When I first began writing this blog in June of 2007, I had a whopping seven readers. One was the original friend who encouraged me to blog, and the other six were other friends that she coerced into becoming followers. I didn’t completely “get” blogging at that point, and didn’t know if I had anything to say. I knew I still wanted to be a writer, but that dream was tucked away behind financial stress, career uncertainty and my ever present companion: depression. I remember very clearly thinking that I had nothing to say, at least nothing that wouldn’t depress the hell out of anyone reading my words. I had given up on a lot of things in life, and had resigned myself to the fact that this was as good as it was going to get.
So, the first posts were extremely mundane, even for a blog with only seven readers. I began with a posting about adopting a new kitten, who five years later is now a fat and happy member of our family, at the moment lounging on the dresser in the bedroom, staring at me, as he usually does, for hours on end. I can hear his little motor running from across the room.
As I continued to post, I took more time with each entry. I remembered that my dream of writing had come from a realization when I was young that I loved to write, and that writing came easily to me. I remembered that teachers and mentors paid attention to the words I scribbled on my spiral bound notebook pages, often almost illegible as I tried to write fast enough to keep up with the words pouring out of me. I remembered that feeling before I lost confidence in myself, before I began to doubt every word that came out of my mouth, as well as the ones I wrote.
Looking back over the history of posts on my blog, I can see that it began to evolve from the monotonous to more meaningful with each new entry. I was beginning to dig deeper, to mine for the person I once was, and to somehow solve the mystery of who I had become.
Having only seven readers, with only one of them being a person I actually had met and knew in real life, I felt safe to write anything- everything. I shared deep, dark family secrets, and my own worst fears and hidden moments. I started sharing more about the depression I was battling. I was losing the battle and I wasn’t shy about expressing that, either. It seemed harmless because it felt like no one was really reading it (even though they were). It was also incredibly helpful- to me. I was writing, but at the same time, I was working through things I hadn’t dared to delve into before. As I wrote about my relationship with my father, my pain in the loss of love, and my worries for my future, it became a type of therapy. Using my gift and love of words, I was sliding back into the past and writing my way out, one sad memory at a time. I was almost able to step outside of myself—but not too far. Somehow, through the blog posts, as raw and laid bare as my emotions were, I was able to piece together a puzzle—slowly. Things were starting to make sense to me. All along, I had believed there was something wrong with ME. That all of the things I was suffering were due to some faulty manufacturing of the person that I was. The more I wrote, the more I realized that while I wasn’t perfect, and definitely had flaws and imperfections, at the core of it all, I wasn’t irreparably broken or defective. At the heart of who I was, even with all of the imperfections, all of the mistakes, all of the bad choices, I was worthy of redemption, I was worthy of all the things we all need- love, acceptance, and most of all…hope.
How amazing is that? How powerful is that? My words alone did not save me, a fantastic therapist was a huge part of the process of me piecing together the fragments of my history, to make sense of the present. But, my blog was a large part of that recovery.
Then, in 2009, I was selected as a Blog of Note with Blogger. In one day, tens of thousands of people were viewing my blog, commenting, sending words of love and encouragement from all over the globe. What is amazing to me now, is that in all of the hundreds of comments and emails I received, not one of them was negative. Not one. I floated for days—feeling that I was in another universe from the one I had previously resided in. My words had not only healed me, they resonated with so many others. So many beautiful emails and comments came to me from people sharing their similar experiences, some of the most powerful stating that they had never opened up before until they read my words and understood that they weren’t alone.
Somehow, in the midst of the darkness I had wallowed through, I had helped someone else. More than just one person. Many. It solidified in me the belief that I was not the worst version of myself that I had grown to accept. There was more, I was more. For the first time in a decade, I cried happy tears instead of the depression soaked weeping that seemed to swallow me whole in the dark, lonely hours when I felt the world had left me behind.
The number of followers for my blog grew from 7 to 1300 in a matter of hours. And as melodramatic as this may sound, everything changed. Some blogs that I love have a million or more followers, and their authors have gone on to pen books and see some measure of fame. Although I would love that same success, the 1300 followers that I had gave me a brazen courage I hadn’t known before. I submitted my first piece for publication, an essay that I had written the day before I became a Blog of Note. The essay was accepted, and a long held dream of mine to be published came true. I could not have done this without the 1300 supporters who gave me that courage.
As the months have passed since then, turning into years full of happy milestones for me, I have been ever thankful for the community I have become a part of and the day in June, 2007 when I created my blog and typed those first humdrum words.
Somewhere in all this, I joined Facebook, and the 1300 anonymous followers grew by a few dozen or more of people that I knew. That my family knew. People I grew up with, visiting their homes, sharing vacations and sleepovers. Most of these people were lost to me due to the passage of time between high school and real life—marriages, careers, and children. Now, here they were, reading the words that I shared so freely when it was all anonymous. Reading the words that five years ago were meant for those seven original people. It was worrisome. Not for me exactly. I had shared the painful truth of parts of my life journey and I had no regrets in doing that. No regrets that anyone could read those words and know my secrets. But, it was not me alone that was mentioned, that was affected. I grew up in a small town, and everyone knew everyone. Not necessarily the truth behind closed doors, but my Facebook friends knew my family.
My mother is the one I have worried about. Although I constantly battle within myself over her level of denial, over the way her life and all of our lives have played out, I wouldn’t want to add any more pain to her life. She has gotten more than her fair share of that. She is also insanely private (which comes with the territory of the life my father created for all of us). She knows about my blog, she knows that I write about very personal things, but she has always said that it is my private space to write what I want, it is personal and she doesn’t read it. (I know this to be true because I can track locations and viewers of my blog. She has never even peeked once).
I have family members, and I use the word family loosely here, that have threatened me, blackmailed me with this blog—telling me they will share all the “horrible” things with my mother and break her heart.
So, I have struggled. What is mine to share? Is everything I have written here true? Yes. Are the passages sometimes painful in their honesty and difficult to read? Absolutely. Are there things I should just keep to myself? Of course, and I do. There are some things that I don’t need to “write through”, that would just needlessly hurt other people. I don’t do that. What I write about is what is in my heart, what has shaped my soul, what has helped save me and helped me to face my lowest points and survive.
I watch other writers bare their souls with brilliant words on their blogs that reach into the hidden parts of me and make me weep, rejoice, and feel I have a kindred spirit somewhere out there in the world. I can’t say that my words have that kind of power, but I know that in some small way, the collection of what I have written is important. If not to the readers and followers I have, but to me. When my husband and I first started dating, I shared everything with him about my life, but I know that reading my blog helped him understand me…SEE me in a way that I might not have been able to express just in conversation. I am extremely thankful for that.
So, all I can do is tell the truth, trust my gut and keep writing. Honestly, over the last few months, I have struggled to do that. I started second guessing what was my right, what I could say, what I should share. There were stories I had to tell that lay quiet within me. I don’t want to cause anyone pain.
But, I was caused pain and lived through pain. I did not make the choices to see what I saw growing up, to face what I had to face at times. The choice was made for me long ago, in a small house, with the speaking of vows. My history is mine. No one else can tell my stories. No one else can see things through my eyes. And as long as I know that I am only sharing because my heart calls me to, I will keep typing, keep telling, keep sharing. There were so many years of secrets and lies. Some from my family, some of my own. This was my history: secrets and lies.
Now that is behind me. My history is mine alone to share. It is my truth and my heart. The place these words come from is the purest part of me.
The truth can be hard, painful, and unyielding. But there is beauty in the truth that outlives the mystery of secrets and lies.
I am counting on that. I’ll take my chances…and keep writing.