Essay: a letter to my 16 year old self, Irish Country Magazine April ’22:

Mia Christina Doring
5 min readApr 23, 2022

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A Letter to my Younger Self,

This was supposed to be a loving letter to you about what is to come, and how you’ll be okay in the end, whatever ‘the end’ is. These letters are supposed to inspire the reader to forgive their own younger selves, but I’m not sure this one is going to be very inspirational. I feel impatient and angry with you because of all the disaster choices you are going to make, how you’re going to project your sense of worthlessness into the world and live according to this false narrative.

You have not been raped yet. Your life is school and friends, bad poetry, ponies and guinea pigs, drinking in parks. I would like to go back and pause you there, pre-rape. I don’t know what I would say to you. I summon you into my mind. You have long brown hair. You are funny. Things are not easy even before you were raped. You are deeply insecure, and you try to hide this with a fragile front of knowing. Probably nothing I would say would land with you anyway; you are determined to find your own way.

A boy raped you in one of those vodka-fueled Friday night blackouts in a park. Then you got yourself involved with a man who exploited you for three years, and then you sold sex as a side job while you were in college. This was years long.

And all the time you were your sensitive, helpful self; you went to school and then college, as if none of it was dripping down behind the scenes. The discrepancy between the outer life lived and the more private happenings is stark. I think about your enormous capacity for darkness, even at sixteen. A few years ago I read an article online about the sex trade. A man commented, meanly: There is something wrong with a woman who was able to sell sex. Think about what she was capable of doing. It resonated with me. Yes, there was something wrong with you to have been able to do that. It feels satisfying and self-righteous to be angry with you, rather than allowing the sadness of understanding.

You began two distinct lives in the moment you realised you were being raped. The shock of sex, the shock of that sex being rape, was overwhelming for your system and it shut down. On the bus home, as you held your shattered parts together, a friend asked if you were okay. You said you didn’t like that Peter guy. ‘Why did you go into the trees with him, then?’ she responded. You didn’t have an answer, except that you’d wanted to be loved, and the disconnection inside yourself cemented.

In an effort to contain the darkness, we justify it, minimise it, blame ourselves, abandon the pain and, therefore, ourselves. Trauma disconnects us from ourselves, splitting the experience off into a fixed entity inside us. It is not able to flexibly ebb and flow like our other parts. And splitting begets splitting, as our nervous systems attempt to keep our vulnerable parts hidden and protected.

Your sexuality was damaged from being raped, which is obvious. Then this part tried to reform itself into a tolerable identity. Rape victim was not one. If you feel guilt, you must be bad, and therefore you would be the baddest bad you could be. You will agree to meet the man so much older than you. As you hold one hundred pounds in your hands, you feel the thrill of having sexual power. Three or so years later, when you finally get rid of him, you will make the monumentally stupid decision to upload an ad on an escort website, and between college commitments you will visit strange men in hotel rooms all over Dublin city, your worth capped at €150 for half an hour, or €250 for the hour.

Is it hard to forgive you, because if you hadn’t been so naive I, now, could be in a different situation. Maybe I’d be happy enough in daily life. Maybe the slate grey background wouldn’t be there. Maybe I’d be an artist like you wanted. Maybe I would be freely enjoying my life, instead of always waiting for the next threat to land.

On some level, you must know that selling sex isn’t a good idea, given that you tell no-one about it. On another level, since the rape, you felt that being hurt was something you deserved, perversely, to somehow right the wrong. Using your body in this way gives you a sense of sexual control and fleeting, shallow power. I can see what you were doing now, so many years later. It’s just your body, your stupid body that made that boy rape you. Why not use it to your advantage? I think maybe the bit that needed to feel valued glossed over the part that knew it was harmful. Unfortunately, it will take a really bad man to wake you up to your self-worth, and to the misogyny inherent in the sex trade.

None of it was your fault. It couldn’t have been any other way; it was all laid out for you. You were making choices within a certain framework, one which tells us over and over that our value lies in how valuable we are to men, a framework which takes advantage and manipulates the vulnerability of being young, female and traumatised.

I wish you had told someone wise and kind after that boy raped you. I wish you had been able to connect to your pain. I wish you’d had the safety to fall apart, to break open. I wish you had never allowed that man his unearned power over you. I wish that you were able to see your self-worth clearly, and not only as a vessel for mens’ sexual gratification. I wish that wasn’t how it goes for so many girls and young women. I wish you weren’t raped. I wish that the sex trade didn’t exist. I wish men who use women in this way didn’t exist. I wish you didn’t have to deal with all these memories. I wish your innocence and joy back to you.

You’re going to write a book about everything that happened. This will be a pretty cool reclaiming of your power, even if it takes you three versions and nearly ten years to do it. It will cost you a lot, but it will be worth it. You’ll be so pleasantly surprised by people’s reactions to your incremental revelation. You will meet kind and passionate people en route to your book being made. You will meet creative people who understand what it is to put your whole heart into the world. Your agent is one of the most considerate people you’ll meet. Your publisher’s passion for the book will take you aback. The cynical internal voice telling you that that it’s just a sensational story will take a day off and make space for the truth; this is a radical, defiant thing that you are doing. The book is you giving yourself the chance, now, to fall apart. Now you can break open.

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Mia Christina Doring

Writer // Therapist // Author of Any Girl. Writing in Litro Magazine, Ropes Journal, The Bohemyth, Headstuff, The Journal, Huffington Post.