Friday, October 2, 2015

Guest Writer, Zoe Federoff of Insatia Shares Inspiration of Defeating Domestic Violence Mental Trauma

Meet Zoe Federoff of the
Prog Metal band, Insatia
Hi..This is Will here. I have opened my blog for guest writers, and I saw a story from my friend, Zoe Federoff of the band, Insatia on Facebook. She and her band are past and future guests of our show. We love Zoe and Insatia, and you will too. I read her post, and it was very moving and inspiring. I reached out to her to be my first guest writer here on this blog, and she agreed. I invite you all to read her story about her victory over an abusive relationship, and the grip it can have on the victim. She did it, and she has her grandmother to thank for it. Her grandmother unlocked Zoe's strength. This is an incredible and inspiring story, and I enjoyed reading it immensely. I know you will too. The rest of this is Zoe in her own words. 

Take it away, Zoe!

Despite being a very young newcomer to the metal scene, people often tell me I have a fearless attitude on stage. I never get nervous about the crowd. (Unless my drummer has pulled an all-nighter, but that's another story…) From my very first real show with my band, opening for Sonata Arctica last year, I have felt no apprehension. Just freedom, an indescribable high when I get to hold a mic and share a message with my metal family.

Where did my fearlessness come from?

When my grandparents were serving in the Peace Corp, their assignment was post-Soviet Bulgaria. This was 1995; there were more remnants of the USSR than just the rubble of a fallen wall in Berlin. There was the rubble of broken, beaten down hearts still clinging to fear and suspicion towards the west. People did not know how to live freely, with smiles on their faces and a dance in their step. The Bulgarians said that if you looked too happy, you were asking for trouble- because happy people were always "up to something." The only way to be safe was to be "normal."

My grandparents were the epitome of classic era America, especially my vivacious, red haired grandmother with bright green eyes and a ready laugh. She was a product of the 50's, and no one was more out of place in somber, solemn Bulgaria than her. She turned heads and frightened people with her independence, spunk, and liveliness. One of the most outrageous things she did while she was over there started off quite innocently, with her and my grandfather purchasing a pumpkin at the market and carrying it home.

My grandmother's teaching partner, a Bulgarian woman, stopped her.

"Why are you carrying a pumpkin? You don't have any animals. Only livestock eat pumpkins."

My grandmother was taken aback. "I'm making pumpkin bread. It's very common in America, warm and spicy. I'll make some for you too."

The woman frowned. "No." She insisted firmly. "You cannot do this."

My grandmother, who had never in her adult life allowed anyone to tell her she couldn't do something, looked at the woman in disbelief. "I am going to make pumpkin bread. You are welcome to try some." Then she continued on her way back to their apartment.

Now my grandmother didn't settle for simply making pumpkin bread, she wanted to make a point. The Bulgarians around her were so tied up in certain ways of doing things, rigid rules to follow at all costs, that she wanted to give them a taste of freedom, not just pumpkin. Freedom from the fear that had written their lives for them for decades under soviet rule. And she did it quite simply, by making bread out of an object they were told was not fit for human consumption.

It was a small protest against fear, but a protest nonetheless that garnered a fair amount of attention the next day at the school she taught for, when 24 muffins appeared on a plate in the staff lounge with the words "Pumpkin muffins" written on a card beside them. My grandmother peaked into the lounge every so often to see what people were making of the muffins. A small crowd circled the muffins hesitantly, leaning in to examine them, and whispering to each other as if someone had left "arsenic muffins" or "octopus muffins" in the lounge instead. Finally a few people picked up some muffins, tried them, and went to my grandmother's teaching partner. They told her "Please ask Kay Federoff to share the recipe for Pumpkin Muffins."
Bulgaria has continued evolving in the 20+ years since then. Young people have grown up unaware of what it was like to live in fear of breaking rules. The current generation holds no memory of life under soviet rule. (Although Russia is certainly causing it's fair share of concern still.) But it has taken time to move past the fears inspired by living under Soviet rule. Only time erases fears, even the silly ones.

When I left an abusive relationship a few years ago, and then got my head cleared and my heart mended in moving to Oklahoma City, I would call my grandmother and tell her that I was still scared. I had left behind my young daughter, and my family was still strategizing on how to rescue her next. My PTSD from the abuse caused intense emotional breakdowns whenever I saw young girls and babies. I had recurring nightmares about my time living with Lily's father and his parents. I was stuck living in certain patterns to avoid feeling afraid. Even if he was no longer physically present to hurt me, I still felt a strange attachment to my past that prevented me from progressing. His words echoed in my head constantly, "You're not pretty enough to be a singer. You don't have enough talent to front a band." And even more painfully- "You can't be a mother. You'll never be anything but trash." 

My grandmother heard these concerns and she told me, "You, my dearest granddaughter- you're made from tougher stuff. You come from a long line of unconventional, brilliant, outstanding people. You come from a long line of happy, successful, romantic marriages. You are entitled to happiness. You are born to be fearless, and we will break you out of the fear and bring you back to who you were meant to be. I promise you, once you get out of your own patterns, once you realize that there are no walls or lines that can't be crossed- you are going to be just fine. We're going to help you break out of this- because there is nothing you can't do or be."
And she has. 

My grandparents helped me think differently, value myself and my happiness, and reject fear and oppression. *Viciously* reject fear and oppression. When I get on stage, I am making a statement against fear- the crowd may not realize what type of journey I took to get there, but they do recognize that I'm not afraid of them. I'm still angry sometimes at what was done to me, and I want to turn that anger into empowerment, not just for me, but for other women dealing with the same situation. However, despite my anger, I'm not afraid anymore, and I promise you, that my daughter will be taught to live fearlessly and rise above all circumstances thrown at her- and she will never settle for the words "You can't do that."

And it all starts with teaching her how to make pumpkin bread this Christmas.
Here's to the people who refuse to live confined by what people tell them they can't do!
Love always,

P.S. If you or someone you love is struggling with domestic abuse, there are so many resources available to you, because NO ONE should have to live in fear. Visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at


  1. What a beautiful story, Zoë! I am so honored to call you my friend. You are a beautiful person both inside and out. You're an awesome mom, an amazingly talented vocalist, and an overall wonderful person. I hope that everyone reading this will be inspired by your story and that this will draw more attention to the problems we face in our society involving domestic violence. Most of all, I hope that someone going through this right now will read your story and feel empowered by your words, and motivated to change their lives and break the cycle of abuse. Keep on rockin', my friend!

  2. Yes, this story put a tear in my eye. Loved it. I'm honored to have it on this blog!