SOLON, Ohio — As a trauma survivor who has battled self-esteem issues much of her life, Deborah Hallal Bradt has found that writing poetry has helped with her emotional health.
Now Bradt, of Solon, is sharing poems she has written over the past 40 years in an effort to help others who have struggled as she once did to know that they are not alone.
Her first book, “Lay Me Down Among the Words: A Poetry Collection by a Trauma Survivor Whose Inner Voice Saved Her Life,” was published in July.
“The inner voice inside me kept saying, ‘You can do this,’” Bradt said.
“In my head there were two voices — one telling me I was worthless and was never going to amount to anything, and the other voice was my connection to God and family and saying, ‘You’re needed on this planet.’
“Because of the poems, I was able to take that positive voice and channel it into these words. When I would read these poems, I would feel my depression start to lift, because these poems are so close to my heart. It’s about the authenticity.”
Bradt said her poems are “all about being real and authentic and loving yourself, even if you feel no one else does.”
“My poems are a way of processing my grief over things that have happened in my life,” she said. “I could read the poem and somehow feel a little more resilient, that I was loved and worthy and going to make it through.
“Many of the poems were written in difficult moments. I felt that if I could share them, maybe I could inspire people to save their lives.”
Bradt said the fact that the suicide rate is increasing — and her belief that “everybody deserves to have an amazing life” — also motivated her to publish the book.
“If this book gives even one person a little bit of hope to love themselves in a new way, then it will have been worth it,” she said.
The 97-page book also includes a few essays and some of her artwork, but it’s “85 percent poetry,” Bradt said.
It was published by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House. Based in Bloomington, Ind., Balboa Press is a self-publishing company that specializes in self-help books with a positive message, according to its website.
The cover was designed by Andrew Sykaluk, a local graphic designer.
“I worked on these poems a very long time,” Bradt said. “I’m 48, and I have written poems (almost) every year of my life.
“Because I’m a writer and never published before, they’re from the last 40 years of my life, but most are from 1995 to the present.”
Noting that her poems share a theme of “resilience and unity and send out a message of hope,” Bradt said it was important to her to have the book published in 2020.
“I was hoping some readers would find it comforting in the midst of a pandemic,” she said.
‘Nobody deserves to be bullied’
A Cleveland native, Bradt grew up in Central Florida. Her parents divorced when she was 3. She is a rape survivor who has struggled with prejudice, bullying, depression, anorexia and chronic pain through much of her life.
“I’m Lebanese, and I was bullied very much and teased a lot when I was younger,” she said. “Nobody deserves to be bullied.”
Bradt admitted that she was close to suicide a couple times.
“In college, I had a terrible bout of anorexia and was very close to suicide; that was very difficult to get through,” she said. “I don’t think I would have gotten through it if not for my faith and my writing.
“They actually go together, and the writing seems to bring me closer to my source.”
Bradt earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida State University in Tallahassee. Her minor was writing, with a concentration in poetry.
She said the title of her book was inspired by her final project in college, “Lay Me Down Among the Words.”
“It was always my dream to make it into a book,” she said. “The first section of the book is almost entirely from that final project in college.”
Every poem in the book is dedicated to someone or a group, Bradt said, including her son, Henry, 13. She said family is very important to her.
Bradt and her husband, Bill, an architect, moved to Solon from Cleveland Heights 7½ years ago primarily so that Henry could attend Solon City Schools, she said. He is an eighth-grader at Solon Middle School.
“Being a mother is the best job I have ever had, and I thank God every day for my precious son, Henry,” she said. “He is the most important person to me and closest to my heart.”
Bradt, who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about five years ago, said she has a special interest in those affected by chronic health conditions. But she added that her book was designed to reach a wide array of readers.
“I tried my best to make (the book) a variety of poems that could touch people’s hearts and lives and spirits,” she said. “Families could read it together.
“When you read something that touches your soul, it can change your life. I tried to put in there poems that could help shift people’s perceptions of themselves and see their world in a new way, because that’s what the writing does for me.”
One poem in the book, titled “Can We Rise Up?”, is dedicated to George Floyd, the Black man who was killed after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes on Memorial Day in Minneapolis. The incident triggered a series of protests against police brutality across the country.
“It’s the last poem in the book and probably one of the most important poems I’ve ever written,” said Bradt, a social activist. “When I wrote it, I literally had tears running down my face.
“It’s about how we need to rise above all that gets in the way of loving each other and find a way back to connecting. There’s just no reason to have violence, hatred or racism.”
Bradt, who said she has a passion for teaching and the healing arts, is a registered yoga teacher who specializes in therapeutic yoga. She taught yoga for about 18 years and hopes to resume doing that in 2021.
A member of Church of the Resurrection, a Catholic church in Solon, Bradt is already focused on her next book, a memoir and self-help book that will feature poetry, as well. She expects that book to be published in early 2021.
While Bradt’s first book was dedicated to her father, David W. Hallal, who died in 2004, she wants to dedicate the second book to her stepfather, Martin Michael Gaydan, who died in July.
“Lay Me Down Among the Words” is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Balboa Press. It retails for $11.99 for the soft-cover edition, $28.95 for the hardcover book and $3.99 for the e-book.
Bradt said some proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the Happy Buddha Precious Temple and Tian Ran Temple in Cleveland.
For more information about Bradt, visit her website, flyfreehealing.com.
Read more from the Chagrin Solon Sun.