How Keeping A Secret Can Have Life-Altering Repercussions

My mother always used to say our secrets made us sick.

If I told a little white lie about the latest cafeteria meal, she’d tell me my body was really the one who’d be sorry if I didn’t eat the steamed vegetable trio of carrots, peas and cauliflower that kept Wednesday’s meatloaf company.

If I told her I had done my chores when I was really diving headfirst into the latest "Harry Potter" novel, she’d tell me I’d have to live with that guilt when she ended up having to do the laundry from the day before.

When I didn’t tell her what my friend had called me when I came home from school with a sniffly red nose and tears lining my eyelids, my mother said it’s not good for my soul to bottle up feelings so tightly.

My father keeps a secret.

It's a secret he doesn’t know we know.

When our family goes to New York, my father will drive in secret to a street uptown and pace up and down for hours.

My family keeps a lot of secrets.

When I was 8, one of my brothers had a manic attack. We came home to a house completely covered in writing.

My family worked together tirelessly to scrub every offensive phrase off the tiles, every scribble off the doors and every trace of upset from our home.

Another brother dated two women because he was afraid of what the family would think if he settled down with someone who wasn’t Jewish.

My grandmother survived Auschwitz at 18 years old, and was forced to Nazi uniforms. The rest of her story is a secret, confined to a worn, frozen gaze in her eyes and a gently shaking tone behind her sighs.

If we didn’t talk about things, they didn’t happen. Even if they had happened already.

I keep secrets too.

When I was 17, my voice teacher started molesting me after promising to be my mentor, my godfather and a man I could always trust.

I didn’t mean to keep it a secret, but I was so naïve, I didn’t even realize what a pedophile actually was.

I had no idea I was being molested, and I couldn’t fathom the idea of such a tremendous betrayal.

I was just confused.

Our family just didn’t talk about things like that.

When I was betrayed by someone who I really trusted, I didn’t know what to do. I was hurt, betrayed, confused and afraid to tell anyone about these frantic, tumultuous feelings that were suddenly tormenting my every waking second.

I learned our secrets do keep us sick. We lock emotions, memories or any terrible thing we might try to suppress in our fragile, mortal frames.

For months, I kept that secret inside. It was so horrific, I couldn’t even comprehend it.

My secret made me sick. I felt anger, guilt and confusion in my stomach.

Two weeks after I turned 18 years old, my stomach exploded due to a blood clot.

It was later hypothesized to be caused from a stress ulcer. My molestation was a very stressful secret.

Suddenly, my family could keep no secrets.

When the glowing baby girl of the family suddenly ends up in a coma for months and lands on the cover of every local newspaper, it’s hard to keep everything quiet.

If you don’t share your secrets, people will tell your secrets for you, even if they’re the wrong secrets.

As my health worsened, the whispers from others grew louder.

In an effort to hush the concerns, theories and rumors about everything from anorexia and cancer to getting hit by a bus, my mother told the secret I had told her in confidence just two weeks before.

Amy was molested.

My secret leaked when I was in a coma.

In my sedated, comatose trance, it was too late for my disclosed secret to heal me.

When I awoke months later and my ventilator was finally removed, the first words I breathlessly shouted were, “It was him!”

This radical realization was overshadowed by the surgeon’s subsequent disclosure.

I had no stomach anymore. I couldn’t eat or drink, and he didn’t know when or if I’d ever be able to again.

They had kept this secret from me as long as they could, but decided to tell me when I appeared “healthy enough” to hear it.

But I was too afflicted by my own secrets to be saved by that point. My secrets had made me sick.

Now, it was up to me to start speaking up.

As soon as I was discharged from the hospital -- although weak, worn and still unable to eat or drink -- my parents took me to a lawyer in an effort to bring some kind of closure to the massive traumas that had happened.

When you can’t fix a destroyed digestive system, you try to fix what you can. You take it out on the nearest person you can persecute.

As we explained my complicated case and asked about the ins and outs of testifying in court against my molester, the lawyer looked at me compassionately and explained to my parents I had been through enough.

Testifying would be a terribly emotional and grueling process. What was important was I heal physically.

This secret was put on the back burner until I got healthy.

Ten years have passed since my stomach exploded, and the headlines have slowly changed from "surgical disaster" to "medical miracle."

I’ve changed my name from a Ms to a Mrs, and I've gone from starving for nutrition to having a hunger for life.

But I still have secrets, and so does my family.

Every time he drove us to a doctor’s appointment at my hospital in New York, my dad would leave my mother and I for an hour or two. Then, he’d pick us up.

We’d never ask a word.

He started going to the city more and more, like a secret compulsion.

After a bit of spying, we learned my father drove right to my voice teacher’s street every week, just pacing up and down the sidewalk, waiting for that one moment where my molester would come out of hiding and my father would ... well, I’m not sure.

That’s one secret I’ll hopefully never have to find out.

My father is waiting for that final confrontation that I have given up on years ago. I don’t think he’ll ever give up.

I’ve never talked to my father about his trips to New York.

We all know why he does it, but we’re scared to talk about it with him, mostly for ourselves.

Some things are easier not to talk about.

I still get asked why I don't try to testify in court now, or why I don’t try to confront him and attempt to expose the sociopath who changed my life forever.

I don’t think of it as a secret anymore.

I know it in my heart, and it’s my truth.

Just because I haven’t shared his name or confronted him directly doesn’t mean the universe can’t hear my secret.

To the man who molested me as soon as I turned 17, I am not going to tell the world who you are.

I am not even going to tell you this directly, or look for a way to get my message across to you.

I’ve shared my story. I’ve told my husband about you.

I’ve written a one-woman musical about my life. I’ve painted it, sung it, yelled it and danced it.

I know it, feel it, mourn it, accept it and move through it.

You are my art, my theatre, my story, my growth and my lesson learned.

But you are not my secret.

As my mother said, our secrets keep us sick.

Your secret will keep you sick.