The Power of Retaking our Stories: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
I believe in the power of story telling, in the significance of narratives, and in the impact that can stem from changing how we view our person story. I believe in these things so much that a significant part of my recovery process stemmed from me learning what it meant for me to retake my story; what it meant for me as an individual to make sense of the events that occurred throughout my assault, and how I choose to process this. In the art of retaking my personal narrative, I learned I had much more power than ever imagined. It all came down to the information I was sharing and how I viewing these elements of my own life.
In my experience, I did not find out about my assault until I was in my early 20s. Prior to a series of letters that contained facts of my case, stalking, and elements of blackmail, I never knew that being assaulted was a part of my story. When I realized this was a piece of my journey, my life changed quite significantly. With the realization of what I experienced, I transformed; I lost confidence, I was afraid, frequently angry and often times upset. I let my assault define me. Even though very few people knew, it took hold of my identity, and shifted how I viewed myself as a character in my own life. I went from being someone I was proud of, to instead, someone I regretted. I felt ashamed.
Finally, after two years of recovery, after multiple tactics to forget or overcome, after having felt like I walked through proverbial hell, I realized something: that if my life was a story, if someone were to recount the tale of my last two years, the person they viewed would not be the man I would want them to speak of. I had let another define me, in that sense I gave them the power they craved in the first place, by allowing myself to live in that fear with them. I had lost my identity to my assault, and I no longer owned my story.
I was ashamed, I was scared, and I was embarrassed. So finally I decided to do something about it: I took back my story. The first few times I did this were hard, difficult, gut wrenching and blinding. All of a sudden, I was opening up a door into another side of my life. People I loved, friends and family, were allowed to see me with a new label: as a survivor. I chose to open that door, and the results were not always easy. Many times I felt like people’s perceptions of me changed. Often I could see looks of embarrassment or concern creep into their faces. Most times, there were questions, but always, I felt one unifying feeling. By reclaiming my story, I had the power to select my narrative. No longer was I allowing others to define me, instead I was defining myself. Slowly, but surely, this gave me power.
It empowered me to be more open with my story: to proudly shift how I viewed my self from a victim to a survivor, and stand tall, knowing that this was my life to forge, that no matter the actions of another, no matter what they sought to control, I and I alone could define myself. The more I pondered it, the more I realized I had power. By simply taking hold of my story, I had the ability to connect with myself and to own my identity. I went from a victim, afraid of who I was, and scared of my past, to a man: a male survivor, and most importantly, an individual.
In part of retaking my story, it is important to note that I mostly just view myself as a man. I write the script in my own life, and have to control the man I want to become. While others have a role in this, others can certainly impact this, ultimately the power was in my hands to reach the place I am today. I believe in the power of the stories that we tell both ourselves and others.
Sometimes the act of telling that story, of reaching a place where we are comfortable to share the complete truth can be one of the most difficult things we experience. There is nothing easy about reclaiming our lives, but there is an importance and power in it. No matter the circumstances we experience, we are who we work to be. Only we have the power to reclaim our stories, to take back our narratives. There is a beauty and importance in reclaiming our self-possession, knowing we can be proud of how we are, regardless of the actions of another.
Tim Mousseau is a storyteller who focuses on using his writing and speaking to reframe how communities approach the cultures they are creating. As a speaker for CAMPUSPEAK he talks with college campuses across America about sexual assault prevention, using his own story to connect with students when facing this issue. Tim received a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga, his research focused on curiosity and creativity. To connect with Tim, he can be reached on Twitter @TimMousseau