I agree with this wholeheartedly which is why I have been telling my story for over a decade. I hope more people do, but this is a very personal and private decision, there really is no right or wrong. Looking after yourself and your own healing must be your first priority.
With that said I have found sharing my story on the most part a healing experience. I thought long and hard about whether to share and if I did what to share and to who.
Here are the five things I put in place, I hope you find them useful:
- How much of my story am I willing to tell?
- Where does my story intersect with other peoples story, do I have the right to tell it?
- Am I ready for the emotional and practical fallout of going public with my story?
- Do I have a support network in place?
- Why am I telling people this part of my story, what do I want them to learn from or do with the information?
These are my answers, yours may be different but as long as they work for you, it will help protect your wellbeing.
- For me, I decided not to go into too much detail about my childhood, it didn’t feel safe or comfortable going talking about it, for me the abuse my parents put me through is private and not up for discussion. The comment below was one I got from a man on LinkedIn because I posted something about White Male Privilege and Power and how they are protected in Canberra ‘It’s trauma projection. All men are not your abusive daddy ‘note the way he uses daddy and not father, the man that wrote this is a psychologist so he would be well aware that calling him daddy and not father is way more likely to trigger me. If you’re wondering if it did, in a way yes, I went into rescue mode and overly worried about the women who may be his patients. Be aware people will attack you and your story to win an argument. I still choose to tell my story but know exactly where I draw the line on what I share.
- There are stories I will not share because it would mean I need to share one of my children’s stories because they are intertwined. Ask yourself is it safe to share, are you still in family court, have you thought about the repercussions. For me, I decided it is not my place to share stories about my children’s private life – this is a decision that needs to be made if there are other people involved in a particular story. Again the call is yours to make, but whatever decision you make it is better to have a plan than being caught off guard.
- Once a part of your story has gone public, it starts to belong to the public. I would read stories in the press about an unnamed woman and realise they were telling my story. Quotes will be used to sell other stories. It can be discombobulating (apologies I love that word try and get it in whenever I can). If you are not truly ready emotionally to tell a story the emotional fallout can be quite damaging to your wellbeing. If you are working how will this affect your job, are you prepared for the consequences and your colleagues knowing? Remember to think about defamation laws, my abuse was proved in court but remember if it is not choose your words carefully.
- Who are the people you can lean on if a story blows up or someone is mean to you in person or online? Who do you trust? Who can you talk to, laugh with? Have them in place, let them know if you are going to be in the media, so they are aware you may need support.
- Work out what message you are trying to get out there before you share. Maybe you don’t need to go into as much personal detail as you thought. Run it past a friend, do you feel comfortable telling them. I always do the neighbour test – Would I be okay with my neighbour knowing this? If not then I don’t share, because once it is out there you don’t know who will read it. The story above about my ‘abusive daddy’ is a case in point, I shared that to show people can be cruel and only shared enough to get my point across.
Knowing that someone may gain strength from the story is enough to keep me sharing. I hope this article has helped, as a survivor you have a story to tell. It is your story and you get to decide how much or how little you share.
I have a webinar coming up next week on the 17th March called the 3 Biggest Misunderstanding when Communicating with Bullies and Narcissists. I would love for you to join.