I read this quote and a flood of memories came rushing back to me of the moment when I realized I was actually being heard for the very first time. I’d grown so tired of not being heard, not being believed, having my words twisted and used against me, and just dealing with all the hurdles most childhood abuse sufferers deal with even in today’s society. I’d grown so tired of it that I had given up. Completely given up. I no longer even bothered to talk about what happened. Even as an adult I expected to be treated how I always had been and sadly my family still did exactly that. My silence was bought, paid for, wrapped with a big bow and delivered. Free shipping!
Then I landed in a hospital program for people with severe trauma and after a lot of talking, teaching, building trust and truly caring about my well-being, I realized that for the very first time in my life, I was really being heard.
I began to open up and allow little snippets to escape only to be met with compassion and the feeling that they actually believed what they heard from me.
To try to explain just how much of a liar I’d been made to feel I was, one nurse actually had to explain to me why I was not a sociopath. I’d been called that so many times in my life that I believed it with my whole heart. I told them I was a sociopath as part of my intake interview. This nurse had to explain why that wasn’t true and that everything I said added up. Everything.
Then he told me I’d been brainwashed in to believing that to ensure my silence. In the end he was right but I was MAD at him saying I was brainwashed. NOT ME! I though being brainwashed was for people who were not very smart or easily led. Apparently I was very wrong. I had been brainwashed in to believing that I was many things that I was not. A sociopath was only one of them.
Back to the topic at hand. 🙂
The experience of being heard and being believed fully was exactly where healing began. It was the pivotal moment when my life began to turn from what it was (a horribly sad, depressed, suicidal life) to what it is today. A huge change that all started because someone not only believed in me and heard what I had to say but he made sure that I knew he believed me. Other nurses offered this as well which was so greatly appreciated and it cemented what I’d already been told. In groups as I began to open up, they believed me too and showed compassion towards me. It was all VERY healing but the beginning of that healing was the because of the simplest thing we can do. Just listen.
I think quite often we get in the habit of wanting to find a solution or share a solution with the person who needs to get something off their chest. In my experience, this is really not what is needed the most. I think that most people sharing their truth just need to know you are listening and that you believe them wholeheartedly.
I know there are liars out there but as I detailed in another blog, 97% of reported abuse cases were in fact the truth. 2% stretched it a bit and only 1% lied. I think we need to worry less about finding the 1% who lie or the 2% who stretch the truth a bit and open our ears and our hearts to the 97% that are telling you something that is incredibly difficult for them to admit.
It is good to be involved in the conversation asking how something affected them or made them feel is a gift. Asking for details or expecting a timeline that makes sense is asking for too much. Trauma memories are stored more like raffle tickets (tossed in a bag and shaken). They are retrieved much the same way. A little (one name) at a time. “Heather” might be on 25 tickets but you only pull one little part. That is just how trauma works.
This sadly is another reason why people who are traumatized are so scared or unwilling to speak up. When we do, people want to know when, where, who, what, why and they want it to all make sense. Since we can not do that without guessing, people assume it is not the truth. Surely you would remember all that if it was true right? Actually no. Not true. We get raffle ticket memories instead.
If you are ever so blessed to be in a place where you are trusted enough for someone to share their life with you (trauma or not)? Do them a favour and hear them. Just listen. You might be the first person that ever does.