Men, ending the shame of abuse can begin with a single letter. Is time for your letter?
I’m sorry I didn’t show up for you sooner.
For a long time I didn’t know you were there. And when I met you, I didn’t have room for you in my life.
You see, you are an ocean and I was happily paddling in my pools of denial. I didn’t know how to swim the rivers, let alone stop myself from drowning in you. And I couldn’t keep you afloat with me, not then.
I don’t think I ever truly believed you existed. Others spoke of you, but to me, you seemed like a myth, a fairytale, a legend. They all seemed so sure of you, but they told me of the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny with as much conviction.
And soon I began to resent the idea of you.
If you were in my life, why could I not see you?
Why did you hide away?
Why did you leave me to seem like the odd one out when all of my friends and classmates seemed to have their very own “you” in their lives?
Why did they get to be carefree and fun with you when I was left alone with a different reality?
Then I moved past the need for you.
Others seemed to catch up as they grew, to join me in my life without you. I seemed to be similar to them now, grown up, mature, older. But I still felt different. The space you had not filled left me feeling empty inside.
People spoke of you fondly, like a long lost friend, one who had filled their early years with joy and laughter. And they talked about all the lessons they learned from you.
I didn’t understand. I never had you there to teach me. I felt so left behind.
But I had learned lessons from an unwanted friend in those years, or enemy (it would now seem), that had been written differently to theirs.
Their lessons were taught by this friend they called Childhood.
My lessons were taught by a cruel teacher named Abuse.
They told me about all the lessons Childhood has taught.
They told me about love and safety, boundaries and positive attachment. They told me about self-respect, confidence, body image, freedom. They spoke of touch and healthy relationships, innocence and joy, in ways that seemed so different to how I’d heard of them.
In return, I told them about the lessons I was learning instead, lessons that Abuse taught me.
I told them about shame and guilt, trauma and pain. I told them about secrecy, self-hate, violation, worthlessness. I spoke of manipulation, rape, grief, and trauma. I spoke of regret, self-blame, dissociation, and repression. I told them about self-harm and eating disorders, anxiety and depression.
Some of them understood certain words, but they told me they had only recently learned the concepts. There were one or two who said they’d known a similar teacher, they felt connected to my pain, and we wondered why we had not met before. But our teachers kept us quiet, silent, hidden.
And then you showed up, cowering in a corner, asking for me to keep you safe, to nurture you, to hold you.
I didn’t understand. You left me. You abandoned me. I blamed you more than the teachers, the abusers themselves.
I began to speak of you to a few who tried to make me see that I’d carried you with me since birth. They used words to describe you like “Inner Child.” They spoke of you with love and affection, encouraging me to speak to you, to listen, to learn.
But when I tried, you seemed even more angry with me and you were hurt that I’d left you behind, that I’d left you to carry our burdens even after I had grown.
So, I pushed you away again. And I ran.
You always found me. You always showed up crying, or angry, or showing me memories that I did not want to see.
The more I ran, the more you showed me.
Until one day I sat with you. I looked you right in the eye and asked you what you needed.
You did not have to speak, for I already knew. I needed the same from you—you needed to be held, I needed to be held, we needed to be held.
And one day I held you. I held you tight.
I’m sorry it took me so long.
I’m sorry I still run away sometimes or that my attention goes elsewhere. I’m sorry I’ve still not managed to learn all of the lessons you need to teach me—the lessons I should have been learning with you, from you, for you, in all the years I couldn’t see you.
But now I’m trying. And I can’t erase the existence of the other teachers from my younger years, I cannot remove the existence of Abuse in my life. But I promise to remember you too and I’ll try to learn from you now.
I promise to be the person you needed me to be for so many years, the person you needed the others to be for you. I promise to try to get to know you as fully as I now can.
Childhood, I’m sorry I didn’t get to know you back then and I’m sorry I denied your existence in my life for so long.
But I’m here now and I see you.
And I’ll try to see you and hear you and hold you as we learn all the lessons we missed out on, as you teach me all the things you wanted to when I was so very little.
I’m sorry it took me so long.
Originally published by Some Talk of You and Me
Photo by bp6316