In March 2020, I saw my first therapist. Finding the courage to do so started almost four years prior during my senior year of high school…
It began when my high school art teacher had asked me to see the school’s psychologist after she noticed that I was losing a lot of weight very fast. I was suffering from an eating disorder at the time. She was the only teacher that really noticed. I saw the psychologist once but never went again.
In college, I started to suffer from extreme bouts of anxiety. I was already recovering from the eating disorder, but the anxiety was worse than in previous times. My supervisor at work insisted for me to see a therapist. I called my medical insurance company but never went through with the rest of the process.
In my last year of college, my anxiety and depression began to ramp up even more. But when my dad was diagnosed with cancer followed by mom going through surgery, I had a decline in my mental health like never before.
My mentors, my supervisor, my friends, and my boyfriend all insisted for I see a therapist multiple times thereafter. What I didn’t want to admit was that I was afraid of talking to a stranger about what happened to me when I was about four years old.
I was ashamed because I couldn’t remember all the details. Neither how long the sexual abuse had gone on. I think a part of me also believed that it had been my fault. It was something I had shoved into the corner of my mind for many years and never wanted to look back.
Unfortunately for me, this became the first topic my therapist wanted me to go through with her. I wanted to bury myself at the centre of the Earth and never be found when she said this.
She asked me to order a specific workbook from which I would work on by myself, and then go through it with her afterwards. There was one exercise, however, that impacted me very much. I decided to record it on my phone and listen to it whenever I needed it.
Today, I share it with you. It’s a simple letter. But when you feel vulnerable and broken, it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone. And as you read this, remember that it’s never too late, nor are you ever too broken to heal.
Letter to An Abused Child: A Writing Exercise (Brief Instructions)
Imagine a child who is the age you were when you were first abused (or think of when you were abused). Set a timer or alarm clock for twenty minutes, and write a letter to that child, explaining why the abuser is at fault. Tell her not to blame herself. Let him know that he is not innocent. You are the one link that a child has to hope and self-love. As you pick up your pen, think of yourself as a lifeline. Take the next twenty minutes to write.
I know right now you may not fully understand what has happened. I know you’re confused. Don’t worry miija, I’ve been there before too. I know exactly what you’re feeling.
I’m writing you this letter to let you know that there’s nothing wrong with you. What has happened isn’t because of something you did or didn’t do. What has happened is not and will never be your fault. I need you to remember this.
This may leave a scar. It will most likely hurt, especially in the future when things don’t go the way we want them to. Especially when we don’t have control of the things around us. But look mija, read this very clearly; you are worthy of love. You are worthy of care. You are radiant, beautiful, and so much more. Do not let this turn off the light that shines within. It’ll be hard, but I have faith that you can do it.
Things will be hard. You might question why sometimes you feel fear or anxious for no reason. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Just know that everything will be okay. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to feel like you lost something, now or in the future. But just know that you’re still you. You have the power and strength you need inside.
You might not fully understand everything I’m writing to you right now. That’s okay. But I want you to take this letter with you everywhere you go. When you feel scared, touch its edge. When you’re worried, rub its surface. This letter is to remind you that what has happened doesn’t define you. Unfortunately, it’s just an ugly chapter in your life’s book. But the good thing is that there’s always a rainbow after a bad storm.
You have a breath to soothe you. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, just take a deep breath. Even if it feels weird or scary, remember that you can always come back to your body. You’re safe there.
What has happened does not make you any less. You are enough. I send you love, warmth, peace, and well-being my dear. Stay whole.
The Courage to Heal Workbook by Laura Davis. Chapter: Understand That it wasn’t Your Fault, Pg. 269.