Recently. whenever I’ve tried to write on here, I’ve wanted to give caveats that nobody really needs to hear but I really need to say.
I have been a writer for my whole life. I’ve been a professional writer for ten years this year. Writing is second nature to me, I just can’t imagine not being a writer. It’s been my tool for understanding my own thoughts and feelings, comprehending traumatic experiences and celebrating when life has been kind to me. I’m so glad that this is who I am and I hope I never, ever lose my love of writing or reading other people’s words.
The dark side of this is that I have been writing on the internet since I was 12 years old. I’ve always had an audience and when I was younger, it was a small, sweet community. It was 95% my friend group. We spilled our hearts onto our Liverjournals and read each other’s words. I don’t remember what it feels like to write without an audience, however small. As I got older, I realised how powerful my words could be and the messages I could give by mining my trauma for content. I really, wholly believed I was making a difference and the messages I received afterwards confirmed that: I gave people a sense of solidarity. I helped them come to terms with their own stories. I gave them perspective.
As someone who was bullied throughout school and forced to keep abuse secret for years, finding my voice and being truly heard felt like all I’d ever needed. Just for people to understand me. Understand victims.
This came with a lot of downsides, though. One being that people felt they knew me. Me being open about experiences and pains that are taboo led to people thinking they knew me personally. It meant that I felt like my multi-faceted, often brilliant personality was somehow being broken down to one thing: survivor. Remember when I said I felt like I was being truly heard? I wasn’t. Not really. A specific story of struggle and then soaring was the one I had and it was one that comforted people. It didn’t belong to me anymore but editors loved it.
Over the past few years I’ve realised a couple of things:
- Trauma and how it impacts you changes over time. It comes back up, though. It surprises you. You’re never done recovering, really.
- I am an extremely funny, insightful person and my trauma is maybe the least interesting thing about me.
When I was writing about what I’d been through, so many times, I hadn’t actually processed it myself, at-all. Even lesser things than abuse like my long-term relationship ending, I wrote about that before I really knew what it meant for me, for us. When I found out I couldn’t have children, the first thing I did was write about it – which made sense at the time but the “publish” button felt inevitable when it should have felt optional. Realising how vulnerable I’ve been when I’ve shared my stories makes my heart ache.
I want to tell younger me that her words are so, so powerful without giving up parts of herself. You can bravely own your story without offering it as currency. Nobody is owed it.
I saw somebody respond to a writer who was having a very difficult time with “we need your story” and my first thought was: fuck you. I don’t take it back.
You do not need anybody’s story and they don’t owe it. What they need is support and comfort.
And I guess that’s where I am now.
It’s not that I won’t still tell my stories, it’s just that I need to process things before I write about them. Which may seem obvious to some but as someone that grew up online, it’s maybe not so much.
The caveat I wanted to give?
My life is not a content calendar and whether I’m writing about my birthday or my health, it’ll likely not be timely.