I am a believer in telling your story. I think it’s healing, empowering, and helpful to others. Sometimes though (probably all the time, actually), telling our own story is telling someone else’s too. And what if that person isn’t ready to say theirs out loud. Or maybe their version of the story is different than yours. Or maybe it’s embarrassing or revealing or illegal or scary. How can we share our stories without forcing someone else into sharing theirs? Should we try?
This is a question I struggled with for a long time. If you’ve read my story, you know that I was raped. Clearly that tells someone else’s story. I never spoke to him after he assaulted me. We never went to court. We lived in the same small town and continued at the same small school, staying away from each other. People that knew both of us made their choices about who to remain friends with based on what they knew and that was that. I did tell my story to the cops, to my family, and to a therapist, but I didn’t even always use him name. And for years, I didn’t stand up and say my story out loud. I whispered it with my head down, choking down tears or letting them wash over my words. I didn’t think about how he might be affected. I didn’t care, really. I was just getting through my life, of which he was no longer a part.
Until college. At that point I was in therapy and far enough away from home that I decided there would be no repercussion for speaking my truth out loud. I was ready and he couldn’t try to say I was lying or anything of the sort, because he wasn’t around. So I told my story. I didn’t use his name because it didn’t matter. No one knew him and it wasn’t about him – it was about me. I was empowered and it helped in my healing and in others’. I think that’s when I truly started seeing the benefits of sharing stories.
So, yes, I do think we should try to tell our stories even if that telling could impact others. I don’t think it’s always easy. And I don’t think there’s a set right way to share. But there are many options.
Like me, you could tell your story and leave names out. Those that know you will know, but you keep the focus on you and your telling of what happened. I think giving that respect to others, even those who have hurt us to our core, is a positive thing, as well. I think it says something about our capacity to love ourselves because sharing our stories, in my opinion, isn’t about vengeance. It’s about nurturing our spirits.
You could tell your story anonymously, as another option. Some of my posts on here, in the Your Story category, are shared using made-up names. I give that option so that people can share without putting a spotlight on themselves or their families or friends.
If the other main character in your story is a parent or partner, someone who loves you, you could tell your story together. If the turmoil is in the past and you’re both willing, why not sit down and talk about what messages from that past are worth letting others know about. I think this can be especially wonderful for families where cycles tend to continue if not interrupted. If you’ve managed to stop the abuse, the bullying, the hurt – whatever your story contains – and to heal from that with your loved ones, that can give support to cousins, siblings, and strangers alike. Courage to keep living out their stories.
Or, after thinking about what you’ve got to say and how you want to say it, you might choose to tell your story straight up. Even if you’re saying names and placing responsibility where you believe it belongs, that can be done with respect. Spitting venom at someone else, no matter how horrid that person is, says more about you than them.
No matter what your story is or how you chose to share it, please do tell it. I’d be happy to help you with that! We all need to hear that we’re not alone. We all need to be supported. We all need to laugh. Your story can and will do that for someone…maybe even for yourself.