Originally written on October 27, 2012
My name is Macaile Hutt and I have been carrying a heavy backpack for 7,273 days. That is 174,552 hours or 10,473,120 seconds. No matter how you look at it, I have been carrying this backpack for far too long.
I have tried to sugarcoat it, write it down, spell it out, and even forget about it, but the fact of the matter is there is no “nice” way to say what happened to me, so I am just going to say it.
For the first 6 years of my life, my neighbors molested me. I was told that in order to be in the “big girl’s club” I had to do certain things and allow things to be done to me. I was told that I was too young to be in the big girl’s club, but that if I kept it a secret, they would let me in. I viewed my neighbors as cool, superior, and someone I wanted to be more like. I trusted them. It was brought to my mom’s attention that another neighbor had been molested by these same two people and that they were going to move out of the neighborhood in order to protect their son. My mom asked me about whether or not anything had happened to me while I was under their care and I told her no. I didn’t want my secret to be found out and I definitely didn’t want to be kicked out of this exclusive club. After the incident with the other neighbor, I wasn’t allowed to go over to my neighbor’s house anymore, so I began to lie about where I was going or stop by their house while I was out playing with other kids. Even at that moment, I not only put a wall between myself and the outside world, but I began to carry a very heavy backpack that has been weighing on my shoulders for over 7,000 days.
It wasn’t until I was 14-years-old that memories of my childhood came back to me. 2,981 days ago I began to remember everything. I was babysitting one Saturday night and started flipping through a parenting book after I had put the kids to sleep. I started reading a chapter about what to do if you suspect your child is being molested and how to keep lines of communication open regarding safe/unsafe touch and why certain parts of your body are considered “private.” Like a broken floodgate, memories began pouring over me and I started having a full-blown panic attack. I called my mom and tried to talk to her but didn’t manage to get much out through my tears and anxiety. Luckily, a good friend of mine lived in the same neighborhood and came over to relieve me from babysitting so that I could go home to be with my mom. Ashamed and guilt-stricken, I avoided explaining what was actually wrong and I told my friend that I was sick, instantly adding a few more pounds to my backpack.
I will never forget the look on my mom’s face when I walked through the door that night. She looked broken, scared, and helpless. She knew exactly what I was remembering and felt like it was her fault that I had experienced the things that I had. She held me and tried her best to comfort me, but seeing the pain that my own sorrows were causing her only made me wish that I had never remembered anything, that I could take it all back. I started counseling pretty soon after, which helped, in a sense, but only made the flashbacks more frequent and more intense. I hated going to sleep at night in fear of what else I would remember. Just when I thought I had remembered everything, a new story would arise and a new picture would paint itself in full detail, leaving images that began to pile up in my backpack and travel with me wherever I would go.
I didn’t want anyone to know my secret. I would discuss the things that I was remembering with my counselor, but when I walked out of her door I tried to forget everything we had just discussed and go back to being “normal” in my mind. I missed a class due to a counseling session on October 12, 2004. Rather than give my teacher the note, I took a “truancy” for that class and had to go to Saturday School. I still carry that note with me, figuratively and literally.
I spent the next few years letting my memories and emotions bottle up inside of me. My senior year of high school I experienced multiple gastrointestinal issues, had to have an internal CAT scan and an endoscopy of my esophagus and intestines, along with biopsies in order to figure out what was wrong with me. My backpack literally made me so physically ill that a doctor had to put a camera down my throat and CUT PART OF MY ORGANS out to try and fix the problem. I hoped that I would lose my backpack in the process, but realizing how severe my memories were affecting my health only made matters worse. I continued to push my feelings aside and try my best to pretend that everything was okay. I managed to keep my “secret” under wraps for the most part, until I heard about Matt and his story.
