By Morgan Sutter
[CONTENT NOTE: Abuse, gaslighting, rape]
To My Present Self,
I know he loves you and I know he cherishes you. But I thought HE loved and cherished me too. HE told me how much HE loved me and wonderful I was and how lucky HE was. HE meant none of it. HE was a liar and a deceiver and felt no guilt or shame in hurting and exploiting me. HE cared only about HIMself and HIS needs. My needs were’t just secondary, they were completely irrelevant. HE chipped away my defenses with HIS sweet nothings and when they were down HE attacked in full force. HE robbed me of my sense of safety. HE stole my right to control my body and the choices I made with it. HE pillaged my self-esteem and left me believing I was worthless. HE burned the bridges to people who could have protected me. And HE raped me, body and soul, over and over and over.
When there was nothing left for HIM to take HE abandoned me. Scorched, burning, broken, ruined, defeated, raped. Mentally, spiritually and physically impoverished.
HE rode in like a knight and savagely conquered and fled.
So I am scared. I do not trust easily. I do not find people to be refuges of safety, I look at them as potential invaders. And I am terrified this new love will invade, and plunder, and abandon you.
I am terrified out of my fucking mind.
And I know you love him.
And that scares me even more.
Because your walls are coming down and that leaves me vulnerable to his attacks. And I don’t know if I could survive that again. I barely lived last time and I will be damned if I ever leave myself that open and vulnerable again. I will be damned.
So don’t dismiss me. Don’t roll your eyes. I’m not crazy, and my fears are not without warrant. Please, don’t rush me. Please don’t make me do things I’m not ready for. Please hear my fears and my pain. Please let me have a voice in this and let my voice be heard. I promise to try and hear you back. I promise when I am too scared to trust this new love I will try to trust you. I know you have helped me. I know you have honored my pain. I know you have earned my trust. And when I am terrified out of my mind I will try and cling to that. I will remember you are worthy of my trust. I will remember you believe me. I will remember you hear me. I will remember you see me, and I will try to let this new love see me too.
Just be gracious and gentle with me. And please give me time.
Dear 17-year-old Me,
Thank you. Thank you for trusting me enough to share your fears and make them known. They are valid, your fears are valid. The pain, the trauma, all of those are real. They really happened. They were horrifying. They never, never, never should have happened.
What happened was not your fault. What happened was not your fault.
What happened was wrong. How you feel is not your fault.
I will not minimize your pain or your fear. But gently, let me remind you, you are safe now. You survived. You got out and you fought like hell to live. And you did. And you are right to guard the life you fought so hard to reclaim. You are right to protect it. Thank you for fighting so hard. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for being so proud and protective of your hard work that you would speak up now.
Let me assure you, I will not let this new relationship undermine the work you have done. Let me promise you I care as deeply about our safety and well being as you do. You do not have to keep fighting to survive. We did survive. We are safe. You did your job.
Thank you. You have earned a rest. You have earned a break. You have earned peace. But you will always have a voice. I will hear your fears as they arrive. I will honor your pain when it flares. My being happy and in love does not threaten your safety or mean I have stopped honoring you.
I promise. I promise. I promise.
So rest warrior. You are safe. You are seen.
I will watch over us now. I will guard our agency. I will control what happens to and with our body and no one else. I will remind you how worthy we are of love, even love from ourself. I will take care of us. I will honor our pain and I will continue to work and build a beautiful future.
You are safe. You have earned rest. You are loved. You are seen. You are believed. Let me repeat that.
You. Are. Safe.
So sit under your own vine and fig tree, and let no one make you afraid.
I am her. I am standing watch over our body, over our mental health, and over our present, and I promise I’ve got this. If I ever “don’t got this,” I know how to ask for help now. I know where to get reinforcements. And I promise they will come. They will fight for us and keep us safe too. They love you as much as I do. I know trusting that will take time. It’s okay—you have that time, beloved. You have it.
Thank you for trusting me.
Be at peace beloved. Be at peace.
Your present self
Morgan Sutter is a writer and an actress from Chicago, IL. She is the co-writer of the hit musical Vyrosla and has appeared in various plays and musicals throughout the greater Chicago area for the last five years. Alongside being a nanny, she is also pursuing her graduate degree in social work at Loyola University. Follow Morgan on Twitter here!