The Mighty Logo

What I Wish I Could Tell My Childhood Abuser

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I don’t know your name. I don’t know the shape of your face, except in the shadows at night, and in the dark figures of my nightmares. I don’t know if I need to know who you are, if I ever will know. But I write this in an attempt to make you real. To make you less of a phantom, less of the monster in my dreams — to turn you into a real living person who hurt me.

• What is PTSD?

But who is not hurting me anymore.

You are less than the monster in my nightmares. You are flesh and bones and breath and human. You are fallible and fleeting, broken and dying. You are a person, and the reach of your arms, the extent of your power, is finite.

I was a little girl when you broke me. Somehow that shame and damage became my fault. That is how I have carried the knowledge, the pain, all these years. That is how I picked up and kept on living.

I learned to lie. I don’t know if that happened before you or because of you. Either way, I learned to lie about the things you did. Things so dark and confusing, I only knew to forget them, however I could.

I could only ever forget so much though. I couldn’t forget away the scars and the shrapnel of myself. I learned to live with the nightmares, the shame I put on like it was my own skin, the fears that didn’t make sense anymore, but something deep made me obey in order to survive: fear of talking, of being seen, of men. Fear for other children, feeling the desperate need to protect them from unnamed and uncertain harms. Fear of kindness, of care, of touch and the look of being wanted. I have lived my life like a hunted animal, certain I was prey, but not sure who was hunting.

I wonder where you are now. If you too have done a number on your own memory. If you stopped after me. If you started before me. If you even remember my name. If I still see you sometimes.

I wonder if you feel shame and regret. If you are as good at lying to yourself as I am. Maybe you’re better. I curse my body for feeling. Do you curse yours for wanting?

Did you tell yourself I was too young to remember? I was certainly too young to understand. Too young to know how to tell.

My body hums with the memory I don’t allow my mind. With tingling and edginess, fast heartbeat and fear. I don’t even understand my own reactions. You ruined me in so many ways. I never had a chance. And I’m not sure how to pick up the pieces. Or if I even want to.

I’m not sure I know how to keep trying.

You have put me in a lonely place that most people will never understand: you broke my want for anything that is good. You twisted my body, and ever since, the things I crave and accept are only the broken things. I inflict pain and harm. I only know how to allow myself to hurt. You made goodness evil. You made touch and feeling, intimacy, desire, comfort — everything: evil.

You made all that makes up the joy of Earth, sinister. The humanity, the need and want for others, for ourselves. You destroyed that. You destroyed my want for anything. I may never get that fully back. It is in tiny pieces still I hope I will keep learning to work around the malformations, to want little things, to plan for short distances in the future. Maybe I’ll learn to live better with these scars. Maybe I will learn how to see myself as more than contamination and damage, irremediable ruin.

I am slowly reclaiming pieces of myself that have been lost. Allowing light into dark corners, so things can bloom where they have never bloomed before.

I am finding spaces in the world where monsters don’t live.

Places where nightmares lose their power over you.

Getty Images photo via Maria Kuznetsova

Follow this journey on Stained Glass Pieces

Originally published: July 20, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home