|Photo by J. Grandbois|
Between us is silence and the tick tock of my imaginary clock.
I sit. My shoulders rise towards my ears. My hands are willed to be still in my lap, my jaw is clenched and my throat feels as though it has a tennis ball lodged in it. The words are in my mind...if I had a pen I could write them down. I could text them; the distance between my phone, the cell tower, and my therapists phone more easily traversed than that between these two chairs. I want to speak the words. I will my vocal chords to work. When I speak the words are slow, distorted and my voice breaks...
"I want the self loathing to stop..."
I love conversation. I could linger over a dinner table for hours discussing just about anything. I don't have an overt fear of public speaking. I will stand in front of a crowd of nearly any size to make a speech or MC a show. I don't have a problem with speaking up for others. If you ask, or sometimes even if you don't, I will willingly be your champion. Most folks would probably call me an extrovert and they'd mostly be right. So the following may surprise some people...
When it comes to myself, to things that are deeply personal, I go silent. It isn't willingly, because there are times that I have huge emotions swirling inside of me that I desire to express. I can speak up for nearly anyone else but when it comes to myself, I have physical reaction where my vocal chords cease operation and nothing, no sound emerges.
I have had therapy sessions that have long silences where I struggle to get words out. When I do finally speak, I can often barely whisper a squeak. I will be hoarse for days after, as though by forcing my vocal chords into action I've somehow damaged them. My therapist has told me that this physical reaction stems from trauma; from times in my life that speaking my thoughts was dangerous, or where I would be belittled or told my feelings were wrong or not valid.
And it is true, I've had many of those times in my life. And they've left me with more scars than just my body enforcing my silence, but there has always been one way I have been able to express myself, where words and my body don't fail me. I write.
I've kept a journal since I was nine years old. I write nearly every day. Even during the most silent periods of my life, the blank page was my safe space. While most of it stays private, I've also written poetry, personal essays, short stories and of course blog posts. It has also become the way that I could share my deeper thoughts with others. I could write you a letter, an email or even a text message about what I'm feeling, even if I cannot speak it. My vocal chords might seize but my hands do not. I may not physically be able to discuss it with you after, but at least I'll get it out there.
Maybe it is because I have a choice in whether or not to share it, and who I share it with, or perhaps it is because I have the time to craft the words so they express clearly what I want to say.
Right now I don't really need to know the why, I'm just very grateful that that outlet has existed. And I'm grateful for the ability with word craft that it has given me. It is my silver lining...
(And I'm working on the speaking thing. Right now my technique is, of course, to write things down first and then say it over and over again until my voice no longer catches.)