I’ve always been a lover of stories. As a girl my go-to book was Matilda. In fact, Roald Dahl was always my author of choice during the long and lonely nights of childhood, when sleep often evaded me. Dahl’s outrageous plots and whimsical characters carried me through my insomnia, out of my story and into theirs. I learnt about kindness, compassion, revenge and that the world is a dichotomy of good and bad. I recognised elements of my own character in the fictional ones I read about and found excitement, inspiration and hope that justice would prevail.
Interestingly, during my years spent in the grip of anorexia, I stopped reading. Consumed by my illness, I wanted nothing more than to fade away and slip quietly into death. My narrative, fuelled by my shame about my childhood sexual abuse, was an unspeakable one; my anorexia a physical demonstration of a trauma I could not vocalise. I didn’t want to belong in my own story and so I withdrew from all stories and everything else that connected me to my humanity; food, love, family, friendships, community. I spent many years addicted to self-destructive habits, conflicted by a yearning to return to the pack, to belong, and my illness which wanted to separate me from all that I loved so that it could destroy me.
During the process of recovery (which for me is always on-going) I rediscovered my love of reading, reigniting my sense of belonging and purpose. Through stories, either fiction or non-fiction, we share empathetic connections, reaffirming our humanity and reminding us that we are part of a collective; we all experience fear, struggle, despair, passion, joy and hope. We find commonality with others in sharing our stories, lifting us out of our feelings of isolation. Stories help us to understand ourselves and each other; they connect us to universal truths about ourselves and our world.
Stories help us to understand other peoples’ perspective and experiences, transporting us into alternative realities by engaging our attention and triggering our imagination. Stories can be cautionary, endowing morals and principles, highlighting prejudices and prompting social change. Characters can provoke and inspire us.
Everyone has a story to tell. And yet, it seems the hardest thing to do at times; to give it voice, for fear of being judged, ashamed and embarrassed by our imperfections. In a society where we are encouraged to be anything and everything other than that which we are, it is easy to disguise ourselves, our lives becoming a staged play, lived behind masks and the facade of fake social media profiles.
We can change this.
In finally finding my voice and the courage to read aloud my own unread chapters, I very quickly found myself amongst a supportive community of people willing to do the same. A community of people willing to make themselves vulnerable and exposed, the truth of who they are out there for all the world to see. And through vulnerability comes an incredible amount of power and connection. This is a huge catalyst for healing, growth and change. In embarking on the journey to collate The Silent Scream anthology, I found healing through a shared vulnerability with a group of strangers that liberated me from my feelings of loneliness and unworthiness. In facing my fears I found connection without rules, outside the lines and in places where I thought I wouldn’t.
The Silent Scream: An Anthology of Despair, Struggle and Hope is a collection of raw and honest stories told in various forms by this very community of people to inform and inspire, to remind you that your sometimes destructive mind narrative is merely a sub-plot from the bigger story of your life. The Silent Scream anthology is a friend, a hold in the hand companion, a book to dip in and out of, ready to reassure you that normal does not exist. As collaborators we make our mess our message: you are not alone.
Together, let’s navigate the pages of our lives to become the authors of new chapters yet to be written.
The Silent Scream: An Anthology of Despair, Struggle and Hope is available in hardback, paperback and ebook/kindle formats now from major retailers. Please see external links below.
Profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the charity Heads On (Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust), supporting people with mental health problems across Sussex and beyond.