To the First Man I Ever Loved:
I remember exactly how good you made me feel at 16 years old. How I told you things I had never told anyone. How hearing your voice, seeing you, just knowing you loved me, was enough for me to forget what he did to my innocent body.
I thought I was what you wanted, you told me that it was.
Then everything I knew shattered in an instant. You broke me, broke me even worse than what he did to me when I was asleep.
I remember walking aimlessly through the park, earphones in, asking myself why you would do this? Whether you ever even loved me at all?
Nobody understood, really understood, what losing you felt like. How you were the first person I could open up to, how I’d gotten it into my little young head that we would love each other forever, that I really couldn’t imagine loving anyone else but you.
When I finally moved on and found love elsewhere, you used to ask me why I didn’t hate you, tell me that I should hate you, insist that that was what you deserved.
You would tell me that losing me was one of the biggest mistakes of your life.
You would tell me that he was so lucky, so lucky, because he got to be with me but you couldn’t.
I used to play ‘Clarity’ by Zedd because you showed the song to me, because you not so subtly wanted me to know that I was the piece you were still missing.
I used to play ‘Back to the River’ by Lily and Madeleine because every time I heard those sweet melody and dark lyrics, that I would remember how our love was like nothing else I’d ever felt. Nothing else had come close.
But I don’t play ‘Clarity’ or ‘Back to the River’ any more. I don’t need to. Because I don’t think of you any more. I haven’t in years.
You see, when I was 16, and you told me I was in too deep, that I scared you away. When you lied about the drugs you took so you wouldn’t lose me. When you called me the r slur, when you didn’t answer my calls, part of me died.
And that part was already so miniscule, the remnants of what my sexual abuser left of me.
It was another thing to blame myself for, to remind myself that nobody would ever love me, that it was me that drove everyone away.
And for years, I believed all that. I believed that it was me.
I was punching doors, cutting glass in my arms, attempting to choke my own throat, taking pills, just so I could numb the pain I felt from you walking away from me.
I was only 17. I was done with my life. I just wanted it over.
But something happened when I started university. I had guys coming up to me, asking me out, making conversation, reveling in my passion for my studies. I was making friends easily and quickly. My eyes opened up to a life outside of you. My passion for Psychology stopped me from believing that my life was over, that my future was going to be about just loving you, moping about you, hoping you would come back to me.
Fast forward 5 years, to me being married with three children, and your platonic messages attempting to be my friend. The words on my screen were not just words, they were utter heartbreak. You wanted that to have been you.
You told me “Congratulations” on my family, you tried, really tried, to keep a distance, to let me be happy, to move on with life.
Because you knew, oh you knew, that our ship had sailed a long time ago. That we were very much a thing of the past.
But you did what any friend would do. When I was down, you were there, listening. When I questioned my worth, you reminded me that I saw yours even when you didn’t. When I spoke to you confused about other people’s behaviour, you said, “you have an infinite level of empathy. Even after everything I’ve done to you, you still don’t hate me. More people should be like you.”
You told me, in very clear terms, that even when you had a fiancee prior, even when you’d had several relationships, even when you’d had extraordinary sex – nothing you felt for anyone and nobody you had met had even come close to me.
I thought you were bullshitting, doing everything you could to win me back, to tear me away from the new life I now had.
You did what many couldn’t and wouldn’t do in your situation, you let me go. For real this time. You said we could no longer be friends. That we had to finally move on. You were right.
Almost 12 years from those conversations, I have seen the light and realised you were doing nothing of the sort. You weren’t bullshitting about anything. You loved me, more than I realised.
You were trying to make me believe something I didn’t believe about myself.
I am now 34 years old. I came into the world, the unsuccessful result of a vasectomy. The doctor was sued because I came to exist. I was shown the paperwork – words on paper telling me that my birth was not wanted.
I was sexually abused for many years as a child. I kept this a secret, completely to myself, for 20 years. Even from you. When I spoke up about the abuse, my abuser tried to take me to court.
I jumped from job to job, making myself miserable and putting my mental health last.
Then my marriage with the father of my three children fell apart. Then two toxic relationships followed.
Following the second, I was broken. Utterly broken.
In addition to previous counselling, I have spent an intensive year putting everything into grieving 30 years of trauma both in my personal and professional life. I have worked with counsellors/psychologists, implemented many of their strategies. I exercise regularly now, have a much more consistent sleep routine. I push through those negative, anxious thoughts. I take deep breaths. I don’t avoid my triggers. I no longer dwell on the past. I do not regret any part of it. I no longer require any counselling – my psychologist said all I need to do now is be happy and move forward because I deserve that after everything I’ve been through. We both agree that I have talked through everything, there is nothing else I need to do except live and thrive.
Research states that anyone who has experienced similar to me, is much more likely to die by suicide, engage in risk taking behaviours such as illicit drug taking, engage in prostitution, and/or struggle immensely in their relationships.
According to any counsellors/psychologists I have worked with, I am “extraordinary” and “superhuman” because of my resilience and my positive attitude towards people and life.
I am proud to accept that as part of who I am. Because it is who I am. It’s exactly why I am still alive today.
The stories of my past no longer make me cry, they no longer make me sad. I do not hold any anger whatsoever for anyone who has ever hurt me. I forgive everyone, even the blood relation who sexually abused me. I do not regret any part of my life. I do not wish my life had turned out differently.
I am at peace. I am at peace, in part, because of the words that you, the first man I ever loved, told me.
The absolutely amazing and supportive man that I am now engaged to, tells me all the time how strong and capable I am. He loved me even when I was spiralling during the anxiety attacks, even when the negative thoughts were getting the better of me. He loved me when I believed I couldn’t push through the thoughts. He tough loved me, told me what I didn’t want to hear – because all he wanted was for me to be happy and to see myself the way that he sees me.
And funnily enough, the first love I had at 16, saw me a very similar way.
What this first love will never understand is this – I could never hate someone who was the absolute FIRST person who was able to get close to me, was the first person to see my worth.
I could never hate someone, who, albeit, for a short period of time, loved and adored me, who knew how special I was compared to anyone else.
I could never hate someone who after 17 years of breaking my heart, tells me that letting me go was one of the biggest mistakes of his life and whoever gets to be with me, is one lucky man.
So, no, I never hated you, I never did. In fact, I am grateful. Because of the love I felt for you and the love you felt for me, I know that the man I am engaged to is the person I am meant to spend the rest of my life with.
So I am glad that I have made you a better person. I am glad that because of me, because of us, your partner gets a better version of you. It makes me smile that you have let go of us, she sounds like a wonderful person.
And I am glad that because of you, because of us, I am finally at peace with all my trauma, truly and completely in love with my person, and excited about the future that lies ahead.
So, thank you, for being the first person to see me, truly see me, even when I couldn’t see myself.
That is the person my fiancé loves. That is the person that I finally love too.