An Open Letter to All of the Beautiful People with Scars like Mine.
Hi there, my name is Macaile.
I wish I was there right now to give you a big hug and look you in the eyes while I told you that everything was going to be okay, but I’m hoping maybe part of this letter will make you even feel just a tiny piece of comfort.
A little bit of hope.
A glimmer of light in what feels like an endless darkness.
First, I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. I’m 27, I live in Boise, Idaho, and I love coffee, writing, and gold everything.
I have a great family, an incredible support system of friends, and I absolutely love my job.
I bought a house in downtown Boise, and I like to think it kind of looks like a castle.
I am happy, healthy, and I have finally made peace with my past.
Oh, that’s a detail I should probably elaborate on.
I was sexually abused for the first six years of my life.
I didn’t remember anything about what happened until I was 14 years old, when memories that felt like they didn’t belong to me began flooding my brain. I thought it was a dream, I thought I was making it up; I thought it was my fault, and I thought I was crazy. I remember wishing more than anything that I could forget it all and go back to the way things were before I remembered what happened.
I remember feeling like I was broken, like I would never be able to feel like I was normal again.
In high school, I tried to control anything I could in order to try to better my future and erase my past. I struggled with disordered eating, I cut myself, and I kept everything locked inside to a point where I made myself physically sick.
I had ulcers, doctors told me I was depressed, and I struggled with anxiety whenever things felt like they were slipping out of my control.
I used to think that if I hurt myself, it was proof that I had taken my control over my body back. Like it finally belonged to me again.
It was my way at getting back at the people who hurt me.
I have since learned that the best revenge is living a happy, healthy life, and treating my body with love and respect.
I have learned that my scars, both internal and external, are not something to be ashamed of.
My scars are proof that I survived.
I have also learned that giving myself new scars does not make the old scars go away.
Almost five years ago, I decided to speak publicly about what happened to me.
I partnered up with Speak Your Silence and I launched a fundraising campaign in order to raise money for counseling grants for people who have been personally affected by sexual abuse. I remember my voice shaking, my knees feeling like they were going to give out, and my heart pounding as I stood in front of over 100 people to speak my silence aloud.
I was so scared for that moment because it felt like saying it all out loud would make it real. I remember feeling like once that moment was over, everyone would know my secret and I could no longer pretend it didn’t happen or push it down in my backpack to deal with another day.
I was certain people would think of me differently, and I was worried things would never be the same.
I’ll tell you this, things weren’t ever the same, but in a way I never expected.
That afternoon, I received more hugs, donations, and mutual tears than I ever dreamed possible.
In just seven days, I had 11 people reach out to me and speak their silence that they had also been sexually abused at some point in their life. The number of people who have opened up to me now is in the triple digits.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I was alone.
You aren’t alone.
If the only point you take from reading this message is that fact, please believe it. You are not alone.
I know you are scared, that it feels like your head and your heart will never agree with your body, and I know sometimes it feels like it would be easier to stop trying or keep pretending it didn’t happen or just run until the past can’t catch up. I learned in the 16 years I tried to run from my secret that it always catches up.
I moved states, changed friends, switched jobs, lost myself, found myself, graduated from high school, college, and graduate school, and no matter what, the past always found a way to find me.
But one day I was so sick of hiding what happened, so sick of protecting the people who hurt me, and so tired of feeling like I didn’t even know the girl staring back at me in the mirror, that I decided to take everything out of the backpack I’d been carrying around for so long and see it for what it is: something that happened.
I don’t want to downplay what happened to me or anyone else dealing with memories of sexual abuse, but once I understood that it was something that happened and not part of who I am, I realized that I hold the pen in writing my future.
I learned that talking about it is the only way to make the hurt go away. Putting a face and a name and a feeling to all of the mixed-up corners of my heart and head made it so they could not longer have power of me anymore.
It’s amazing how high you can fly when you choose to let go of all of the weight that has been holding you down.
I know right now it seems like it’s impossible, but it’s not.
You are beautiful, you are worthy of self-love and love from those around you, and you are enough. You are already enough exactly as you are.
Instead of trying to get back what someone took from you, I want you to know that you are already whole.
We all have cracks and scars and jagged edges, but the people who love us will put their arms around us and hold all of those pieces together in the moments we need it most.
Surprisingly, it was a lot easier to open up to complete strangers than it was to talk to people that I am close to about what happened. I felt like it would change everything they ever thought about me or change the relationship that we have. I lived in fear of my secret getting out for so long that it became something bigger than the love I shared with my closest friends and family.
But once I chose to open up to the people in my inner circle, I learned that there is really no force bigger than the love we share.
We talked, we cried, and they held me together when everything else felt like it was falling apart.
Now, we all wear The Stitch and we all heal together.
I know we don’t know each other, but we will always share a similar scar. I’ve learned that it isn’t going to go away, so we might as well talk about it in hopes to prevent that scar from happening to someone else.
My voice used to shake and tears would fill my eyes whenever I talked about what happened to me, but it has now become something that I’ve been able to use to connect with people, help people, and something that has taught me how to love myself unconditionally.
I want you to know that if you need to talk, you have a family here. Sometimes the best way to feel understood is to look into the eyes of someone who understands.
I can’t promise I know exactly how you feel, but I can promise you that I’ve felt a similar shade of blue, or walked around carrying a backpack full of the same kind of weight at some point in my life. You don’t have to show me your scars, but if you ever need the reminder that you aren’t alone, I’ll show you mine.
You are going to be okay, and you are going to be able to move forward.
Sometimes we move forward in leaps and bounds, and sometimes it takes everything within us just to put one foot in front of the other.
I always say it takes tiny stepping stones in order to get across the river.
Right now, you are facing an ocean.
But little by little, you will make it across.
And someday, you just might find yourself sitting in the office of the castle you live in, writing a letter to a lost person who just got dropped into an ocean of his or her own.
In that moment, I hope you can look back at how far you have come, and smile.
Not because of what happened to you, but because you survived.