I have been writing online in some form for a decade and a half. For 5 of those years, I wrote what I was supposed to write, I toed the line like a good little christian. My dad was proud of what I wrote, I literally just regurgitated whatever he taught me. Although, I couldn’t avoid the way my constant fear and anxiety and depression tinted every single thing I ever wrote. One could say that writing was the only thing that kept me going, especially as I inched towards the ends of my teens. Writing both free thought posts and hundreds of gut wrenching poems were the only things I had left as an outlet for the anguish within my heart, body, and mind.
And then I got kicked out because I refused to let my dad continue to hold me under and drown me. I was rebuked and shamed and punished by “friends” and the church that supposedly had my back. My partner stuck by my side, but only until we were officially married and then in a desperate attempt to restore “normal” all of the grief and hurt we had just been put through was pushed down. I could no longer hide it, and almost 10 (or 11) years ago, I began to see my first therapist. Through her help, I started finding words again, trying to make sense of what I had been through and pick up the pieces of myself.
Throughout that process, the first two years of therapy were beyond brutal. I would sit in front of my therapist’s office, sobbing because I didn’t think I could handle going into another appointment. I felt so raw, I felt like I was constantly bleeding. And I was alone. My partner didn’t want to hear anything, my friends had no idea what to do with what I was uncovering, and the desire for relief was becoming extremely all encompassing. I remember calling my therapist one week and saying I’m standing here with my really sharp knives, I think I need to come in.
I hadn’t started writing my story yet, but it was coming.
Somehow I found a floating door to hold on to in the freezing water, and managed to make it to a writing class a few people I knew convinced me to go too. The very first class, I was introduced to writing with my voice, and speaking the truth of my reality. I learned about how my experience is MINE and it is valid because I fucking experienced it. I knew how to write my emotions, I took what I had been taught on the piano, and instead of pouring my feelings out on the keys, I poured them out through words. But writing the truth? The actual reality of what I had experienced and been through? I didn’t know how to do that, and holy fuck it was so excruciatingly scary.
I knew what I had to write, but oh my gawd it scared the fuck out of me. I knew my parents, if they were to find the post, would destroy me. I did a lot of reading about how to protect my identity, and how to protect the identity of others, even though there are parts of my story that include the actions and words of others. It took two weeks of sitting in that writing class and watching the other writers start to boldly talk about the things they have experienced before I steeled myself and started writing. I called the post “The Day I Died” and it was the story of the day I learned of my dad’s [ch!ld] porn addiction and then walked in on half of my 8 siblings all gathered around the computer watching porn. I wrote about my feelings, I wrote about how absolutely destroyed I was to find my siblings, some as young as 4 and 5, watching porn. I had no way to report my parents, I had no way to protect myself, and I felt that I had failed in protecting my siblings.
Sure enough, someone who knew me online shared the blog post (which had been posted on an entirely different platform besides my own blog) with my parents. The calls started, the first one being a sibling saying mom and dad had told them they were no longer allowed to see me or spend time with me and my partner. In a rare spurt of courage, I called my mother. She immediately started tearing in to me about how I was not protecting my family, that I was responsible for my dad losing his job, and she screamed at me to repent and apologize and post a public apology that I was making things up. I hung up on her and sat in the car sobbing, unable to catch my breath as I watched what I had known would happen, happen.
For all of my 21 years of life, I had tried to protect my siblings. I had been their mother way more than our actual mother had ever been. And because she knew it would hurt the most, she decided that because I was no longer toeing the line, my siblings were no longer allowed any contact with me. The very beings I had fought tooth and nail for, and loved as my own children, were taken away from me. I sat in therapy a week or so later feeling like I had cried all the tears and was empty. My therapist asked me what I felt like I needed to do. And I sat there and thought about it, and in that moment I decided I needed to tell my story. I had dipped my toe in the water, I might as well go all the way.
I started with the story of mine and my partner’s relationship and the hell we went through just to get to our wedding day. Then I started working my way backgrounds, and in the meantime, out of sight of the public eye, I leaned heavily in to fully deconstructing my belief system. As a year and a half passed, I felt my words getting stronger, I felt my eyes getting clearer, and I began to be able to roll my eyes at my mother’s increasingly frequent attempts to censor and control my words.
