“…You’re only as sick as your secrets. In a pioneering study, psychologist and University of Texas professor James Pennebaker and his colleagues studied what happened when trauma survivors, specifically rape and incest survivors, kept their experiences secret. The research team found that the act of not discussing a traumatic event or confiding it to another person could be more damaging than the actual event. Conversely, when people shared their stories and experiences, their physical health improved, their doctor’s visits decreased, and they showed significant decreases in their stress hormones. Since his early work on the effects of secret keeping, Pennebaker has focused much of his research on the healing power of expressive writing.”
“In his book, Writing to Heal, Pennebaker writes, Since the mid-1980s an increasing number of studies have focused on the value of expressive writing as a way to bring about healing. The evidence is mounting that the act of writing about traumatic experience for as little as fifteen or twenty minutes a day for three or four days can produce measurable changes in physical and mental health. Emotional writing can also affect people’s sleep habits, work efficiency, and how they connect with others.”
I have been silent my whole life. My family still does not know my story.
When I finally started writing and sharing it on my blog, it was terrifying. My husband is my buffer between what I write and what I post. He has not fully been able to figure out why I need him to read what I write before I post it. Many times he has laughed affectionately or teased me gently stating, “Nothing you write is bad, I don’t know why you are so nervous over what you write.”
We have been listening to the audio version of “Daring Greatly” together. And today when Brene’ discussed over-sharing, I told him, “This is why I need you to read my writing. I need you to protect me so that I don’t get hurt and can feel safe. Writing makes me feel vulnerable and I want to be honest and raw in my writing, but I want to be safe.” His eyes got big and he said, “Huh!” He finally got it!
I wanted to share what Brene’ Brown stated about the importance of sharing our story. And of having at least one safe person in our lives to express what has been kept silent. As well as the dangers of holding it in. She talked about how we get hurt by not being careful with who we trust with our story. People need to earn the right to hear our story. They should see it as an honor and something sacred. Blogging is a great way to share the pain behind what we have experienced.
Not long after I started my blog, whether it was real or implied, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to get beyond this pain. To speak of something more pleasant. My writing was too painful to read. While I tried to understand this. And I do believe most of it was innocent and well meant. But here I was finally speaking up for the first time in my life, and just a few weeks in, I was already feeling the pressure to stop.
I think many of these people cared about me and meant well. They wanted better for me. They wanted me to be happy and feel joy. They just didn’t realize that I want this too for myself. But there are no silver linings or an easy way out of abuse. They didn’t realize that this is the path to healing.
I can’t tell you how many times I have almost just walked away from doing this. It was confusing at best and deeply painful. I get that our stories are hard to hear and read. But I am beginning to realize that I don’t know if I would grieve at all if it weren’t for my writing. Most of it makes me cry, so I do get it. But I, along with so many others, need those who read our stories to get the importance of what we are doing.
Being able to have a voice and speak our truth is the only “justice” many of us will ever have. If you can’t bear to hear it, I get it. But I hope through this post you will come to understand more fully two things: Writing is our healing, it is saving many of our lives. And we need your encouragement, not your pressure to “get over it.”
For many of us, it has been a lifetime of silence and secrets. And it has destroyed our ability to live life fully. You can be a part of the light in our lives or the cause of more pain. I hope you will choose the light along with us. After all that is exactly what we are doing, taking what has been kept in the darkness and bringing it into the light.