Friday, September 6, 2013

The Silent Screams

Over the last few years, I've become convinced that the screams we don't hear are the ones filled with the most gut-wrenching pain: the heart broken in two by this world, but with a smile painted firmly in place. No one knows the turmoil. No one guesses at the brokenness inside. No one hears the scream. No one... shares the burden.

When I was around 6 years old, I was sexually abused. I didn't tell anyone because I believed that I was at least partially at fault. What would people think? Even as a young child, shame rendered me mute. No one knew the turmoil and confusion inside. No one could offer answers to questions I didn't dare to ask.

Someone else faces a personal struggle. There is fear of being found out; fear of judgment; fear of rejection. The risk seems larger than the potential benefit of sharing it, so the struggle is faced alone. No understanding. No encouragement. And when there is victory? There is no one to share that with, either. No shouts of joy. No celebration. The victory that could give hope and direction to someone else is hidden away because the struggle itself was hidden.

Shame keeps us isolated. Shame intensifies our pain. Shame keeps us from helping each other.


Sometimes, though, our reasons for not sharing seem more honorable than just protecting ourselves from shame.

A few years ago my daughter was diagnosed with cyclothymia (a form of bipolar). My screams were once again shoved down where no one could hear them, but for an entirely different reason. I wrote: 

I am... the mother of a bipolar teen. Her diagnosis is mine in that as her mother, I’m in for the ride too. For the most part, I ride alone. I don’t want her to feel I’m sharing her private information... I want her to trust me. So I don’t share. Instead, I ride the roller coaster… knowing that very few people have any idea what we deal with on a daily basis.... Strangely enough, I feel more alone now than I did before the diagnosis. I now know the reason for her turmoil, but I can’t share it without betraying her trust. Because of that, there is a large part of my life that is shut off from others....

Silent.... and alone.

Someone else goes through a tough time with her husband. She doesn't want to paint a poor picture of him to others, so she cries in silent with no one to hear; no one to reach out. She sits through the Sunday morning church service with a smile painted on her face... but heart breaking inside. It's hard. Too hard. She finds more and more reasons to be somewhere else on Sunday morning... somewhere... anywhere... where it's not quite so hard to pretend... where she doesn't feel quite so alone.

The silent scream... pain intensified by isolation. Those unheard cries... faced alone. That's not how we were meant to do life. We shouldn't sit alone in the midst of our friends, our church family. The only thing God said was "not good" in the creation story was that man was alone. So how do we bring those silent screams to where they can be heard? 

The reasons for the silence are varied; some of them even seem good and honorable. The result, though – going through the hard times without being able to talk about it – only intensifies our pain and our feelings of being alone. So how do we tear down the walls? How do we find the strength to share the broken heart... the raging cry within? How do we learn to share one another's burdens and do life together? How do we learn to recognize that silent scream and create an environment to give it voice? It seems I have a lot more questions than answers.... I'd love to hear your thoughts....


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