Lost and found: Susan Gammage conquered the impossible… and she’s smiling again

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Every week, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected].

Susan Gammage can’t stop smiling. She can light up a room. It’s an ear-to-ear grin and most of the time she can’t even help it. It escapes out of nowhere and it’s the greatest piece of evidence that she’s truly happy. At long last.

Susan is surprisingly open about her horrific past, and that is exactly what makes her an inspiring and admirable person. She’ll talk about anything. Aside from having an infectious grin, she happens to be a great conversationalist as well.

“Cult,” says Susan when I ask her to give me one word that comes to her mind when she thinks of her childhood. It’s dead silence for a few seconds. I’m not sure what to say. Then I tell her that’s definitely not a typical answer when you ask someone to reflect on their childhood. Then she sighs before saying, “It was a horrific thing. I don’t even really connect with my childhood.”

The circumstances surrounding her youth were tragic. She grew up in a small town in Alberta. Both of her parents were heavily involved in a cult. Susan was subjected to ritualistic abuse – physical, sexual and emotional. That was a daily aspect of her life. When her father raped her and she became pregnant with his child at around 13, a backwoods abortion was the solution. I didn’t think I needed her to expand on what exactly that meant because I had a pretty good idea that it entailed heinous measures. She told me about how she watched her father murder her brother and how she longed to run away but couldn’t out of fear that they would find her. She endured things no child should ever have to go through.

The first 17 years of my life were absolute hell but from 18 to 55 it was worse. I was continuing to abuse myself with all these things I was putting in my hamster wheels. Flashbacks, anger, bitterness… It was eating away at me. I had to learn how to forgive. There’s been so much healing since then and forgiveness of my parents.

She tells me they have both passed away. I tell her I’m not so sure I would be so forgiving. “I have this sense that I’m free now. I’m not going to be hurt anymore. I’m more interested in living in the present and trying to do some good in the world.”

Local author Susan Gammage has published more than 15 books as part of her journey to healing. Her first book, Violence and abuse is a must-have for victims of the title.

For years, though, she lived in fear and was plagued by feelings that she was not good enough, for anything, really: not to laugh and have fun, not to look at herself as wholesome and beautiful, and not to love and be loved. She sought therapy and counselling and was on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. She chose the natural route as well – homeopathy, acupuncture, meditation, core belief engineering, and iridology.

But it was when she came across the Bahá’í writings that she really started to merge onto the road to healing. “I truly believe the Bahá’í faith and writings are God’s message for humanity,” she says. “When I started taking the writings more seriously and applied them to my life, things started to change.”

The first thing she did was make a list. A long list. Of every single instance where she was hurt, mentally, physically and emotionally. She had to forgive herself for believing she was worthless. And then she had to work on forgiving her parents for what they did to her. In order to claim her life and accept what happened, she had to believe it wasn’t her fault.

“This was central to my healing. Forgiving my parents didn’t mean what happened to me was right, it meant I was letting go of that attachment, of poison, of bitterness.”

She’s come a long way from her first sessions in therapy when she would literally pull a coat over her head and write down her answers so the therapist couldn’t see her. She wanted to talk to other people who had similar experiences. She needed to know that there was light at the end of the tunnel. She wanted to believe there was hope. But no one was able to do that. So, she made a commitment that if there was hope at the end of the day and light at the end of the tunnel, she would show people that.

See that smile? People comment on it all the time. It took decades before she found it.

See that smile? People comment on it all the time. It took decades before she found it.

Susan started writing because it helped put things in perspective. It’s been a driving force to achieving clarity and acceptance and brings her a deep sense of accomplishment. She doesn’t do it for the money. She’s fulfilling the end of a bargain she made to herself. She’s letting people know they’re not alone. Because at one point, a long time ago, she thought that she was.

“People are finding me from all over the world. Every single day of the week I get fan mail from someone telling me they’ve been touched by my story. It’s very gratifying and that keeps me going.”

