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Friday, February 06, 2015

 

Friday Speak Out!: The Courage to Share Your Story

by Lori Schafer

On November 7th, my first book was released. It’s a memoir entitled On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened, and it commemorates my terrifying adolescent experience of my mother’s psychosis.

Although the book is short, I confess that I had a horrible time writing it. The memories it contains are of the sort that would be better left forever buried, as my mother is now. I don’t really need to dwell upon that era of terror and trauma, on the powerlessness I felt over being a teenager in the strangling grip of a violent and unpredictable parent. I don’t need to remember the many months I spent living in my car, a teenage runaway, or the many weeks I went without food, or my ever-present fear that Mom would still come to find me or have me hauled forcibly home.

No, I took no pleasure in reliving that part of my past. But the book’s release has held one surprising and wonderful consequence: readers congratulating me on my courage in sharing my story.

I don’t deserve their accolades. It isn’t bravery if you don’t know that you’re supposed to be afraid.

Why should I be afraid to share my story? I was an innocent sixteen-year-old girl; I did nothing wrong. Neither, for that matter, did my mother. We were victims, both of us, victims of a disease that took control over both of our lives. Courage shouldn't have to enter into the equation.

It’s true that it’s a deeply personal memoir. It’s true that there is stigma associated with mental illness, and that few people would care to admit to having a close relative who had one. But what is even more true is that women, down through the ages, have been made to feel shame for being victims.

No one wants to admit that they’ve been physically or emotionally abused. No one wants to admit that they’re hurting, or in pain. No one wants to seek help even when they desperately need it. Why should the guiltless be shamed into silence while the guilty go unpunished? Why should children have to suffer because adults fear to speak?

Nearly every day since I began promoting my book, people have approached me online, hinting at stories of their own that they might like to tell, about mental illness, about child abuse, about dysfunctional family relationships. They aren't quite courageous enough to share their pain – but they're coming closer. Seeing a story like mine makes them think that perhaps they could indeed share it – that there might be others sitting in silence who might like to read it.

If enough of us continue to share our stories, then perhaps one day courage won’t have to be a requirement for telling a truth. And it makes me very proud to be playing a part in breaking down that shameful barrier between speaking and silence.

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Lori Schafer is a writer of serious prose and humorous erotica and romance. Her short stories, flash fiction, and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her first book, a memoir entitled On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter's Memoir of Mental Illness, was released in November 2014. Her first two novels, My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged and Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged will be released in April 2015. You can learn more about Lori and her forthcoming projects by visiting her website at http://lorilschafer.com/.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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4 Comments:

Blogger Margo Dill said...

Great post, Lori. I agree with others what you did is not easy, but you are right, the more people who do it, the more light will be on the problem and hopefully communication is the beginning of healing.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Sioux said...

Lori--

Humorous erotica? That sounds intriguing…and probably the only kind of erotica I would agree to read.

When people choose to stand up and share, it DOES give confidence to others. Good luck with your new baby, and with the two coming out later this year.

2:43 PM  
OpenID paulareednancarrow.com said...

Perhaps the courage is about being open, but ifI were to say you were courageous it would be because you did what was uncomfortable and difficult: relived traumatic events rather than leaving them buried, as you make clear would be a lot easier. We don't like to face pain. We do so when we can see a greater gain, but it takes courage to make that leap, and I thank you for doing so. We're all better for it.

9:03 AM  
OpenID sherreymeyer said...

Lori, nice job on this post. Courage comes with difficulties, traumatic situations, and the pain of it all. You have shown courage and bravery in telling a very difficult and painful story.

7:47 PM  

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