Manyi Ebot was 14 years old when she had her first child. Ebot lived in Cameroon, a country that had seen her raped as a child and kicked out of her Christian school for having a baby out of wedlock.
“I was told I couldn’t go back there because of the negative influence to the other kids,” she explained, sitting in the Cloverdale Reporter’s office 17 years later. “It was a very traumatic time for me during that period.”
Ebot never saw herself as a victim (“I’m a very optimistic person,” she said), but it took her many years to work through the pain of her past. Now, living in Cloverdale and working as a trauma recovery coach, Ebot has become what she calls a “thriver” — and she’s hoping her experience will help others facing trauma through her first book, The Caged Giant.
“The most important message in this book is … that recovery is possible,” Ebot said. “I like people to realize that no matter what they have been through, they still have potential.”
“With the right resources and the right support, they can still be able to fulfill whatever dreams and visions they have.”
Ebot’s book began as a form of personal therapy, a chance for Ebot to work through the difficulties of her past. But when she decided she wanted to publish her story in a book, she realized her words might not be enough.
“If someone reads just a person’s story, you might not learn,” she explained. “I realized, no, I had to research about recovery.”
Ebot used the story of a fictional woman named Kiki — really a combination of Ebot’s experience, and the experiences of women she had worked with — to build a foundation on which she could share a path of recovery.
“Trauma comes from diverse sources,” Ebot said, “so I wanted to bring about a story which many people can relate to. Not just me, not just an immigrant woman, but something that is open to the public.”
The character Kiki had faced genital mutilation as a child, rape from her father, the death of both parents in a car crash as a young girl, impoverishment in her home country, loneliness as an immigrant, post-partum depression at the birth of her daughters and domestic violence from her husband. She saw herself as a victim.
Over the course of Ebot’s 167-page book, published by Freisen Press this November, Ebot walks readers through Kiki’s journey of recovery. The book features chapters called “The Wiring,” “You Matter,” “Plug In,” “Re-creation,” “Release Yourself,” “What is Your Worth,” “Craving to Belong,” “The Pursuit of Happiness,” “Turning Point,” “Going Beyond” and “The Journey Continues.”
It’s all intended to help readers reach the “thrival stage” — the moment after survival, where “the person is at the position where they can see, okay, I’m not where I want to be, but I’m far from where I used to be.”
In The Caged Giant, the steps people take to get to that “thrival stage” come from the principles of psychosocial rehabilitation, an idea that recovery comes from self-determination and empowerment. Those steps include building healthy communities, setting boundaries, finding your purpose and finding who you are.
For Ebot, finding out who she was meant rediscovering her spiritual sense of self.
“I had that negative experience from my Christian school, (and) at the time I thought maybe I was rejected by God, because I looked at my school at that time to be a representative of God,” she said.
“I had to realize, this is not the truth.”
For Ebot, that meant going back to the Bible to find her truth. And although she said that not everyone shares her faith, they can use the same principles to take down the “lies of trauma.”
“You have to advise the person to look at the source of that belief,” Ebot said. “Where did it come from? How did I come to the position of believing that I am unworthy of love and happiness, or unworthy of a better life?
“Is that truly what you believe of yourself?”
The book isn’t intended to be the final say for people recovering from trauma; rather, Ebot hopes it can be a guide and tool for people on a journey of recovery.
“Sometimes when we look at recovery, a person might think recovery means you’ve got it all together,” Ebot said.
“Recovery is a journey. It’s like a ladder. Every step you take, you have to be grateful for it.”