Being quiet was something I was good at. I learned to be quiet as a child because I felt no one wanted to hear me. I learned to be invisible except when people didn’t want me to be. When I was hurt, I didn’t usually say I was unless it was my sister hurting my feelings, a friend being mean, or falling and hurting my knee or something. Things that were more ‘normal’ and that could be kind of more easily fixed. Not the darker scarier things that hurt me to the core, also because dissociation took away a lot of the memories of trauma starting at a young age so I wasn’t able to talk about them.
But I learned to be quiet. When my mom was too busy or there was no one to play with. When I felt alone or sad. I didn’t really share those things with anyone because I learned it did not matter. When bad things happened, I kept quiet, even the things that some people knew about, adults, because I learned from them that it must not have been that bad or else they would have done more to help us. Fear was a huge silencer as well.
So many times I was shushed or told to go away because they didn’t want me to bother them or they were busy or I was annoying. Even when I went to seek comfort during nights where the house was chaotic and terrifying, I was sometimes pushed away and left to be on my own.
I was also told things I felt or thought were not right. It started causing me to question myself. Everything. Nothing I said, felt, or did was ‘right.’ My parents were divorced. When I would talk to or see my dad, he would criticize me (or terrify me with his level of anger, though never physical towards me). He would always say ‘try harder’ when I didn’t get a better mark on something. My mom on the other hand would tell me I did a good job. I didn’t know whose words to listen to. I already was a perfectionist. I was afraid to try things because I didn’t want to fail or look/feel stupid. I didn’t want my dad to say try harder because I DID try my hardest. It was thought that me not doing better was because I was just lazy, but it was the fear of failure and disappointment that caused anxiety that created all of it. No one seemed to understand that. My dad thought he was helping me, but it was more the opposite. I felt like a failure.
The feeling of needing to be quiet and invisible stayed with me for years. It still comes up even now. It also came out in the eating disorder. I felt like I needed to be small and not seen. It made me feel afraid and vulnerable if I was noticed, but I didn’t realize the eating disorder made me stand out more. I was afraid of being hurt, abused, or traumatized again.
I was quiet for so long in my suffering that I tried to hide it including the self harm. I managed to for at least a year or longer from some people. But it was because they were so used to me being quiet that I was not questioned. The depression, dissociation, anxiety, and panic I also experienced were not picked up on either because from the outside, I was always just quiet. I was afraid of any of it being found out because I didn’t want attention. I didn’t want to bring shame to my family and didn’t want to have to talk about any of it, what led up to it all, or the trauma I did remember because I also feared not being believed (which sadly was a reality with some people).
When my mom found out about the self harm, she got infuriated and almost slapped me across the face. For years even after I stopped doing it, I was not able to really talk to her about it because it was something that bothered her so intensely. With the eating disorder, she thought it was a phase, like the self harm. At one point, she even told me I didn’t need professional help for it and that if I wanted to get better, I would. My dad also told me that a lot of what I struggled with as a teen was because I ‘read too much online’ or ‘saw too many talk shows.’ I only wished they were right….but they weren’t. I didn’t know why I struggled like I did for a long time. I just thought I was born defective and that it would be how I was meant to live (and ultimately die).
As I got older, I realized how much damage all these other people’s words and opinions had caused me. But I still question my own thoughts and feelings, not knowing what is right or wrong. It has been difficult to learn to use my voice and keep using it even when others don’t want to hear what I have to say. It shuts me down really fast when someone makes a comment that causes me to feel like I have no right to talk or they aren’t interested in what I have to say or don’t even respond because they don’t take the time to stop what they are doing for one second to hear me.
I have found places where I can use my voice at the right times and with the right people, but there are still times where it’s the wrong place or people. It sends me right back to that vulnerable, fearful place where I feel the need to be quiet again, and I wish it didn’t happen because it took me so long to be able to openly speak after so many years of silently struggling. It reminds me of how easy it is to go back there, but it is not how it should be. Being quiet does not help with healing.