After Hurt: Hailey's Journey Towards Healing and Authenticity

TW: Descriptions of emotional/psychological abuse, sexual harassment, and suicidal ideation.

Hailey is an author, blogger, podcaster, and an aspiring life coach and entrepreneur. She is a current university student and a mental health advocate, and recently published her first book, See Me: Becoming Your Authentic Self. Through a series of guiding principles and the stories of others, See Me aims to inspire young adults to recognize and embrace the value of authenticity in their life. Hailey is also the host of the 'See Me Show' podcast.

In this intimate interview, Starts With Youth had the opportunity to sit down with both Hailey and her mom, Trisha, to speak more about the damage and hard truths of childhood abuse, its impact on the parent-child relationship, as well as the journey towards a more authentic, happy, and fulfilled life.

To read Trisha's interview, click this link.


SWY: If you don’t mind sharing – What is your story with abuse? How have your experiences with it changed your life?

H: It began when I was twelve years old. My mom and dad got divorced when I was quite young and my mom was soon in a relationship after. When I started developing during puberty, I started to get uncomfortable around her new partner.

He had been in my life since I was around four years old. When I was very young, I didn’t really notice anything wrong, wandering in my bubble of innocence. However, when I was twelve, I started feeling really icky around him. At the time, I didn’t know why. I truly believed there was something wrong with me. The first instance I can recall that sparked this feeling was when I was twelve. I was changing in my room and the door was slightly cracked open, and he walked in on me. I remember shrieking and jumping to the ground, hiding my body. He then said, “It’s not like I haven’t seen it before,” and he turned and walked away.

After that day, I had a really difficult time making eye contact with him. I believe I could not look at him because a part of me felt violated. I knew there was something wrong with this person and I did not trust him. For five years, I’d feel very uncomfortable.

I started to notice other things after that instance. It seemed that no one else in my family was noticing it except for me, so I actually believed there was something wrong with me. His behaviours were very inappropriate but everyone called him a “big kid”, justifying his inappropriate behaviour (their justification reminded me of the saying, “boys will be boys”). He had very sexual images displayed in areas where I could see them, him knowing that it made me uncomfortable. He would have books with very provocative covers on them. He was always watching movies with sexual innuendos in them and “R-rated” scenes...nothing a child should be watching with an adult. There was a lot more than this, I believe I’m still blocking a lot of it.

Being uncomfortable, I started reacting to what he was doing. No eye contact for example. As a result, this put a strain on my relationship with my mom, and I started staying in my room more often with the door shut, studying my life away hoping that high grades would buy me a ticket for a new life.

He started to label me as a bitch and a princess, which I was very much not. It was very much a grooming-like relationship, even between him and my mom. I think he did more grooming to her than to me because she didn’t resist it...whereas I did.

I started staying away in my room but each year, I would get a Christmas present that would say bitch on it; a t-shirt with bitch on it, a pillow that said bitch on it, and the worst one being a t-shirt that said, “I do have tits, but I don’t have an ass.” Unfortunately, I wore that shirt around, allowing him to label my body and even worse, believing that I was disgusting on the inside and out.

When I was also twelve, I had a birthday party and all my friends came over and as soon as they left, he started to tear down their bodies. After this occurrence, I wasn’t super conscious of it at the time, but I started to push away my friends because I didn’t want them to be torn apart like I was being torn apart. So, I ended up isolated at home and isolated at school because I lived in my room and pushed all my friends away. I didn’t know what to do.

Another instance I recall was when him and I were traveling somewhere alone. I remember talking about relationships, and the fact that I at 16 had never even kissed a boy. He would frequently ask me invasive questions about my intimate experiences with boys. His crude comments that would follow would make me extremely uncomfortable; I realized that his behaviour made me not trust men, and to this day, I still struggle with trusting men. I only ever see bad intentions, feeling as though every potential relationship I could have would destroy me. The amount of dates and interactions with men I’ve avoided cannot be counted on both hands.

