On Telling True Stories

This week, I made a commitment to write every day, and I did. Some of what I’m writing goes into my personal journal and some is for sharing on the blog.

I spent hours and hours working on a post this week. I couldn’t get it right. I worked it, I revised it, I edited it…I revised it some more and realized that I hated the post. HATED it.

I gave it some space and waited a day then came back to it.

I hated it even more.

As anyone who writes knows, this happens at times. Sometimes writing is just work; it doesn’t always flow out like a waterfall of magical pearls of beautiful and meaningful language. Some days, it’s an ugly brick of concrete that you slap onto the ground, accidentally (or purposely?) let dry, and then earnestly work to chip and sculpt into something more pleasing from its hardened and unattractive form.

I did the work on that post, but it didn’t help this time. I had a paragraph that was a gem, but everything else was so bad that it made me question all my life choices. I was bored re-reading it myself.

Here’s the problem with this post: I had decided that I (and probably you, reader) needed a break from writing about IT.

And by IT I mean, me, my survivor-ism, my healing process, my sad/happy/angry/miserable by turns day-to-day existence as I figure out how to make peace with the past, be present in the now, and move forward into a future I claim as my own.

(First the letting go, then the rising up.)

I wanted to write about something else. Scratch that–I felt like I should write about something else.

And that, my friends, is why the post I worked so hard on just flat out sucked.

It wasn’t true. It wasn’t real. So I finally said, enough.

I’ll keep that one shining nugget of a paragraph and try to find a place for it at some point. But I have to focus on what is most real. I have to keep telling this story. My story.

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I loved reading this quote–and ordered Brene Brown’s book–because it hit such a note with what I’ve been grappling with lately, and it helped me realize that what I’ve been grappling with is the truth.

What is true? Are truth and perspective different? These are the questions that haunt me.

One of the things I have been working on in therapy is letting go of my over-compensation for those who have hurt me. Not just the abusers, but more importantly those who should have taken care of me, made me safe, and didn’t.

I tend to take more than my share of responsibility for things. I tend to give these people a pass, or at the least wonder what I might have done differently to lessen the impact of the harm others inflicted on me, either by their direct actions or their abandonment of me in my time of need.

I tend, too often, to try and see the perspective of these people to understand how I could have behaved in another way to make them behave better…or at the very least to make them feel ok about how badly they were treating me.

I tend to paint my own experience as “my perspective” instead of “the truth,” and do you see what that does? It makes it subjective and therefore open to interpretation and criticism. “My perspective” is vulnerable to being revised by those who are uncomfortable with what happened, with what they did or what they failed to do.

Even as I type these words I see the dysfunctional thinking that informs these beliefs, but they are hardwired and so incredibly hard to overcome.

These beliefs keep me thinking that I am somehow responsible not only for their behavior, but for fixing it for them so I won’t be hurt by their continued harm, leaving them free to go on hurting me.

Really it’s the result of years of manipulation as a child that created these pathways in my brain that their hurtful actions (or non-actions, as the case may be) were not the cause of my pain. That instead, I was the cause of my own pain for allowing myself to be hurt by them. I was too weak. I felt too much. My feelings were my own fault, my own weakness.

Because that’s a totally reasonable way to deal with a child, right? Well no, no it’s not. It’s sick and it’s twisted.

This is what happens when you grow up in the midst of people who manipulate reality–who manipulate the story–to meet their own needs and then call it truth and share it with others as such.

The hardwiring is so embedded that even at 42, and after all I’ve learned in the past year, I still wonder if I have done enough for these harmful, toxic people that I have since removed from my life.

No wonder my therapist yelled at me when one day I said, “Should I be trying harder to maintain a relationship with these people?”

She yelled emphatically and quite unexpectedly, “NO YOU SHOULD NOT!!!”

And then we laughed, because she had never done that before…even though we had been having the same version of this conversation for months, with my obsessing over whether severing these toxic connections was the right thing to do.