Speaking of which, while I was cleaning out a pile of papers this afternoon, I came across a letter I received from her, written March 23, 2013. And I think it’s worth sharing, because someone somewhat recently crossed this same boundary, almost word for word in a way, and I have since recognized how absolutely fucking certain of a boundary this is.
The Letter –
Dear Caleigh (my dead name), I wanted to write a letter to you so that I had time to prayerfully get my thoughts together. I had been meaning to talk to you for some time but I have been fearful of pushing you away. I know that you have been on a spiritual journey - trying to make some sense of your life. While we can't go back and change or fix the mistakes that we've made, we know that God can still redeem our lives from them. I have been praying that you would begin to see God's bigger picture in your life. Our vision is so small compared to how large a God we have. We are not going to prevent R____ (a sibling) from spending time with you. We first wanted to explain to her and you why we were concerned. The last few posts (blog) that you've posted have crossed the line of our family's privacy. In your own journey to healing you have failed to loved your "brothers" as yourself. You've been hurt but does that justify hurting others in return? There can be no Godly purpose to exposing our family publicly. If you think you had the right to do that, then you are sadly mistaken. Be part of the solution! Please write a post about how your journey needs to take a turn to praying for those who hurt you. Publicly state that you were wrong to slander us in that way. Yes, slander - your story is not completely true - your facts are not as they really happened. We all know we each need to work out our own problems. I have to believe that God is still in charge - NO! I know He is. I am compelled by Christ to speak the truth in love. God is working and changing things that you are not aware of. Things aren't always in the time frame we want them to happen. We are commanded to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We can't force or coerce someone else to change. I don't know when or how God will get the glory in all of this - but I know He will. Please remember that anything we do have consequences. We love you - Mom & Dad p.s. Please call me if you want or need clarification on any of this.
When I first chose to begin writing my story all those years ago, I had no idea how many evolutions I would explode and shatter through, or how many things I would uncover. I just knew that if I didn’t start writing I was going to choke on the story inside of me, and it was going to come out one way or another. I also knew that as I got bolder with writing, I was in more danger. The chance/risk of my parents’ retaliating was high and from the very start I was very careful about how I wrote about things. I never, ever used names, more often than not, my real name wasn’t even on my blog. I always use throwaway email address for blog registration, and I quickly learned to lock down my social media. When the memories of being sexually abused by my dad as a child came through, I was even more careful about how I wrote. And yet, along came my parents, even going so far as to actually follow that blog. I never felt safe. And yet, I kept writing.
This letter is just one of many censoring attempts from my parents. And it is something I will not stand for now. I have always, and I still hold to this, stand by the boundary that if someone has an issue with something I have written, then I will gladly have a respectful and calm conversation and discussion. But when the censoring starts and I am told what I can or cannot say or write, and my story becomes a twisted distorted mess in someone else’s hands, then access is revoked and never given again. To censor me says to me that I am not trustworthy and my story is false. It says to me that the careful steps I take to protect other people’s identity in this or any space I write on is dismissed and ignored. I think long and hard before I write about anyone. If there is no way around a situation that includes other people and those other people’s actions/words are integral to how I process and work through a situation, then I write as carefully and anonymously as possible.
My story is my fucking story. Period. My blog space is my safe space for how I process the things I can’t otherwise process through other means. But no one is owed any explanation from me. I am allowed to process how I need to, full. fucking. stop. No buts, no nothing else. My blog space is my safe space, and when that’s violated, as it’s been time and time again by parents and relatives stalking me online, it gets very tiring to have to restart somewhere else, and go through the whole process of protecting my safe space all over again.
I have still not decided what I’m doing with this space. I have had this blog for almost 5 years, and while it was almost time to recycle spaces, I don’t appreciate being forced out of my space. That being said, I’m still mulling things over. I’m holding off until the first of the year, the shift is almost here, and now is the time to hibernate and wait.