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Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Sharing Has Given Me


From time to time I am asked why I chose to share my story of overcoming a difficult childhood. My answer below:

When I first decided to share my personal story of overcoming a difficult childhood earlier this year, it was a choice met with frustration, flack, and eventually freedom. I literally sat down for a week and a half and wrote with passion. Words emotionally wept from open wounds of a past still raw for me. Even though most of my struggles peaked at ten to fifteen years ago, I still spiritually hurt. For me, sitting and writing was the percursor to my healing and the marker to my path of confidence and happiness.

Over the years that I moved away and lived for the first time on my own as a new freshman at Ricks College in Idaho, I tried to find my peace that I felt I so desperately deserved. I looked around me and what I saw were young women and young men who lived in mostly perfect homes being raised by caring parents. Each parent that brought their child to my dorm and set them up with new furniture and food to last a month was a constant reminder to me that I didn't have anyone to fall to. It ate me up inside. However, what do you do and what do you say when you're eighteen, confused, and out for the first time on your own--alone?

It would be several years later, and after I married and had children of my own, that I finally chose to look at myself in the mirror and get real. Writing my story forced me to look within and come to grasp with how I had felt for so many years. Writing was therapeutic and writing was also the easy part.

Sharing my story has been one of the most difficult tasks I have ever undertaken.

I knew my family would be angry with me for exposing our family's dirty secrets in the open. The reason I went ahead had to do with the fact that I knew I had to let them go. It hurt me at first, however I had been through enough and so much that I knew the only way for me to break the treacherous chains of abuse for my own children was to end contact with them. It pained me deeply at first, because I had always wanted to have a family and now I conscientiously making the decision to keep my own family out of my life. My counselor's words spoke to me: You don't have to have your family in your life if you choose not to. His words hadn't made sense to me until that fateful spring day earlier this year.

On the other hand, there are others who I have managed to keep in contact with in one form or another that I knew were going to read Screwed Up: My Life and I didn't want to disrespect them. Even though I was hurt by some of these individuals, I still feel a need to protect them. I knew we had both done the best we could with what knowledge and resources we had--even if very little--at the time. I want to make it clear that I do not presently hold any grudges against any of the families I have lived with even if it seems so in my story.

In the end, sharing my story with my readers has given me the confidence to allow myself to move on.  It has given me a special insight into others. I realize that sharing in this manner is not for everyone. The greatest prize in me telling my story so openly is that in doing so I have realized I am not alone in my struggles--even if I may never have a traditional extended family again.

Screwed Up: My Life can be read in its near entirety on my other blog. Chapters are updated about once per week. The book can also be purchased on Blurb.

A True Story
By Allie Van Wagoner

12 Comments:

Auntie Em said...

I will admit to not having read your whole story... yet but the parts i have read... wow, what a strong woman. I do not know how you did it. I have enough trouble making it through one of my typical days and its not even in the same spectrum as yours. What a strong woman. Sometimes don't you wish that the Lord did not trust/love you so much? He has to, to have put you through so much and know that you would come out strong. You are an inspiration.

Everyday Girl said...

Again, I get inspired by your story. I have learnt over the years that the modern family consist of sisters and brothers you meet along the way in life. My son has many aunties and uncles that are not related to him, because I needed family around me, I made me some. Keep writing.

LeAnn said...

I understand completely what you mean about wanting to have a family, but deciding to keep them out of your life. The only ties I have with my family are my sister and my mom (although that one is a bit shaky). My sister will not talk to my mom at all. I have finally decided that enjoying life with my small immediate family is better than constantly reliving all the hurts of the past with the rest of the relatives. And, over time, I have come to see that I really don't miss them all that much after all.

the nightingale said...

I can understand you. I can understand LeAnn. She made some excellent points.
Things get much too complicated when it's not that way as I've found and besides, they're are the ONLY ones that really matter. Enjoy reading your blog because it gives me things to consider with some fun in between. Keep it up! ;)

C.A.Z. said...

Although I have started my book several times and since then moved past the pain of my previous life into a happier time, where I feel both a fear and incapability now to tap into that previous life, I have often questioned not how a book would effect my family or those in it so much as how it would effect MY family - my husband, my children, etc. especially if and when there comes a day that I write about them. Has confessing your previous life effected your relationship with your husband? I know that's an intimate question, but I'd be interested to know.

Screwed Up Texan said...

CAZ, I can't speak for my children on their reaction to my book, since they are so young they can't even read yet, but I predict that when they are older my story will give them understanding into why I stopped contact with their grandparents and why I am the woman I am. My husband has been very supportive of me telling my story. Although I am sure some spouses may be wearing of the other spouse being so open and up front about abuse, my husband has met me with love, reassurance, and patience. For that I am very blessed.

C.A.Z. said...

Thank you for sharing. Are you working on another book? Do you perceive writing about your "here and now" with your husband and children? Do you think he'd react to that differently? Although I can receive great support in writing about my past, publishing my present life has put my significant other on the defense - not with me, but "everyone else."

Screwed Up Texan said...

I do have plans to write another book! Although I have entertained the idea of writing past about my present life, I think I will do it in another way: perhaps set up as a self-help book. First, I want to write a children's book. That has always been my dream.

I must say that my husband did receive some flack, although it was very limited it was very real. Since discontinuing contact with the few (my family members) I have had no problem since. In fact, my husband's family has been very supportive of me.

C.A.Z. said...

Great! I'm so glad. I was born and raised LDS, I've lived half my life in Utah. I took it upon myself to have a "heart to heart" with my Dad in recent years about who I am, why I am, and my intention to write about it. I presented it as, "I'd rather you hear it from me than Oprah's Book Club." ;) A self help book would be a great idea and I have always wanted to write children's books as well, at least for the fun of writing them for my own children even if they never are published. Thanks for sharing! Hopefully I'm back in Texas soon (trying to move back!)

Screwed Up Texan said...

CAZ, I'm glad you were able to talk with your dad and have the heart to heart. I know that writing about abuse can be hard (it was for me!) and is not for everyone. I certainly don't recommend that others be as open as I have been because of the flack and hate one subjects themselves to when writing on this subject. I only hope that others can find healing through my story.

texasholly said...

My heart hurts for what you had to live through. I have only read snippets and hope to read the whole book soon, but I never understand why it has to happen that way. Why some have to go through so much hell while others seem so charmed. NOT FAIR. I love that you wrote the story. I think it is powerful for all. Those that read it, you and those you are now holding accountable. I could just hug ya!

Doodles said...

I really can relate to some of your story and I haven't read it all. I applaud you for being able to write it and get your feelings out in the open. You seem like a wonderful, kind spirited woman. I hope to continue reading your blog.

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