I kind of can’t believe it, that for the past 26 days–nearly four weeks–I have been airing my dirty laundry on a public website. I have written about being sexually abused as a child and how that led to, hmm, shall we say misguided if not abusive relationships as an adult. I wrote about harming myself intentionally. I have wondered openly about whether I could be making all this stuff up. I wrote about how my past experience interferes with my sexual relationship with my husband. Some of this I have not told anyone but my therapist but now I’m putting it out there for anyone to read.
And you know what? It is doing me so much good. Who would have imagined?!? I thought I was such a private person. I resisted when E., my therapist, tried to convince me to participate in group therapy last year. “No way,” I said. “I can barely bring myself to tell you things. How could I ever bare my soul with others?”
It all started kind of by accident. I had been writing in my journal more frequently, sometimes in response to assignments from E. I was sketching, painting, scribbling and making photo collages to illustrate what I was feeling. Sometimes I shared these with E., and other times I kept them tucked away for myself. At some point I thought, “This is all so weird, but in a sort of interesting way. Someday I should put it all together in a book.” I began throwing things into a folder in my Dropbox.
And then one weekend, shazam!, inspiration struck. Why not a blog? So much easier than a book. Easily changeable as I go along. Can always be deleted later, and in the meantime, good practice for an eventual book, if I ever really want to do that. I started by writing about how depressed I was at the time, how bleak things looked for me. I was still burning myself sometimes then, and my brain was spinning in circles, weighing different alternatives for hurting myself.
What first made a difference was reading other people’s blogs. What an eye opener! Other people hurt themselves too. Other people blamed themselves for their own depression or their own abuse. And when it wasn’t about me, but about someone else, I could easily see how their pain wasn’t their fault, how they deserved encouragement and comfort. It became important to me to try to offer a little of that in my comments on their blogs.
That kinder, more compassionate voice that I could easily use with others became stronger with practice. So when I agreed with E. in late June that I would start that day to believe the girl (that is, stop denying the abuse I’d experienced) and to continue to believe all the way through the end of July, that voice was more prepared to step up for the girl. And what a gift–others added their compassionate voices to encourage me. Those comments make it easier to keep going. Some wrote that my posts make them want to support their own inner child, which in turn just reinforces my commitment to keep it up. After all, I can’t stop if I am urging others to keep going.
Things are not perfect, by any means. The suicide of my cousin’s son last week really shook me. I’m still exhausted every day after work. Some days the “I am bad” voice is pretty noisy. But not every day. Some days I don’t hear it at all. Some days, like yesterday, I can walk in the sun and wade in the river and think, “Maybe I’m not really depressed anymore.” That’s after nearly a year of being as low as I’ve ever been. I recently changed the tagline of my site. It used to be “from abuse and depression to…” but now it’s simply “believe the girl.” Something has shifted for me.
I’ve been conducting my therapy sessions and the related self-examinations in a very public forum, and to my amazement, this has reduced rather than increased my sense of shame. I feel lighter. So let’s hear it for the airing of the laundry.
A note about the photo: I took that photo on a visit to a small Mexican village a few years ago. The laundry hanging out to dry is absolutely clean, not dirty at all. I just included it because I loved the colors. Maybe that’s a good metaphor for all of us writing about complicated lives: our laundry isn’t dirty. It’s just colorful.
Thanks, bloggers, readers, and commentators, for sharing your beautiful colors.