It’s been a while. To be honest I’ve been feeling a bit too ashamed and a little guilty to reach out.
But you are my past self and eventually, you're going to experience some of the worst months of your life alone and in quarantine. I spent many of those months wishing someone would say these words to me.
So I’m writing to say those words to you.
There’s some things we have to go over first, some things you need to unlearn before you can begin to learn again.
You’ve been taught to normalize behavior that is not normal; It’s not normal to be repeatedly harrassed for sex or other intamacies. It’s not normal to be groped in your sleep. It’s not normal for men twice your age to solicit a relationship. It’s not normal to be guilted, ignored or manipulated into intimacy.
It’s not normal for your no to become his yes.
All of these are something you’ve heard in every sex ed class (well, in the only one you’ve had). But the impact of learning these things after experiencing them is difficult.
While I can’t stop these things from happening, I can give you some of the tools to rebuild yourself after.
For you, the hardest part will be telling people. I think explaining everything to mom is what broke my heart. Even now, I can see her silently crying, looking into my eyes asking herself what she could have done to better protect her daughter.
But that’s the funny part. There’s nothing she could have done. There’s nothing you could have done. You didn’t commit the act, you had the act inflicted on you.
Everytime I told someone it got easier. I found a lot of power in telling people. It helped me have a little bit of control back into my own hands. It’s as if his actions only get to exist if I put them into the world.
Another thing that helped along the way was those around you. It’s going to be difficult when a pandemic hits (yeah, that’s a story for another time).
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The first time mom called me “snail,” the way she used to when we were kids, it was enough to melt away some of the pain of everything else.
She didn’t see me as a victim of this awful, taboo thing. I was just her daughter. I was her snail.
Our friends and family probably have no idea the laughs and smiles they gave me were what kept me from drowning.
Therapy helps too.
This next part is a bit harder to explain as I’m still working on it myself.
You get to tell a lot of people no. You get to set as many boundaries as make you feel safe. You are allowed to have bad days.
You’re allowed to feel every emotion that comes to you. There’s no wrong way to feel. And you’re not crazy for feeling anyway that you do.
There’s nothing wrong with you either. This didn’t happen to you because you’re a bad person or because you didn’t do enough to fight back. This wasn’t divine justice. It was men who felt entitled to something that wasn’t theirs and will never be theirs.
The reason I didn’t reach out sooner was because for a long time I thought you’d blame me. I thought you’d be angry at me for allowing this to consume and distract me.
But I know now that’s not what this is. This is me understanding and coming to terms with the trauma that can come with being a woman.
This last part is probably what was the hardest for me to learn.
He is not your story. For now, it may seem that way. Right now, your thoughts seem to always circle back to that clear-skied night when you drove home crying or the cloud-blue shirt he was wearing or the constant feeling of being trapped and suffocated.
When a wound is healing, it’s often painful to the touch. You might even feel it when you’re walking around, when you’re laughing with friends or late at night when you just want to sleep.
But wounds heal. They may reopen and reblister, but they heal.
And soon, on a hot July evening, when you’re in your best friend's yellow Jeep with the windows down and the music blaring, you’ll know. In between the chorus and the verse you’ll feel that wound close.
There is more to come for you, love. I wish I could show you. I think you’d be proud.
Just hold on. One more day.
Your future self