I spent a long, long time keeping secrets. About why I couldn’t go out with friends. Why I was unavailable for after-work dinners or after-Mass lunches. Why I couldn’t answer telephone calls and text messages. And bigger things. Why I could never be myself. Why I wasn’t happy. Why I kept falling over my cat, or bumping into bookshelves, or having a lot of little accidents that left a lot of nasty bruises. When I couldn’t keep the secrets without people trying to delve into them, I lied. It turns out I’m a pretty bad liar – most people didn’t believe me – but I was duplicitous, I lied to my friends. It wasn’t my choice. The consequences of telling would have been horrific, potentially dangerous for me. But whatever the reason, I chose to keep secrets.
Even now, sometimes I keep those same secrets for a different reason. I lent a friend – a good friend, someone I like and trust and whose presence in my life I treasure – a book a while back, my favourite book, a book that had been ripped into three pieces during one alcohol-fuelled violent rage (my ex’s rage; not mine) and which I had clumsily mended with Sellotape. Any good bibliophile would be horrified at the state of that poor book; she certainly was. But even then, even in the freedom and the safety of my new life, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her the full truth: that either my poor book took a beating, or I did. That destroying or damaging or just threatening my possessions was a regular and unremarkable part of my life for a very long time, and a damn sight better than other alternatives.
It wasn’t that I thought that she’d judge me, or that she’d think less of me, or that I didn’t trust her, or even that I didn’t want to burden her with the story. Partly I couldn’t bring myself to tell her because her reaction would force me to acknowledge just how bad the destruction of my favourite book actually was, how much it had hurt. A small hurt, perhaps, in comparison with everything else, but a hurt nonetheless. Partly, though, I didn’t tell her because colluding with the secrecy around my own abuse was such an ingrained habit. I wanted to tell her. I wanted to be honest, to trust her friendship enough to hand her that one small pain and allow her to hold it gently for me. But I couldn’t.
This is why having a blog is such a blessing. These stories need to be told. They are clamouring against the boundaries of my secrecy, these narratives that need to be released from the depths at which I’ve hidden them for so long. But saying them aloud is too hard. It probably shouldn’t be, and it won’t be forever, but right now it is.
So I release the stories of what happened this way. In a minute I will proof-read this and hit the little blue button on the side of the screen that says “Publish”: and this one small narrative, of what happened to a beloved book and the fact that I couldn’t tell anyone about it, will be Out There. Out in the world. For real people to read. Released from secrecy. Releasing me from secrecy. Allowing me to let go of an agenda that was never mine in the first place.
I’m doing it kind of quietly at the moment. A little bit sneakily. But I’m sure as hell doing it. And now I’m hitting “Publish”.