I know the day is coming, probably sooner than later.
Somebody in my life will figure out I’ve written a story about my life that includes them. They’ll be furious with me. They will tell me I should have kept it private or changed the facts around to make them (or even myself) look better. They’ll be incredulous that I shared such personal things with the rest of the world. Sometimes there is a permanent rift in relationships with loved ones, family and friends.
While I understand how these people feel, I also think speaking our truths is vital to surviving. Our personal experiences and how we interpret them are the only road maps we have to navigate our lives going forward. Hiding behind these experiences would mean I learned nothing from them and haven’t helped others through what I’ve discovered along the way.
I believe the ability to write is a gift, but I don’t think it’s a gift meant for the writer. We’re supposed to use that gift to help other people. The more our stories are able to relate to others, the more we foster connections. Something you write might help a person solve the impossible issue they’re dealing with. Sometimes seeing another perspective helps readers discover their own truths or learn how to get out of a hopeless situation. The words on the page serve as a testament that if I made it through the darkness, so can everybody else.
Every one of us may see the world differently, but underneath we all want the same things. We want love and understanding and the ability to see each other reflected in our own eyes. Writing can be the bridge that brings us together. The more vulnerable you can be when you write, the more people will see themselves in it.
When I sit down to write a story, I feel I owe it to readers to be as honest as I can. I really don’t know how to write any other way. At this point, I have no need for secrets anymore. I’ve shared stories with people around the world about topics such as mental illness, domestic violence, and addiction told from my personal viewpoint. Some of the stories make me look downright horrible, but I tell them anyway.
The reason I do this is not to make everything all about me and seek attention. Instead, I hope somebody will relate to the things I’ve been through, even if it’s just one person. I write for the people who feel lost, people who believe they can’t stop taking drugs, people who can’t escape a violent household, and those who are managing a mental illness and trying to get through it one day at a time.
It’s not that I HAVE to tell you I’ve struggled with mental illness for most of my life, but I WANT to tell you. I want you to feel less alone. I want you to have hope that things can improve. I want you to see the path I took to safety, hoping you’ll follow me out or find a path of your own. People may judge me for being too loose with my secrets when I write, but if it helps another person with similar secrets, it’s worth it a hundred times over. In the end, none of this life is about me.
It’s about us!
Each of us has our own unique perspective through which we view the world. I’m the only one who can tell my story, warts and all, and the same goes for you. The deeper we can dig in our writing, the more goodness we unearth to share with our readers. Sometimes just writing that we’re having a bad day and can’t figure things out can help others feeling the same way. We’re being human, and everybody can appreciate that.
Some people in our lives will be angry that we’ve shared our stories. Our friends and family don’t always look at things that happened the same way. Still, I think it’s important to tell your truth about the way you see things. We certainly have the option of changing names and locations in our stories to provide more anonymity, and in some cases, I think that’s a good idea. The people in your lives are free to speak the truth as they see fit, but you are the only person who can say how it affected you and shaped you into the person you are today.
The act of writing has more power than most people realize. Maybe somebody will read a story you wrote and decide to change their life for the better. Maybe somebody will be inspired to think differently about a situation they can’t solve. Maybe somebody feels less isolated and lonely. Writing and reading bring forth emotions tangible in all of us and bring us together in the most perfect way.
Writing can also be healing for the writer. When I started writing my memoir three years ago, every negative scene I had to include ended up with my hands shaking and me running away from my computer. Even though those events were long ago, I still felt fear and panic just by imagining them. I’d start and stop my book over and over again because I didn’t think I could get through those scenes. Forcing myself to sit down and write all of them brought me a healing that I never expected. Bad times over the years that were so giant in my mind became smaller until they no longer bothered me anymore. I’ve had years of therapy, but only finishing the book gave me my breakthrough.
Anyone with the desire can write these days. You could have a private journal for your eyes only. You could share your writing with a small group. There are all kinds of places on the internet where you can create a blog and publish it for everyone to see. There’s even the option of writing back and forth with a friend or family member and collecting your memories that way. If you want to be a writer and make your voice heard, there’s really no better time.
I’ll continue to speak my truth in writing, and I hope you will as well. The world deserves the gifts we have to share.