I’ve been there, yeah I know how it feels

(Don’t worry now—Britt)

This is an open letter to myself, starting toward the end of my first year. I am writing this to give myself the validation I think I might need to work towards healing some old wounds…IDK how this will go…a couple weeks ago I decided to write my own termination summary since that was something that had never been done for me before at least in the first three terminations, and taking things into my own hands is how pretty much every other necessary part of counseling got done…I thought that would feel like I had a sense of closure and feel healing that I really do matter. Instead as I was writing about my progress I felt upset that no one in real life had cared about me enough to even get as far as jotting down the incredible progress I made each year much less any attempt at a plan. For example, collectively, I went from a primarily nonverbal girl whose minimal communication came almost solely in the form of writing and nodding to a girl who can’t walk down the aisle at church without stopping to talk to at least a few people on the way. How can you not recognize that? As I was writing that my plan for further growth and healing was to blog more I was reminded of how people are now reading everything I write in an attempt to spin it to use against me. On March 1st I already had as many visitors to my blog than I had in the entire month of June…and I think it is most likely that those views are not coming from people who are excited to hear what I have to say, but rather from people who are searching for things to use against me…and not only that, but I would assume that at least a few of the views in June are from she who shall not be named and possibly a few of her friends so even those views are not benign. At first I loved watching my stats go up. It made me feel good. Now the views that I know are my friends or are fairly certain are new visitors feel good, but all the unaccounted for views just make me feel nervous about how my words are going to be twisted…so really the termination summary turned into a reminder of hurt that I decided to shred, and this is another attempt at trying to show myself some love…hopefully this one will end on a more positive note. It is mainly going to focus on one particular relationship, and it is probably going to be long…so consider this your warning if you choose to read…(Oh, and it is broken into chapters…defined by what other than more lyrics…)

Oh sweet past me,

A home is no place to hide (When she cries—Britt Nicole)

Hey there! It is me…future you…I remember being you sitting at the table. I know you are more frequently in the corner behind the chairs when you are down here. I know you are SO proud of yourself for coming down during the day today. I am proud of you too! There is so much more in the world that only exists to you in your wildest dreams, and I know you won’t believe me if I tell you those crazy dreams are going to come true, but they will. Right now though, it is SO exciting to start saying hi to your friends. That is a HUGE pro-social achievement that you have fought hard for, and I am proud of you. Leaving your room to sit at this table during the day when other people might be around is also such a big accomplishment. I am proud of you. It might seem like those 10 minutes just aren’t good enough and you’ll never be “like everyone else,” which you think would be the best thing ever. Those ten minutes might not seem like a lot, but those are ten minutes you were not capable of even a few weeks ago, and you are doing such a good job forcing yourself into hard situations for as long as you can take it. That persistence and determination is going to pay off.

In about five seconds you are going to see NB with the wrong hair. You won’t question it is anyone else because everyone seems to know her. Five minutes later you will see NB in a different outfit and with the right hair and realize the first one must have been someone everyone else knows that you do not. You have no way of knowing this yet, but this is the beginning of the end. That hug you witnessed will seal your fate in the next two years or so.

Oh girl, I want to tell you to stand up for yourself. I want to tell you that you can totally do it…but I’ve been you…I know that you are trying SO hard to stand up for yourself and your best efforts just aren’t overly successful. You are giving it all you’ve got and falling short. Someday when you have the words and the hindsight you will be sure that if you’d tried just a little harder you totally could have fixed it. I know you want to think it is your fault, but it isn’t. I see how hard you were trying. I know words, whether written or spoken, were not always possible and you did your best. You did a good job. Your effort might not have been as successful as you had hoped, but you did get as far as moving from pointless frustration to at least sometimes having someone work towards your goals sort of with you…and with minimal communicative exchange, that is huge. You worked so hard for that and I am proud of you.

You will see some stormy weather (Emily—Francesca Battistelli)

You moved into your room with your friend today. Things didn’t quite work the way they did inside your head but you are unpacked and ready for the adventures ahead with your friend. Just remember how lucky you are that this worked out. A lot might have gone wrong, but this is something that went way right!