In Grade 9, I started to get very bad anxiety and depression, which has honestly prolonged throughout my life, some years being better or worse than others. In Grade 10, I started having sleep insomnia for around four-ish months. I would sleep around four to six hours a night; I just couldn’t sleep because I was so afraid of going to school and also was so afraid of staying at home. My mom was the only person in my life who I felt like I could tell everything to, except for that one big thing. For me, it was like, she really really loves this guy, and it would break my heart to see her heart broken, so I wouldn’t say anything.

One night when I was experiencing insomnia, I was crying in the bathroom and she wasn’t awake, but he came in and said to me, “You’re disturbing everybody in the house, go sleep in the basement.” So, I started to sleep in the basement. I started hanging out in the basement and being by myself, and it was a very isolating thing.

He would also make me feel guilty about being uncomfortable around him. Specifically, he got everyone to make me feel bad about not wanting to hug him. Anytime he would buy me something, I had to give him a hug. I’m not a touchy person, and I was very explicit about that. He knew that, so he would literally force me to hug him. Not once did I ask for anything, except to spend time with my mom. That wasn’t really an option. So he would buy me things I never asked for and there was a condition attached that I had to hug him. I hated it. When I was vocal about not wanting to, family members would say something like, “Hailey what the heck is wrong with you? You’re not looking at him or hugging him!” I felt really guilty about it, but I still resisted doing it. That was the thing, I was so resistant even though I was apologetic, so it was a very confusing experience for me.

In Grade 11, we went to Belize for a trip. My mom had already gone down before us, so I had to go with him and my brother. On the plane, he said to me, “I know you don’t have a beach body like your mom, but you’re still pretty.” My mom is about 40-lbs lighter than me, and she’s a very pretty woman. It was just so horrible being compared to my own mother. To this day, I still avoid wearing bikinis to the beach, this comment being a deep wound that has not yet healed.

The way he said this comment could come across as kind and genuine. But the manipulation behind it was repulsive. Additionally, when he would laugh and call me a bitch, it was labeled as a joke. When you constantly say something to someone it’s inevitable, they will internalize me it wasn’t a joke and yes I internalized being the biggest bitch on the planet. Because I was constantly feeling like a bad person, I had anxiety, I had depression, and I had this incessant need to be perfect all the time. No matter how well I did, he would find something in me and start cutting it up. There was a point too where I questioned my life. I remember saying to my mom after running to the basement after a bad day at school, “I don’t want to live anymore.” Today this makes me sad. I feel sad for the girl who did not think she had a way out. I’m glad she was strong enough to get through it because her life is so beautiful today.

Near the end of high school, I started dating a guy. Boys were so off my radar. It wasn’t because I had to do well in school, it was because he would dehumanize girls who had boyfriends. He would “slut shame” so I was so afraid that he was going to label me as one even if I hugged a guy. But anyways, I developed the courage to start dating this guy, and it was kind of like this massive breath of fresh air because I was never around at home. I was never with him, I was always with my boyfriend. The pain was gone.

However, I did not realize that my boyfriend at the time was just a bandage covering a deep wound that would not heal without acknowledging its existence. All he was doing was covering it up. How I felt about myself and the pain I endured began to slowly trickle in and negatively affect the relationship. So when we broke up in the middle of my first year at university, this wound became exposed and it was much deeper and painful than before.

I had not realized why I was in so much pain until I went to therapy. In therapy I became aware of my wound that I had been ignoring for years.

Bringing this to my family (particularly my dad) was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. They were heartbroken that they never saw what I saw. In my opinion, they are not at fault. They simply did not know.

Therapy did help a lot. It allowed me to acknowledge the wounds and it gave me the tools to heal. But my healing journey was not linear. In the beginning of my second year, I consumed myself back in grades like I did in high school.

However, what I didn’t realize is that it was pretty much impossible to get a 97% average in university like I did in high school. Having only ever pursued academia, I was very lost. I felt like I had lost my identity completely.

I was all over the place, and I felt super lonely. I was still heartbroken about the breakup, and I felt super angry about what had happened to me. I felt like my life was going to be consumed with heartbreak and pain indefinitely.

However, I realized I was in control of my thoughts and feelings and giving in. Half way through second year, right around New Year’s Eve, I decided that something needed to change. I knew that I couldn’t keep living like this...I wanted to live, but something needed to change, and it came down to me.

