Let Your Secrets Set You Free
Last weekend I met a woman who shared a secret with me. This woman was a Doctor. An accomplished professional. She had it all, including a wonderful husband, supportive family, and friends. We were talking about her claustrophobia when she unloaded the thing she’s been carrying in silence for more than thirty years. She was molested as a child. Small spaces sent her spiraling and it was having a serious impact on her life.
As she was sharing her story, I could tell she was filled with shame. This shame had been following her for a very long time. She felt very alone and had felt that way for more than thirty years. In her aloneness she believed she was the only one who felt the way she did about herself. It shocked me because she’s a Doctor. A doctor who treats women.
Here’s the thing. A lot of women and men for that matter have experienced the devastating effects of abuse or assault. When I say a lot, I am going to up the ante here and say most. That’s right. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s true. Sexual abuse or sexual assault is much more commonplace than anyone wants to think. No one wants to think it and NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IT.
However, what if we did? What if we pulled out those deep dark secrets and put them out in the light? What if you knew that the woman sitting next to you at church had experienced something similar to your deepest trauma? What if you were to find out your own mother or sister had been abused? What if you found out your Doctor was uncomfortable in the small exam room because she’s been molested in a small room as a child? Would it help to know you aren’t alone? Would it lighten the load of shame?
I’ll start. I was sexually assaulted on a date when I was 25. I didn’t report. I told no one for years. I lied to my friends and said I’d had a good time on a first date. I repressed the memory of that event with all my might. I went into hibernation, I got depressed, and I got sick. Then I got help and you know what? I got over it. There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
In many years of my practice talking to women, I have come to understand that I am not alone. I wish it was a rare experience. It’s not. Understanding that helped me to be able to begin to distance myself from that trauma without the weight of shame holding me back. I began to be able to do something that some might find wrong or inflammatory. I began to normalize the unthinkable.
I am not saying that sexual violence should be commonplace by any stretch of the imagination. It’s horrible on every level. What I am saying though, is unfortunately it’s much more commonplace than we think. The statistics on this subject back that up. According to Childhelp.org, in 2009 there were reports or allegations of sexual assault or abuse against children in the US alone that involved more than 6 million children. Six Million. One year. According to Rainn.org, every two minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted.
Are you shocked by those numbers? Don’t be. I think they are low. I think those numbers are a culmination of experiences that are touching your life, through people you know and love, and quite possibly you. Those numbers prove you are not alone and have nothing to hide.
I firmly believe that the biggest roadblock to healing is shame. Shame is something we do to ourselves and we can stop doing it at anytime. Talk to your sisters, your friends, your loved ones. When you let your secrets out to breath they can transform you. (tweetable!)