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“I fashioned word keys for every lock. I found and freed my heart.” (Photo by Flicker user Iain Cuthbertson, Creative Commons license.)

I could have dodged forever. I did for years. My story goes that I wrote my honesty in poems before I switched to lies. I found Fiction like drugs behind a gas station. I used it to get a righteous high. It was an avoidance tactic. I wanted to write my story, but I was afraid of who might read me. There are truths and then there are truths, and what I needed to write was ugly.

It was vicious. A knock-down, drag-out fight with myself that lasted years before I was able to scale the walls abuse built around me and dive into my story, full healing ahead. Why? Because even before I wrote my truth for anyone but myself, I worried about who might read it.

And when I worried about who might read it, I worried about who wouldn’t want me to write it.

In simpler words, I was afraid my abusers would see my records of what they had done to me. They would discover that words were the keys to the shackles that bound me; despite their best efforts, I had endured and remembered. In telling, would be witnessed gaining freedom and that was not allowed. They would stomp me back into submission by gaslighting the world just as they had me. Victims must always remain victims for abusers to be safe. But I knew something I refused to undiscover:

Words make us survivors.

I was dug into the ground doing my best at hiding when I choked on dirt and apologies and decided fuck that. I would write now and worry later. When it was over.

I fashioned word keys for every lock. I found and freed my heart.

I wasn’t living until I began writing the shit, the godawful stink that abuse left on every psychic corner. Once I started putting my story down, it was like one long scream. I wrote it, I ate it, I burned it. I cried and prayed and laughed over all the nasty bits that no one had ever allowed me to speak before without hushing me or telling me I had it wrong. I wrote until I got it all right, according to me. It hurt, but it also felt better than any lie I had ever told because when I started writing was also when I started surviving.

It became impossible to not write. The worry dropped away like stones. For the first time, the stories I told were mine and real and true. They were not curated for someone in power, but by my power. When I started publishing my true stories-that’s when I started surviving out loud.

There is nothing more frightening to an abuser than a victim outside their control. Deciding to think of myself first was the power play. I will write now. I will not worry now.

I have a new story:

Once upon a time an abused woman found her voice. She used it to write the miseries of her life. In doing so, she took control of her story and learned that she could change it. So she did. The woman started writing herself new, happy endings.

How did she do this? How did she hurdle the edged, cascading fear of what would happen if she let the words out?

I will tell you.

She stenciled the following on her heart:

Write now. Worry later.


Shawna Ayoub Ainslie is a coach and writer in Bloomington, IN. Her work has appeared in Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Open Thought Vortex Magazine, [wherever], and The Manifest-Station. This story is part of the #SurviveYourStory Guest Exchange on her website, The Honeyed Quill. Find her there or on Twitter and Facebook where she facilitates #LinkYourLife and #LinkYourLife Connection, a hashtag community for artists based on compassionate engagement of one another’s work beyond the (web)page.