I guess I am the kind of girl who can stick up for herself. But, more often than I’d like to admit, I cave instead of stand. I bend like a blade of grass on a windy day. Unless you’re related to me, I’m not really going to fight back. Probably.
I learned early that being tough, even when you’d rather cry, was the way to survive. But last month I let my guard down. Way down. I wrote here about my family and my fear of telling my own story. I felt naked in a crowded room—and I didn’t even say that much.
The response was overwhelming. Dozens of hands reaching out to comfort, welcome, support and embrace me. It freed me. I started to believe I might actually be able to put my history on paper and stop hiding from it.
So, you can imagine how crushed I felt when what I wrote, was stamped down just a few days later. I was told that I “didn’t have it that bad, really.” That “kids grow up without food or with parents who get drunk every night or no parents at all.” And that I just need to look around and realize I’m really fine and I should get over it because I’m a grown up now.
Maybe I’m just being melodramatic, but that killed me inside a little. And a hundred old voices reminded me that I was a burden. That I shouldn’t talk about the things that hurt. That I’m dramatic. That I made it sound worse than it was. That no one would really care about what I have to say.
I felt guilty for sharing my story publicly. I felt guilty for being hurt by things that “weren’t really that bad.” I felt ashamed for being sensitive. I felt ashamed of being the one who shares too much. I felt ashamed for thinking my smallness mattered at all.
Then I moved from hurt to indignation. I was fuming. The whole point to my post must have been missed. The purpose was to remind everyone that what they’ve been through is theirs to share—without apologies.
You know, for a girl who talks as much as I do, it took me almost ten years to finally admit there was something wrong in my childhood and it has left me feeling broken. The indignation welled up in me and I all but screamed that I will not be asked to quiet down. I’ve finally started finding my voice and I’m going to use it.
And I’m learning that story-telling helps me heal. And if you’re really listening, you won’t just hear a sad tale, you’ll hear a story of redemption and hard work and loads of God’s grace and a dozen silver linings.
A year ago I fractured my pelvis, but my pain does not discredit yours. If you sprain your ankle it still hurts and it would be unfair of me to compare my injury to yours.
So, here I am standing. I’m sticking up for myself.
Maybe I didn’t have it that bad. Maybe I am overly sensitive. But I’m standing firm to what I wrote before: my story matters. I have to believe my story matters, because I believe your story matters. Because for people like me, the telling of it brings the darkness into light and healing to the broken places.
Just because someone has had it worse, doesn’t mean I lose my right to my voice.
Image credit: My über talented, spritely and sassy friend Tina Francis.