I started off writing this as a comment to my blogging friend Alexis Rose, author of the book Untangled, for her post entitled “You’ll know when it’s time to share your story.” But I have decided to reblog her post here on my blog, and use my comment to Alexis as a preface to her post.
I read this several hours ago when you first posted it, and I have been thinking about what you said here ever since. About how you rarely share the details of your life story when you talk to people, because you think that your trauma history is too extreme for most people to relate to. I have also been thinking about the statement you made in this post, about how some people don’t believe your true story.
Me, too, on both of those things.
I’m sure there were people who did not believe that the Turpins would chain their 13 children to their beds, only give them one small meal a day, make them live and sleep in their own body wastes, only allow them one shower per year, and refuse to let them leave the house, even years after the older ones reached the age of adulthood. Especially when you look at the pictures taken on their trips to Disney World and to Las Vegas, where the Turpin parents reaffirmed their wedding vows, surrounded by all their children. How neat and clean and pretty the family looks, all dressed up and smiling for the camera. They look like a wonderful, loving family in those carefully staged pictures. And yet, as I recently read in the news, the Turpin parents both pleaded guilty to all of these horrific abuses and more, a little over a month ago.
Then there’s the Hart couple, who drove their six children off a California cliff into the Pacific ocean in March of last year. Just this morning, I read a story on MSN that says a jury found the adoptive parents guilty of intentionally killing themselves and murdering their children. In that same article are pictures of the Hart family, all posed with big pretty smiles and holding signs about love and kindness.
While it’s true that most people can’t relate to someone who grew up in an abusive household like the Turpin children, or whose parents murdered their children like the Hart couple did, this doesn’t mean that their stories should not be told. And yes, it is hard to believe that the smiling, proud looking parents in the Turpins’ and the Harts’ family photos could commit such unthinkable atrocities against their children. But it is obvious, beyond any reasonable doubt, that this is what they did.
My dad was a church pastor throughout much of my childhood. And yet, when I was a toddler, he stopped the car on the Oakland Bay Bridge, pulled me out of the car, carried me over to the railing, held me against the cold steel rail, and told me that he was going to throw me off the bridge and that I was going to fall into the ocean and die. And this was just one of many horrific abusive crazy things that my father did throughout my childhood and into my young adulthood.
My mother sang solos in church. She baked chocolate chip cookies and she loved to “win souls for Christ.” Yet when I was twelve years old, she tried to gas our whole family to death. And this is just one of many horrific abusive crazy things that my mother did throughout my childhood and into my young adulthood.
Most people probably can’t relate to that level of abuse. And most people would probably have a hard time believing that it really happened, especially if they ever saw my carefully posed childhood family pictures.
I wish “most people” were right and that my story really wasn’t true. I wish I was like all the “normals” who can’t relate or even believe in such extreme trauma.
But here’s the thing that I am finally coming to understand, Alexis. I am not writing my memoir and sharing my story for the benefit of the unbelieving “normals”. I’m telling and writing my story because people like you and me are not alone. Although the details of your story, the details of my story, and the details of the Turpin children and the poor dead Hart children are very different, the atrocity level, the depth of the horror, is very much the same.
We aren’t the only ones with not just one, but two, extremely abusive and neglectful parents. How many others are there that have never caught the attention of any law enforcement agencies and whose stories will never make it to the news? In this crazy broken fallen world, there are many others like us. We need to boldly write and speak our truth for them.
We need to let them know that they aren’t alone and that it is possible to heal and even to thrive.
So much has changed since my memoir was published nearly four years ago. Before I wrote the book, my entire life was focused on keeping quiet, not telling, protecting those I loved, or who loved me. It took me a long time to understand that by keeping quiet, I was actually protecting the people who hurt me in my life. Writing Untangled was a way to announce in a really big way, that I will not keep quiet any longer.
I have been in a poetic place with my writing lately. It’s been easier for me to express myself in poetry. It’s a way to get to the meat of my feelings. I absolutely love the creativity of poetry. It feeds my soul, it takes me to places where I say to myself, “If I could paint a picture, this is what it would look like.”
The other day someone…
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