Pushing Through the Darkest Times To Write a Memoir That Save Lives
Invisible Stories Episode 10 with Sarah Gallardo
On today’s episode I speak to Sarah Gallardo, author of Hiding in Plain Sight: A Glimpse Into the Reality of Domestic Violence.
Sarah’s story goes beyond being a survivor. Her message is about overcoming adversity, defying the odds, and staying positive when the world feels like it’s crashing down around you. Her non-profit, Sarah Speaks Up, supports women, children, men, and families living free of every kind of abuse. In a society where discussions of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and spousal abuse are not supposed to be openly reviewed, Sarah Speaks Up.
In this episode we discuss:
- One way to cope with writing triggering topics is to build a team of friends/family/supporters around yourself who can help when you need them.
- If you have difficulty writing in your current space because of the rising up of difficult emotions, if you have the ability to leave your home, and you can go to a coffee shop or a friend’s house, the more you can get away from your current working situation, the better.
- Don’t isolate, don’t make a painful thing more painful that it needs to be. You are only hurting yourself.
Enjoy the episode!
Hiding in Plain Sight by Sarah Gallardo
- Timestamp: 1:56: “The Veterans for Victims program is where we pair military veterans with domestic violence victims/survivors wherever they are in their journey. And they are escorted to and from court so that they feel safe and supported while testifying against their abuser.”
- Timestamp: 4:21: “Telling my story verbally as a speaker is one thing. And I think it’s really effective to have the person physically in front of you, giving a speech, etc. It was something else, it was another way to reach more people, to whom I was not speaking in the same room. And it was important to me because I had read books of other survivors and some of them I found to have kind of a “woe is me” feeling to it. Some of them I found to be way too detailed and to me, I wanted to give a glimpse, I wanted to share very specific stories because […] I don’t really do fluff very well. What is it, like 112 pages? You can sit down and read it in an hour and a half. It is a heavy, heavy topic, butt was important to tell that story for me because I wanted to reach more people, and I wanted to let people know that telling a story like that is so important when you want to free yourself from a life of abuse.”
- Timestamp: 6:10: Jenn: “There are so many stories you could have selected, did you have any type of metric for how you would decide if something made sense to include or not include?” Sarah: “Yeah, I wanted to display different abuse tactics, so in the end I go through definitions of, for example, reproductive abuse. I had that happen to me, and so I wanted it to be pertinent to the things I was going to tie it up with in the end. I also didn’t want to get too much into the day-to-day of “this happened, and he hit me.” because I think that’s kind of a given. I wanted to show that it happened at work, that it happened at home, that it happened in front of people sometimes, and some people noticed and some people didn’t. So I kinda wanted to give a different perspective of things most people don’t assume when they think about domestic violence and abuse.”
- Timestamp: 8:22: “I ended up going to a writer’s retreat, Wisdom House in Litchfield. I love that place, it’s so peaceful. And I did a writer’s retreat. I didn’t have the intention of starting my book. It came out. I wrote a chapter when I was at that retreat, and once I had that chapter, which really was just one story —the book has more vignettes than anything else. Then I had that, and I was like, well, “Ok, what, am I going to sit on this?” And I didn’t want to be one of those people who was always like “Yeah, I’m writing a book. I’m writing a book.” Are you? Or do you just intend to? What does that look like? And so once somebody mentioned you to me, Jenn, and you help people through the book writing process, to me I was like, this is my intention. I can’t sit on this anymore.”
- Timestamp: 11:00: Jenn: “The podcast is called invisible stories. We are talking about how are we freeing ourselves from something that is isolating us, that may or may not be visible? What might have you done that kind of got you through.”
- Timestamp: 11:46: “I had to put myself back there and I don’t know if it sounds cliche, but for example, there were certain parts where I wrote about and I wanted people to be able to have this vision in their mind of what it looked like. Where the bar was, what the person was wearing, and how they smelled, and the way they sounded. Putting myself back in a place it was terrifying in reality. Putting myself back in a place like that in order to remember the color of someone’s shirt and the cigarette stain on their finger, was much more triggering than I thought it would be.”
- Timestamp: 13:41: “I hunkered down. That was my decision. I stayed home all weekend in my pajamas. I ordered Chinese food. It wasn’t the healthiest but it was sort of emotional eating and I was ok with that. And I watched movies, and I also had sort of a team on call of friends and/or family who… they knew I was home writing alone, and they knew I was having trouble. And if I felt it was an emergency, if I needed, I had people set and ready to come over or do whatever needed to be done to help me.”
- Timestamp: 15:44: “It’s whatever works for you, and for me, I know that having a friend present is sometimes all it takes. Or what do they say? Move a muscle, change a thought. So go for a walk. Or if you need to write in a different space, so not your office, not your home. Maybe go to a friend’s house, and stay in their spare room or wherever you have to be. That can also trigger your brain to think of things differently, then that way you can write more. It’s almost like a way to jog your own mind. But having people in place as your support team, even if you’re not sure you’ll need it, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. And I’ll definitely be doing that for my second book.”
