Have You Laughed At Yourself Today?

I have always loved to sing. There wasn’t a song on the radio I didn’t know, no theme song that was safe from my loud interpretation. My desire to make noise got so overwhelming that my parents banged on bathroom doors when I was bellowing in the shower, and my brother would plug his ears with a cringe during our car rides. My body felt like it would explode if I couldn’t fill the world up with sound, so I did.

Despite the pain of hearing me imitate Whitney Houston, my parents put me in voice lessons to work on my technique. My instructor was a cool old hippie named Skip, who thought teaching me to read music was boring, so we sang the same Les Miserables songs every day until I understood what my voice could do. Soon, I was doing recitals and competitions, letting the bigness of my voice explode into the spaces like never before. Nothing could compare to the feeling of singing and watching parents react to a little girl who had no right to be so loud. Singing was the first time I discovered confidence. It also became the first time I learned to laugh at myself for survival.

By sixth grade I was ready to shine. I was in the choir and excited to be in my very first school musical, solo and all. The older kids packed a lot of talent (one is now a Broadway veteran) and I was anxious to look cool and not twelve. One day during rehearsal we received a message from the front office, which I jumped up to deliver to our choir director. I grabbed the note, inexplicably thinking this would be my moment to show how cool and chill I was, but in the most lame way imaginable. Nervously, I navigated down the risers, around backpacks and between chairs to where she sat at the piano. After handing her the note, I turned and began the treacherous climb back to my seat at the top. To this day I remember thinking go slowly, don’t trip. But what does a preteen do better than tripping? Two steps away from my seat my foot caught on a backpack, I frantically propelled myself forward into my chair, then FLIPPED over it with a crash!

The room erupted in the kind of laughter I imagine you see in the audience during really good SNL skit. The coolest kid in the room just happened to be seated to my left, and he was shaking in his chair, rocking back and forth with a cackle. The choir director was slapping her piano, hollering like a kid. Everyone was too amused to even check if I was breathing. In the span of 30 seconds I decided if I wanted to get out of that room – dare I say middle school – alive I could not cry. The crazy thing? I didn’t experience the urge to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to laugh, because it was hilarious. So, I stayed laying there and let myself laugh at what happened just as hard as everyone else was. I don’t know if my laughter made anyone see me differently, or if it had an affect on my social status, but I do know I’ve taken that moment with me as a reminder to laugh when there are no other options.

What strikes me about this memory now is how in line it is with what I’ve always wanted; that desire to fill the world up with sound was perfectly captured that day. Yes, it was at my expense, but it was still beautiful. After we finished laughing, two classmates helped me up, patted me on my back, and we all sang a little louder. My nervousness was gone from that day on. You can’t be caught up in pretending to be cool after everyone has seen you crash and burn. I was more approachable, less afraid to falter, and more at ease.

“Prepare for mirth, for mirth becomes a feast.” – William Shakespeare

Laughter is healing. A good belly laugh after a misstep is humbling, and the chorus of joy it can create is powerful. Sometimes we can’t laugh; I experience days when the pain of living can drown out any emotion beyond emptiness. I laugh when I can, make funny memories when my spirit is up for it, so that after the emptiness subsides I’ll have the grit to push on. For me, laughter has become a better reminder than pain that I can make it.

Laugh when you can. Fill your world up with the noise you want to hear.

What To Expect After Sharing Your #MeToo Story

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Change always starts with a voice refusing to be silenced. That voice, however loud or righteous, has the potential to push others toward sharing their own truths and creating an unstoppable force of power.

The MeToo movement created a burning desire within myself to share my own trauma in the hope of being the voice one person might need to feel strong enough to join the chorus calling for change. Despite years of therapy, I discovered the mere act of speaking a truth which had hounded me since childhood could be at once cathartic, then terrifying. I had no idea what I was in for, yet I regret nothing. I do, however, want to share how the experience affected me after so that you will have an idea what to prepare for and how to take care of yourself.

You’re Going to Be Exhausted

Surviving any kind of violation or abuse is far from easy, so it follows that laying bare the contents of your heart would be just as difficult. Immediately after my story was published, I felt a surge of proud adrenaline. I felt empowered in others knowing the truth, and vindicated in being able to essentially “stick it” to the person who violated me. Wonder Woman had nothing on me for that first week after my revelation.

What I did wrong was not immediately checking in with myself. I didn’t emotionally prepare myself for the whiplash effect of sharing.

Yet, just like a runner’s high, I came back down to the reality that I had indeed shared on a large scale something only a few of my most trusted family and friends new. After a few bouts of tears I was able to re-center myself and come to the realization the we need and deserve TLC. I’ve finally given myself permission to indulge in self-care. The therapy sessions you definitely need? Schedule them. That movie you loved and need to watch 12 times? Watch it. Screaming, crying, throwing things, eating pizza at midnight? Go off. You have earned the right to stretch yourself back out.

Some People Might Let You Down

There was a part of my heart that hoped telling the truth about my trauma would bring me closer to people whom I desperately wanted to be acknowledged by. I thought that if people could see I had been hurting all these years they would finally show me the softness I craved. Well… sometimes people just aren’t capable of that. Maybe you think sharing your story will be a bridge to someone who has cut you off or torn you down. This isn’t about them. It is about doing what is best for YOUR mental health. Be confident in the fact that what you will share is good for your ability to begin the healing process. Other people’s love wont change the weight of the burden you’re working on dropping off.

You might feel regret, but this is a valuable step in healing

As I have not so subtly hinted at above, this isn’t going to be easy. I think we have this tendency to believe actions being difficult or painful means they are wrong. Because it was so emotionally draining, I thought maybe it would have been better if I’d kept that part of myself hidden. We feel this even more so when those we love are involved. My parents wouldn’t have to field questions from relatives and my husband wouldn’t lose sleep if only I’d stayed silent. Luckily, that little voice that had first urged me to speak popped back into my head. It reminded me that anyone who loved me would have hurt in a deeper way if they believed I kept everything hidden to protect them. They wanted my suffering to end just as much as I did, and I was indeed suffering in silence. Good things sometimes bring pain, just as bad things sometimes bring relief. We struggled together, we talked, and I have felt my bones and heart strengthen in the process. I’m no longer afraid to speak, to hear my voice rise up in the chorus. I’m just a small person, but my life is worth saving, my wounds worth healing. The next steps are now mine to choose.

What Are The Next Steps?

I’m saying this loud as hell: THERAPY. THERAPY. AND MORE THERAPY. Nothing I’ve shared with you can be a substitution for professional help. On the contrary, everything I’ve learned over the years is thanks to wonderful professional help, group settings, and books. You simply can’t share all that pain and expect everything to be instantly fixed. Think of trauma as a kind of tree. The event plants a seed that grows roots and vines. It might be deeply rooted, but you can get to the heart of it and start chipping away at how it grows until you’ve got a handle on it. I can’t in good conscience tell you that trauma goes away, that you’ll be who you were before – that’s just not feasible. However, I can tell you with absolute certainty that with help you will be able to create a new healthy version of yourself who isn’t swallowed up in the pain. If a small person like me from the middle of nowhere can do this, you bet your ass you can, too. Please take care of yourself!

 

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