yes, Melanie Beatty "The language of letting go" I swear has saved my life. It's a book of daily meditations but for me, they teach me how to be well adjusted and cope properly (which is something I never learned).
dorothy D makes a note of that!!
Susan_Armstrong Melody Beattie? I'm not sure how it's spelled. It's a Hazelden book.
dorothy Thank You for that tip Susan.
dorothy Do you have any plans on a future book?
Susan_Armstrong Yes, I couldn't finish the story in one book because it would have been the size of "War and Peace" so there will be a second book early next year that tells the story of how I got from there to here. A successful speaker, business owner, wife, and mother. Things I never thought possible!
dorothy You mentioned in your book that your choices throughout your earlier life have left you with physical and emotional problems, do you think you can share those with us?
Susan_Armstrong It is called "Stop Standing in Your Own Way" and talks about how we get in the way of our own success.
dorothy I look forward to that for sure!
Susan_Armstrong Yes, I made some bad choices. Like for instance thinking that alcohol or men could solve my problems. I was so convinced that everything was my fault. That if I could just prove I was perfect life would be different. I also blamed my parents - believing it was all their fault. I have since learned that I had a choice in this. Instead of running to the street I could have talked to a friends parent or someone else to help but I always refused. I insisted on doing everything my way, by myself.
dorothy That is the way so many women feel and that is such a stumbling block.
dorothy You also wrote about being labelled as a "schizophrenic", was that a true fact and do you feel that you have ever suffered from that illness?
Susan_Armstrong No, that wasn't true. I think it was my way of crying for help. I was never a schizophrenic, but I always thought I had some sort of neurosis. It turns out I was just self-medicting too much and I didn't have any coping skills or self-esteem. Believing in myself, trusting myself, would have made so much difference! That's why I'm so intent on getting this message out and helping others to believe and trust in themselves.
dorothy This man, "Rick" in your story, did you ever feel that you kept returning to him because you felt sorry for him due to the fact that he was in fact so much weaker than yourself deep inside?
Susan_Armstrong Ooooh deep subject.
Susan_Armstrong My relationship with Rick was very complex. I never felt sorry for him but I did feel we were the same person in different bodies. I still feel that. Occassionally I come very close to hiring a private detective to find him so I can see him. So far I've managed to resist.
dorothy I can totally understand the bond that was created.
Susan_Armstrong It was a bond between two very sick people.
dorothy It is said also that a victim that has experience captivity always has a desire to seek out his/her captive.
dorothy Did you write your story with the intentions of the reader seeing your strong inner core or is it just coincidence?
Susan_Armstrong Emotionally and spiritually sick I mean.
dorothy Not too mention very substance abuse controlled on both parts for most of it.
dorothy Do you belive that everything happens for a reason?
dorothy Do you belive that everything happens for a reason?
Susan_Armstrong Oh! I so do! I am a lucky lucky lucky person. If not for what happened to me I would have grown up to have a job I didn't want and a husband I didn't like. I'm so lucky that happened to me. It's caused me to have to work for the life I want, it's caused me to have to learn, and to have to practice what I learn. I'm sooo lucky and yes, I think it happened because I'm supposed to do this.
Susan_Armstrong I am lucky enough to have a very spiritual personal coach who told me I was always going to recover from what I went through because this is what I'm supposed to do. I beleive that. She said it was my learning, and now I have to teach others.
dorothy I totally agree with that frame of thinking :)
dorothy So Now Susan tell us about what Susan today is doing and what your goals are?
Susan_Armstrong Yeah, how can I not? I shouldn't still be alive except for a higher purpose. I'm trying to find that so thank you for helping me.
Susan_Armstrong My goal is to try to reach and help as many people as possible through my books, my speaking engagements, and my workshops. That's it. Just to help other women (and some men if they're interested) in not standing in their own way.
dorothy Do you see yourself in any relativity to that woman that you spoke of in the beginning of your book with the buisness suit on walking with confidence?
dorothy By The Way, I know what you mean in regards to the need to just help other women to feel free and at peace!
