Archive for December 11th, 2008

One of my biggest challenges in sharing my story is figuring out what to tell or, more precisely, how much to tell. My story is so involved that I could go on for weeks.

I am always concerned about the reaction of the other person. I used to be concerned about being rejected after telling my story. That is not generally my concern these days. Instead, I worry about how the other person will react to my story. I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I don’t want the other person to have nightmares or be afraid to let her child out of her sight.

I generally start out by being very general, such as by saying, “I was abused as a child.” If the person reacts well to this information (or, better yet, asks questions), I might share that my mother was my primary abuser. Or I might share that I was sexually abused. I generally don’t share both pieces of information in one sitting because that is a lot for another person to absorb.

If a friend wants to know more, or if I feel a need to share more, I also begin by stating that my story is very hard to hear and ensuring that the other person really wants to know this information. I reassure the friend that I am comfortable in talking about my history of child abuse, but other people have had strong reactions to my story. That way, if the person does react with nightmares, etc., I have a clear conscience that she chose to invite this information into her life.

It is easier for me if the other person asks questions rather than giving a narrative, but I have done it both ways. I try to stay general and avoid sharing too many details. However, even general information like, “my abusers slaughtered my dog in front of me,” can cause the other person to reel, even when I provide no specific details.

I have had people turn white and say, “I think I am going to be sick,” after I have shared something in a very general way that is just not that big of a deal for me to share. I try to be sensitive to the fact that most people have not lived through the atrocities that I have. However, what I endured was very bad, and I am not going to sugarcoat what I have been through.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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