Now you see her reading a pamphlet about public transportation. You decide to welcome her because being new is hard, but you still aren’t talking to people who aren’t already pretty close friends, so an un-instigated ‘hi’ is out of the picture, but you smile and kind of look her way as you walk past hoping she’ll initiate the ‘hi’ as you walk out the door…she doesn’t. This will eventually change…but right now you know her name but she likely doesn’t remember ever seeing you and you haven’t even yet connected that she is NB with the wrong hair so as far as you are aware this is the first time you’ve seen her in real life. Oh honey, I really wish I could tell you that it would stay this way…but spoiler alert: things will change and it might seem good at first, but it will go downhill quickly when you latch on.

It has been a month or so…you are going to meet and greet, obviously struggling to carry your backpack, books, giant binders, and lunch. There she is again. You are bullied and made fun of and she just sits there and watches on, not intervening, not even seeming to care. I know you want to believe she isn’t paying attention or that she just doesn’t want to get involved while still so new, but really girl, this should have been giving you at least a little warning of the rocky path waiting for you later. I know you love to believe the best about people, but this is a circumstance in which you really needed to let her earn your trust instead of forcing your trust on her in hopes that she would earn it later.

You send her a very cautiously worded email alerting her to a small but real problem that doesn’t really bother you but is something you know she should be aware of. She blows you off because it doesn’t really matter—well, yes, it does matter quite a lot. You are still so sure that she can be a good person that you still haven’t recognized that anything is wrong with this picture, and besides, she has started saying hi to you or smiling at you when you cross paths and that feels really good. Oh girlyQ, I worry about you, because you are so easily won over. I wish I could retro-actively tell you to guard your heart, and to be cautious with your trust, and to stand up for yourself, and to let people know when you are being hurt…but you are going to have to figure that out on your own.

A baby is shared without you. Lonely and left out, you are hurt. You don’t want to blame anyone, because the people most culpable are less likely to know how much you love children, and as for the people who do know, it isn’t their job to let you know about it, and of course, it is very possible that letting you know would have required them to leave the presence of the child, thus losing some of their precious time with the little one…

I see you there at the end of winter break. I see your hands bleeding up to the wrists, scared, wondering how you are going to continue to hide this. I know it hurts…physically and mentally. I know you are trying so hard to fix it. It is going to be okay. It is going to take some time. You are going to get used to blood spots on your homework and notes. You are going to get used to hiding your hands because people think you have eczema and start recommending products…products that you know won’t work very well…see you have to be able to use something that could possibly be contaminated and then it has to actually stay on your hands for a period of time before washing, and that severely limits the utility of any product…I see you trying to use lotion multiple times a day, and I am proud of you. I know you are doing your best and that is all that I can ask. Other people don’t understand, and that is okay…I can tell you that in the future you will try to get people to understand and to be honest future you is pretty frustrated that spreading understanding is a lot harder than she thought it was going to be…but anyway, in a few months you will be able to take a couple of zeros off the end of your handwashing statistics. You will have to work on it mostly on your own because your counselor won’t really be on board with rule-making, but I believe in you. You know yourself, and you know that rules are what will work—and you are right. GirlyQ, you are definitely making the right choice by standing up for yourself and pushing for rules. Your counselor will try to get involved. You will try to incorporate her rules, but at the end of the day, her rules will go the same place the old counselor’s rules went: out the door when the relationship is over. I wish I could tell you that from here on out you would consistently push for what you needed and fight until you got it…but another spoiler alert: you won’t…I wish I could re-write history and tell you now to never ever settle for not getting what you need, but you will settle many times this year, and over and over. I don’t hate you for it. I know you are doing your best with what you have, and what you have isn’t always enough. Promises will be broken repeatedly, but you will overcome…in fact, after having to change your password Every. Single. Day. for a bit over a month, that is the first word that will come to you to use as a password in August when you get your new computer…don’t let the IT guy make you feel bad for needing a few seconds to think of a password you have never used before when you currently have not really eaten lunch yet are exhausted and have had over 50 passwords in the past month and a half because communication and IT do not seem to be your school’s strongpoints…not that you will really believe your school has much in the way of strongpoints by this time…

