BY STACEY, MEMBER
How do you share a story like this? How and when do I tell my friends that I am going through something that has turned so complex that I am still shuffling through the wreckage after a year and a half? How do I share something that feels so shameful?
My parents told me that I was not my father’s biological daughter over the phone one Friday afternoon. They knew I had been in contact with WD (a very close biological relative that I had never heard of via 23 and Me to try to figure out our connection) and grew concerned that I would find out on my own, so they felt like they had to tell me over the phone rather than wait for our summer visit. I remember feeling such a range of emotions all at once – confused, angry, upset, sad, betrayed, and shame. I hung up the phone and texted my husband at work to call me immediately. I remember that I could barely get the words out, I was sobbing so hard, I couldn’t catch my breath. I then spoke with my friend, R, in NYC. We have been friends since we were 8 years old and grew up together. Both my husband and R reminded me that I had always known something like this deep down, but also understood how earth shattering it was for me. Even though the wound was fresh and still bleeding, it wasn’t hard to tell the 2 of them because they knew my history. They knew about the complexities of my relationship with my family, the constant feeling that I was different from them and didn’t fit in. In some weird way, I felt legitimized in my conversation with them – I knew it all along.
After getting off the phone, I had to shake off my despair and pick up my kids from school. My husband and I were scheduled to go to my business partner’s anniversary party that night. Needless to say, I was not up to it. I texted my business partner and just told her that a family issue came up and I couldn’t make it. I should have come up with a better excuse, an illness or something, as of course she asked about it on Monday at work. I don’t know why I wasn’t better prepared, but I burst into tears and could barely get the story out. I was mortified. While I consider her a dear friend, we were working, and I wasn’t ready to share. While she was so kind and thoughtful, I felt such a sense of shame in telling her. Had I been less fragile that day, I would have come up with a little white lie. I wasn’t yet ready to share, to own the story.
Now a year and a half later, I’d like to say I’ve made great strides in being able to talk about it. In some ways, that is true – I even started a blog! But, since those early days, I’ve only discussed it in person with my therapist (side note – I had not seen a therapist before this, but knew I needed to deal with this in a healthy way…it was the best thing that I did after learning the truth) and my uncle a year after the fact. And I am writing my blog anonymously. While this betrayal and the fallout has dominated my internal monologue, I rarely discuss it in person. Why have I not shared with any other friends? Why can’t I even tell my sister-in-law or my closest friends?
I feel such a sense of shame even though I know that I did nothing wrong. I am the victim of numerous lies and betrayals, not the perpetrator. But, regardless of all the logic and rational thoughts, I still have that feeling in my gut of being ashamed, of being embarrassed. I constantly think to myself that I could be a perfect Jerry Springer Show guest. Another reason is that I don’t have any answers yet. Because my mom has not shared all the facts with me, I’ve been trying to figure things out on my own. I feel that I am getting close, but until I know who my biological father is, I don’t want to share an unfinished story.
It has been such an inspiration to read about the men and women who have come forward to discuss this with the public and have become advocates for our experience. I am constantly impressed by their willingness to share and help us, whether by starting a Facebook group or creating a non-profit. I am drawing strength from their examples and hope that I can be brave too.