After I shared a “me, too” post on my personal Facebook page, I felt wildly vulnerable. I didn’t share any specifics or details. Just adding my voice to conversation with two words, words representing that I had experienced sexual harassment or assault, made me feel a resurgence of shame, guilt, fear, and vulnerability.
Two words triggered feelings of being less than, being damaged, needing to numb.
From my perspective, this movement (which was started over a decade ago by Tarana J. Burke) shows just how many of us (of all genders, by the way) are carrying these experiences. While these experiences are incredibly difficult to face and wildly intense to recover from, it also shows the resilience and strength that is a part of all of our sparkle.
I don’t feel the need to re-open these experiential wounds and share every detail. This would not be helpful or productive for me, as I have worked hard over the past 12 years to process my experience with my therapist, my partner, and my self. What I will say is that like so many, my experiences are not black and white. It was not a scary stranger in a dark alley, or a boss who was trying to take my power away in a “stereotypical” way.
As we are seeing from the “me, too” movement, there are so many different stories, and so many of them do not fit a specific mold. All of them are important.
For me, this gray area created a perfect storm; making my experiences more difficult to accept, process, and heal from than I ever could have imagined. I now realize how noteworthy and significant it is that I was quickly able to turn all blame, doubt, and hatred on myself.
I could have pointed my finger at another human in this situation, and yet, I directed all my negative feelings and trauma right back onto myself. Finding words to explain these feelings at times feels impossible, especially when in the throes of post-traumatic stress. Waking up from yet another nightmare where you are fighting off an attacker, only to find your kind, loving partner shaken because you were attempting to strangle him in your sleep is the perfect way to feel broken, scary, worthless, and unlovable.
This shame dulls our sparkle.
Voicing our experiences, collecting our strength together, is a powerful step in making change. Watching these posts of “me, too” pop up on social media has been empowering, devastating, triggering, and healing. I am not alone. I have a voice. I see you. I hear you.
There are so many who aren’t saying “me, too”, but could. I see you, too. I hear you. As someone who was so close to removing my own addition to this conversation out of fear and shame, I understand that for some, now is not your time to say anything. This is okay. We all are in different places of healing. No one is better or worse for this. We all are allowed to add our voice, stay quiet, or add it at times and then take it away.
This is the important piece; we can and should be allowed to design our sparkle for ourselves. No one should feel like they must be forced, as that is exactly the point of “me, too”. We can and should be able to choose our experiences; we can decide when and how we will use our voice, or not. We can decide what is in our own best interest in the moment.
Our voices shouting from the rooftops, whispering behind closed doors, or saying nothing at all, are all beautiful. We sparkle most when we are in full control of our choices, our consent, and our experience.
When I think through my own journey of trauma recovery, I see different patterns. From the nightmares and the self-doubt, to the shame and emotional triggering, it is easy to focus on the negative. But there are also moments of beauty, sparkle, and strength. This experience does not define me, but it is a piece of my development and history. Realizing that another human can love me while I heal because I am worthy of love and kindness is a beautiful piece of my healing. Recognizing that I am worthy of my own love was even more monumental.
An important piece of my own recovery has been taking back my power.
Like so many who have experiences of trauma, I went through a significant phase imagining what I would do or say if I had the chance to confront the person who haunted my nightmares. Eventually those visions of confrontation faded, as I continued to grow and change and heal and sparkle. I found that time aided me in moving forward.
One day, on my usual train commute, I looked up to find the person who I dreamed of confronting sitting just 15 feet away from me. At first I didn’t recognize him; enough time had passed that the version in my head no longer matched reality. My initial instinct was to jump off the train and run. And of course, the reflex to react aggressively presented itself, too.
But I didn’t. I could have, but I didn’t.
Instead, I took a deep breath and I held my own. I took up space. I smiled out the window as I realized that he did, indeed, know I was on that train. He was making himself small, hiding behind the person sitting in front of him, desperately trying to avoid being seen.
I had spent years believing that I was not worth being seen, being witnessed, or being loved because of a moment in time with this person. Sitting on the train, taking up space, and owning my power, I realized that I am worthy of the life and wellness that I fought hard to gain after trauma. I watched as he jumped off the train, ducking around people to avoid being spotted, and I felt high on my own strength.
For all of you who have or could add your “me, too”: thank you. We are strong, beautiful, and powerful. We are worthy of being seen, heard, believed, and witnessed.