- Timestamp: 17:53: “I really wasn’t sure if I could finish. But again, it was that decision that I had to get — if we are equating this to a mountain, and you are right very close to the top, and you’re just like this is so hard, I am so tired. And you push through whatever that means, whatever that takes. Again, know yourself.”
- Timestamp: 19:32: “At the time I knew that I needed to tell it, and I knew that it wasn’t that I had one person in mind or any particular people that I knew. Any one-on-one clients that I had worked with knew my story because I told it to them verbally. For me, it was more the masses. I know that one out of every three women in the United States will at some point be in an abusive relationship. I know that in the United States, every minute, 20 people are abused and/or assaulted via intimate partner violence. So there unfortunately is no lack for people who could benefit from reading something like this. And I think that’s why halfway through the book I even do a written check in. You know, it’s “How did you do?” Because you know the first half are my stories and I know that they are emotionally dense and dark and triggering. I go through part of it in the check in where I say “if you feel triggered, please reach out to a community of friends, coworker, pastor, whoever.” Because this isn’t the kind of thing that, not only did I want people who were being abused to know that they are not alone.I wanted the readers to know that they are not alone. Even if you were someone picking it up who had no idea what domestic violence was. You are still sitting with some heavy information. And so more than anything, I wanted people to know that they are not alone, ,that there is help out there. And it was important for me to get that message out.”
- Timestamp: 22:18: “Once you write it, it’s out there. Anyone and everyone can read it and know. You have to be very strategic about the information that you include. And I like to have an open book policy. For me this is important for the people I am speaking to. But I remember very distinctly my boyfriend at the time, who we are no longer together. I remember talking to the editor about you know his mom’s going to read this book, and she doesn’t know about these things. And this will be the way she finds these things out for the first time. With my editor Heather, who was amazing… The two of you sort of put your arms around me in a way and by the end I was like, I cannot touch this anymore.”
- Timestamp: 27:04: “Knowing it needed to be done, and dealing with the consequences, whatever they may be after the fact was inevitable for me. So to sit and stew in the fear and the worry is almost feeding into what he… had terrorized me for so many years… I am almost helping him do that in his absence now. And maybe that’s just over intellectualizing, But to be honest, for me, it had to be done. So when you sit firmly in your own seat and you know that this is right, what I am doing is for a good reason, even if it is just for your own good reason. That is plenty, that’s enough. What you are putting out into the world by writing a book isn’t something that you should feel ashamed of, owning your story isn’t something that you should be afraid to do. And I think that if more people did that, if more people were able to sit in the truth of their life and their experience and their self, then doing this would not carry so much weight. The weight that it does.”
- Timestamp: 29:33: Jenn: “If you’re doing this, if you’re in any type of situation where there’s trauma or anything of the such, it behooves you to seek professionals. Whether it’s traditional therapy, EMDR, EFT, tapping, all of these different things. There’s just so many different tools and resources out there that we don’t have to suffer alone and in silence and continue to isolate ourselves. There’s no reason for it. There are a lot of people out there that are designed to help us intentionally.”
- Timestamp: 30:23: Don’t isolate, don’t make a painful thing more painful that it needs to be. You are only hurting yourself. And quite frankly, if one of the aftereffects of your suffering is the fact that you don’t write a book, don’t write a chapter, don’t tell a story, then other people are suffering because of that, because that’s information that’s not available to them now.”
- Timestamp: 32:52: “If you can figure out who you are trying to serve, who you are trying to impact, and in what way you are going to impact them, your goal can be—in my case for my memoir coming out in September 2020—is if 50 families read my story and it impacts them the way that I wish that I had that resource that I did not have, then to me, that’s the end goal. I don’t need to sell 100,000 books. I don’t need to be on Oprah. I just need to know that my story that impacts a very small select group of people, gets it in their hands. And they are able to do something differently in their life or at least see hope or inspiration or something, that they may not see otherwise. And I think it’s really wise to have realistic goals and expectations around our readers. I think it’s brilliant and so beautiful that someone was like “you changed my life.”
- Timestamp: 34:02: “There was one woman in particular. I am sure she wouldn’t want me to use her name, so I just won’t. She came up to me and she said, “All this time, I didn’t realize that what was happening to me was abuse.” She thought that it was the way relationships just were. And she thought it was something that she sort of had to suffer through. She thought that her suffering actually was almost proof of her love for her partner. And she thought that was just part of their relationship dynamic. And with what I shared, for whatever reason, for her, she said that it resonated so deeply, and she said that she left the relationship and that she was then in counseling, she got help through the leaving of that relationship because of my book, because she then knew that services were available. So yeah, I know that there is a person out there who now has left their abuser because of me and my book.”
- Timestamp: 35:51: “Putting love out into the world, putting good out into the world, has a ripple effect that you can’t really know. And I think you have to just have the faith inside yourself that I have done good, I have put good out into the world, and as a result of that, good will continue on in a way that I can’t see. Just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
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