A few weeks back my friend Ruby introduced me to Sara Bareilles’ music. Wow! Can that woman sing? It’s not just the amazing voice, but lyrics that simply seem to be written for me right now. Ruby introduced me to this song and it has been going around in my head ever since.
That’s what I like about good lyrics. They stick in your head and it’s often like automatic learning. The message just keeps on going in. And this message of being brave, is one I have particularly needed.
As a writer, I constantly put myself ‘out there‘ by sharing both what I’m thinking and what is going on in my emotions too. I am letting readers into a part of my life that is very personal. It’s uniquely me. No one else will tell you exactly what I share with you. I do it purposely. I want to connect with a reader through my words, to allow you the opportunity to think (and maybe say)
“I get that”
Three words that are incredibly powerful, especially if we are tangled in the web of mental illness, where not everyone gets what we’re dealing with. I know personally how much it helps to know someone else gets it, and really, all I want to do in writing. is say
I generally don’t share the concrete details of my life. I purposely don’t share those. Not because you’re not important, but because that’s a boundary I draw to give myself privacy, something all of us need at some time. If you saw me in the street, you wouldn’t recognise me, and because of my own history, that works for me. If though, you looked into the soul of that person in the street, you may well recognise me, and that is usually okay for me.
Sometimes though, with all the best will in the world, things go wrong. Recently someone took information from both my book (Infinite Sadness… the book) and this blog. The information is freely available to anyone but it makes up what is perhaps the core of me. I made a calculated decision when I chose to share that material. I decided it would be worth the risk. But that choice makes me vulnerable to abuse, the same as for any other writer. Unfortunately, the person used the information to their own means, and in doing so caused me great hurt.
I can tell you that I howled when I discovered what had happened (and I’m not a howler… honest). I was completely devastated that someone had taken what I had offered with good intention, and used it for their own cruel purposes. It felt like I had been cut open and bared naked to the world. Well in a way, that’s exactly what they did. It just wasn’t the physical me. Actually I’m not sure which would hurt more, but it certainly gave me a small insight into the nightmare people must face when they private worlds are bared open to the public through the media.
When I pulled myself up from where I had been curled up in a ball, howling, I started to think about what this person did. Firstly, they showed total disrespect for me as a person. I didn’t matter to them. I was simply a means to achieving their sick purposes. They took my good intention of wanting to share my experience of mental illness, as a form of empathy, and completely abused that, and ripped it apart.
My immediate thoughts were ‘I’m never writing anything about me ever again’. It’s a pretty natural response,… I’m as human as you. This hurt badly, and I still don’t ever want to be hurt that way again.
So I’ve spent a few weeks quietly trying to work out what to do. If I stop writing in my own name, and use a pseudonym (as many do) it really wouldn’t make a difference. I am quite sure that this still would have happened even if the name on my book and my blog were not my own. At some stage… eventually, these things come together… as they did.
All of this still really hurts, and probably to some extent always will. I can’t explain adequately to you how shattered I am by what I see is a complete breach of trust. Just imagine how it would feel to be nailed to a billboard and have people throw scorn at you, directed at the most vulnerable parts of you.
But what keeps on playing in my mind (endlessly!) is Sara Bareilles’ lyrics:
Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
Over and over again I hear “say what you wanna say“. With good reason too, because sometimes I can be a slow learner.
If I stop saying what I want to say, no matter what the form of written word, then the person who did this to me wins. Not only that, if I stop writing, that is one less voice speaking up for those of us with mental illness. Actually in my country, there are not that many people speaking up, so I believe that every voice makes a difference.
So I choose to be brave. I dust off the wounds, which right now still feel pretty raw, and I keep on going. The person who did this didn’t care if I got destroyed in the process of their actions, but I care, if for nothing else my niece L. Writing about mental illness might not make a difference to her personally right now, but every one of us who writes makes a difference to the world she lives in.
In spite of my determination to keep writing, my boundaries have closed in. I think that’s totally understandable. I have no desire to be caught out like this again, and will do everything I can to make sure it never again happens to me. It’s likely that some of writing outside this blog which I was intending to work on, will perhaps change in direction. This is all sad, but necessary.
There is a degree in which we rely on good faith, but that doesn’t escape the need for careful protection of privacy. I read recently that we need to be careful who we share our weaknesses with, as some people can’t wait for an opportunity to use them against us. Sad but true… again. I would dare to suggest to that because of the subject matter on which we write/read (mental illness) it is simply what we all need to have constantly in mind. If my sharing what has happened to me, will help you avoid similar abuse, then I can live with what happened. There will be scars but they will make me stronger in the end.
“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”
― Ernest Hemingway
“Be brave, little rabbit. Take a chance.”
― Cherise Sinclair, Breaking Free