The Strength of Your Story

“There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out in the open.”1  

As a therapist, I hear from my clients a lot that “their story doesn’t matter” or “no one really cares what I’m living through”.  We’ve all probably uttered those same phrases; no one cares, my story doesn’t matter, no one wants to hear it. So you shut down and don’t speak up, you don’t share and you isolate from others.  

Yep.  I’ve been there.  Believe it or not, this is common.

We think, “I’ll keep it all inside because I’d rather the pain destroy me than everyone else.” We think we’re helping other people by keeping our issues to our self. We think we’re helping ourselves because we’re not giving voice to our issues, and if we don’t voice our issues, they’re not real, right? Can you see the problem here?  Imagine blowing up a balloon.  You keep adding air and the balloon gets bigger, you don’t let any of the air out and eventually, the plastic of the balloon stretches and strains and eventually pops.  Keeping our stories and our pain inside that ‘balloon’, continuing to feed it and never letting anything out, at first we’ll stretch and be okay, then we might be uncomfortable, then we’ll start to strain and then we’ll pop.

 Let’s stick with the balloon. You know when you’re blowing up a balloon and you don’t want all the air to get out, so you pinch the opening with your fingers.  Your fingers are keeping all the air inside, not wanting any little bit of air to get out of the balloon.  Think of your fingers pinching the balloon, that’s what shame is doing to you. Shame doesn’t want your story to get out. Shame wants you to keep all your issues tightly inside the balloon, not sharing any of your issues with anyone else.  Brené Brown says “Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it – it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes."

Let me let some of the air out of my balloon and share a personal story with you.  Maybe my story can help produce some transformation or hope in you. As you read, try to think about your own story and your own path.

It was the Fall of 2011 and I just took a pregnancy test and I’m freaking out. It’s positive!! My first thought is, how to tell Tim! I am beyond excited and thrilled.  When I finally told Tim we were both ecstatic. We go through all the beginning stages, telling certain people right away, finding out the due date, making the decision that we aren’t going to find out the sex of the baby, even starting to write a list of names.

We scheduled the regular 8-week appointment and they didn’t find a heartbeat. Those doplars aren’t the easiest to use and with a baby that small, finding the heartbeat can be hard. They didn’t seem worried and sent us on our way. I wasn’t worried. Since this is our first pregnancy, we didn’t have anything to go off of, and we trusted them. I trusted my body to take care of this little creation. 

11 days later I miscarried. I was 11 weeks pregnant.

It was so painful. So shocking. I knew miscarriages were common and it happens in many women, but not to me, not in my family. My mom had 6 healthy babies, my three sisters all had healthy pregnancies. So miscarrying was not on my radar at all.   This was immensely painful for both Tim and me.  We had a lot of pain and were suffering from a lot of grief.  We experienced another miscarriage in between our kids and felt the pain all over again.  Everyone’s pain and grief has a mind of its own and everyone’s path is different. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. And there is no right or wrong way to go through pain.

That chapter of my story gives me purpose to share.  I have been able to share with women who are grieving from their own miscarriage.  I can loosen the grip of shame on my story and help someone else do the same.  This chapter, although it was painful, also brought hope and 3 healthy (and lively) children into our life.

I am a licensed therapist, but more importantly, I am human just like you. When we let go of the grip that shame has on us and when our stories show some vulnerability, we become real and relatable, and someone is inspired. You can feel encouraged that you are not alone and you can trek the path out of a divorce, depression, anxiety, eating disorder, PTSD, a loss, or whatever it is that is keeping you stuck.

It was other brave people letting go of their shame and sharing their stories of loss and pain with me that helped me through my grief.  Women who said “I miscarried too” were lifelines for me in that time. Women who hadn’t miscarried, but could share in the pain with me; my mom, sisters, best friend and sister in law, these women created a beautiful cookbook, which continues to remind me to hold on to the hope that I’m not alone and I can survive my grief too! When you’re in the hole of darkness, it’s hard to see out, but it also helped me to see my need for my own counseling, to grow in my faith and seek God.  Looking back, I am so thankful for what grew from the pain – the love from others, relationships, hope, compassion, faith, vulnerability.

So, now how can you step out in bravery with your story?

  1. Talk. Start with a trusted friend,  family member, or therapist you know you can trust and will truly hear you and let you be you.
  2. Do. Write, record (there are apps where you can record yourself and make notes), sing, dance, paint, draw, punch, exercise, or any sort of action that lets you communicate your story or pain. This quite honestly is where the power happens – where someone else is inspired. If you have a tough story, someone else NEEDS to hear it. Use a means that works for you to communicate it. Look at so many bestselling books – they are real stories with real people. That can be you!!
  3. Join. Join a group, therapy, a membership, a church. Don’t isolate yourself. Get around people who have the same passion as you – they want to hear your story and have a similar one. Groups could be a therapy group, it could be a volunteer group, a Bible study, AA or Al Anon. If what you desire to join does not exist, start one.

“Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out in the open.”1  Your story matters. Your pain can be someone else’s transformation. You’re not limited to just one story, and it is not always big. Some of them are little shimmering moments of hope that changes someone’s day or week. Step out and be someone else’s transformation, and thank the people who have helped to be yours.  Start sharing the strength found in your story and watch what happens.

1Aitchison, Steven www.healthyplace.com, 2019