Memory Vault posted this letter to his younger self on the MS board and he told me it was OK to post it here too. Reading this made me cry and smile at the same time. The smile part? I see someone growing, struggling to do it for sure but definitely doing it! I cried because of the simplicity of the things that are being struggled with. Things I've take for granted my whole life because I had my whole life to learn them. But MV, a grown man, is just now trying to figure it out.
Hey, kid. (I'm allowed to call you that.)
You’re looking at me, hungry for answers. I probably don’t have that many. (Wow, this apartment is small! I’m sorry—I know it’s home.)
“Well,” you want to ask me, “what did you learn in all this time?”
Okay…short answer. Yes, you were abused. No, you don’t have your facts right yet. But your anger is real, and justified.
I just got back from a conference for sexual abuse survivors, kid—I heard a speech that blew me away. It talked about how abuse isn’t just about trauma.
Did you know that the families of children who were sexually abused within the family have exactly the same dysfunctions as those of children who are abused outside the family? It's the same distance, lack of closeness, lack of communication. Sound familiar? What this therapist was saying is that the important thing, even beyond the trauma, is all the stuff that isn’t there. It’s all the skills you DON’T learn that fuck up your life more than memories.
I thought of you. Oh, god, kid, I never realized what a hero you were. I mean, you’re teaching yourself all the basics. You’re trying out loving conversations with people you’re getting close to, and you’ve never seen one before! You’re trying to offer support and praise to people you care about, and you’ve never heard it done. You’re guessing at cooking, ironing a shirt, what people do in an office. And you know it—I can see it in your face. You’re smart as hell, but you know almost nothing that didn’t come out of a book or your own mind.
You have no idea that you’re beautiful. You have no idea what love is when it isn’t wrapped up in pain. When that idiot dumped you outside that movie when you got teary because it was about abandoned kids, and told you you were “too vulnerable,” you didn’t know that you’d fall in love with him because he’d hurt you. But you work at love anyway, and slowly get better. You’re starting to let people hug you and not freeze up.
You think you’re just barely acceptable at the bars and clubs. (That is such crap, but your shyness is your armor and protection.) You try to dress up, not knowing how to shop or what to wear. You try to flirt. And you have no idea where you fit in the world. You’re terrified when someone falls for you. You don’t know who you can trust, so you half-trust everyone. On a scale of one to ten in intimacy, you put everyone at a 5. People are amazed by how much you open up when they first meet you, and then they hit the wall and never get in any farther. And that’s because nobody ever taught you how to decide who gets in.
Kid, no wonder you’re confused. You’re teaching yourself how to exist! Someone should have walked you through all this stuff…these lessons should have been part of your life from the day you were born.
Finally, I wanted to say thank you. Everything I’ve learned, I learned from your trials and errors. Every mistake that hurt you is one that I’ve learned to avoid. Every time you hoped against hope and trusted, and it worked out, I learned a sense of safety.
I love you. It gets better, believe me.
I hope that seeing this and the extent of the struggles to understand and feel the most basic things help you all as much as it did me.
I also want to say to MV publicly that I'm really glad he let me be one of those people to give him a hug. It didn't appear that you froze up - I hope you didn't. Thanks.