Susan_Armstrong Oh yes, I do. Isn't it funny that we have such a clear idea as children. I couldn't have known then that this was going to happen but yes, I feel like her. The child I was is proud of the woman I have grown to be - even if I took a 20 year detour.
dorothy Thank you So much Susan for bearing with me and my questions, now I will open this interview up to the bistro. Enjoy your chat with the ladies!
dorothy I am sure they are eager to talk to you about your book!
Susan_Armstrong Great! Ask away - I'm a very open person.
dorothy This is a good thing...hehe!
Linda What in your life happened that made you finally decide to publish your book?
Susan_Armstrong My one and only true talent is that I have the ability to make an emotional connection with an audience very quickly (weird talent I know). I am also still alive and I don't know why. A couple of years ago I was at a conference in Orlando and the speaker said "Are you using your God given talent?". I started crying immediately because the answer was no. So I decided to use my God given talent and publish the book and talk about it. Whatever the outcome.
Linda That is wonderful!
Val I have to take my wee ones home ....will you all be here in 10 min???
Susan_Armstrong Yes, I can stay on the line.
Michelle How much does your husband support you with all your memories. it must be hard for both of you reliving all these tragedies?
Val I do have questions
dorothy Go Val..we will be here.
Susan_Armstrong My husband is amazing. He doesn't suffer from any of the typical "man-isms". He has not read the book though. He knows the story, we almost didn't continue dating because of it. He was cooking me dinner and chopping vegetables and he turned to speak to me with a knife in his hand and I ran like the wind! He was really upset because he thought I was scared of him so I had to tell him. He is amazing, and very supportive.
Michelle I commend him for his support .
Michelle not too many men would go that distance.
Susan_Armstrong Oh, so do I. Again, I'm sooo lucky. I don't know another man who could stand up to me and put up with my travel, etc.
Susan_Armstrong My problem know is I have no fear. I figure after everything I've been through there's not much anyone can do to scare me anymore.
dorothy Thats not a bad thing Susan.
dorothy So how much travel are you doing for your book?
Susan_Armstrong Sometimes I think healthy fear is good. I travel all the time for work. For the book, I've been doing a few conferences which is great. Right now I'm still trying to complete some of the corporate projects I'm working on so I can find more time to promote the book.
dorothy I am more surprised that your speeches are on sales and not promoting more self help in the area of abuse.
Susan_Armstrong Well, for many years I hid my past. I had a carefully crafted lie that I told people about who I was and where I came from. My clients were very surprised when I told them about the book but they have all been very supportive. When I do corporate training the message of self-help is there, it's just buried under corporate speak.
dorothy I can see how that can incorporate itself, for sure. I will have to get some tips on public speaking from you.
dorothy That is my big fear.
Susan_Armstrong No problem, I'd be happy to help.
dorothy My husband (webmaster) is constantly trying to convince me to start public speaking...ug!
Susan_Armstrong You have a great site, I think we should get the word out - this really is a big problem.
dorothy Careful, I may hold you to that :)
dorothy I agree
dorothy I just tripped over a very interesting site on abuse for women all over the world and children
dorothy I will send it to u through mail later
Susan_Armstrong Yes, I'd be very interested.
dorothy Again the more exposure we can get out there the more women and children and men that we can reach
Susan_Armstrong Wouldn't that be nice? To break the cycle?
Michelle where in Canada are you living/
dorothy Oh that is my dream
Susan_Armstrong I live in Barrie, Ontario. It's about an hour or so north of Toronto. And yes, it is cold! We've already had a blizzard.
dorothy To have the ability to turn back a few pages and let kids be kids and morals be respected...yes totally!
dorothy I was just in Thunder Bay
dorothy It snowed for the first 2 days that I was there, I nearly froze my butt off:0
Susan_Armstrong My best friend lives in Thunder Bay but I've never been there to visit her. I'm afraid - it's so cold.
