The Power of Sharing Our Stories

Do you blog?

I’ve mentioned my writing to one of my new coworkers at the school in Ecuador where I’ll be teaching English part time, and we’re discussing freelancing. I tell him- yes, I have a blog, but my writing focus at the moment has shifted. I actually ended up in Ecuador somewhat as a result. I wanted to live in a place where I could get by on a part time teaching salary so I could give attention and energy to finish the book I’d been writing. I’d also always wanted to visit Ecuador and work on my Spanish, so the goals intermingle quite nicely- life is lovely that way sometimes.

So I’ve slowly warmed up to admitting I’m writing a book, regardless of how crazy that makes me feel. But I’m still not entirely comfortable talking about what my book is about, because it’s part of my personal story I haven’t shared freely with everyone in my life. I realize it’s somewhat of a contradiction, writing a book about something I’m afraid to even speak of, with the goal of publishing that book and therefore making that content available for public consumption. I often wonder how I will bridge that gap, but I also trust that when I need to be ready, I will be.   Or perhaps I hope….

So despite the recognition that this is a story on some level I wish to share, when asked about it I usually spin a vague response about how it is a memoir, about travel and relationships. And it is, but this description… it’s a cop out. I’m afraid of someone misunderstanding or placing a judgment on the experiences I’m actually writing about.

However this night, maybe because I’m a continent away from my ordinary life, from anyone whose opinion about my history might matter to me, or maybe because I’ve spent the last several months letting go of remaining pieces of my old life, or even it’s just because I’ve had two fairly strong mojitos, my trepidation melts away.

“I was in an abusive relationship. I’m writing a book about it, and how the places I’ve been and my travel experiences have helped me begin to heal.” I say the word begin with a hidden sadness. I’ve realized recently I’m not nearly as ‘healed’ as I thought, and it stings a bit to admit it out loud that I’m still digging through the pile of defenses that have accumulated over the years to find my heart. Then again, aren’t we all doing that on some level?

So here in this tiny apartment with four people who by all social standards are still strangers to me, I finally get the courage to share bluntly the part of my story that for months has been wrapped in layers of shame. It’s a small step but it feels big, because when I reveal that I was abused, I am also revealing that I was too afraid, too weak, and not conscious enough to leave- and these people don’t know me enough to think otherwise. And then I tell them the hardest part, the part I’m always afraid of sharing, that I’m always afraid will be misunderstood- that yes, my relationship was abusive, but that he never physically hit me.

This is why sharing my story feels important, but also why it terrifies me. Tell someone your partner punched you in the face- they get it, and there is nothing more to explain. Tell them that they slowly broke down your entire sense of self with words, anger, control, and emotional manipulation, and there are questions. The answers… aren’t simple. Which is why I’m writing- it’s why this truth matters to me- because it’s one that’s not spoken often enough, and that in my opinion is why women like me have gotten lost in the darkness. There aren’t enough lights. Maybe my story can be one.

So- I’m writing a book not about where I went, but the meaning I found in those places. Because when one is trying to rebuild their entire sense of self, finding meaning in every moment is necessary, even the challenging ones. Especially the challenging ones. If there is even a small chance that sharing what my journey out of this looked like will allow another to find their way out, that my found meaning can help someone discover theirs enough to feel strong again- I have to tell this story no matter how hard that is… or how afraid I am of exposing a part of my life I’d rather had never happened.

And perhaps this is the purpose of sharing our stories – to shine a light on our human experiences with the chance that it will resonate with someone else, and simply through that universality, we can support each other. We can say, That experience you don’t think you will survive? I did. You will. Hold on.