The trauma said, ‘Don’t write these poems.
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.
― Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase: By Andrea Gibson
I think I am finally finding a voice and I think I like it. It’s sometimes loud (which I sometimes fear as a Black woman), and its sometimes soft, clipped and clear. Its got its clear southern African inflections that I love. Finding my true voice is still very much a process as the challenge of developing a sense of positive identity simultaneously happens.
Since childhood the issue of my voice has always been a sore spot for me.
First of all, I never knew I had a ‘voice,’ or that it mattered as a matter of fact. Secondly my voice and values belonged to other people, the people, the violators, tormentors, mockers, haters, to the ones who said you are not at all beautiful like her (pointing at the light skin girl in my school, who came from a nice home,) which I would hear again years later in a different context; and so the trajectory went on and on, sadly I became their spokesperson over my own life and personhood. Powerless, yet not powerless, because it truly is a matter of perspective.
It was commented on several times that I behaved like whoever I was around; as such, I was not consistent. I started watching myself to see how I behaved and it was the truth; the mimicking of others, and placing masks that did not quite fit who I was/am on the inside. There was no sense of solidness. Abusive experiences can leave survivors with a fragmented sense of identity and it was this identity that I was blindly trying to find in dysfunctional ways.
My voice was always soft and at school when one friend took to calling me ‘squeaky’, I deliberately tried to make my voice ‘squeaky’ on purpose. I made myself shrink, strove to be non threatening, and in some way infantilise myself subconsciously so that I was safe. I know I am not alone in this as I have heard some women survivors of childhood trauma speak of similar issues. I have always felt silenced when it came to speaking about the resulting pain, confusion, feelings of shame and guilt, in addition to managing those around me that felt the need to minimise the whole experience. Was I making a big deal out of nothing?
“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.” ― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery