Silence is Golden,
the old saying goes.
Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Sometimes silence is a cancer, eating at the soul, the body, the psyche. Think PacMan on steroids. For the incest survivor, silence is the enemy. It’s the conjoined twin of collusion. I am a survivor. I know the toll that silence has taken on my life. For years and years, until I was almost 50, I was silent about what happened to me. So silent that I didn’t even remember. Silent, silenced. By father directly, by mother indirectly. By willful ignorance, by not wanting to rock the boat. By fear of reprisals. Of it happening again. “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
My rule today is “No More Silence.” I talk about what happened to me. I write about it. I express it in my pottery. Today, I try not to be silent about the things that shame me. Because once shame takes over, I’m lost. Lost in the collusion, back in the “badness” that I believed I personified. The cancer, the poison, that takes over my body, and makes me want to die; the only way I feel I can ever escape. Much better to speak.
There’s tremendous freedom in expression. Nothing drastically bad happens afterwards. In fact, there’s a lightness, a light, that enters me. My friends don’t desert me, my family doesn’t disown me, my partner doesn’t leave me. Quite the opposite, I’d say. I feel embraced, held, and supported as I struggle with the demons that try to bring me down.
The trick is to remember that lightness, to hold it inside myself, when I’m in the hall of shame. To feel even a glimmer of hope, a ray of light, as I cower in a virtual corner, afraid of the next assault, the barrage of hate, of loathing. Often, I feel that I am hard-wired to punish myself. It’s my first reaction when faced with adversity. It’s your fault, you’re a loser, what an idiot. Not: Wow, this sucks—let’s figure out a way to deal with it. We’re really good at that. As I write, my stomach lurches, my throat tightens, and my eyes begin to fill with tears. I am little again.
But not totally. I’m writing, after all. That’s an adult skill. I’m thinking critically. That’s an adult skill. My feet are tapping their little bilateral stimulation beat (the EMDR dance, I call it). That’s an adult skill.
Silence is Golden. Not for me. Not today. Today is for speaking. Expressing. For separating the conjoined twins. For exorcising the cancer of self-loathing. Bring it on, blurt it out. Don’t bury it. Don’t buy in to it. Silence is on borrowed time.