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Almost all my life I thought that someone like me could never 'make it' in life. Someone who was domestically abused, bullied physically, emotionally and financially, who grieved the loss of her father the first time when the addiction took over, the second time in a divorce and the third time when he tragically died. Someone who was never taken seriously and who never fit any standards.
I wonder why that is.
Being ashamed of trauma
For the most part, I never wanted to mention my trauma to others. Not because I didn't want *it* to define *me*, even though that's what many trauma survivors feel, but because I didn't want to be pitied. I didn't want to "get the easy way out" simply because I've had a hard life - something I didn't have control of. I didn't want to be a victim, look like a victim or act like one.
But why? I was one.
When we are victims, so often if not in all cases, our voices get taken away. Even once the event is over, we continue functioning like so, or we head into the other extreme.
When we are victims, we are ashamed to tell others what's happened because "you don't talk about it". "You will make others feel uncomfortable". Weren't we uncomfortable surviving that?
Why do I want to share this?
I think trauma is heavier than it has to be because we never mention it. Please don't mistaken this for speaking about it openly before you're ready - that's a whole different thing. But please, once you are, let people know.
Show people the strength and endurance, your faith, tell them what you've been through.
Some would say "own it", but I don't think you can or should own your trauma. No. Trauma is out of your control. What you *can* and *should* own is how you moved through it and how you're healing from it. Those are your decisions. That's what you have control over.
Maybe you, like me, think or have thought that you are broken. That you couldn't be fixed. That now you can't be a functioning, well-respected member of society, let alone a successful one. That's far from the truth.
A lot of very successful people have been through trauma. But yes, the reason why we feel like that is because it's so rarely spoken about. We don't have a lot of examples were people in the highest positions have opened up and spoken about what happened to them, how it made them stronger and how they ended up where they are now.
This is the narrative I want to change. I want us all to not hide parts of ourselves, because in many cases, they make us who we are - not 100% (remember, trauma doesn't define us), but some %, yes. It's a part of our experience that we can't change. But we *can* decide what we want the narrative to be.
What is my story?
My narrative is the following: I come from a dysfunctional family. I've seen a lot of horrifying moments. I've been seeing a therapist since I was 5. I have been abused, bullied and manipulated. I suffered from panic attacks, PTSD, anxiety and very deep depression episodes. I thought about taking my own life at some point. But I didn't. I remember thinking "I don't want this experience to define me". Back then, I thought "I want to succeed in life in spite of it".
Now you may think that it should be "I want to succeed in life *because* of it". But no.
I want to succeed in life because of *me*.
My life is mine, and no one elses. Some decisions were taken away from me, I've been through situations out of my control. I can't change those. But I can make sure that when I do have control, I act in my own best interest. I make sure that I lead my own narrative.
Ways you can help others heal
And I wish for you to do the same, when you're ready. Imagine how many people will be deeply touched and moved by your story sharing. What a genuine connection you will create. How many people your story will set free, because they'll find yourself in your words and won't feel isolated and lonely, not belonging, broken.
It's this society that's broken. That deems some narratives more worthy than others. That tries to make you think that you are that - broken and unworthy. Don't fall for that. That's not your narrative. You pick your own narrative. You can choose to tell your story proudly, knowing that yes - you may have been someone's victim once - but you are not a victim of society or of yourself. You are you, and your experiences make you powerful.
The strength that you have is solely yours, and it can propel you forward. It *will* propel you forward - you just have to say it's so.
But remember - this isn't a revolution. It's not a riot. It's not you taking over your "status", your worthiness. No. You have one, and you are worthy. Some times in your life, another individual took those away from you, made you feel less than. But YOU are the only one who can say that it's not so anymore. The society at large didn't get a memo which read "Franka is a broken individual". That's why you can't expect that society will email you that you are now a functioning and deserving member of it. You don't wait for someone else's decision, because there isn't one.You have felt broken because your rights and decisions were taken away from you - that's on them. But the only human being that can make the decision to act righteous and in control of your own life - that's on you. It's your decision. You are in control. You have the power.
3 things I do today to share my story
- When I'm talking to someone for a period of time, I mention pieces of my experience that fit the context
- When I'm giving a talk, I introduce myself fully, and achieve these experiences as much as my accomplishments
- I speak about it here, on the podcast and on social media
I hope this blog post has helped you process some of these emotions or encouraged you in any way. I believe that by sharing our stories and being there for each other, we can work together to create a society in which trauma survivors feel accepted instead of ashamed, and it's one of the most powerful ways to heal.
You might be thinking that writing about trauma sounds scary or like something no one would want to read, but it's important to remember that there are people out there who will connect with what you're going through and find strength in hearing how others have survived their own traumatic experiences, knowing they're not alone.
This is the way forward. It's time to start talking about it more openly if we want to make a difference.
With whom will you share your story this week?
If you're ready to share it with the Unsetting Expectations community, you can submit your story here 💛