When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. – Iyanla Vanzant
When we think of stories, most of us imagine drama, twists and turns, excitement and cliffhangers. By comparison our own reality can seem a little lackluster. We escape our lives via television, movies, celebrities and video games, always believing our own stories could never quite match up.
But what if your story was more vital to the universe, more thrilling and significant, than any blockbuster movie could ever be? What if owning and living your best story meant that other people’s lives could heal and change?
What if there was no “What if?”
Writing your story is not only an effective way to heal from past hurts, it is also a way to empower others to share and heal from their stories too.
I know: I’ve been there.
The Barrier to an Abundant Future
Five years ago I would have rather climbed Mount Everest than write the truth about my life. Who wants to go backwards anyway? Isn’t it best to just keep looking ahead?
But as Danielle LaPorte says in her very important book, Fire Starter Sessions, “You can’t face forward until you have processed your past. If your history goes unexamined and ignored it can become an annoying character that keeps showing up in your life’s script.”
I would take that one step further and say if your history is ignored, it literally becomes a barrier to an abundant future. It prevents you from living your best life.
I write for a living. Given this fact you would expect that I would have written down aspects of my story many times throughout my life. Not true. Instead, I went out of my way to write about everything but my life.
I wrote fiction; I wrote about health and fitness; I wrote about parenting. But I never wrote about my past. My past I kept locked away in a creaky old cupboard in the back of my mind.
Until I had to write about it.
It was inevitable really; I had begun writing for a magazine that’s all about sharing personal stories, connecting women and empowering them to live better lives. Avoiding my own truth would be quite impossible.
So when the time came to write my story I was a quivering mess. Especially given that at the time I was struggling through a long period of depression about which I was in deep denial.
I tried writing from a place of joy, pretending everything was A-Okay. But it didn’t work; my words were stale and I only felt detached from them.
My editor compelled me to go deeper, to write the truth about how I really felt. And everything inside me resisted. I was ashamed to talk about depression and ashamed to admit to my empty, lonely past.
And in that moment of deep shame, I knew my past was holding me hostage.
So I wrote, not thinking about my audience, thinking only of my need to open up the door to that locked cupboard and release whatever lay dormant inside.
I went inside my depression and back to early childhood days when those dark feelings first surfaced. I revisited scenes that connected me to those emotions and I sat with them for a while—exploring and questioning.
I remembered coming home from school to an empty house at the age of eight, looking for my mother, searching all over. And when I found her she was lying on her bed crying. That was where I found her most days. I remember the sunlight trying to break through the mauve curtains, the damp smell of the room, the blinking red numbers on the clock by her bed.
And that feeling of wanting to run—not wanting to face her tears or feel drained of emotion once more.
I relived many such memories, each time trying to view them from another perspective, to explore how they brought me to my current state of emptiness.
And in doing so I noticed something change dramatically inside me; I noticed the light creeping through the curtains. I noticed the release that came from looking back on these stories and realizing they no longer had a hold on me.
I noticed that I was beginning to accept my depression instead of denying it. And in bringing it into the light, it no longer had the same power over my life.
Expressive writing for me has been a gift and a blessing. And as I have begun to lead others through the journey of writing down their own stories, I have seen healing and positive change in many lives.
If you feel like your past is keeping you from your best future, I would encourage you to begin writing your story. Be gentle with yourself; tread carefully through those events that may be very painful, and if you need to, walk through them with a journaling group embarking on the same inner journey.
Don’t worry about grammar, prose or even full sentences; write in a way that works for you, your memory and your emotions. If all you can write is a few words or feelings, that’s good enough for now.
The most important step is just to begin cleaning out those dark closets of your mind and letting in some light.