Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ashley Judd's memoir, All That is Bitter And Sweet

Ashley Judd’s new memoir, All That is Bitter and Sweet, defines recovery and bravery. Recovery from traumatic childhoods takes bravery for each of us walking that journey, but when you must do it in the spotlight of fame, the bravery must be kick up a notch or two.

Judd’s memoir doesn’t rest on her laurels of fame. And it’s not easy reading or a gossip mag for Hollywood voyeurs. Much of the book recounts her international work with poverty, women’s issues and sexual slavery. But her work is layered with the story of her neglect and abuse at the hands of her very flawed parents. Her story reveals how the need to do this work grows out of her own experiences of childhood.

As I have struggled these last three years to write my own memoir, I have come to the conclusion that you can survive and even thrive after a scarring childhood but the tenderness of that scar will always be with you. Ashley and I and millions of others will always be questioning life. Is that normal? Should I feel this way? Is it okay to be like me? What will others think? Do I have to care what others think? Am I free now to be and do what I want to be and do?

I also resonate with Ashley’s experience of how family responds when one of the family chooses to get off the dysfunctional, crazy-making merry-to-round and walk on the solid ground of mental health. Note to others who decide to “get well”: your family will not be sending you congratulatory notes or thank you notes. And Katie-bar-the-door if you are so bold as to tell your story.

This is Ashley’s account of when she dared to tell her Truth when her family came to her in-patient treatment Family Day:

“Giving voice to my reality, such a powerful theme in feminism was the empowering part. The scary part was that I had to accept, and yet take the risk anyway, that some people who were listening might never be safe or healthy and therefore might never be able to regard my story for what it was: my story, something to which we each inherently had a God given right. I knew that particular parts of the pain I was in growing up, and the thoughts and behavior born of that pain, would be ridiculed, rejected, pathologized, and held against me, maybe until the day I died. Unfortunately, I was right. Certain things I said were isolated and thrown back at me in the years since that day. But I do not regret standing up and saying, “This is what it was life for me.” 

Tell your Story, your Truth to someone today. It will start you on a journey of healing you will never regret.


  1. So many of us were damaged and traumatized at the hands of our young parents, but we must get it out, like pus from a wound, before we can begin healing. Not pretty, but necessary.

  2. Your disgusting metaphor is SO accurate, Peggy!

  3. That is what I hope to do as a spiritual director....create a sacred, safe place where someone's story can be heard. THanks for this post.

  4. Lis, it is such an important calling. I'm so glad you have answered it!