She had never answered this question so directly before, but I was so grateful that she did. It gave me the permission I needed–the permission she knew I couldn’t grant myself–to believe the truth of what was done to me not only by those who abused me directly, but by those who left me to suffer the abuse when they should have been the ones keeping me safe.

It’s not my “perspective;” it is the truth. It is what happened–or, better stated, it’s what was done to me. It didn’t “happen,” it was done. Perpetrated. Both the abuse and the abandonment. They are equally as bad. (Actually, the abandonment is probably worse but that’s a story for another day.)

But even as I acknowledge this truth, I still worry, have fear and anxiety about the story I know these people to be telling.

I know they are not telling the same story as me, even though I know the truth. They are telling a false truth to others who I imagine now have a negative opinion of me.

They are painting themselves as the victim of my “drama,” blaming others and/or blaming me, and I know that some people are accepting their stories as the truth.

This is so, so very hard on me. Even though none of these people has contacted or confronted me directly, there have been some subtle things that have happened to indicate their disapproval of my story and their acceptance of the other stories.

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Knowing these false stories are being told and believed impacts me more than I want it to. I have to acknowledge that. Anger and indignation can’t mask that there is a deep hurt that these people, who should love me and accept me and be walking in this painful journey with me, have not only turned away but have thrown lighter fluid on the fire by spreading a false story.

I have been abandoned again when I needed help the most. Again and again and again and again because they can’t face their own culpability. They have to tell themselves and others a different story to preserve themselves, while I stand alone and abandoned once more.

I want to let go of how much I care about what people think of my story–of whether they believe me or not. But I know that getting to a place where I can walk confidently with my story, with the truth, is part of the process. I am not there yet. I will be someday.

(First the letting go, then the rising up.)

In my finer moments I know that this thing, the truth, is a hard thing. It has sharp cutting edges sometimes. It is uncomfortable. It is not for the faint of heart.

Not everyone can walk in the truth, even when they haven’t been told a false story. There are definitely people who have walked away from me–or at least looked away–because this truth is too much for them to see and acknowledge.

I get it. I understand how difficult a hard truth is to swallow. It has literally taken me decades to acknowledge my own truth!

But it still hurts when I see people walk away because of my story and my choice to tell it. It still makes me wonder if, because my story is too much, am I too much? Which in turn pushes me to try to play smaller and write a shitty, lame post that I hate.

Making that connection this week has been a huge win for me. I can’t back away from my story. I won’t.

My story is the truth. I am learning to walk in it without shame or hesitation or fear of how it will be received. And once I do that, I kinda feel like I’m going to be unstoppable.

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “On Telling True Stories

  1. A few months back I took a bold step and published a book that had bits and pieces of my own story of sexual abuse, rejection, poverty…and you name it.

    Some of my relations have literally cut off from me because of my story. It is heart rending as you say, to see you own close relation unfriend you on social media just because of your story. Many have become distant. But I don’t care. So many more are getting healed because of my story.

    The other day, I was feeling really depressed and I asked God if I made an error. He told me my testimony is my ministry. I am called to use my story to help others heal. The day I disown my story, I disown my ministry. So I don’t care what people think about me.

    I know my God is proud of me and people are getting help. Those who are ashamed of me can go their way. Many were ashamed of Jesus too.

    For all I know, I feel better now, having let it out of my system. You are alone in sister. Take courage, you have many friends. I would give you a big hug and a big pad on the back if I saw you.

    • Thank you so much, Gretiana! It means a lot to hear this, especially from someone who has walked the path. I hope I can see, as you did, that others might be helped and healed with my story–that will make it even more worthwhile for me. And even if not, writing and sharing is a huge part of my healing process so that alone makes it all worthwhile. I like your phrase “Those who are ashamed of me can go their way.” I will think of that often. Thanks for reading and connecting with me. ❤

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