Sharing your story is an important part of the healing journey after trauma. Assessing whether or not you are ready to share your story, however, is a deeply personal and can be influenced by a variety of factors.
Before you start, consider why you want to share your story. This can help you make decisions about how you share your story and who you share it with. Be clear about your intentions and what you hope to achieve by sharing your story. This will increase the likelihood that the act of sharing will be a therapeutic experience for you. To learn more about things to consider before you begin, read this FAQ.
If you are feeling ready, survivors often note that sharing their story was the first step to making meaning of their experience, finding support, and regaining control. In general, survivors often describe a process of moving from silence and shame to freedom and empowerment after sharing their story either publically or with someone they trust. Other benefits noted include emotional processing, experiencing validation from others, receiving social support, identifying healthy and unhealthy coping strategies, and feeling catharsis by releasing pent-up feelings and tension related to trauma.
Sharing your experiences with others can help you process intense emotions. For example, traumatic events can make you feel isolated and like no one else can understand what you're going through. By telling your story, you may find that others can relate to your experiences, making you feel less alone and more validated in your emotions and reactions. Trauma can also lead to feelings of shame and guilt, even when what you experienced was not your fault. Opening up about these emotions can help dispel them and replace them with a more realistic understanding of the events.
While there are many ways you can share your story, at Our Wave we aim to create a safe and anonymous space for story sharing online. This is because, for some, online outlets are the safest or most comfortable place to share their experience for the first time. Others turn to online platforms when they feel inadequate social support, are seeking tailored information, or do not have access to in-person services. Sharing your story online has been shown to be helpful due to the ability of the internet to foster virtual communities of less visible groups, amplify non-traditional narratives to contradict normative perceptions of trauma and violence, and bring together people with similar experiences to validate and learn from each other. Further, online story sharing has been shown to improve trauma coping, meaning-making, and feelings of fulfillment through helping others. By reading the stories of others, survivors can find emotional support while breaking down myths that their experience is not “serious enough” to seek help for. By challenging these narratives, new narratives can emerge and a gateway to seeking help may be opened.
Because of the power of story sharing, there are some therapeutic techniques that help survivors use storytelling to "cognitively repraise" or reevaluate and reframe the event's meaning in their life. This can help survivors gain a sense of control over their trauma narrative as well as lead to a potentially new perspective and understanding. Traumatic experiences can be fragmented and disjointed in memory. By verbalizing the events, memories can slowly become integrated into a more cohesive format, making them easier to process and understand.
It's important to note that while sharing your story can be therapeutic for many, you might not be ready to tell your story today and that is okay. If you are feeling ready, consider sharing your story with our community here. Stories matter and are the only way we can amplify the lived experiences of survivors. You are not alone.