I am not unique. There is nothing special about who I am, the life I have lived or the events I have experienced. My story is not new. It has been told a million times over, though the places and names have changed.
I am a woman who was molested as a child and took that trauma into adulthood. That trauma manifested itself into a life of fear and isolation, where touch became intolerable and terrifying, making relationships impossible.
I do not tell the story of how I was molested because it has no value. Hearing other people’s pain only contributes to more pain, and I have made a conscious choice to add love to the world.
Often times hearing other people’s stories about their traumas fosters competition and judgment. Thinking about my own story, I remember judging myself many times thinking, “What’s wrong with me? It’s not like I had anything so terrible happen to me like Sybil did. Why is this such a big deal 30 years later?”
But it was a big deal. It was interfering in my life. It was driving every decision I made. I was not free. That event had shaped my beliefs. And my beliefs had shaped my life. That would have been fine, and it was for decades, except I wanted something else. I wanted to be free.
Rather than lament about my past, I chose to tell my story. It was something I had never done. Putting words to something gives it power, and I didn’t want it to have power. But what I was discovering was that it already had chained me to a life I didn’t want. And that was the real power of not telling.
I had to first tell my story to myself with the help of a therapist. As I became familiar with it, as I took responsibility for my emotions, I was able to accept who I was, and I discovered something I had never expected to find: I liked who I was.
I recently watched He Named Me Malala and was struck again by the power of our words. This young lady risked her life to speak out against what she believed was wrong. The Taliban shot her in the head for daring to go against their ideology. But out of that event came a stronger, more determined girl who suddenly had a purpose in life. In her pain and struggling, she inspired millions of girls to stand up for their rights, to speak out against repression.
I have long believed that there is a purpose for everything. If you have experienced a trauma or life event, remember Malala and look for what it is you can do. What is the lesson you are to learn?
If you can answer that question, you will have found your purpose. And your pain will not have been for nothing.