I got an anonymous letter.
I’m going to share it with you.
Here it is.
I saw the very touching letter in your most recent Ask Havi post and my stomach twisted up. And I decided, what the hell, I’ll write you and Selma.
I read all your blog posts and love the depth that you bring to emotional things without losing your grip on reality.
There’s a book I need to write, or at least, people keep telling me that others need to read it [funny, huh?].
But I haven’t done it yet because I feel like I don’t have the right to write about what happened to me. I was systematically abused for 10 years and nothing was done about it, to make it short.
And I keep being told I need to write about all this, so that others know they’re not the only one’s who’ve been tortured. So that others don’t feel alone, and don’t feel like they need to punish or kill themselves because someone else was a monster to them.
But I… still feel controlled by the fear that those people left in me. And it leaves me feeling that I don’t have the right to write about my own pain.
And more still, if I write this bloody book I want it to be anonymous, as much as possible, because I don’t want those horrible people to track me down. I know them, and I know that they would call me and show up at my door, and hound me to rescind the things I said, but I can’t — because they’re true. I can’t erase those actions and they can’t erase my memories.
Reality doesn’t work that way.
So my ‘ask’ for you and the eminent Selma, is how do I get permission to write this book?
I don’t even know where the permission should be from, I just know that this needs to come out of me and be used to help someone else, because I can’t think of any other way for all the energy of those terrible things to be used in a positive way.
I’m sorry for the urgent plea tone of this e-mail, I’ve been wrestling with this situation for a little over 20 years and it’s eating at me more and more lately. I’ve thought about writing the two of you about this before, but always chickened out because I know that this must all sound very panicked.
If you have any ideas where that permission might need to come from please let me know! I hate to sound desperate but that’s what I am.
All the best,
p.s. Q for Selma ~ do you ever wear socks?
Let’s take a moment, yes?
Let’s all just be really quiet for this woman and sit with this.
This is a lot of pain. It’s harder for her to carry than it is for us to witness it, but it’s hard on all of us.
If you can send love and strength and support her way, then send it. And if you need those things, I’m sending them your way too.
One more deep breath. And another one. Another one.
And we will find a way to respond.
Part of what I wrote back …
Oh my dear sweet __________.
Oh my dear sweet __________.
There is so much hard. I am so sorry that you went through this awfulness. I want to sit with you and hold your hand.
For your questions …
There are a couple of points I want to make.
1. Let’s remove — if we can — as many of the “shoulds” as possible.
The idea that you have this “obligation” to write your suffering out to help others … it sounds like guilt and fear are kinda running the show.
Which is understandable, given your background.
Still, if we could take that apart a little and pull out the should-i-ness of it …
If you think that writing about this will be therapeutic for you then by all means, do it.
Or maybe writing about the process of getting ready to write about it could be therapeutic for you, in which case, yes. Try it and see if it feels comfortable for you.
You are under no obligation to start healing the world or helping other people who have suffered unless you are drawn to this as part of your own healing process.
After all you have been through, it is ludicrous that you would “have to” do anything other than focus on what you need to help you heal as best you can.
If positive stuff for someone else can emerge from your painful experience, that would be incredibly powerful. But it does not need to be the thing that motivates you unless you come to the conclusion that you truly want it to.
2. The permission thing is also a “should”.
This idea that you “have to” give yourself permission or that someone has to give it to you … this is part of the mentality that can come from a history of abuse. I recognize it because I know it personally and many of my clients do this too.
Right now you have too much fear to give yourself permission. The only place to start is to acknowledge that this fear is there and that it makes sense that it would be there.
It is natural and normal that you’re paralyzed with fear. It is the natural human response to what you’ve been put through.
Of course you’re afraid to have permission to write about this, sweetie. Let’s wait a bit until we need to get this permission. In the meantime …
3. There are always more options than what there appear to be.
Maybe right now is not the time to write the book.
Maybe right now is the time to do some journaling. That might take some of the pressure off of the whole “oh no, a book” thing.
Not to mention the anonymity thing and the safety thing. That’s a lot to deal with all at once.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be a book. Maybe it can start as some sketches or some scribbled words in a book that’s only for you.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be memories.
Maybe what you end up writing can be about this process of learning how to make your healing become the main thing in your life.
Maybe your writing can be about your process of learning how to maybe eventually feel safe and loved.
Start seeing how it feels to gently and cautiously approach some of the stuff around these memories without diving right into the pain or putting a bunch of expectations on yourself about who will read it. Then you can proceed from there.
Around these memories.
4. Going AROUND the pain. This is a very important concept.
There is this awful school of thought — very popular in Hollywood films — that holds that if we face our fear and re-live the awful things that happened to us, this will heal us.
I can barely even talk about this because it’s so wrong and so tragic and so dangerous.
It is very important to understand that there are many, many kind and gentle ways out there to dance around the pain, to do the healing at the very edge and not in the center.
You do not need to go through your pain again in order to heal. You can do the healing around it, from the periphery.
Acupuncture, acupressure, EFT, TAT, dance therapy, art therapy, yoga therapy, healers … there are so many powerful ways to work through some of our pain and soften it without plunging in and reliving the horrible.
If writing is going to be part of your healing process, try writing around the pain, not about the pain.
For example, writing about the types of things that trigger your pain. The types of things people say that set you off. Words that are troubled or problematic for you.
And then writing about places where you feel safe and supported. People whose presence helps you feel better. Smells and tastes that are comforting for you.
Find spaces where you can be in comfort after dancing around that pain.
5. We are with you.
You are not alone.
Abuse is … what can I say about it … just the most horrible thing. Ever.
There are a lot of us out in the world with painful, miserable experiences that we either remember or don’t remember … and there is a lot of pain for us to learn about. A lot of pain for us to practice letting go of.
I just want you to know that all over the internet, hurting and healing people are empathizing with you and remembering their own bits of stuck and hard.
We are all loving you and loving your beautiful heart and trying to love ourselves. We are with you.
p.s. I have never seen Selma wear socks. I don’t quite know where she’d put them, though it would be super cute.
A request for my readers …
Please nothing but kind, supportive, loving comments.
I’m writing about stuff I feel VERY strongly about. If you disagree with me, you’re more than entitled to your opinion — just keep in mind that today is not one of those days that I wish to know about it. Let’s just gather and support this woman.