Telling Survivor Stories & Being Heard

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

“Any conversation that starts with “Did I ever tell you that my mother was murdered?” is going to be awkward.” Lockey Maisonneuve

Yes, murdered. Don’t miss Lockey’s story, which she shares at Positively Positive. I’ll wait here until you get back. You’re going to have to experience it before we can continue.

“How could she think she didn’t have “permission” to ask me about my mother?”

The word “permission” was mine. I meant it literally. As close friends we’ve shared many personal facts about ourselves. Despite our openness, I was aware of a gaping hole when it came to Lockey’s mother. There was no evasion. There was just scant information. For that reason, I felt until the moment she brought it up that I had no right to ask questions.

We were in Lockey’s car, doubling back on the Garden State Highway because we had gotten momentarily lost. I was talking and Lockey interrupted to say I should ask her about the police station we had just driven past when I was finished. I did, and she answered my question with a question (“Did I ever tell you that my mother was murdered?”) before proceeding to tell me her story.

I firmly believe that telling our story is a pivotal part of the healing process – from anything. The alternative, holding your story inside, causes agony because: 1) it festers and 2) it infects every part of your life.

Here’s the way I’ve always seen it: Telling your story is revealing your truth. And, as we all know, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Of course, telling your truth is often far from easy:

“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” James A. Garfield

I know that misery. Immediately after my mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction surgery, I started meeting weekly with a therapist at my cancer center. We dug down deep into my cancer issues: anger, loneliness, fear, disappointment in others, stress, body image, etc., etc. I thought there was plenty to talk about without branching out beyond cancer, but my psyche had other ideas as the trauma of cancer made past traumas resurface.

It was a miserable time, but telling my truth saved me. Sure, I cried a lot, but I told my story, worked through my truth and learned a lot in the process.

I believe so strongly in the healing power of telling your story that I made it the #2 simple secret to creating inspired healing, wellness and your joyous life after cancer in my book, You Can Thrive After Treatment. (Second only to “Show Up To Be Supported.”)

To get started telling your story, follow these simple tips:

1.  Tell your story when you are ready – No one but you can decide when you are ready to reveal your truth. There is no right or wrong time; there is only what works for you.

2.  Find a safe environment – If you’re reluctant to tell your story, perhaps it’s because you have yet to find a trustworthy listener. Revealing our truth can make us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. You shouldn’t open up until you find a friend or family member, support group or therapist who you trust to hear what you have to say.

3.  Think outside the box – Revealing your truth can be done in an infinite amount of ways. If you’re shy about going public, start slowly by journaling, painting or any other creative endeavor that expresses what you want to say.

4.  Own it – Embrace your story as an integral part of your history. It’s made you who you are today and there’s always something to learn from every experience.

We are all survivors of something and each of us has a story (or stories) to tell. But that doesn’t mean we should all talk at the same time. Lockey’s story reminds me that, just as I have healed by being heard, so can I help others heal by hearing their stories. Once again, the power of giving back in gratitude for the healing support I received is its own reward.

Survival > Existence,

Debbie

Image courtesy of Nick Piggott

Comments

Marie's picture

The healing power of stories

Thank you for sharing Lockey’s story – it’s quite incredible! I too am a big advocate of the transformative power of story-telling and when you find a person you can share something that is very close to your heart, it increases the bond between you both. Our stories help us access the hidden places within your soul that are well springs of healing. We tell our stories in order to heal; in listening to the stories of how others have walked their path, our own journey of discovery and healing can be enriched.

Debbie's picture

Sharing and Healing

Very well said, Marie! Storytelling is at its finest when it’s about sharing and healing between true hearts supporting each other. As we nurture each other, we grow stronger. I’m proud to be a part of it.

Survival > Existence,

Debbie

Facing Cancer's picture

Healing

Oh my goodness. I just read Lockey’s post. It’s so good she had you there to trust in telling that story. Finding a space (or person) you can trust is so important when telling those deep & hard stories. There’s so much healing, as you’ve said. It’s a very good start to working through our experiences.~Catherine

Debbie's picture

Sharing is Healing

Hi Catherine:

It is always an honor to hold space for another person who needs to tell her story. When it happens to me, I’m always glad to be able to give back in gratitude for all the support I’ve received. It’s a wonderful thing we do for each other and it makes all the difference.

Survival > Existence,

Debbie

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