In 2013, I chose to start speaking out about my experience with anti-gay violence.
I thought it would be healing – and for a while, it was.
I thought speaking was a form of self-care – and for a while, it was.
In 2015, I chose to dramatically reduce the amount I shared publicly about my trauma and living in the aftermath.
After a while, speaking only reopened the wounds of what had happened to me.
After a while, speaking caused me to re-experience the trauma far more often than it enabled me to feel at peace.
After a while, speaking exacerbated the pain, the sadness, and the fear which still lingered, even after all that time had passed.
Speaking was no longer healing. It had become a form of self-harm – so I stopped.
There’s an unspoken – yet relatively forceful – pressure in activist culture to share. Sharing about the painful experiences in our lives is seen as a way through them – as a way we can heal from them.
And it can be, absolutely.
But sometimes it isn’t.
For some of us, speaking helps and heals more than it hurts and hinders. For some of us, it doesn’t.
Why should we embrace a one-size-fits-all model of healing?
Speaking isn’t for everyone.
Instead of speaking, some of us create. We paint and draw. We write and direct. We string beads and stones together. We create works of art. We use our hands and bodies and minds and hearts to find beauty in the aftermath of horror.
Instead of speaking, some of us run toward the things which bring us joy and peace. We embrace our deepest-held passions and desires. We embrace nature. We embrace lightness and goodness. We embrace the people, creatures, places, and activities who remind us there is still much we can love in this world.
Instead of speaking, some of us find alternative ways to engage with our painful histories. Some of us choose to leave our traumas behind as best we can after we’ve found some semblance of calm. Some of us will never be able to speak out and share in the way activist culture often asks of us. And that’s okay.
If speaking out is a form of self-care for you, I support you, and I encourage you to use your voice to tell your story and speak as loudly as you find helpful for you.
But if speaking effectively acts as a form of self-harm for you, I want you to know that you don’t have to.
Speaking isn’t the key to healing. You are your own key to healing. You will find what works for you, and whatever works for you is enough.
The pressure to be a survivor in a certain kind of way, to be an activist in a certain kind of way, to heal in a certain kind of way and give certain kinds of public indications that you have sufficiently addressed your traumas – it absolutely exists, and if you’ve been hurt by it, I’m sorry.
I will stand with you no matter how you have survived up to this point in your life.
You deserved better than what happened to you and you deserve better now than the people who would make you believe you have to share for your story to be valuable.