So much has changed since my memoir was published nearly four years ago. Before I wrote the book, my entire life was focused on keeping quiet, not telling, protecting those I loved, or who loved me. It took me a long time to understand that by keeping quiet, I was actually protecting the people who hurt me in my life. Writing Untangled was a way to announce in a really big way, that I will not keep quiet any longer.
I have been in a poetic place with my writing lately. It’s been easier for me to express myself in poetry. It’s a way to get to the meat of my feelings. I absolutely love the creativity of poetry. It feeds my soul, it takes me to places where I say to myself, “If I could paint a picture, this is what it would look like.”
The other day someone said to me, “I like your writing because it comes from an emotional place, it’s about the feelings. That is exactly how I would describe my style of writing and speaking. I know that feelings are universal and relatable.
When I have speaking engagements, I focus on feelings, and how I’ve learned to live a purposeful life while struggling with PTSD. But, aside from my typical sentence of, “I’m a survivor of unimaginable abuse and neglect for the first 20 years of my life, followed by threats to stay silent for the next 17 years,” I have not shared much of my story while speaking in public.
I’m not ashamed of my past. I’m not ashamed of my story. It is the truth of what happened in my life, to me. I didn’t choose it; the people in my life made those choices to traumatize me. What I believed was, if I shared my story, maybe the audience would compare their trauma to mine. I was fearful that they would minimize what happened to them and how the effects of their trauma impacted their lives. If I kept the conversation about feelings, emotions, and symptoms then survivors of trauma could relate to myself and each other.
I’m real and honest when it comes to sharing what it’s like to live with my symptoms and the effects of my trauma, but that comes without much back-story. My PTSD is from prolonged and pervasive trauma. That’s as deep I get when doing presentations.
Recently, I began to ask myself, am I shaming myself back into silence because I feel my story is so unrelatable? Am I sharing enough of myself?
A few weeks ago, I heard a speaker at my son’s school talk to the kids about the choices he made in his life. His past was the stuff of movies. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, he’s so resilient and brave.” The audience was listening with respect. I keep in perspective that there may have been plenty of times in that speaker’s life where people have doubted his story. People have openly disbelieved me.
Tomorrow, I have an amazing opportunity to speak to a group at EmpowerSurvivors which is a peer-led organization of healing support and education for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and trauma. Elizabeth Sullivan, founder of the organization came to hear me speak to a college class a couple of weeks ago. At the end of my talk, the instructor asked Elizabeth if she would be willing to tell the class about her organization. With no notice, and nothing prepared Elizabeth got up, shared her personal story and told the class why she founded EmpowerSurvivors. Just like the speaker at my son’s school, I had tremendous respect for her resilience and bravery, and for sharing her story to this large group of people.
Then it hit me! I’m in a place where I am ready to share. I’m ready to be vulnerable and celebrate my bravery and resilience. I know that my presentations, interviews, and events will be a lot richer if I’m not inadvertently shaming myself into silence. I’m grateful for all the healing I’ve done. It’s enabled me to share with others that a person can not only survive, but thrive in spite of a horrific past, and PTSD. I instinctively know that tomorrow as I prepare to speak with a group of survivors that it’s time to share my story.
Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph