Silence Is Deadly

One of my posts from September 4, 2018

Over the years, a few people have asked me to change or take down certain posts I’ve put on facebook. They’ve said to not broadcast such personal things, to keep my dirty laundry to myself; it’s not for the public to see. I disagree passionately, and here’s why – silence is deadly.

It causes pain, feeds darkness, energizes inner demons, gives power to oppressors, and can even be fatal. Silence is sometimes useful for diffusing an argument or disengaging from someone when at a standstill, but when it comes to mental health, abuse, or violence, it is damaging. Silence won’t get rid of the problem or make you stronger for it.

And why SHOULD we be silent? To save face? So people won’t judge us or our families? To protect ourselves and our families from shame? Because it would be a harder road to seek justice on an abuser than to just ignore what happened? Well I throw my middle finger up to that. Silence contributes to psychological symptoms of every disease, disorder, and illness, to the pain of victims of assault, harassment, and physical and mental abuse. It has been ingrained in us from the beginning of civilization, as it is a tactic used by people in power. It is used to oppress, hurt, deny, shame, and stomp out resistance. Throughout history, those who stood up and raised their voices were killed, imprisoned, tortured, or bullied depending on the time period and countries in which they lived.

Gen X “xennials”, gen y “millennials”, gen Z, and our children are all suffering from the actions, and lack thereof, of our ancestors. Epigenetics ensures that descendants pick up learned traits of their forebears, pulling characteristics, fears, desires, and even residual trauma that was not their own. As evasion and silence are a pandemic that has swept through nearly all of the people of the world, it has been passed down as something that is so much in our subconscious mind that to unlearn it takes a great deal of self-discovery, personal journeys, and teamwork. With the goings-on of the world, of which the baby boomers and their parents are partly to blame, that seems impossible to achieve.

The economy is riddled with and torn apart by the mistakes of previous generations. Our president is a pile of misogynistic, bigoted garbage who is encouraging hate all over the country. Minimum wage doesn’t pay rent. We are having children later in life because we can barely afford our own lives. Habitats are suffering. We are trying to fix the mistakes of those before us AND take on the heaping mess they left us, all while just trying to survive. On top of that, fear mongering about global warming is sweeping the media and everyone is blaming everyone else for it when it’s actually a cyclical part of the planet’s prehistoric history. Before you righteously jump down my throat, I’m a paleontologist. Granted, the deteriorating atmosphere and pollution are our fault, we are moving climate change along at a faster-than-natural rate, and we can do something about it. Generations from millennials down are making an enormous effort to reduce our damaging footprint on Earth.

Now put all of that on top of our desire to be heard, raising our voices, changing the world. Many would think that mental illness is on the rise because of the pressure that’s on us. That sexual assault and domestic abuse, both verbal and physical, are being exaggerated and faked. But that’s not the case. Mental illness is “on the rise” (more prominent and exposed) and abuse is being reported more often because we are no longer being silent; we are being LOUD, and we are making our voices heard.

No more sweeping it under the rug. No more hiding. No more suffering in silence. No more letting others suffer in their silence. No more worrying about hurting others with our own confessions. No more self loathing, shaming, oppression, suicide. We need to put our mental health at the top of our priority lists. We are taking a stand. We are writing, speaking, and reading about our own and others’ experiences. We are learning that there are other people out there who have experiences similar to our own. We are finding out that we are not alone. We are loud and willing to speak for ourselves and those who haven’t found their voices yet.

When someone suggests you take down a post or keep an opinion or a story to yourself because it’s too personal, or because it could hurt someone else connected to you, that’s insulting to the pain you’ve suffered through and the work you’ve put into healing and speaking your truth. Opening up isn’t like venting about any old argument or trashing someone online. It is a testimony written from the heart and soul. It could be an admission of pain coming from someone who has done an immense amount of work on unlearning defense mechanisms that resulted from living with or being in a relationship with an abuser. Mechanisms that are, in turn, abusive. It could be a sexual assault story told by someone who is shaking in their shoes, scared of their attacker getting off scot-free and maybe coming after them again. Or maybe the survivor is scared of being shamed or of others saying it was deserved, somehow.

It’s coming from people who refuse to be silent about their pain any longer.

My generation as a whole is not the first to collectively and loudly open up about our struggles. The older members of gen Z and the youngest millennials are the pioneers of the newest movement, but they were not the first and they won’t be the last. They have taken control of the damage that has been done by all generations prior and more of us have stepped in. We are speaking up, and the older folks don’t like it. They are of the mindset that politeness, etiquette, and good standing are everything, that airing your dirty laundry for the world to see is obscene, that mental illness and assault should be hushed up, that racism and sexism are figments of the imagination. Some minds can be changed; but many won’t. You cannot make someone hear what you have to say.

However, just because you can’t change someone’s mind is all the more reason to BE loud. We are realizing that being open and emotional is part of healing, part of life. We as a social species need to see the pain and experiences of others in order to heal properly and to prevent our descendants from being damaged in similar ways. That’s why there are so many articles about abuse and mental health showing up in online newspapers and journals like The Mighty, The Huffington Post, The Independent, etc.

A prime example is the #metoo movement. It was such a hit-home thing that it got everyone involved. People of all ages, all genders, all races, and all walks of life posted that hashtag. Many tried to shut us down, to downplay our experiences, our pain, our suffering, but we didn’t budge. Why? Because there were so many of us. Powerful celebrities came out and strongly admitted that they were sexually harassed or assaulted and equally powerful people were penalized for their deeds, no matter how far in the past they were. Just the fact that the word I used was “admitted” should explain the gravity of the situation. No one should have to “admit” that something happened to them. We should be able to talk about these issues on non-judgemental grounds. We were likened to a witch hunt. We were called liars and told we were exaggerating. A popular line I saw was, “Oh not this again.” But we continued and we grew and we conquered.

People are waking up. We are opening our minds. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this all started, but I will forever remember making the shift, and becoming part of the shift. I remember what it was like growing up; people didn’t talk about these things, and it pains me to know that so many have had it so much worse. I am eternally grateful for those who paved the way for this change, who have sacrificed everything, even their own lives, to make this world a better and equal place.

But time is now moving backward. Bigots are coming out of the woodwork, inspired by our president. While they used to hide behind computer screens, they now feel safe to openly be hateful. To attack, degrade, and bring down those who bravely speak and walk their truths.

Silence is deadly, and it is now more important than ever to be LOUD.

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