Keats would have us believe that ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’. We all know how that feels. To be in the presence of the truth, knowing that what is being presented is authentic and honest and real.
The truth can be a very difficult thing to articulate. As Erik De Soir, the trauma and crisis specialist, said ‘There are certain traumas that cannot be spoken of’ because the person who was traumatised is so profoundly affected by the experience, that they either cannot, or dare not, speak of it. This is part of the reason why I write, and speak, of the uncomfortable truths that are mine: I am quite sure that my experiences, and reactions to them, are not unique to me. In this, I have been proved correct time and again: Every time I publish something, I am contacted by people – usually complete strangers – to let me know that I have written something that applied to them, and that having read my words, they no longer feel alone. That response is worth any amount of discomfort that I might feel about revealing intimate details of my life and experiences.
People, sadly, have an interesting relationship with the truth. My own family, for example, has been aware of the abuse I suffered – and at whose hands. I disclosed to family members individually, over the years; and my truth was never denied by the perpetrators, nor questioned by the other members of the family. As long as I was prepared to keep it secret. Nearly seven years ago, in therapy, I realised that the my mental health problems stemmed entirely from the abuse I had suffered as a child, and the continuing abuse from my family members.
So I removed myself from the ‘family’ and – in a quest for justice (which I wrote about here) – I started legal proceedings against the two brothers who had raped me. Since then, other members of my ‘family’ have adopted a revisionist approach to the truth. I have no insight into their motives for lying, but suspect that they are fearful of having to examine their own wilful interaction with highly abusive men. In a conversation I had with my ‘mother’ in October, she repeatedly said ‘It’s not my place to tell them’ – ‘them’ being the women in my brothers’ lives. These women know the truth of course, but refuse to accept the evidence in front of them. I was sure that the mother of the rapists confirming that I speak only the truth, would make a difference to these women, and inspire them to do something to help their own kids.
At this stage, all I can do is continue to tell the truth. Every time I am challenged by one of these abusive people, Anne Lamott’s quote (from Bird by Bird) floats into my brain:
‘You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.’
A few weeks ago, I spoke at an event. Afterwards, an older woman came up to me and called me a ‘truth teller’, and went on to say that I had chosen a hard path. She’s right; but what’s harder for me – what literally makes me sick – is denying the truth.