I’ve been a writer for my entire life–I’ve written journals, diaries, anonymous blogs, record reviews in magazines, personal essays in Huffington Post, and a lot about handbags. I’ve always wondered why I write, and what has drawn me to it. It’s always felt like a release–like getting words on a page makes everything feel a little less horrible and hard.
In the last year, I’ve challenged myself to write about my life–both what I’m living right now, and the past. It’s hard to write about the past, but I feel an immense drive to tell the stories of danger and fear that engulfed my teenage years–the stories that brought me to who I am today.
Writing so openly about something I know others expect me to keep in the dark feels enormously freeing.
Finally, something I can control.
As a society, we make subjects of trauma (especially sexual and domestic violence) defenseless and voiceless, which makes them even more susceptible to pain.
I guess some may call it “oversharing,” especially because I write on the internet under my own name, but to me, my vulnerability feels like strength, of owning who I am and not being ashamed about any of it.
Sharing my life so candidly is hard for a lot of people to understand, especially for those who call my openness bravery or write that they admire me. I admit that it’s terrifying to tell these stories, especially when I tell the world that I’m struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an issue most well known for the damage it has done to soldiers of war. There is so much stigma and shame just surrounding that in itself.
It takes a lot of courage to be who you are, for the entire world to see and to read, especially when you’re not even sure who you are.
But I’ve come to understand that what people actually mean when they say I’m brave or that they admire me for being so honest is: “Aren’t you embarrassed?”
Within that question is a very clear subtext: “You should be embarrassed.”
But that’s not what I think, and it’s not what I want for my life. I don’t think we should be embarrassed or ashamed about the things in our lives; both the things that happened to us and the actions that we said yes to, even if those choices put us into danger or into harm’s way.
Shame. That’s what we’re expected to feel when we go through things like this. I know a lot about overcoming shame. I’m doing it every damn day.
Part of the healing process for any kind of trauma is learning not to be ashamed of what happened.
Shame is interwoven in the stories we tell ourselves: about trauma, about our lives–but it’s the lies we tell ourselves about those stories that make them hard to live with.
What lies do we tell ourselves? What perpetuates these lies?
These are just some of the questions I ponder as I lay awake at night, unable to sleep from nightmares of men holding me down, both physically and metaphorically.
I wonder about the men who were the perpetrators, villains and demons in my stories–do they know this is about them? Are they angry with me? Do they blame me for their lives’ misfortune, or do they take ownership of their wrongdoings? Do they speak openly about me or the other women I know they’ve harmed? Do they hide it in the back of their closet like a jacket that no longer fits them but they can’t bear to get rid of? Have their lives been haunted by their actions or do they feel like something awful happened to them?
I wonder if I should tell my stories to the world.
The story about how my hands were held behind my back while one man whispered in my ear what they planned on doing to me. The story about the time I kept saying no, so the man shoved me against a wall and yelled in my face. The story about the time a man shot a gun at my feet. The story about all the times a man threatened to kill me.
I wonder how much of my identity is interwoven into this: this powerlessness, this mistrust for men and humanity, this disconnect from my body and mind. This feeling that my body doesn’t belong to me, but that it belongs to the men in the world around me.
Even now, as I’m married to an amazing man who has seen me crumble and held me as I shook violently from mere memories that my brain replays any time I feel stressed or agitated or scared, I wonder how he could love me.
As I write this, I wonder if these are words I should keep to myself, but at the same time I don’t really want to. I want to share my stories because I don’t want there to be such a stigma about all of this.
I know people connect with authenticity, and I know people crave real stories.
I want my writing to resonate with people, validate their experiences, their truths, and help them feel less alone.
For so long, I hid these stories in the back of my mind, buried deep in my soul, worried that they held the truth about who I really was: damaged, broken, full of shame, a slut, etc. The memories of stories try to bring me back to them and hold me there like a prisoner.
But that’s not who I am. I’m smart, articulate, stylish, a good friend, an amazing listener, talented at writing and design. I’m a lot of other things, too. I am not my past or the things that happened to me.
I am me and I am mine.
Who are you?