Oh, and in a few more days you will gain the courage to ask to hold a toddler you see on the floor at school. You will get a few minutes before her mom takes her back from you. It isn’t much, but I just wanted to let you know about that little tiny piece of joy that you’ll get, ’cause what I am about to tell you isn’t so good. Oh girl, you have such a sweet heart. I never want you to lose that zest of caring for others. Remembering how you felt in like October, before you even take off all your interview clothes, you make sure your roommate knows about the possibility of a kiddo. You’ll feel a little jealous that she gets kid-time longer than you did…a lot longer than you did, but I am so proud of you first for asking for kid time for yourself, and second for immediately letting others know. Your desire to make everyone happy is going to hurt you in the long run, but I am still wrestling with whether God really intends for you to make everyone happy and be hurt for doing the right thing or if you should have stopped being so nice, but this particular instance didn’t really hurt you so I suppose this is a question for another day.

I watch you make the same mistake you learn the hard way (JJ Heller—Only Have One)

You will have taken things into your own hands again, and pushed for what you needed. Good job. I am so proud of you. Unfortunately, you don’t have any way of knowing what lies ahead, and you don’t know yet about MJ or later about AR, so while you think you are fighting for something that is going to give you continuity and predictability and consistency, in reality what you are fighting for is not quite so ideal. You will spend hours writing an email for a very specific audience. That email will be shared beyond that audience. You will be upset. You will be angry…but you won’t tell anyone about it, and you won’t let on that you were upset. This should have been a big huge flashing warning sign alerting you to what was waiting ahead of you, but you were still so sure that you could make everything work out. You didn’t really understand that this was a HUGE deal…for all you knew so far, confidentiality was mostly just a nice idea anyway considering the sharing that happened first year. You didn’t know yet that you had rights…but you missed that sign still with your head in the clouds totally sure that everyone totally meant the best…Spoiler alert: you are very much aware that missionary dating is a bad idea, but somehow that idea didn’t transfer to missionary counseling, and it certainly should have. Ignoring this is not the only time you’ll make this mistake. Unfortunately, this a lesson you learn the hard way. You are going to be hurt both by confidentiality violations and so many other things and you will be treated as less than human, but I promise that you will make it out on the other side. Your grades will take a beating. Life will be hard, but you are strong, and you are going to make it. I can’t really blame you for staying silent. You had so few words. I look back now and see you as if you had the words I have now, but you didn’t. Your normal was still a few words here and there with some written word sprinkled in…and even if you had been ready for confrontation at that stage, confrontation is just not very effective when it is carried out with minimalistic words and followed with silence. That is something I can’t fix for you. You are going to spend so many hours over the next year crying, but you are also going to be okay. God has a plan for you. I don’t really know the whole picture yet either, but this is not the end.

I thought I was doing what you wanted it wasn’t so easy (Everything is Changing JJ Heller)

Oh girl. I don’t even know what to say to you. What can I say to someone who is trapped in abuse yet is still so sure that she can fix it? What can I say to someone who is working so hard to make everyone happy and is failing yet thinks if she tries just a little harder she’ll be okay? What can I say to someone who cannot speak up out of fear of the consequences and wrath that will follow? Girl, you are strong. I don’t know what to say to you, but I am living testament to the fact that you will make it. A couple of weeks into third year you will be crying and upset that your consistency is being threatened…she has already made it clear that she wants to get rid of you. You are looking for ideas and your friends will encourage you that maybe you can do it on your own and that what is happening to you is totally not okay and really should not be happening, but you aren’t really ready to admit that maybe what you were fighting for wasn’t so good, and you still want to believe that you can make this work. You just need to try a little harder and not rock the boat. You will keep the ship mostly afloat until November. It will start sinking faster. You will get it up again, but spoiler alert: it will not stay up. I know you want me to tell you that if you keep trying you can make it work, but that is not true…You are trapped. You will people please your little heart out, but the harder you try the more you will be taken advantage of, and the more you will be crushed when things continue to crash faster than you can fix it. I know you want to think that if you just try maybe a little bit harder you can fix it, but I am here to tell you that you can’t. It is not your fault. No matter how fantastic you were, no matter how hard you tried, you were never going to come anywhere close to meeting the ever moving standards that were set up for you, and you shouldn’t have had to. You were being disrespected and abused and you thought that was totally fine. You didn’t know better, but girlyQ, I wish I could tell you that you would escape unscathed and have the best year of your entire life. Instead what I can tell you is that you will discover how strong you really are and will slowly believe that you really do have value and deserve respect…and maybe in the end that is more valuable…I am not so sure yet…

