You are trying to live your life as though you did not survive a childhood trauma that was meant to destroy you. At some point this year you will ask yourself, Why do I like to hurt so much? The answer is simple, although you cannot yet see it. It’s because you think you deserve it.
I reread all your journal entries today. I noticed something in the blank spaces between the lines. On the days where you face the sun and feel its warmth, you know what you ought to do. You know what love is not. You know you deserve better. You know you need to realign yourself with God. You know all these things but you don’t do them. Twenty-year-olds tend to be self-destructive. Especially twenty-year-olds who have gone through what you’ve gone through.
Mostly I just want to tell you to forgive yourself. That you’ll repeat the same mistakes with different people until you learn to absolve yourself of the shame. One day you will learn the difference between I made a mistake and I am a mistake. Until then, gift yourself the same empathy you give so freely to others.
You are obsessed with finding “The One.” Maybe it was all those Seventeen magazines you pored over in high school or all the Mandy Moore movies you and your sister watched from underneath blanket fortresses. Either way, you are filling your journals with pages of unmet expectations and heartache that are symptomatic of your savior complex.
You spend nights yearning to be held, comforted and understood by men that do not love you. You think they love you. They will say they love you. The truth that hides in plain sight is they do not love you. In return, you do not love them. Not fully. Not well. Not at all. You don’t know this yet. What you do know is that you love puzzles. The thrill of problem-solving and piecing things back together. Like broken people who require so much attention, there is no time to look in the mirror and tend to your own wounds. You think to yourself, I can be the one. The reason they will be inspired to change.
Every relationship you lose yourself in will crack open in the same vitriolic manner because you have not learned to love yourself. You don’t yet enjoy your own company, instead, filling your free time with friends and vices. You haven’t yet committed to a therapist for anything more than one or two months at a time. For a long while, you stop going altogether because you think you no longer need it. You say to yourself “It happened. It’s over. I’m good now.” But this is what I want you to know, my love:
The body keeps the score. Even when you work so hard to forget. The body remembers. That is the nature of trauma.
The Woman You Needed as a Girl
P.S. A year from now, Jennifer won’t even be your name.