The Courage to Share Your Story

I have a new guest post up at Wow! Women on Writing:

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2015/02/friday-speak-out-courage-to-share-your.html

I think I’m probably in the minority opinion here, but the longer I think about it, the more passionately I feel that I’m right.

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18 thoughts on “The Courage to Share Your Story

  1. mandy smith

    This has been a really good thread, Lori. I’m looking forward to moving on to other writing after my memoir comes out. It’ll be really weird since childhood abuse is at the other end of the spectrum of humor. But that’s what I embrace –what kept me going. Laughter is so healing. It’s great when we can embrace all the parts of who we are!

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  2. Annecdotist

    Very interesting, Lori, and I’m not quite sure where I stand on this. I agree that there is no shame in your story but it does take courage to confront and revisit something so personal in a way that makes it accessible others for them to use as they will. I’m intrigued by the individual differences, some of us like Charli empowered by telling our stories privately, others, like you, sharing it with a wider audience. There’s a great freedom in being completely open, not, for example, having to face people’s continual incorrect assumptions about our pasts, which is one of the themes of my forthcoming novel, but it isn’t always easy to get there. For me, I’m not sure if it’s lacking courage or lacking interest in sharing my own personal story, but I do like to let the darkness out in my fiction, maybe so I don’t have to do it publicly elsewhere.

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    1. lorilschafer Post author

      I think that “lack of interest” applies to many of us. I certainly have other stories that might be interesting to wrote, but that doesn’t mean that I want to spend my time writing them. Like you, I generally prefer to explore themes that concern me in the venue of fiction, where I can be engaged but still detached, in a sense. I do like the idea of achieving the freedom that comes from having nothing to hide. Or less, anyway – I suppose we all still have plenty of secrets!

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  3. TanGental

    I’d only add that it’s courageous when I think about it. I can’t put myself in your shoes, of course, so I try and imagine how I might feel and I’m sure you are right, I would be one of the many (probably) who keep their heads down. I don’t think describing the process of revelation as courageous is wrong even while I understand you might not see it that way because it is you being you. But perhaps that’s why medals for courage are awarded by the bystanders not the protagonists; they aren’t in the best place to judge their own courage and certainly not with any objectivity. Society judges, and as you say, often it judges women more harshly than men in these self same circumstances. Rising above such judgements even while you know they are being made is, for me, the courageous part. And giving the victims a voice can only aid those who might be feeling isolated by mental illness.

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    1. lorilschafer Post author

      I do agree that part of my attitude derives from me personally, the way I am. It’s funny, but I’m perfectly comfortable writing about things I would never want to talk about. I guess I feel some sort of detachment from words once they’re written, and I don’t know – an online audience is a different entity than an in-person one. Maybe it’s like the difference between speaking to a small group and performing in an auditorium – I always found the second easier to handle because you couldn’t see the faces.

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      1. TanGental

        I get that. I never had a problem with speaking to a large group – well save this one time when for some reason I could see this man who fell asleep within about five minutes of me starting. I couldn’t not look at him, or rather keep looking back at him. I must have come across as very shifty.

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  4. Norah

    I agree that you are right, Lori. Yours is a powerful story of courage and determination. You may not feel that it was brave to share the story, but you have the bravery to survive and live a positive life. People share what they feel able to or need to. Sometimes the ones who most wish to share are the ones most fearful of doing so. As you say, if they see others sharing, it may encourage them to find their voice.

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  5. Charli Mills

    I like your reflection on “courage” to tell the story. There are many ways to break silence, but all include empowering one’s own voice. It was a big deal for me, 24 years ago to escape my own family situation and to tell my story — but not to readers, to my husband, my therapist and others whose help I needed at the time. Recovering my voice put me in a process of facing many things that were uncomfortable and even traumatizing. But afterwards (and there is an afterwards) my voice was strong! So strong, I used it to get into college. So strong that I tackled challenging topics in my classes. I wrote a 60-page honors thesis about the thread of incest on Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Troilus & Criseyde.” I wrote about Ancient Greek pornography. I wrote a fictional story about a woman abused in a historic mining town. I spoke out on protecting children from sexual abuse. I gained my voice. Interesting, though, now that I am the carefree writing buckaroo, I have no interest in writing such as memoir as yours. It’s a choice, not a fear. Now that I have my voice and my own pages to fill, I want to fill them with the fictions that excite me. Funny thing is, claiming my birthright as a buckaroo has taken courage! It takes me back to the family that harmed me. But I think it is vital to claim the good things from my childhood and horses were certainly good. And, ultimately, I think it’s important that we encourage each other in our writing, in finding our voices and honoring what is appropriate for us to say when we are ready to say it and to be able to move on and embrace what is meaningful now.

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    1. Norah

      it is interesting, Charli. It seems like you said all you need to say about the subject and have put it to rest. I look forward to reading your fiction. Your strength and your voice shows through strongly there.

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    2. lorilschafer Post author

      I agree that there’s a huge difference between being unable to share “your story” and making other choices as to what you do want to share. People ask me all the time – was it hard? Was it painful? Hell, yes, it was! Personally, I don’t feel as if I got much out of it. I didn’t feel renewed or freed or any of that – and that’s exactly what I tell people. Just because you have a story that may be worth sharing, that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to – or that there’s going to be some great benefit in doing so. I think it depends a lot upon the person. Some people I think feel haunted by their memories – they can’t find other ways to get past them. Others, like you, simply aren’t interested in spending their time rehashing the past. And frankly, that isn’t really what I do, either. I have one thirty thousand word memoir and half a million other words on totally unrelated subjects. To me those latter words are the ones that are meaningful now.

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      1. Charli Mills

        You don’t strike me as someone who rehashes the past. In fact, the reason I like your memoir (beside your style of writing) is because it is reflective with a purpose. The title tells us of that reflection: “upon hearing of my mother’s death six years after it happened.” You aren’t shocked or bitter, and I actually find that you are incredibly compassionate in your reflection. That strikes me as someone who is healthy and has a story to tell about mental illness that is important. It’s based on living beyond its reach. It’s based on looking back not to open a life chapter, but to close it in a dignified way. Anytime we dig into the past, we bring up wounds, and i can imagine that writing your memoir stung like killer bees, but I agree–there’s no pot of freedom at the end of the story-telling rainbow. I think it’s encouraging to read a story like yours, but each individual needs to take stock of where they are at in their revealing or healing process and have a purpose to telling. Shock value might get high ratings but at what cost? These discussions you lead on the topic are valuable for all of us in the greater community to reflect on mental illness, its stigmas, its wounds and its stories.

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