What is your armour made of?

This piece was homework, set by the very lovely Saša in the weekly writing group I attend. It’s one of my favourite times of the week. Saša (you can find her here, and over on instagram @sasawrites) and I have known each other for a few years and it’s a very safe place for me to speak. I can speak freely and be myself in ways I can’t in real life. She posed the question: “what is your armour made from?” and it made me reflect. Do I wear any armour? Yes I do, but it’s a different suit of armour to the one I wore during the years I stayed silent. It began to change, as I found a way to speak and tell my story…

Your armour was once made from silence. It was invisible, this suit of silence; invisible and impenetrable. You first stepped into it years and years ago, when you were much smaller. You put it on because you knew it would protect you, and you were right. It protected you from the judgement of others. It protected you from getting too close again to people who said they loved you. It stopped others from seeing the secret you carried, the shame you felt. It was a reflective shield. It reflected their side of life, not yours, so all they saw were what they wanted to see, not the darkness within you. Then you grew and the armour didn’t grow with you. It became smaller, tighter, but more impenetrable as the years went by. It closed in on you bit by bit.
Imagine an invisible suit. It’s heavy. Impossible to remove. It needs a key to unlock it and that key is lost . You have no idea where to look. Or what to look for because you don’t know what the key looks like. You can’t ask anyone about this because you don’t have the words. Your armour covers your mouth. Your mouth is silent. What do you do?

Your armour is sharp and spiked on the inside. When you were smaller, you hadn’t been aware of these sharp bits, but now you’re bigger, It hurts you as you move through each day. When you lie down at night you can’t get comfortable. The spikes poke and prod and you can never relax. It’s so heavy that if you lie on your back it presses on your chest. You find it hard to breathe. You’re crushed by your armour. It keeps you awake. You try and take it off but you can’t. You think you’re stuck with this armour forever: until the day you find help. Until the day you find your voice.

Paradoxically your voice was the key all along. It was all too simple. Not the spoken voice from your mouth, but your story, told by your hand. The hand that felt detached from you as you wrote the words, because your armour made it feel that way. It was like trying to feel your foot under two pairs of thick socks and a fur lined, tightly laced snow boot. Your hand didn’t feel real. Or that it even belonged to you, but you found you could control it and you wrote. It was not easy. Your hand refused to cooperate at first. It was a step too far in the beginning, to write I am, I was, so you avoided the I’s as much as you could. You wrote your story in the third person instead. It felt easier that way. She is. She was. She will. And as you wrote, your armour softened. You wrote a bit more. It loosened its ties. You wrote and you wrote until the day your armour disintegrated and your mouth was free and that was the day you spoke.

Your words are now your armour because we all need a bit of armour don’t we? It is a different sort of armour. You chose it. It is bespoke. It fits you perfectly and You’re comfortable inside. You need it because we are all raw and vulnerable underneath. We yield under attack. We bleed. We hurt. The actions and words of others cut us, even when we pretend they don’t.
Your words are your armour – carefully crafted words that you write and that you will speak. Measured, carefully considered. Talked through. Edited, reviewed, practiced and polished and delivered to ears. 100 pairs at the project. A lot more on the radio.
They need to be heard but they are only words. These people don’t really know you although they might think they do. None of us knows the person we live with or dine with or curl up with at night. We think we do but we don’t. Not really. The armour we wear makes sure of that.

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