Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen...

Pain
Pain (Photo credit: Rickydavid)


         Please excuse me if I start off with a bit of a rant.  Trust me, this will have something to do with writing memoir.

           I'm getting tired of people saying "Nobody knows what I've been through!"

           You've probably heard others say this.   You may have even used this line yourself   These exasperated words will sometimes come up in the midst of an argument or a feeling-sorry-for-oneself tirade. This is either the communication ender or the catalyst for even more heated exchange.  The statement may come with a gushing of tears or be part of a screaming fit.  The person saying this typically has used this utterance in times past and with some frequency.  It has become a habit that makes those subjected to the words a bit weary.

         Certain members of my own family will say these words when they feel backed into a corner.  I don't know how many times I've heard the "nobody knows" statement brought up at work, in church, or even on television.  I've decided I'm going to counter the statement with a comeback.

          When I hear someone say, "No one knows what I've been through", I'm going to return with something like:
"Of course I don't know everything you've been through because I'm not you.  I don't know what's in your head.  I only know what I witness and what people tell me.  So stop saying that.  If you want everyone to know everything that you've been through, why don't you write it down so we can read about it"
             I don't mean to sound insensitive, but I do think that writing can be great therapy.  Even if no one reads what you've written, having written can help put things in better perspective, add clarification to the complex issues of the past, and organize sometimes chaotic memories and thoughts into a more manageable system that can be examined more rationally.

            This is how many memoirs come into being.  Ambiguously referring to your pain in an emotional flurry of passion is not a very effective way of getting your point across.  When somebody can read through your story and have time to reflect on the words, they can gain greater insight into what you have to say.  They can reflect on the words and digest the story without having to guess what you've "been through".

           Keeping pain locked up inside, but letting everyone around you know that you have a painful secret can only create more stress and turmoil in your own life and resentment from others when you throw your secret at them to defend your sometimes irrational behavior.  Even if something seems too embarrassing to tell others, your telling them about your painful experience might help someone else who is dealing with something similar.  And opening yourself up might help others to know how they might help you.

           I've been fortunate in my own life.  My painful circumstances have been relatively minor when put beside the experiences of some other people.  Sure, I've experienced some real unpleasantness in my life, but I've gotten past those things and hopefully have grown from having experienced those things and dealt with them.   Carrying the burden of unhappiness on my shoulders does nothing good for me or anyone around me.

           The way I look at it is that what has happened in the past can't be changed.  No point in dwelling for the rest of your life on those bad experiences and letting them control your life now.  If you need to sort it all out or get closure or whatever it is you need to do to get over it, then write out your story.  Write it in a memoir or even write it as a fiction.  Use the story to help yourself and help others.  If that is your goal, then you might just rid yourself of your pain and move on to brighter days ahead.

          After all, what would you rather your epitaph say?   "Here lies a person whose life was shaped by pain and nobody knows the trouble I've seen"  or "I escaped from the prison of my past to help free those imprisoned by their own"

          Don't be a martyr for your pain.  Write the story instead.

          Do you ever use a line like "No one knows what I've been through"?   Have you known anyone who says this when in an emotional corner?   Do you think it's good to write out your bad experiences in order to get them out of your head?    Does cathartic writing work for you?

         



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13 comments:

  1. I don't know if I've ever said that...I'm pretty open about things that happen to me, at least with my closest friends. My smother was giving me shit one day and I remember saying, 'try walking a mile in my shoes for a change'. I have urged friends going through hard times to start a blog, even if they want to keep it completely private so no one can see it but they always hem and haw and say they don't have time and would never keep it up. Whatevs.

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  2. Writing it out helps me, I know, it gets the angst out of me and on to the page. It's been my self-therapy most of my life. I recommend.

    (my back trouble right now makes me feel like that guy in the photo on your post. . . )Have a great weekend, Lee!

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  3. Nobody Knows the A-holes I've Seen...

    ...but then I'm a proctologist, and patient confidentiality prevents me from writing or even talking about them.

    ~ DR. D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    POSTSCRIPT:
    Sorry, Lee, I just couldn't help myself. But I DID wipe (the thought clean) after posting this comment.

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  4. No, I don't use statements like that. I do have that old song from the movie on one of my playlists "no one knows the trouble I've seen, nobody knows my sorrow." In the movie it was sung by a slave. And it was probably a very true statements for him.

    And yes, I turn to writing many times when I'm going through something hurtful or upsetting. It gives me a place to express myself. It can be cleansing.

    Barbara
    Life & Faith in Caneyhead

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  5. It is a line I would've used as a teen.

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  6. I couldn't agree with you more!

    I've been through so much (you know some of it) and so I'm writing my memoirs. The problem is, it's taking me forever...

    Oh well, at least people will know what I've been through when I am done.

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  7. JoJo -- I too have recommended those who always seem to have something to say to start a blog. They'll either rehash the same things to the same people or just suggest bad things have happened. Apparently they are too busy with running in circles or wasting their time with useless endeavors to try rationally sort out what's on their minds.

    DG -- I've written things down since junior high and it does help. Hope your back problems get better--probably writing about that won't do much to fix it.

    StMc-- Maybe you should forget the politics and write a comedy blog.

    Barbara -- That song is what inspired the title of this piece. Sometimes songs can help express what we feel. I've often done this with songs and poetry.

    Shelly -- Yes, I'm sure it's used by many a teen in dramatic situations.

    Lorraine -- Yes, you are a good example of using writing as a way to handle life's trauma. You are sharing and perhaps helping someone along the way. When a person hides secrets deep inside it can make them feel like they're going to explode and often they do, but in a bad way.

    Lee

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  8. Great post, Arlee.
    I have been writing it out for years, and it has certainly helped me to face problems and hurt and fears, among other things.
    We all need to get past what is holding us back from living fully in the now, and 'write it out' is great advice to give those who haven't faced their past.

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  9. Writing it out -- ah, deep soul writing: Definitely good therapy! And you're right: some of the most wonderful memoirs come from one writing down their anger, their fears, their sorrows...and usually culminate with their triumphs, because again, they've written about all the crap that came before the breakthrough. Good post. (from one of your WP fans!)

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  10. Wang-- Somehow putting the pain on the page can make it all more objective and clear. Writing the story can make it easier to live with a pain rather than keeping it knotted up inside.

    Angels-- And even if no one sees what you've written it's like taking your secret from within and storing it away in a closet. Thanks for being a fan:)

    Lee

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  11. There's nothing new on earth that hasn't been experience before. BUT to each his own suffering. All suffer indiviually and we think it's worse than the next fella.

    I love writing out my feelings.

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  12. I don't think I've ever said "no one knows what I've been through" but I do agree with you that writing things down really helps, even if you don't share it with anyone.

    And by sharing you may end up helping someone else. A lot of times I've felt alone in dealing with a certain situation and then I've mentioned it and all of a sudden you have quite a few people saying they've experienced or dealt with the same thing and then all of a sudden you realize you aren't alone.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of "it's all about me" people in this world and they really don't care that you know what they've been through, they just want sympathy and most often...an excuse to be jerks.

    Interesting post.

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  13. I've never used that lament and know that somebody is always worse off. Yes, writing is definitely cathartic and I have written a few painful memoirs as short stories, narrated in the third person. (The "She" Chronicles) That keeps me from getting overly emotional while reliving those moments.
    I think it's good to share such stories, as they may provide some comfort to others in similar situations.

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Arlee Bird