O is for Own Your Story: WONDER
Dearest Woman of Wonder,
This is the third in a seven part series where I continue to outline the important foundations that under gird all Women of Wonder programs, building upon one letter from the word WONDER at a time.
I’m calling these Super Skills for now. Though, to be honest, I’m not all that satisfied with calling them “skills,” because the word”skill” seems so concrete, so goal-driven, as in “scratch that one off my list.”
Healing for me has never been like that.
Rather, recovering from childhood sexual trauma has been a journey, one that continues to unfold in my life.
So I’m looking for a word that better encompasses these as life tools, as holistic healing means, as useful for someone on a journey encountering unknown obstacles as a Swiss Army knife. And as cumulative in their effect as tributaries are to a raging river.
And I haven’t landed on the word yet.
So, I need your help.
What would you call these six journey tools? Feel free to respond in the comments below with your suggestions! If I use yours, I’ll be sending you the soon-to-be released Women of Wonder coloring pages as a way of saying thanks for contributing to this community of Wonderful Women!
Once again, here’s the entire acronym for WONDER:
Own Your Story; Transform your Life
Dive into Creativity
Engage in Community and Connection with other survivors
This week, O is for Own Your Story; Transform Your Life.
We can deny it, sweep it into the deepest, darkest corner of our heart, trying our hardest to forget about it, but the truth of our past–of what happened to us and how it has affected our lives–will not go away until we own it.
Until we rip the scab off, probe the wound, and pour in buckets of hydrogen peroxide and antibiotics,we can’t begin to stitch our lives back together. If we don’t allow the toxic abuse story living in our heads and bodies to get written onto a journal page or to be given a voice with a trusted friend or therapist, the trauma festers. Wholeness in mind, body, and spirit eludes us.
This isn’t surprising since the word trauma at its root means wound.
Laurie Halse Anderson in her wonderful young adult novel Speak, has a line that expresses well the danger of this festering. Anderson’s fictional story is about about a girl who is raped early in her senior year of high school and afterwards becomes mute–a self-imposed silence–for months. Anderson writes:
When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.
Because, as Dr. James Pennebaker–who has extensively researched the value of expressive writing and its connection to healing–claims:
In the last decade, an increasing number of studies have continued to demonstrate that inhibiting or, in some way, not talking about important emotional events is a health risk. Not talking with friends or family members about major life stressors has been linked to recurrent unwanted thoughts, higher levels of anxiety, depression, insomnia and a variety of health problems.
~from Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions
Inhibiting our stories, keeping silent about them, refusing to speak is physically and mentally exhausting and damaging. We can’t thrive if we’re so busy using our bodily resources to hold our story back.
On the other hand, if we can muster the courage to speak–whether in writing or by our voice–we can have less anxiety, feel less depressed, sleep better.
We begin to own our story instead of it owning us. We begin to assimilate our story into the living of lives. We begin to experience wholeness.
When you tell the truth, your story changes, and when your story changes, your life is transformed.
Many women and men have have written about their trauma, the negative impact it’s had on their lives, their survival journey, and how they’ve transformed their lives for the better. Their stories are heart-wrenching, often graphic, and sometimes very difficult to read. So….ONLY READ THESE IF YOU’RE READY, KNOWING YOU NEVER HAVE TO FINISH ANY BOOK YOU START.
For the longest time, I couldn’t stomach any kind of sexual trauma story, whether fictional or not because I hadn’t yet dealt with my own past. Now I read trauma stories to find out how survivors, well, survive and move on.
You will know when you’re ready to read another’s trauma story. Trust your gut on this. In the meantime, take comfort in knowing you are not alone in your pain by the sheer volume of these stories in print.
Here are just a few that are easily available:
- Maya Angelou: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
- Jill Christman: Darkroom: A Family Exposure
- Sue William Silverman: Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You
- Elizabeth Smart: My Story
- Jessica Stern: Denial: A Memoir of Terror
- Alice Sebold: Lucky
- Richard Hoffman: Half the House
- Tania Pryputniewicz: November Butterfly
- Ellen Bass/Louise Thornton: I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
- Ellen Bass/Laura Davis: The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse.
When you face it, you can transcend it.
Is all this owning of our stories, this wandering inside I talked about last week painful?
I wish there were a non-painful way to go on this journey towards wholeness. But dearest Woman of Wonder, there isn’t. Or at least, I haven’t found it.
But what I have discovered are these holistic means of navigating the journey, of transforming the story, of bravely wandering inside, and of using creativity as a balm and expressive outlet.
And we will do all of this over and over, again and again, while nurturing ourselves, which I’ll talk more about in the next Weekly Wonder post.
In the meantime, if you’re ready (and only when you’re ready) to express and own your story through writing, you might do so using Dr. Pennebaker’s guidelines.
Or, maybe you’re ready to talk to a therapist, a trusted friend, a partner, or family member about what happened.
Or maybe you’re not ready to do any of this. That’s OK, too. As I said above, trust your gut.
Whatever your choice, I wish for you a life of wonder and wholeness.
Grateful to be on this journey with you,
PS: And if you haven’t signed up to receive Weekly Wonder posts from Women of Wonder, I hope you’ll do so. My thank you gift to you in return is a beautiful, unique coloring page which is perfect for your journal or to display. When you’ve colored it, take a photo and send it to me. I’d love to share it (anonymously) with other readers as inspiration!