It took me years to accept that I wasn’t the easy going, anything goes type of person that I was always proud to be. I thought that nothing ever phased me and that nothing upset me. I also thought this was a strength and what made me likable. After coming to terms with a difficult truth, I realized that this wasn’t me at all. To be honest, it freaked me out. I tend to see things in extremes. If I’m not easy going then I must be a control freak and not the fun, likable person I thought I was.
Taking a deeper look at it now and being in a more stable state of mind, I’ve come to recognize that I am finding my voice. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about anything and nothing bothered me, it was that I didn’t speak up for myself. I didn’t voice my opinions, my concerns, or my values.
This unraveling began the year I accepted and spoke aloud that I had been abused when I was a kid. I come from what I viewed as the perfect family. Parents that love each other and have been together for over 30 years, siblings that are talented and close friends, and extended family who love and support me. All these things were and are still true, but I felt that they were taken away from me the day I first shared my story. Hearing myself say the words, ‘my brother sexually abused me when I was a kid’, broke my heart because I knew it was real and I knew things would never be the same. It’s been a long two years since that day, and is still only the beginning.
The importance of owning my voice has taught me the importance of loving myself. It was from a wounded place that I was able to recognize my pain and move toward healing. It was from a place of raw honesty that I was able to see myself for the first time and tend to those wounds. I can still see my bedroom from that time I first spoke those words. ‘I was abused.’ My mattress on the floor where we sat. ‘I was abused.’ A pile of books scattered in the corner. ‘I was abused.’ My friends artwork covering my walls. ‘I was abused.’ I stared hard at the floor, my heart pounding in my chest. ‘I was abused.’ And there’s no going back now.
That day was one of the bravest of my life and when I first experienced what it truly means to speak for oneself. Speaking your voice means loving yourself and also accepting the help and love of others. The day I accepted help and love from a dear friend is the day I learned I could never go back to being the repressed and fearful individual I had been. I was out.
Over the past couple years I have shared my story with a number of close friends. I’ve allowed myself to be seen, and in return they have shown themselves to me. So many times I heard the words, me too. I’ve been there. And it blew my mind. I am in awe at the strength of a relationship where those words exist. ‘Me too.’ I know every other person wants what I want: to be seen, to be loved, to be cared for. If we cannot do that for ourselves, how can we do that for others? I have learned that I am not and will never be alone, no matter how dark some days may be.
I have learned the only way to love others is to first let yourself be seen. We exist behind a wall of shame and misery until we find it in ourselves to stop hiding and be authentic, honest, and vulnerable. It is the most empowering and fearful thing I have experienced. I am no longer afraid that people will not love me if they see me struggle. I am sometimes afraid at how many steps I have to take, for it is no easy feat to break down the walls that I spent a lifetime creating. But each step forward is a remarkable and memorable experience to me. Each step continues to prove there is no going back and that I would never want to. I am out.
I have found my voice.