|Pain (Photo credit: Rickydavid)|
Please excuse me if I start off with a bit of a rant. Trust me, this will have something to do with writing memoir.
I'm getting tired of people saying "Nobody knows what I've been through!"
You've probably heard others say this. You may have even used this line yourself These exasperated words will sometimes come up in the midst of an argument or a feeling-sorry-for-oneself tirade. This is either the communication ender or the catalyst for even more heated exchange. The statement may come with a gushing of tears or be part of a screaming fit. The person saying this typically has used this utterance in times past and with some frequency. It has become a habit that makes those subjected to the words a bit weary.
Certain members of my own family will say these words when they feel backed into a corner. I don't know how many times I've heard the "nobody knows" statement brought up at work, in church, or even on television. I've decided I'm going to counter the statement with a comeback.
When I hear someone say, "No one knows what I've been through", I'm going to return with something like:
"Of course I don't know everything you've been through because I'm not you. I don't know what's in your head. I only know what I witness and what people tell me. So stop saying that. If you want everyone to know everything that you've been through, why don't you write it down so we can read about it"I don't mean to sound insensitive, but I do think that writing can be great therapy. Even if no one reads what you've written, having written can help put things in better perspective, add clarification to the complex issues of the past, and organize sometimes chaotic memories and thoughts into a more manageable system that can be examined more rationally.
This is how many memoirs come into being. Ambiguously referring to your pain in an emotional flurry of passion is not a very effective way of getting your point across. When somebody can read through your story and have time to reflect on the words, they can gain greater insight into what you have to say. They can reflect on the words and digest the story without having to guess what you've "been through".
Keeping pain locked up inside, but letting everyone around you know that you have a painful secret can only create more stress and turmoil in your own life and resentment from others when you throw your secret at them to defend your sometimes irrational behavior. Even if something seems too embarrassing to tell others, your telling them about your painful experience might help someone else who is dealing with something similar. And opening yourself up might help others to know how they might help you.
I've been fortunate in my own life. My painful circumstances have been relatively minor when put beside the experiences of some other people. Sure, I've experienced some real unpleasantness in my life, but I've gotten past those things and hopefully have grown from having experienced those things and dealt with them. Carrying the burden of unhappiness on my shoulders does nothing good for me or anyone around me.
The way I look at it is that what has happened in the past can't be changed. No point in dwelling for the rest of your life on those bad experiences and letting them control your life now. If you need to sort it all out or get closure or whatever it is you need to do to get over it, then write out your story. Write it in a memoir or even write it as a fiction. Use the story to help yourself and help others. If that is your goal, then you might just rid yourself of your pain and move on to brighter days ahead.
After all, what would you rather your epitaph say? "Here lies a person whose life was shaped by pain and nobody knows the trouble I've seen" or "I escaped from the prison of my past to help free those imprisoned by their own"
Don't be a martyr for your pain. Write the story instead.
Do you ever use a line like "No one knows what I've been through"? Have you known anyone who says this when in an emotional corner? Do you think it's good to write out your bad experiences in order to get them out of your head? Does cathartic writing work for you?