Recently, I was a guest on The Empowered Spirit Podcast and I walked away from the recording with a renewed appreciation for the power of sharing your story. While storytelling is undoubtedly a universal concept, each time I share my story, I am empowered by how we learn and gain wisdom and insight from each other.
“I’ve discovered that while the truth brings freedom to oneself, the truth also has the power to set others free.”
Sharing My Story For The First Time
The first time I decided to share about being sexually abused by my father as a child, I shared it with my mother. I felt she would protect me most, understand, and make it stop. Going to my mom was instinctual when I was hurt. I was bleeding inside and she was my bandaid. Well, that’s what I was looking for. We were taught that any problems were to be addressed with family first. Don’t share with outsiders and what happens in our house stays within our house. When I disclosed the darkness of my childhood to my mom, it didn’t go the way I had imagined–the way I needed it to go.
Although my mother initially took steps to protect me, she ultimately was bound by her own constraints that she lived within, and I stopped sharing with her for many years. It wasn’t until I was older and regained my voice again that we were able to be candid with each other about the situation.
Regaining My Voice
While spending years working through different forms of therapy, I began to find my voice again as I told my story for the specific purpose of healing. Although it was not easy, I found strength in learning that I was not alone. I learned tools to help me cope with and process the trauma.
Each time I shared my story, in the safety of therapists or others in therapy with me, I felt a little freer and a little braver.
When I began writing my memoir, Under The Orange Blossoms, I told and retold my story over and over again to get my words on paper. Despite this practice, I wasn’t fully prepared for the synergistic way that telling your story directly impacts others. Even though my whole intention behind writing my memoir was to give courage and hope to others so that they could make it through the darkness of sexual abuse, I hadn’t prepared myself fully for experiencing that on a large scale.
Truth & Freedom
The famous Biblical passage, “The truth will see you free,” is often thought of in the context of self. I’ve discovered that while the truth brings freedom to oneself, the truth also has the power to set others free. There have been countless times that my sharing about the childhood abuse I experienced has allowed for open and honest conversations. Many of these conversations have led to the disclosure of a similar or relatable event.
In my interview on The Empowered Spirit Podcast, I mentioned how people have quietly shared their encounters with abuse after hearing me share my story. It has happened at parties, book readings, and too many places to count. Each time this has happened it has been a reminder of why sharing my story is so important. We need each other to learn from, be challenged by, and relate to.
Sexual abuse or any kind of abuse is a topic that is often avoided, which is why I feel my calling is so important. I understand that speaking to the masses about past abuse is not for everyone, but for me, the response to my putting aside my fear and shame and sharing my story has been worth it–every single time.
Lessons Others Can Learn From Sharing Your Story
Each time I share my story, I feel many emotions, but the feeling that stays with me is one of strength. There are a few lessons that I have learned from speaking up that I believe can help others who have gone through difficult challenges in life and have contemplated sharing their story.
“I Am Not Alone”
There is nothing more crippling than feeling like you are alone. Ironically, although we may be surrounded by people, we can still feel very isolated. Understanding that we are not alone in our experiences is so important for moving forward. By sharing your story, others are able to identify that they are not the only ones. Abuse is an epidemic in our society, yet due to its taboo stigma, many suffer from the effects of abuse in seclusion.
With the proper support, you can get through anything. The power of community is astounding and sharing your story creates opportunities to form a community with others who have gone through similar experiences.
Your story has the power to be an ally.
“If You Can Make It, I Can Too”
This right here, is what I hope every reader of my book feels when they finish it. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing another person in a similar situation than you, rise beyond what is expected and thrive. I have said many times that part of my reason for writing my story is to give others what I had searched for in a book as a child. As a young girl, I searched for a story of someone like me. Someone with an experience like mine. I searched for someone to show me the way out of my situation, my thoughts, and my sadness. While the road to healing was long, I want others to see my story and say, “If you can make it, I can too.”
When your head is down and the weight of life seems to be crushing, it’s hard to imagine anything different. We need people in all seasons of life to support us. We need people in the past, who’ve known us for a long time to remind us of where we came from. We need people in it with us, to walk with us to be a shoulder to lean on. We need people who are ahead of us in the journey to give us hope to keep going and know that things will get better.
Your story has the power to inspire others to persevere.
“Every Story is Unique”
I have had many people tell me that they would’ve not handled my situation as I did. And you know what? I love that. Our experiences, though similar, are all unique. There are so many intricacies that make up our experiences, and that means, our processes and choices will all be different.
When we listen to how others handle similar experiences, it gives us tools, insight, and perspective into our own experiences. Does it mean, we should do exactly as others do? Of course not. I always remind people that the choices I made in my journey aren’t necessarily going to be the same as their journey and that’s ok. While I share tools that I think are helpful to healing, I know that each person has to find what works for them.
There is freedom in knowing that there are many ways to find healing and it will be most successful when it is tailored to you.
Your story has the power to give others confidence in themselves.
Sharing Your Story For Others & Yourself
It may seem as if sharing your story is mainly for the benefit of others. While I thought this to be true at one time, I have learned that sharing my story has strengthened my faith in the power of healing, and the need all humans have for connectedness.
Sharing your story doesn’t have to be on social media, to a large crowd, or even in public at all. It may be over coffee with a friend or family member, or anonymously through writing. Whatever the form, embrace the opportunity to give to others through the power of storytelling. Someone needs to hear your story.