These are the things I write to T in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep for the millionth time.
TW: talk of sexual abuse and suicide
I don’t want to write this letter. I don’t want to say these words. I don’t want to be me sitting on your couch feeling like this world was not meant for me.
I can’t help but wonder if I could have somehow changed the way things turned out for me. Where there some things I said, or didn’t say? Was there something I did or didn’t do? Why me? Why did all of these things have to happen to me?
Why do I know you? Why does that need to be something that had to happen in my life? Why did our paths eventually have to cross and bring us to this point in our lives?
I need to stop watching Law & Order. It’s triggering as hell and keeps adding to the anxiety I’m feeling over all of these things. The other day it was about a father who raped his daughter and instead of having to suffer the consequences, he jumped off the building roof. She lost her chance to make him pay. Sometimes, that’s how I feel about all of this. It’s like I’ve lost my chance to make him pay. Not that I feel brave enough to tell anyone about all of the things that happened, but I guess it would be nice to at least have the option.
‘He hurt us’, the young voice whispers in my ear. I don’t know how to answer or what to say to make it stop. ‘I know’, is the only thing I can come up with. But it doesn’t feel like enough and I’m afraid that nobody can answer that question but me. The problem is, I don’t know. I don’t know what the right answer would be.
Five days feels too long. It’s always felt too long for us. I’ve been working very hard at keeping myself in check but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. I’m scared most of the time. While the grown-up, logical part of my brain knows there is nothing to be afraid of anymore, the 4-year old me who was pinned to the bed and sexually abused doesn’t understand that.
We see it happening again and again and again and no matter how hard we try, we can’t stop it from happening and we can’t change the outcome or how we feel about it all. Most days we feel like a dirty whore and no matter how hard we scrub or how hot the water is, there is nothing that can wash the filth from our body. When we feel extra dirty we only want to cut away the damaged pieces of us to somehow create distance from the way that it feels. We sometimes imagine as we walk down the street that everyone who passes us must know the truth about us—that we’re dirty and damaged and not worthy of having a place on this earth.
Most days we hate who we are and what we’ve become. We don’t feel worthy of love and respect and protection. All we are good for is to be used and abused by those people who pretend to love us, but don’t.
Awful things have been done in our life and we don’t know how to separate the awfulness of those years from today. Every day, at least once per day, we’re reminded of that happened and it feels like we will never escape from those memories.
Sometimes, we wonder if we’re wrong. Perhaps we remember things the wrong way. That’s what makes it so hard to talk about because we only want to be sure that what we say is the truth. How do we know what the truth is, though? If you were to ask my father what his truth was, I’m sure he’d either tell you it never happened or that I was a little slut who asked for it. More than likely it would be the former and the latter would only be part of my memories.
And what about my mother? How did she not know anything was wrong? Was she too busy trying to deal with her own trauma—because bet your ass she has oodles—that she wasn’t able to help me deal with mine? And how do I forgive her for that? It feels like I should. Yes, even after everything that’s happened, I’m afraid of disappointing her and feeling even more unloved than I already do.
Do you think she loves me? Like really loves me the way a mother is supposed to love their child? I don’t feel it, or see it. All I feel is that I am a burden to her—someone who was a mistake and only made her life more difficult. Not my brother. I know she loves him. But I don’t think she feels the same way about me. I think I’m still someone who’s in the way of her living the life she wants to live. Part of me wishes she would have been the one who died rather than my father—because at least I don’t feel like I owe my father anything. I paid his dues long, long ago.
I read somewhere that when you break the trauma cycle you are saving seven generations from the patter of abuse. That is what I’m trying to do, but I think I am failing miserably.
I feel like I am going in circles again. I tend to do that when I’m not sure how to say something that’s on my mind. I do have lots on my mind, and it’s almost always the same things and questions. Questions that I don’t seem to have any answers to. I don’t know where to begin or how to put it. It’s sometimes hard for me to put into words how I really feel. But I will try my best, like always.
It’s like a story you’d read about in a fiction novel but this isn’t a story about love or being rescued by the knight in shining armour. No, not this one. It’s more like a horror novel and this story is not made up at all. It’s not a fiction story. It’s a real thing and it’s my story—the story of my life.
My story makes me sad. I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of thing in my life because of my story. It’s hard to trust and even harder to love. Most of the time I have a hard time even knowing what love really is. Growing up, I didn’t realize how bad things really were. I think you just get used to it being a certain way without realizing that not all daddies have sex with their daughter. Because that was my reality—at least part of it. The other part was spent wondering why your mommy didn’t love you enough to want to have you around her. Instead, she just send you away without any other reason than you were too much for her. How does a child understand what that’s supposed to mean? How can a child try harder to make their mommy want to protect them from the bad people in the world?
