I got this letter from my soul sister, Kathy. It came after I wrote an article on How to Tell Your Lover You Survived Childhood Sexual Abuse.
Her response was private.
And it moved, surprised and challenged me.
It made me realize how much shame I still carry for the abuse I endured even when I am my most empowered and self-loving version of myself. It showed me how I feel, at best, that I am someone to be tolerated or put up with—not chosen, loved or adored.
I didn’t fully realize I carried this belief until I read her words.
That’s one of the things I love about writing—how it reveals others to us and ourselves as well.
Her words, though penned for me, are so filled with love and carry with them a universal message.
This group of letters is like a bowl of popcorn I want to share so other souls can nibble, devour and treasure as I have.
Kathy’s Letter (shared with you with permission):
“I’ve never found that someone loves me more after finding out about childhood sexual abuse. I mean they might not love me less after I disclose it. They might even think I’m strong or resilient or better understand my trust issues after it’s been said.
No one has ever said, ‘Got me an incest survivor—how lucky am I?'”
Well…so this line has been ringing in my head since you wrote it. Because, as all calls to the soul do, until I respond, it lingers in the air waiting.
I beg to differ, dear girl. In fact, I am certain I did love you more after finding out about your childhood sexual abuse. Because if what I love is beauty and truth, courage and resilience—then seeing more of those qualities in a person would incline me to love them, appreciate them, even more. It was like seeing you with new eyes:
You weren’t just this amazing, intelligent, funny, compassionate, complex woman. You were all of these things alongside of every reason not to be.
I think this is what non-survivors can teach survivors who hide in such shame that isn’t theirs. Who have such fear that the best they can do is “pass” for someone “normal.” Who maybe hope to get their story so far in the rear view mirror, that they can become a different person who never needs to tell anyone about their history.
But I think they deserve to bring on all the love. Take the leap of faith, that there are many hearts in this world who will understand that trauma survivors have the potential to be among the most beautiful people on the planet. The most compassionate. The most indicative of just how much a human spirit can come back from. Just how much beauty can come from germinating time in hell. They can be our spiritual warriors who prove that with love all things are possible.
Survivor community gives the first vital empathic understanding. I totally get that. The shorthand of speaking the first language. The comfort of knowing that in the ways you feel “broken,” others do too. The ease of acceptance and belonging to a tribe. That comfort and safety is mother’s milk.
But having vital connections with non-survivors who know your history gives the felt experience that you can be loved for the very one you are, in all the particulars. That you are not someone to recoil from, or a difficult package to unwrap with all your “issues.”
That you are in fact a gift.
You in particular, Cis White, are a gift to me. And I don’t think I could love you more than I do, but the way you keep blooming in that lotus heart of yours I’m not ruling it out.
Please, please, please soak in gratitude for yourself for all the ways you have transformed, and continue to transform pain into purpose, service and Love.
How friggin lucky am I? If you have a “Kathy” in your life please call, love and thank her. If you don’t, I’m sorry because the world actually is easier with friends like this.
But know she exists and is not a myth or fairy tale or unicorn. Kathy MacDonald. She actually exists.
But still—I have to be honest and say that for weeks I couldn’t read her letter all the way. I kept hesitating, almost in disbelief, and I’d end before finishing or only skim the words.
Instead of good it made me feel the opposite. At first. It made me remember who gut-wrenching it was not to be held, embraced, loved, wept with and supported when I disclosed abuse. That too is always with me as an ancient ache that can still surface and sting.
The child part of me can still freeze, clench and hide. The kid part can still find it difficult to stand up straight, lift chin to the sky and inhabit a new and empowered posture 24/7.
I am still capable of feeling the pain of being disbelieved, questioned first about the facts of abuse and later about the significance.
How bad was it really? Could it (abuse) really cause PTSD? Is maybe something else wrong? Could you think of it as inappropriate as opposed to molestation Maybe if you dwelled less, were more forgiving and less serious.
It’s not new. It’s not news. I wish I could make the memory less electric but it still shocks and rattles.
It was the assault of cold (trauma) and being left to shiver naked and alone (neglect) which both shaped the child’s view of the world.
I can’t go back in time and protect and warm myself now though I wish I could.
But my friend and her words can be a softness that warms if I let them. Can I let them blanket the open wounds on my soul?
There is so much love in the world and there is beauty, awe and wonder too. I’ve been held by the kind gestures of other people’s parents, my own lifesaving aunt and friend after countless friend who wiped tears and gave tissues when I’ve lamented.
Sometimes, at first, kindness hurts before it heals.
Sometimes, for me, warmth brings the memory or the times I could have used this blanket more instead of me first melting into the softness of now.
There may always be some part of me wishing to transplant today’s love into the past,
There may always be a me who imagines a world where I had been loved by a mother and a father who were adults, able to attached and be supportive.
I may always wonder what it would be like to feel anchored rather than orbited.
I can never know this as a child, but I can know it now.
Eventually I read her letter our loud to myself and my icy distance was melted by tears. The love can be felt now if I’ll allow it, trust and maybe even invite it in.
Her letter is a stunning gift. These words. This friendship. They are here now.
My friend is giving me love for all of who I am, excluding nothing.
Can I let it in? Will I attempt to trust? This is the healing work of now and it’s not easy or familiar but it’s new track I want to lay down.
Can I warm my skin and let my soul bathe in this hot spring?
Can I be my cat by the window when the first patch of warmth hits the rug? Can I claw into it and claim it for myself knowing it will only spread through the rest of the room and day?
Kathy’s letter is personal and private and friend to friend.
It’s also universal, wonderful and divine and she gave me permission to share it so I have because I hope it radiates and soothes.
I hope that every survivor of childhood sexual abuse feels more acceptance and love. I hope every survivor feels less stigma and shame.
“A gift” she said I was—we are, all of us.
Each and every one of us.
And she’s right.
Author: Cissy White
Editor: Emily Bartran