Yesterday on NPR I heard a story about a 22-year old blogger who asked older female bloggers to write a letter to themself in their 20's. I kind of love this idea. I could totally write a series of letters to myself. The only thing is that I don't know if I'd want myself in my 20's to read them in case it would screw up my timeline. I feel like I am on the right path in life for me, and a lot of the things I did to get here I would regard as mistakes. Somehow, my mistakes seem to get me where I needed to go. I guess I just wish those mistakes were not so damaging to my self-esteem. So my first letter to 22-year old self would go something like this:
Dear Kristina Marie,
You have post-traumatic stress disorder. The vast majority of your emotional distress can be chalked up to this disorder. If you've heard of PTSD, it was connected to Vietnam Vets. It's the same disorder, but it can be caused by domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape. Our mom's therapist is an idiot for not calling the cops on our dad, but he was right when he told you that you were being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. The abuse was never your fault. When you go numb, it's because you learned to do that as a kid to deal with the abuse. What you went through was horrific, and you are very strong for surviving it. Most people don't understand the first thing about what it's like to grow up that way. You will find people who do understand though, but it may take time. It will take time for you to find the right treatment for the PTSD and work through it, and it will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better. I promise you. There is a support group in Seattle called "Survivors of Suicide". It will save your life someday. In the meantime, if you're going to go to therapy, talk about your childhood. Talk about the abuse. It was not your fault. You do not need to feel so ashamed that you can't even talk to a therapist about it. You did not deserve to be treated that way. You didn't deserve to be raped either. Being angry about it will not make you into your dad. You are not him. It is okay to feel things. Start by acknowledging your feelings to yourself. You don't need to share them if you don't want to. Try writing about how you feel. You don't need to show anyone. It will help.
I am going to tell you something you already know, you've always known- you are a writer. You always were a writer, and you always will be a writer. You practically came out of the womb using the written word to express yourself. Instead of sleeping with a teddy bear, you slept with Dr. Seuss' ABC book, for gods sake. You know this about yourself. Other people may doubt you, but don't doubt yourself. Those people don't know you. You will find ways to be a writer on your own terms. You will find ways to be recognized as a writer without needing the approval of any professor or editor. Believe in the part of you that believes in yourself. Your biggest problem is that you get in your own way, and get all stressed out about how things will turn out. I promise you, it will all work out. You will be happy and fulfilled. You will figure out how to live life on your own terms. Life is painful, and you've had more than your fair share. There is more pain to come. But trust me, life is also amazing and magical and too good to imagine. Focus on having fun no matter what is going on. Find the beauty in everything, even the most difficult circumstances. God doesn't hate you. You'll find people who appreciate you and a life that's really yours.
Speaking of people, some advice- you don't need a boyfriend every second of your life. Spend more time with your friends. When you're ready, and you meet someone who really gets you and appreciates you and is patient enough to get to know you. Take all the time you need to let someone earn your devotion and loyalty. If it doesn't feel right, walk away. You don't owe anyone anything. Anyone who pressures you for sex is a total and complete waste of your time. Don't ever think you need to have sex with someone when you don't feel comfortable. There's nothing wrong with you if you don't have a boyfriend or don't want to have sex. It's not a permanent condition, and it doesn't mean that you're damaged from the sexual abuse or that you'll never be able to be with anyone. There is nothing wrong with you sexually. If you're with someone who's right for you and you feel comfortable, you'll be amazed at how good it will feel. It won't feel bad or wrong or dirty. You won't feel bad or wrong or dirty. There is nothing wrong with wanting someone to love you before having sex with them. You are not unlovable! There are support groups and lots of other people out there who were sexually abused. What you are experiencing is totally normal for someone who was treated the way you were. It was not your fault. Just keep telling yourself that.
On the boyfriend thing, I recommend not living with any more boyfriends until you're really sure you've found someone you can settle down with. Give it time, like 10-15 years at least. It seems like a long time, but you'll be better off. If you do move in with someone and you start feeling like something is wrong or you feel scared, just leave. You don't owe anyone, and you deserve to live in a safe place. Sleep on someone's floor if there's no other options. Your safety is worth it. Also, just make it a policy that you don't loan anyone money. It's your money. If you need to explain, tell them that you've been burned in the past. No one has any rights to your hard earned cash. If they try to guilt trip you, they are the ones in the wrong. Don't run up credit cards, especially providing things for other people. You'll thank me for this one.
Finally, learn to play ice hockey ASAP. It is 10 times funner to play than to watch. It may seem like hockey is this totally weird part of your life because none of your friends are into it, but someday you'll be surrounded by really cool, fun, funny, understanding, geeky smart people who love it as much as you do. Getting started with the gear is the one exception to using a credit card I'll give you. Do it. You'll be awesome.
Love, your 38-year old self