Michelle Oh snow, I would like to be in snow fall.
dorothy Yes Barrie is more southern.
dorothy We get a ton of university kids from there.
dorothy Snow is nice as long as it does not hit the ground
dorothy wb Val
Linda WB Val
Susan_Armstrong I agree! It's fine as long as it doesn't stay. I remember flying into Tampa one year in March and it was snowing in Tampa.
dorothy Oh no..thats not a good thing.
dorothy I hope that I never see that in Florida
dorothy I can even live with the hurricanes
dorothy Although we have not had them too bad here either.
Susan_Armstrong Yeah, it was pretty cool. Snow in Tampa. It didn't even make it to the ground though.
dorothy Val you mentioned that you had a few questions for Susan.
Val I do
dorothy I guess it wouldn't.
dorothy OK shoot Val.
Val How old were you when you started on this downward spiral?
Susan_Armstrong Hmm, well, I had adult migrane headaches by the age of 7. Surely that was an indication that something wasn't right. I was 11 when I picked up drugs and alcohol.
Val Was there anything anyone could have done to stop you from destroying yourself
dorothy Susan, you moved to Canada with your family from England, correct?
dorothy That in itself was a hardship for your age.
Susan_Armstrong Val, that is a question that I have been asking myself for years and I don't know the answer. I always wondered if there was anything my parents could have done to prevent this and I don't know. I think there are many things that if done differently would have helped. Yes, I did come from England and it was a culture shock. My parents were still living with English values and that didn't help. I think if there is one thing that might have changed it might be my mothers perfectionism. I wonder what would have happend if I didn't feel I had to be perfect?
dorothy Susan while I read your book, I felt that it was more your father that you were trying to please and gain acceptance from.
dorothy Am I wrong?
Val Kimberly says that!
Susan_Armstrong No, I loved my father. I idolized him really, and he me. I wanted him to be proud of me. But he believed that you should get a job and retire from the same job, and you should get married and stay married. I wasn't that person and I felt I let him down.
dorothy Ok I see, that is what stuck in my head
Susan_Armstrong Hey Val, I wondered if you were asking for the benefit of your own children.
dorothy Val what has Kim said?
dorothy Val is having a troubled teen time these past few months.
Val That I want her to be perfect
dorothy oh I see.
dorothy Tell her no just normal and out of jail.
dorothy Happy too!
Val If your daughter were in the position that you were in ...what would you try to do?
Val Can we make this book a movie so kids will watch it?
Susan_Armstrong You know, I have two step-sons who went through puberty. One was really hard to get through. The hardest thing for me was to let go. To realize that how he wore his hair or the earring in his eyebrow was no big deal. It was important for me to let him express himself without getting hurt. It was very hard! Now he is fine, happy, well adjusted and still speaking to me. I'm very proud of that. dorothy :)
Val No, she is extremly close to the beginning of her demise.
Val I have one with piercings and too many tattoos.
Val that's the other kid.
dorothy Kim is 18 and has fallen for a boy that has no desire to succeed in life and likes drugs.
Susan_Armstrong If I had a daughter in the position I was in I would try to make home a safe place for her. In my case that would mean getting rid of the "being perfect", letting go of the need to control and just being there when she needed me. I didn't have that. Not because my parents didn't want to, because they didn't know how.
dorothy Susan there was one time when your parents almost gave you up but you managed to trap them with your cry for love.
dorothy Do you think if they were harder and allowed you to be taken away that things would be different?
Val How do I know the difference between letting go of the control and allowing the unthinkable
Susan_Armstrong What does this boy do for her? How does he make her feel? If you can find out you can try to fill that same emotional need.
dorothy Well val there is a difference in what exactly the child wants to be allowed to do.
dorothy Wrong is wrong. Style of hair or jewelry is just an expression of onesself. Not breaking a rule.
Susan_Armstrong If my parents had allowed me to be taken away I think it would have been worse. I always believe that my parents saved me because they didn't write me off. I'm not sure I would have the same strength as they did to put up with what they did.
Val but how can I allow the perfectionism go and still have standards...she viesw them as one in the same
dorothy That is very true Susan.
dorothy Life is a definite rollercoaster, so many twists and turns.
