Our Culture Of Silence…
I knew she was going to tell me something beyond comprehension. Part of me wanted to run, to hide, to scream “don’t say anything“. The old me would have done just that, uncomfortable with what was about to be unveiled.
People have always told me things. You know, the kind of things we don’t talk about. I often changed the subject, made jokes, or shut the conversation down. If I’m really honest, I’d say these last 3 years have been about me growing into the person who can handle these conversations, to sit in a space with people’s shame stories, their hurt and their baggage.
I have my own closet of shame and baggage that I carry and I didn’t want to hear other peoples. I dealt with mine by pretending it didn’t happen and I thought everyone else should do the same. If we don’t acknowledge it, it never happened, right?
Trauma doesn’t work that way. We don’t get to pick and choose what we deal with. We deal with it or we find ways to cover it up. Shall we count the ways?
- Controlling everything
- Not eating
Shall I continue, or do you get the point? We abuse anything that will allow us to cope. I had a lot of them… too much drinking in my early days. I smoked a lot of cigarettes in my life. Binge Eating. Bulimia. Anorexia. I didn’t know that my obsessions with those things were merely ways to control and distract.
As she told me the story of her grandfather raping her in the barn when she was 11 years old, I felt like I was in a free fall. This was the 6th sexual abuse story I heard this week alone. As I listened, my heart went out to her. I can’t imagine the terror that she felt. Or can I? Do we all like to pretend that maybe we don’t have anything in common with other people’s shame stories? The details might be different… different person, different place, different ages… but are we really that different from each other?
I asked the standard round of questions… did you tell anyone? What happened? Did it happen again? How did your life change after that moment? And I heard the requisite answers – no, I thought I did something. He did it until I screamed one day and he stopped. But I’m sure he moved onto one my cousins.
She proceeded to tell me how she turned to alcohol, cigarettes, food and sex. Eventually, she forgot why she was so over weight. She just kept wondering why she couldn’t stop eating. When she got married and had kids, she couldn’t cope. She looked for abusers everywhere, including her husband. She eventually destroyed the marriage through withdrawal, paranoia, distrust, eating, and overspending.
When she finished the story she said, “I feel so much better. It feels good to be honest.” She carried a lot of guilt and shame and felt she couldn’t speak the truth. She would be blamed, maybe she deserved it. She convinced herself it hadn’t happened and that it wasn’t happening to others in her family so she wouldn’t have to deal with it.
Similar stories to the other 5 I had heard that week… a babysitter, a boy in school, date raped, drugged and held against will for 3 days, a brother. As I write this, I’m hearing the other stories I’ve heard over the years – a father, an uncle, a grandfather, a mother and father together… the stories seem endless, yet, where are the conversations?
Why is it so taboo to have these conversations… there is healing in truth. Yet, we’ve been taught to stuff it down. We’re taught from a young age of what to talk about and what not to talk about.
Sexual abuse isn’t the only issue we hide… we hide many… it’s the culture of silence that has created a culture of shame…
” My mother is an alcoholic, I buy her the alcohol.”
“My father beat me once until I bled because I forgot my school bag on the school bus. I left home when I was 16 and never went back. I tell people my parents are dead and I’m only child.”
“My mother used to beat us with a broom. When we’d hide in the bathroom, she took the locks off the doors.”
“My mother has a serious RX drug addiction. I haven’t been in a relationship because I don’t want to bring anyone home to that, they wouldn’t understand.”
“My father has been picked up for impaired 8x. I’ve never reported him, even though I know I should.”
These are a few of the stories I’ve heard over the years in programs I’ve taken, in clients I’ve coached. Is it any wonder we have an obesity epidemic? Or high rates of drug and alcohol addiction?
As Brene Brown says “we need to own our stories”. When we deny the stories, we deny the truth and when we deny the truth, it defines us. It turns into frustration, anger, rage, violence. It bubbles over the most innocent of things, threatening to engulf us. And a cycle continues. We become ashamed of our behaviour, we shove that down too, and it compounds.
It’s swallowed in big bags of chips and beer and greasy food and supersize meals. It’s hidden in movies and binge watching Netflix. It’s masked in self depreciating humour. It’s lost in a sea of endless one night stands. It’s numbed with needles, lines and smoke.
When we own the stories that make up who we are, out history, the things that happened to us, the things we’ve done or not done, we can write a new ending to our lives. One that leads from courage and letting go, while loving yourself through it. Knowing that you are worthy despite what happened.
Until we find ways to own our stories, we will not solve our addictions.
It’s not easy to talk about things that our society and culture would rather pretend doesn’t exist. But darkness cannot drive our darkness, only light can do that. If we want light in our lives then we have to go through that which we think we can’t.
And if we want healing for the things that are not in alignment with who we are really, then we need to go through it. What we hide hurts us.
The problem you’re looking at (i.e. can’t stick to a healthy routine) is usually a manifestation of a deeper problem. If you want to fix the problem you’re looking at, you have to face the problem you’re pretending doesn’t exist.
This is what Wild Souled Wellness is all about – facing what we have been running from.
PS… I’m working on a project that gives people an outlet for their “stories”. It can be anonymous if you choose it to be. The project is about a safe place for people to tell their stories so we can write a brave new ending 🙂 If you’d like to be a part of this, email [email protected]
PPS… If you’re ready to work through your stuff and need a coach, reach out to me.