My story makes me angry. Because this whole thing shouldn’t even be my story. It should be a story about scraped knees and jumping rope and high school crushes. But instead it’s a story of hurt and shame and trying your best not to kill yourself because you feel so utterly disgusting most of the time. It’s about all of your firsts being stolen from you—your first kiss, your first touch, your first sexual experiences—all of it done without your consent. But is that right? Was it without your consent if you never told anyone or you never said no? It’s confusing to try to unravel all of these things in your mind when all you can see is that you were a bad little girl who had sex with people you never should have had sex with. And if it was so wrong, then surely your daddy never would have done the things he did and your daddy never would have threatened to slit your throat if you said a word to anyone about any of it.
My story makes me scared. Even though you say we are safe now, we are still afraid that those who are still alive will come and kill us for telling on them. What’s to stop them if they really wanted to do it? The only one we don’t think will kill us is our brother—because he was so physically abused by our father that we are sure he wouldn’t do the same thing to us again. Maybe at one point he would have, but not now. But what about the other two—they are much bigger and stronger and have guns and knives and come and find us—they know where we live. They could kill us if they wanted to and nobody would be able to stop them. And we would be dead.
But dead is what we want, isn’t it? For all those years it’s what we’ve been hoping for. And all those years when we wake up in the morning and we’re still breathing we feel so cheated by death. It’s what we really want, isn’t it? And if so, what are we still doing here? What is it that keeps these two feet planted on the ground? Are we just being dramatic? No, that’s not it, because we truly feel like this place would be better without us in it. We just want to escape from here.
That’s another part of my story—one of escape. For as long as I can remember we’ve wanted to be somewhere else with a new name and a new family and a new place to live. Most of the time though, we don’t even know what we’d be escaping from—who or what would we be trying to get away from really? It’s not like we can escape the memories or the nightmares, the smells or the sounds. No matter how hard we try, we can’t escape from those things. Maybe that’s what makes us want to die so much of the time. Knowing that no matter how hard we try, we will never escape from any of this because it’s a part of us that will remain until we die.
Some days, it feels like waking up from a dream and time doesn’t feel real. I feel overwhelmed. I can’t handle all of the scary stuff and the longing for a parent stuff. And the other things feel so humiliating. It feels almost impossible to distinguish between parental love and other things. I constantly feel so restrained. I want to reach out to people and interact but to do so I have to push past something holding me back. And I have to be careful to get it right. Never be too friendly. It’s exhausting. Like a straight jacket.
And you saying you won’t do anything isn’t enough all the time—it’s hard to believe you can contain it—because that what a parent does when you’re a child. The adult me understands that you are a safe person who won’t do anything to hurt us, but the young us doesn’t see that at all because parents aren’t safe people who take care of you. Daddies are people who have sex with you and mommies are people who send you away because they don’t want o be around you at all. Which one are you? And maybe you will get mad at us for this and not want to be around us anymore, but we have to tell you how it feels.
You won’t hurt us right? You aren’t like them, are you? My experience of relationships is all based on abuse—one person does the hurting and the other gets hurt. Most of the time I don’t know what to make of our relationship so I remain locked tightly within my own little shell where it feels safe. And we’re sorry for doubting you, but that’s just het way it feels most of the time. If we don’t remain small and invisible then we are going to get hurt. We know this is true because that’s what happened all those years ago. People we should have been safe with, people who should have protected us and cared for us—those people hurt us.
And we don’t know how to get rid of the hurt. Some days it hurts so much that we can feel it right down to our bones.
We want things to be different, we really do, but we honestly don’t know how to make that happen. You say we can just talk about it with you but sometimes the words don’t feel safe. What if we say something wrong? What if we say something that hurts you and then you decide you don’t want to do this with us anymore?
Sometimes we get mad at you. Usually when we feel lost and alone because it feels like you should know what to do to make things better. Sometimes we feel angry when you don’t answer us or when we tell you something and you misunderstand what we are trying to say. The little voice inside of my head whispers ‘he doesn’t care, he can’t make all of this better’. I don’t know what to say to make it feel better, so all I say is ‘I know’. Because the grown up me knows that it’s not how it works—you can’t save us or make the nightmares go away. You can’t protect us from all of the badness in the world. But the 4-year old me wants nothing but that from you—for you to make everything okay, the way it’s never been before. That part of me doesn’t understand nor care about your limitations in all of this.
Do you understand all of this yet? There is a constant struggle between the grown up adult me of this world and the 4-year old me who remembers all of the bad things—the painful things—that happened while we were growing up. The 4-year old me holds the memories, the teenage part of me remembers how it feels to want to die al of the time and the adult part of me is just hanging on for dear life hoping that it all ends soon.
Does any of this make sense to you? We’re struggling. We’re anxious. We’re sad and angry and tired of it all. Sometimes, we’re all of those things at the same time. We don’t know how to unravel any of this or where to even start with it all. The only thing that we understand is that we can’t do this by ourselves.
So I sent that message to T four days ago and this was his reply…
I feel like perhaps I’ve said something wrong. I texted to ask if he was mad at me but he still hasn’t responded. Why, oh why did I send that message to him??