I don’t have a lot more to say to you, but here are some things you should know. In January two people will die. You will be told that you are not grieving. I really doubt that, but you will believe it. You are not stupid, you just have bigger fish to fry than school right now even if you aren’t calling it grief. Remember coming up with the absolute worst possible thing that could ever happen…well in February it mostly happens. In March someone else will die. It won’t be handled well. I don’t want to talk about the other things that will happen, but basically, things will continue to deteriorate.

That crazy idea you had and brushed aside of maybe talking to AR…well, I really wish you had. I don’t know that it would have changed your life, but I know that not doing it sure didn’t lead to the greatest outcome either…maybe she could have been your savior…but that is neither here nor there, because you are far too afraid of stirring up the waters to be able to even consider acting on this thought…everything happens for a reason even the worst life brings (yes, that is a song…of course I know that you thrive on music…after all, I was you not that long ago). It is unfortunate that you have now learned that even minor confrontation brings waves of repercussions, and it will be hard to un-learn the act of bracing for impact.

On the positive side: you will finally break free of counseling and you will be hopeful of ending the abuse cycle…That freedom will be short lived…and that end is not quite so final. You will be followed. You will be watched. You will have your privacy violated far more deeply than ever before. You will lose all your friends. You will be treated even more as if you do not matter, and you will watch those hurting you be given power. You will do everything right yet continue to have more and more taken away from you.

But there is another positive, and it is something that no one can take away. You will finally be free of the chains that have been holding you within the walls of your self-made prison. Oh girl, you think the amount you communicate now is reasonable, but this is so much better. Don’t get me wrong, I am SO proud of where you are now—you have worked really hard and have done really well, but there is more out there for you. I know this seems unimaginable, but there is a world out there in which you can say nearly whatever you would like to say. You haven’t lost the people pleasing part of your personality, but you will become willing to stand up for your rights a little more often, and you will finally be able to see people and just talk to them…it is really cool to be one of those people who can’t walk down the hallway without stopping to talk to at least one person. I know you think that will never be you, but I am here to tell you that it will. What a change! The freedom you have yearned for! It is not just socially that you are set free either girlyQ. You will also be set free from the OCD that has had a knife to your neck for so long. You kinda get a little bit excited and curious about the world around you. It is exhilarating to be free, but just a few days ago I still had to reign you in a little bit…Curiosity killed the cat, and I don’t want it to do the same to you. I love you and want you to succeed (’cause after all, whatever you do, past me, will affect me, future you). I will not let you stop to lick the port-a-potty that has been graffitied on the side of the road…you can thank me later for that one. I know right now you think there is no way you would ever think about doing that, but…well…let’s just say that it is still really exciting and freeing to not be held down by fear of germs and you will want to explore a world whose door has been shut to you for so long. The world truly is a beautiful place when you can pull your mind away from the germ radar. You don’t know what you are missing. Perhaps those videos you watched of people doing crazy things like licking shoes, sleeping in an abandoned hospital, and playing in dumpsters are now giving you a false sense of security about the world around you, but you feel like you want to try everything and I am working really hard to figure out how much is safe to let you explore and what is off limits.

Your grades are going to go downhill with everything you are dealing with, but they do not define you. You are strong. You are resilient. You are an incredible girl, and I believe in you. I love your bubbly optimistic spirit. I kind of wish you could sit still and focus, but I have to admit that it is pretty fun to hear your giddy squeal of joy when you discover and announce that when you sit in this position that you can feel your os coxae in four places at once…and it is sorta cute when you scream that it is really cold after drawing a smiley face in the snow on your car with your bare hand…don’t lose your child-like spirit! If jumping up and down listening to Dance Kung Fu makes you smile then I say go for it…as long as you can do it quietly enough so as not to bother those around you.

Keep up the good work!

With deep sincerity,
Future You


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