I’m still not sure how she manages to smile as much as she does. I guess she’s where she wants to be in life. The happiness she exudes sure says a lot about the strength of the human spirit. And Susan’s seems unbreakable.

To follow Susan’s blog or check out some of the books she has available visit www.susangammage.com.

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14 Comments

  1. Ciara Thompson on

    What an astounding woman. I truly believe that everything that happens to us we can take from and use it as a tool to become stronger as a human being. This is a perfect example of that, and I look up to her bravery and positivity greatly. Wishing you all the best, Susan!

  2. Dale Peacock on

    Ms. Gammage deserves nothing less than a future filled with all things bright and beautiful. Even so it may not make up for what she has endured. I am awed by her strength and resilience.
    Thank you Laura for bringing us this heartbreaking yet inspiring story.

    • Omid Rahmanian on

      Bravo Susan. You have conquered yourself so beautifully and joyfully sharing it with others.
      You have a system to show others how to follow your footsteps; this is priceless. Your smile is contagious and is a proof that you have a truth that maybe others don’t know and you use your own remedy! Truly isn’t that everyone’s purpose in life to be happy and do so despite bitterness of the past.

      Thank you Laura for choosing her life story, you are a gem yourself to see beauty in this time of so much chaos, uncertainty and hopelessness. Showing these beacons of hope and happiness are going to be illuminating the lives of others with their words, action and life.
      Susan, I hope you can set up talks in spaces that we can talk with you face to face.

  3. Janie Hodson on

    Oh Susan, how wonderful to see that huge beautiful smile!! I’m overjoyed that you have found happiness!

  4. Susan, your smile is infectious- your story is miraculous. Laura, thank you for spotlighting her story. Susan, I believe you have found your purpose.

  5. By Far a wonderful reflection of unconditional Love, compassion, forgiveness and miraculous Healing. You Light up the Universes with your radiant heart Susan …. Thanks for joining us all on this Journey of Life.

  6. Pauline Meunier on

    This is so fitting to be posted on April 28th, the Baha’i Feast of Jamal (the Feast of Beauty). Susan has a beautiful spirit, you can feel it when you are with her. Thank you for writing this about her, amazing story.

  7. I love Susan and count myself as privileged to call her my friend. Her dedication to helping other people get through the pain of healing from heinous sexual, physical and emotional abuse is an inspiring example to all who want to improve themselves and the quality of their life, and to build a better world for our children.

  8. Thank you Susan for sharing the pain of your past and showing us what the human spirit is capable of overcoming, to the point of radiating the joy of life as you always do. You are a hero and I am honored to count you among my friends.

  9. Eunice Robertson on

    Susan – I love your hugs, your compassion, your caring, your nonjudgmental acceptance, your encouragement, your beautiful smile, your “yeah”, whilst putting your hand over your heart – the list goes on. Thank you for your strength to “do the work” and inspire us to do the same. Hugs, my friend.

  10. Marlene Macke on

    Forgiveness. I’m beginning to see that is the most powerful force available to people who are hurt by others. Thank you, Susan, for offering that gift of wisdom to everyone.

  11. Leslie Wilder on

    If Susan was able to forgive her abusers, that must mean that we have that capacity as well. She learned how to let go of her pain and to seize an inner joy that radiates visibly and regularly. She makes me want to try harder and to challenge my limits like she has. What a story!

    I also heartily recommend the inspiration of the Bahai Writings.

  12. Susan, you are so brave to tell (out loud to a newspaper) your story of your abusive childhood. It is such clear evidence of how far you have come. Well done, my dear friend!! And was it only 15 years ago you first told (outloud) a small group of chosen friends…which may have been the beginning of your healing journey. You have been determined, going daily in small steps to build up to such a healing result and with helping others so much along the way. I know how much your faith has helped you, and how the Bahai Writings have helped in explaining so many Truths. It shows a path for healing. You have taken these Truths into your heart, and your healing for all to see is the wonderful result!

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