I was working at Starbucks while getting my undergrad at Boise State University. Initially, I knew Matt as an Iced Venti Americano sweetened with classic syrup, but we began to form a friendship that I will forever be thankful for. Once I got to know Matt better and learned about Commit 65, I became so inspired by his story that I reached out to him about mine. I contacted Matt on July 27, 2010, 826 daysago and asked him if we could meet for coffee. We met up shortly after, and talked for a lengthy time about both of our stories. I was so fascinated by his ability to speak his silence so fearlessly and wished more than anything that I could do the same. I talked a little bit about my experience and for once I didn’t feel alone. We finished up our conversation and I put my experience with Matt into my backpack and walked away.
Now, not only did I feel as though I had a huge secret, but I had anxiety that someone else knew my secret and had the power to share. I became so concerned with what Matt thought of me, what he would tell his mother whom I adore and see at the gym quite frequently, what he would tell the rest of the world. I lived the next few months in fear that one day I was going to get an angry phone call from a friend or family member asking me why I hadn’t told them. Telling me they were disappointed, ashamed, angry. I piled all of my feelings into my backpack and decided that it was best if I carried my weight alone.
Since meeting with Matt, I have spoken my silence a few different times, but never fearlessly and without later worrying who they would tell, what they thought of me, whether their perception of me had been changed, the list goes on and on. I felt as though people would pity me, question my motives, or even worse….think I was lying.
While I pressed onward with my life in attempt to forget about my past, my life has been blessed over and over with wonderful, loving people who have supported me and helped me cope more than they could ever imagine. One of my very best friends is gay, and he has served as a huge inspiration to me in so many aspect of my life. I constantly find myself telling him how much I look up to his strength and security as he came out to parents, friends, and loved ones. I have told him so many times that I can’t imagine what it would be like to carry around a secret for so many years, all the while having a giant backpack pulling me to my knees. I have prayed so many times for a cure, for an answer, for all of this to go away.
I recently moved to Arizona for graduate school and a few weeks ago I started having flashbacks again. I started to withdraw from friends and family, repress the new memories as they came, and try to make the flashbacks stop. I wasn’t sleeping, I started feeling my stomach problems coming back, and I began to get so angry. I didn’t understand why this was happening AGAIN. I didn’t understand why these memories couldn’t seem to leave me alone. I wanted to be able to move forward with my life, I wanted an answer.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that the answer to my problem pretty much slapped me in the face. A video of Matt launching his “Speak your Silence” campaign came up on my newsfeed on Facebook. I watched the video and wished so desperately that I could help in some way, come up with a grand gesture to get the word out there to help other people that were struggling with a secret. Rather than expose my own backpack, I tried to think of ways to help others let go of theirs. I continued with my day, but the thoughts kept nagging.
Today, the video was brought to my attention again. I was having coffee with a friend and Matt’s name came up. I started to share his story with her and showed her his Speak Your Silence video. This time, his words hit me like a ton of bricks. I hadn’t realized the impact that Matt has had on me until today. It wasn’t until I heard myself saying all of the wonderful things about Matt out loud that I learned not only did sharing his story help him become stronger, but it made me view him as an even more amazing person than I did before I knew the trials he had been through. I wasn’t ashamed of him, I wasn’t disappointed in him, I was proud of him.
I realized that by letting go of his backpack, Matt was allowing people to view him for all of the wonderful characteristics he possesses, rather than viewing him as a victim for his experiences as a child.
I also came to the conclusion that by sharing MY story, I could find strength and peace and comfort. I could remove the tension I felt whenever someone talked about sexual abuse and I could stop protecting the people who put this backpack on my shoulders in the first place.
I am tired of living in fear, I am tired of keeping secrets, and most of all, I am tired of carrying the weight of someone else’s decisions in my backpack. I experienced unfortunate situations when I was younger, but those experiences do not define me. I am ready to stop wasting so much time and energy on giving my past the attention that I should be giving to my future. Bottling up emotions and memories and fears is exhausting, and I am finally ready to let them all go. With shaky hands and a pounding heart, I am unzipping my backpack, dumping out everything it contains, and leaving it in the past…for good.