When I was a kid, one of my favorite songs was “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. I lived in a world of silence. Where I tried to communicate without actually speaking. Where I spoke, but no one listened. No one heard me. People heard what they wanted to hear and only what they wanted to hear. But they didn’t hear my unspoken pleas. I wrote songs and poems that “voices never share” and I certainly didn’t dare to disturb the sound of silence. Because above all, I had to be silent. I couldn’t tell the secrets. I couldn’t form the words. I couldn’t give voice to the atrocities that happened in my house. The atrocities that happened to me. Silence definitely grew like a cancer. My words also fell like silent raindrops. At night, I cried. I whispered the truth of my pain with each tear that trickled from my eyes. Though quickly brushed away, they told the story without words, with only the darkness as a witness. But I never cried in the daylight. Never around others. I was bound by the sound of silence. I hid behind a half-smile that I carefully painted on my face before I went out the door. I clothed myself in silence. Because I lived hidden away in an iceberg of silence, the words to this song touched me deeply. Actually, they still do. I have lived in the world of silence for most of my life. When I married, I thought I would finally be able to share what had happened to me. Give my pain a voice. I thought I would no longer be required to hide my broken, wounded soul. I hoped having someone in my life who loved me would help me to find a certain level of healing. But the fairy tale didn’t have a happy ending. In the first year of our marriage, he told me he didn’t love me. He told me he didn’t want to hear it. He told me to keep it to myself. He banished me from the land of the living, requiring me to stay locked away in my world of silence. So I did. I choked it down until it choked the life out of me. Until I became a zombie. A dead person walking. I never talked about the abuse. I tried to act “normal,” like everyone else. I patterned myself after others I met, saying what they said, laughing when they laughed, smiling when they smiled, talking about the light and frivolous topics they loved to chatter about. I didn’t go deep. Deep was not acceptable because deep inside, the things I held hidden within me were not acceptable. I was not acceptable. Over time, after years of keeping silent about my unacceptable secrets, I became completely numb. I was doing the best I could to go through the motions, but it became harder and harder to do so. It drained my energy until I had none left. I could barely make it through the day. Even the simple things became hard. I was horribly alone within my self-constructed prison. In the stillness, I was silent. There were times I hoped someone would tune in and hear the cries of my heart…that they would hear what I so desperately longed to say, but couldn’t. That I could forge a deep connection with another human being. Have a meaningful relationship. But as time continued to pass, it became harder and harder to connect. The silence became deeper and thicker and more overwhelming. I would open my mouth, but the words would freeze inside of me. I could no longer speak. It seemed to require me to expend too much energy. Instead, I closed my mouth, defeated before I even tried. I lived in a prison of silence, darkness, loneliness and emptiness. Silence spun a web that trapped me, bound me, until I could no longer fight. I still love the song. But today, I’m trying to learn to say the words. Words about what happened to me. I find they frequently become stuck in my throat like a large piece of meat and I can’t dislodge them. They choke me. I fear they will choke the life out of me before I can get them out. But I continue to try to tell my story, in spite of the discomfort and pain. I’m trying to be real. To quit hiding. To stop pretending. Maybe I’ve finally come to believe (at least a little bit) that people’s reaction to my life experience is their problem and not mine. I didn’t choose this story. I can’t help it that my father sexually abused me. I can’t change it or make it pretty. I can’t change the fact that both of my parents were physically and emotionally abusive, that their lack of love for me scarred me, that I have been horribly damaged by their demented parenting. I’m cutting away at the webs of silence. I’m trying to at least tell my counselor. Maybe pick a person or two in my life and tell them a little bit of my story. See how that goes. I’m tired of living in the world of silence. Silence is deafening. And crushing. It is a vacuum that sucks away all life and joy and hope and purpose. I need some life and joy and hope and purpose. So I’m trying to free myself from this massive prison of silence one tendril at a time, one tiny step at a time, one conversation at a time. One word at a time. I’m trying to find my voice. I’m trying to speak up louder than the silence, to put a little dent in it. Can you hear me?