Susan_Armstrong Exactly Dorothy! Hair, makeup, etc. are just trimming. Standards and perfectionism are different. Standards are something to be upheld, perfectionism is a need to control.
dorothy Kim also has the intelligence of a pharmacist..a very bright young lady.
dorothy Val, Susan made a good point in finding out what exactly this boy is giving Kim.
Val She has the intelligence to be a Dr. which is what she always wanted to be. She is a gifted musician and dancer.
Val gave it all up for him.
dorothy Right now he is her priority.
Val He gives her nothing.
Val she gives him everything.
dorothy He has a control over her and that is what you need to find out.
Val she is saving him!
dorothy Thats how he wants it.
Susan_Armstrong Example: I have two boys and I can be a perfectionist too. It's been very hard for me to accept their definition of clean vs. my perfectionist definition. The two are very different but if I insist everyone meet my standards then I'm saying that they are always wrong and not good enough. Dangerous place to go.
dorothy LOL & the clean thing...I sooo relate.
dorothy When we dictate to anyone using our idea of right and wrong, are we any better?
dorothy So true.
Susan_Armstrong The intelligence thing is so difficult. I always say that was part of my problem. I was too smart, it was difficult because it always made me feel different and I just wanted to fit in. Maybe that's what's going on. Maybe she feels like he likes her for her.
Val yes, exactly.
dorothy It is the old saying of, "Why do today what we can do tomorrow" opposing, "Why wait until tomorrow to do what you can do today".
Val she says that too
dorothy This is when we styart to label type A & type B personalities.
Val she just wants to fit in!
Val Why want to be a .......??????????????
dorothy Yes, I have a son that was and still is above the highest percentile in intelligence... the minute anyone notices him for that he rebels.
Linda Susan it has been really great talking to you. This old gal has to get hubbie's medicine. Good night everyone - you are all very special. Thanks for letting me join in.
Susan_Armstrong We all do Val, and speaking for myself, the worse part was I didn't feel like I fit in at home. I was different than my parents and my sister and made to feel wrong. Like I should conform and behave like them, but I wasn't like them, so I went to the street and found people who liked me for me.
dorothy He finds comfort in people that have no intelligence.
dorothy Huggzz Linda!
Val you better be back tomorrow.
Val too late!
dorothy So good to see you girl and thank you for stopping by.
Val am I taking up all the time?
Val I'm sorry
dorothy She always leaves so quickly.
dorothy Must learn to just say thanx & by!
Val I'm just trying to "get it".
Susan_Armstrong Yes, ladies, it's getting late for me too. I should go and pay some attention to my very special husband. Is everyone online at around 7:00 every night?
dorothy Yes we usually are here.
dorothy You are most welcome anytime.
dorothy Thank you so much Susan for your time and your thoughts.
dorothy It has been a real pleasure girl.
Susan_Armstrong Hey Val, I'll log on tomorrow night, will you be around? We can continue the discussion.
Val Thank you so much Susan.
dorothy Val...its not a problem.
dorothy Oh Susan I will have this interview posted on the site by dinner tomorrow.
dorothy I will forward you a copy also.
Susan_Armstrong Hey that's cool. I'll log in again tomorrow. I'd like to be able to help or at least provide some additional insight to Val's problem. I can hear her desparation through her typing!
Michelle Good night to everyone and Susan it was very interesting meeting you.
Val good night.
Michelle I look forward to reading your book more now.
Michelle Good night and nice to meet you all.
Susan_Armstrong Thanks Michelle, it was nice to meet you!
dorothy Ok that was quick also.
dorothy I need an auto good bye.
Val Maybe we are just slow.
dorothy Or too many things to do.
dorothy Susan I look forward to chatting with you anytime.
Susan_Armstrong Thanks Dorothy, this has been great. I've really enjoyed it.
chantel Thank you for letting me listen Susan.
Val yes, please come back
dorothy That makes Two of us :)
Susan_Armstrong No problem Chantel, have a great night all of you! Good night!
dorothy nighty night Susan.
That was the end of the interview and I must say that I was truly inspired while talking with Susan Armstrong about her life story. She has a human spirit well worth knowing and has touched my heart in a personal way.
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