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If I Could Speak to My 6-Year-Old Self Who Was Experiencing Abuse

I’ve thought a lot about what I would tell the kid I was back then.

What would I say? Where would I start?

I often wonder these things — by then he had gone through so much. Multiple forms of abuse. The trauma was already cutting through everything he was and could’ve been. I think about it a lot.

I’d probably just say hello, afraid of making things worse. The truth is, he was able to survive far better than I ever could. By then his dissociation had kicked in, and he was, for just a few moments, OK. There were so many things he didn’t understand back then, but looking back I wouldn’t know how to explain any of it. How do you explain abuse to a child? How do you introduce them into the adult world they’ve already been initiated into?

To be honest, I don’t know. I wouldn’t know what to say to him.

I might speak to those around him, tell them about expressions of pain and the best ways to support him. I would have to take some of the people in his life aside and tell them what they’re doing is wrong. I would do all those things, but I’d probably stay away from him. He’s so fragile, without the memories, with the nightmares and fears that don’t make sense, he’d fall apart if I mentioned any of it.

To be honest, I’d run. I wouldn’t be able to be anywhere near him, because I know he still has a lot of room to grow, a lot to learn, and unfortunately the years after 6 are not that much better. He will endure more abuse, his heart will be broken and he’ll be indoctrinated into our white supremacist patriarchal society. He will suffer enough to last a lifetime but he will survive, and he will challenge the status quo and any form of injustice. He’d work with adults and kids and support them every step of the way as a Peer Support Specialist, but despite that he wouldn’t know what to say to his younger self.

The thing is, if I could go back in time to get him out of it I wouldn’t. If it was all a choice, I’d choose it. Abuse is never excusable, but what I do with the cards I’ve been dealt is mine, and only mine.

But how do I tell him that the abuse he endured will wake him up 15 years later with post-traumatic stress disorder? How would I tell him that the things going on in his head are just anxiety? How do I tell him that he will live with multiple mental illnesses? How do I tell him he’ll suffer from major depression for years because he won’t be able to piece together the abusive experiences? How do I tell him that he’ll be at the brink of loss and devastation and he might not recover? How do I tell him he will learn to live with a terminal illness, never knowing when it’ll happen? How do I tell him living with invisible disabilities is not the end of the world? How do I tell him that he, despite what he may think then and in the future, can and will belong? That he deserves to be and will be happy?

I don’t know how to tell him these things, but sometimes the best kind of support isn’t telling someone what’s to come, but just being there for them. The one thing I know I’d say to him is that I’m proud of him, and he’s done a fantastic job, with or without the challenges. And despite not feeling supported and loved back then, and even now some days, he is supported, and he is loved. He is loved regardless of whether he achieves the impossible or not. He is loved for laying in bed all day, or staring at a computer screen all night. He is loved on and off the ledges, on and off the meds and everything in between.
I’d ask if he’d write me a letter, because I wonder, if he’d be proud of who I am as well.

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