My 5-Year-Old Self – Here are 3 Things I would Tell Her
Trigger warning: mention of abuse and suicide.
When I was five years old, I lived with my parents and my sister in a suburb of a Northern German town. My parents owned a restaurant and our living accommodations were attached to it. I had to help out in the hot kitchen every day. I peeled potatoes, I rolled meatballs, I cut vegetables. We lived next to a protected forest with wild animals, lakes, rivers and lots of greenery. I loved that forest. I took my bike and spent time in nature alone for hours every day. I loved sitting under a tree and read ( I learnt to read at the age of four). Sometimes I would take my four year old sister with me.
When I was five years old, I went to preschool. I had some friends and I enjoyed being at their houses more than being in my home. We went on bike rides, we played together and we had sleepovers. I liked preschool because we learnt maths, and I got to take books home to read.
When I was five years old, the person I was closest to, was my grandfather. He took us on trips to the North Sea, to Eastern Germany, to zoos and we stayed over at my grandparents’ house a few times a month. He bought me books, he told me I am beautiful. They had bunnies and cats, and I loved playing with them.
When I was five years old, my mother got pregnant with my brother. I wanted a brother. But I didn’t want to have protect him like I had to protect my sister. My mother explained to me how babies were made. I explained it to everyone at preschool which made angry parents call my mother, and I got punished.
When I was five years old, I almost never slept. My sister and I shared a room. The room was right over the pub part of the restaurant. Drunk men would sing and yell all night. We hated it. They scared us because they sometimes touched us funny. Being in this room, at home, didn’t feel safe.
When I was five years old, my father went into such a rage that he tried to kill me and my sister with an ax. We were hiding behind wooden stairs because we were afraid of him, so he got an ax to break through the steps of the staircase. I pushed my sister behind me, I wanted to save her.
When I was five years old, I was constantly scared. My father told me that I was fat and too smart to ever get a man. I got hit for asking questions. I got hit for asking for ice cream. And a lot of times I took the beating for my sister.
When I was five years old, I allowed my sister to sleep in bed with me. I would tell her stories until she fell asleep. Then I walked over to her bed, knowing that my father would always look there first when he needed to hurt someone. I wanted her to sleep. I didn’t need sleep.
When I was five years old, I tried to kill myself.
Three Things I would Tell my 5-Year-Old Self
I was not a happy child. But there were definitely happy moments, even when I was five years old. But most of all, my five year old self was scared and my self-confidence was low. I was burnt out by protecting my sister and the abuse I had to go through every day. I was stuck and there was no way out for me. So I often escaped my torture chamber and spent time in nature, with my grandparents and or at my friends’. Here are the three things I would tell my 5-year-old self today:
He is not going to have control over you forever
I know it feels like forever. I know it feels like it is never going to end. You can’t pick your family, you are stuck with them. I know it feels terrible, little girl. What he does to you is not right, it is wrong. He is bad, you are not. He is wrong. And he will end up old and alone. It is going to get worse before it gets better. But the older you get, the more you will be able to distance yourself from him. And then, when you are big and wise, you will not talk to him anymore. But even before that, he is going to lose his control over you. I know you need him right now. He feeds you, he clothes you, he is the stronger one. But deep inside, he is weaker than you. He only feels strong when he hurts others. You are strong because you don’t allow him to break you. Your life right now, with him in the same house, is terrible. I know. But you are going to move away, countries away, and far far in the future, also continents away. You are stronger than him. The control he has over you is deceiving. Just wait, little girl. This is not forever.
She is going to be okay
I know you love her, your little sister. You protect her, you take her pain away. You read to her, you tell her stories. You take the blame for things that she has done. Girl, you are the best sister anyone could ever wish to have. And she loves you. For the rest of her life, she will be able to live and love and have fun, because you made sure she wouldn’t get too hurt. Don’t give yourself a hard time for not always being able to protect her. You are doing the best that you can. You are doing more than anyone could ever ask for in a sister. What you are doing, is going to save her. She is going to grow big and healthy. I am not going to lie to you. She will also feel pain. She will call you crying, telling you that she thinks she is broken and that our past ruined her. But she is strong. Her friends are going to be her family. She will be a teacher. And she will be a mother, can you imagine that, little girl? She is going to have a boy. So everything you are doing right now, the pain you are taking away from her and for her, all that is going to make a future possible for her. You are a good sister. You are a good girl.
You are going to be desired, loved and appreciated
He is lying to you. You are beautiful, little girl. You are perfect the way you are. I know you want him to love you. You want to make him proud so he tells you that he loves you. And it hurts, so so much, when he never tells you that. The things he is telling you about yourself, are lies. The men that he sees in your future, are not the kind of men you are going to choose. You will go your own way, make your own choices. His opinion won’t matter anymore when you are big. But even now, you are perfect, little girl. And you will grow into a beautiful, special woman. You will stick out and people will admire you for being you. And you will be loved. By men who deserve you and who are good to you. They will be nothing like him. And, my smart girl, your intelligence, wit and talent with words, are going to be your best asset. People will admire you for your ability to think, to ask the right questions, and to be honest. Don’t let him fool you. You are perfect, talented and interesting. He is nothing. He is pathetic and forgettable. But you are going to be different, and liked. Believe in yourself, you don’t need him for that.