To the Caretaker Who Put Me Through Medical Child Abuse
I am a survivor of medical child abuse. A caregiver did things to me to make me chronically ill as a child. As a result, I learned a large amount of medical information at a young age: something my abuser frequently told me would be useful in the long run, given what they considered my inevitable career in the medical field. As it turns out, I’m going into social work, but I am taking an anatomy and physiology class this semester. Within a few weeks of starting this course, my abuser’s words returned to my mind and I realized that yes, the medical knowledge I gained from my childhood health issues is helpful in this course. As I thought further, though, I decided to write a letter to my abuser responding to that statement.
So, to my abuser:
You were right. You were right that I would eventually take an anatomy and physiology course. You were right that I would go into a helping profession. You were right that the medical information I learned during my childhood would serve me well in higher education. But that does not make what you did OK. That does not make me forgive what you did. The fact that you were right does not take away how wrong you were about so many things, but mostly how wrong you were about thinking that it was OK to hurt me the way you did.
I appreciate what I learned, but I do not appreciate the way you taught me. The medical information I know has helped me with this course, but the trauma has not. I have had more panic attacks and flashbacks during this course than I can count. I’ve felt more angry than I felt when I realized what you did. Knowing that the epidermis is the most superficial layer of the skin or that white blood cells are involved in immune functioning is not significant enough to override the intense challenges the trauma you put me through has thrown in my direction. I can learn information but I cannot unlearn what you did to me.
My success is not your victory. I don’t know what my final grade in this course is going to look like, but for the time being, I have an A. That A is mine and only mine. You don’t get to take credit for having “prepared me well” for this course, for my career or even for my life. You lost every bragging right associated with my successes the moment you decided to make me sick. Every accomplishment in my life has been more difficult because of what you did to me. I don’t want to be considered successful in spite of my trauma, because I feel that gives my trauma more weight than my accomplishments. I am, however, successful aside from my trauma, meaning that the trauma I endured as a direct result of your actions is entirely unrelated to what I have chosen to do with my life. It also means that you are entirely unrelated to everything I have done and the person I have become. What you did changed me, and I’m not going to deny that. But you did not make me succeed — my resilience did. You don’t get the credit for that, I do.
So yes, the medical knowledge I learned as a child has been helpful for this class — but have no misunderstanding, you have not helped me with this class. You have not helped me with this at all; I have helped myself.
Getty image via Punnarong