An Introduction: It’s Not Personal, It Will Just Take Time.
You don’t know me. I don’t expect you to. I am another soul on the internet.
But I want you to know about me. I want you to know about what made me and shaped me. I want you to know my story, and I want you to understand.
Because I have suffered. And I have come through.
Because I have gone through experiences that were so painful that to this day that I lose my breath when I think about them. Because I hold this story inside of me, and sometimes I do not know where the past stops and where the present begins. I am overcome with the desire to share, to relieve myself of the burden of carrying this alone. And in the same breath, I am terrified to.
Because there are millions of us who have suffered the insufferable, who have been broken and have clumsily shaped ourselves back together, with shards of splintered pieces sticking out, dangerous for those unlucky enough to get caught on our jagged edges. But I do not look broken.
I don’t look like this person.
I don’t look like someone who spent their childhood being abused.
I don’t look like someone who held their breath when there was a footstep on the stairs.
I don’t look like someone who was choked and struck so many times that even now, as an adult, flinching is still second nature.
I don’t look like someone who was starved as child. Sometimes I still get nervous when opening the fridge.
I don’t look like someone who was stripped of the privilege of being a woman. Looking like a boy was one of my childhood punishments. It took me years to not cry when getting a haircut.
I don’t look like someone who lost their mother to suicide. I’m still not entirely convinced it’s not my fault. I don’t look like someone who cries herself to sleep sometimes because I have never had that parental bond, nor do I fully grasp the concept of family.
Trust is not the narrative I grew up with.
Why do I tell you this?
Because there are so many of us, the weary fighters of the world. Beautifully strong people who have learned to fight, to persevere. We cover the scars of childhood with indifference, and trudge forward.
We keep our memories locked up. We ignore the triggers that manifest with every birthday, with every holiday.
So when you ask us questions about our upbringing, we awkwardly avoid eye contact, and mumble something that we desperately hope sounds enough like an answer.
When you talk about your family, your happy homestead, and heartwarming memories, you don’t see our shameful discomfort. You remind us of what we do not have.
Because there is something shameful in the admittance of being less than perfect. Because there is something that feels so dirty about admitting that you have no idea what a functional family looks like. Because you know that the minute you explain yourself, people start inspecting for the cracks, looking for the places where the glue isn’t working.
So we learn to keep it in, to mind ourselves and our pain alone.
And the holding in becomes the new normal. And so we hold in, and we keep holding, until we completely forget how to express. So when we run away from you, when we shut down and stop talking, when we retreat into our cocoon of sadness and pain, like a protective suffocating prison…
… please know, dear world,
it’s not personal.
It’s our reaction to life.
I know that we are difficult. I know that the confusion and frustration that we invoke with our retreat from life is real, and powerful. I know you aren’t used to people reacting to pain this way. I know it’s new, and I know it’s upsetting. I know, and I wish I could make it less difficult.
I only ask you to please, dear reader, remember it is not personal. We are fighting years of being told to be silent, of being made afraid to share and explore the things we hold deep. We want to share. We want to open up, to let fragments of hope in. We need a bit more reassurance, a bit more patience, a bit more love.
Please remind us that it’s okay to share our stories, our grief, our pain.
And in the meantime we will keep trying to be open, to share, to grow.
It will just take time.
Zoey Ilouz is a California girl who has spent the last few years living and traveling in the Middle East. She has a degree in Creative Writing and Conflict Resolution, and still hopes to save the world when she grows up. Zoey is a lover of Yoga, music, and wandering around the world tasting foods and exploring her inner self.