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A voice from the dark: why talking taboos makes for a better society

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A voice from the dark: why talking taboos makes for a better society - Angela Brightwell - Funny Matters

This post can also be read at the Huffington Post UK


Last month I published an article called An Open Apology to My Friends With Babies.

It was about miscarriage and my experience of being unable to have a child in a world where for most it seems so easy.

It was by far the most personally exposing piece I’ve written to date.

It was also by far the most well received piece I’ve written to date.

The apprehension I felt pressing that ‘publish’ button was huge.

I was proper nervous – clammy palms and pounding heart – and for so many reasons.

I was scared of upsetting anyone, making them feel attacked or bad about themselves. I was worried about sounding bitter, and most of all – I felt incredibly uncomfortable about revealing my own personal shade of darkness.

I almost didn’t do it… but I did.

And the reaction was immense.

It was almost as if I could hear the breathes of relief from women dotted around the globe.

The comments, messages and emails were overwhelming.

Some said I’d voiced something that for them was ‘un-voiceable’, others that they’d felt alone – even guilty – because of these inexplicable feelings, that I’d helped them feel normal, understood.

And the fear I’d felt previously about publishing the piece, the worry I had for what my friends and family would think of me, it instantly evaporated.

Because I remembered then – it was never written for those people, the people I already knew. But for the ones I didn’t – the women who’d been struggling silently with these feelings – blaming themselves, feeling guilty and in pain.

I consider myself to be pretty lucky.

I’m naturally an optimistic person, I often see the funny side of life and I’m a writer.

I learnt from an early age that I could make sense of both my external and internal worlds through writing things down. It’s always been my way of processing stuff, far more than talking ever was.

If I’m feeling uneasy or upset about something, I often wrestle about with it on the page for a while.

Like any fight, it can sometimes get messy, ugly, and things are often said which are hurtful, that don’t make sense, or worse – aren’t true… but at the end there’s usually a resolution, a sense of conclusion, maybe even peace.

It’s important to share our stories if we can, especially those of us who find it easier to express ourselves through the written word than others may.

In fact, it’s our duty to do so, in the hope it might help others.

Miscarriage, baby loss, infertility, childlessness – as a society we don’t tend to be open about these things at all, despite the fact they affect such a huge proportion of us.

Grief, guilt, blame, fear are just a few of the myriad of negative feelings that can be experienced after miscarriage.

We can feel bad about ourselves for feeling the way we do, not realising that others out there feel the same.

If others aren’t talking about something, it’s easy to feel as though we shouldn’t either. This only exacerbates the feelings of isolation and shame.

It’s so important to disrupt this unhelpful pattern by being more open as a society, to share our dark times

And not just about women’s issues and motherhood. I’m talking about everything.

Life can be tough, for all of us.

None of us are exempt from shit happening, and pretty much everything is universal. Despite how it feels, our struggles are not unique – and that has to be a good thing!

So many other people have felt the same way – whatever the issue – a long time before we ever did, and will continue to do so for a long time afterwards.

It can be uneasy exposing the negative sides of our life – we’re much more comfortable projecting images of success and happiness.

It’s difficult to understand sometimes, but these painful and dark times are not necessarily separate from living a happy life, but often a normal part of it.

It’s important for us human beings to connect, and to share our stories – whatever they may be.

If we can be as open and honest as possible, it only encourages others to do the same.

Surely that makes for a more compassionate and less isolated society for us all.

So thank you – so much – to my friends who encouraged me to publish the piece…

And more importantly thank you to all the women out there who responded, commented and shared their stories too.

You all played a part in helping others feel comforted and less alone… myself included.


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4 Comments on “A voice from the dark: why talking taboos makes for a better society

  1. Ruby
    July 2, 2016

    Hello Angela! I loved these last two posts so much that I discussed them in my blog. I hope you don’t mind!

    • Angela Brightwell
      July 9, 2016

      Ah Ruby, thank you – am so happy to hear they prompted such a great blog post from you! I know some people find it hard to understand why we choose to write so openly about all this stuff, but honestly, the benefits and positives just keep coming – connecting with you and your writing being one fine example of that!
      Well done on everything you’re doing… x

  2. Mali
    July 4, 2016

    I’m so glad that your bravery in posting your apology to your friends with babies has been rewarded. (I’ve only just been directed to that post by Ruby, one of your commenters.) You’re right that talking about taboos makes us all more aware of other people’s struggles. I’m able to do this now, though there was a time when it was too painful. And I do it, because I can, and because that might make one person think, and maybe make them more sensitive to one person who is struggling.

    • Angela Brightwell
      July 9, 2016

      Hi Mali
      Lovely to hear from you and yes, sometimes we need a bit of recovery-time to brew before we can start talking or writing about stuff like this – and I think maybe I’m in a bit of a ‘brewing’ phase at the moment – but I’m so pleased to be one of the people that can ‘share their shit’ like this. I think it can help other people enormously which is wonderful but also, from a selfish perspective, it feels so great to connect with others who understand and feel the same way, like you and Ruby. Thanks for getting in touch, sending you my very best wishes from UK. x

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