So, I kind of put it out to the universe: something is going to happen to me in 2019, I don’t know what it is, but it’s going to change something in me and make some things better. A couple weeks later, I got the opportunity to write a book. I didn’t know initially what I was going to write about, with very minimal expectations. But what I did know was that something was going to be created, and it was going to help me heal my soul.

I never actually intended to put my story in my book until the very last minute. At the end of the book, I realized how much others’ stories have helped me change my life. Perhaps I could share my story to help someone else. I thought this could be a way I could show that you can find meaning in absolutely anything, despite how horrible it may be. So, I decided to share my story.

My younger self would not think this was abuse. I never thought I would land in this category. I think I have a natural tendency to compare my problems to others’ problems. I thought that maybe because I did not experience a case that could be viewed as “worse”, I would not be in this category. But now, accepting and acknowledging what happened to me has allowed me to say, “Yes I was a victim. Yes I am a survivor.”

"My younger self would not think this was abuse. I never thought I would land in this category. I think I have a natural tendency to compare my problems to others’ problems. I thought that maybe because I did not experience a case that could be viewed as “worse”, I would not be in this category. But now, accepting and acknowledging what happened to me has allowed me to say, “Yes I was a victim. Yes I am a survivor.”

I feel like there are a lot of children who go through that, and they never know. They still have this massive weight that they carry around, and they just don’t come to terms with it. Sometimes they do come to terms with it, but they’re ashamed of it. And the worst thing is to feel shame for something like that because it’s never your fault, ever. If I can share my story despite how hard it was to do, it made everything worth it by helping one person and that was the whole goal.

SWY: You recently wrote an incredible book See Me: Becoming Your Authentic Self, which aims to inspire and give readers the tools to embrace authenticity in their life. You are unapologetically vulnerable with your readers throughout See Me and at the end, discuss your experiences growing up with emotional abuse and sexual harassment. What drove you to speak up? What do you think is the importance in sharing our stories with abuse?

H: When my mom left her ex-partner, I had not seen him for almost two years. In September 2019, she asked myself and the rest of my family to come to court, because she knew it was not going to be a very pretty scene. Originally, I had said no, fearing the possibility of ever seeing him again. I knew I’d get sick if I went.

At the same time though, a part of me realized that showing up would prove that I’m not afraid of him anymore and he can’t push me I did go. It was the most emotionally draining thing I had ever experienced, but it made everything worth it when he looked at everyone in my family but didn’t look at me...but I could look at him. That made it very powerful for me because he had been looking at me for 15 years in a way that I couldn’t look back at him. But on that day, the tables had turned completely, and I felt like I had gotten all my power back by looking at him.

I’m sharing my story because I want the next child who has to go through this to get out of it as fast as they can. No one should have to go through this. Enough is enough. At the end of the day, he shaped me into who I am. The only thing I can credit him with is that he made me stronger. I think, to every girl or any person who has gone through something like this, you should be proud of how strong you are.

"I’m sharing my story because I want the next child who has to go through this to get out of it as fast as they can. No one should have to go through this. Enough is enough."

A lot of people tend to perceive expressing your stories and being sensitive as a sign of weakness. When in reality, being open about something that was very traumatic for you is a very strong thing to do, and when I wrote my book, I wanted to be the strongest person I could be. I felt purposeful. It was the first time in my life where I felt like I had a purpose. I was deeply happy, deeply feeling successful all the time. And I was like, if I can end this in a way that makes me feel as strong as I can ever be then why not? There’s no reason why I can’t share this and if one person is going to criticize me then that is their problem, they have not lived my experiences.

There’s always going to be somebody who criticizes, and I have nothing to lose. I owe it to myself to heal. I owe it to my family to heal. And I owe it to every girl or person who is dealing with someone just like my mom’s ex-partner to share this and hopefully open up a door for somebody else to share their own story and heal.

SWY: On a similar note – Why do you think so many individuals are scared to share their stories? What keeps people silenced?

H: I think it is this fear of judgment we have, and the fear of being shamed or stigmatized. Every single human being on the planet is constantly judging. No matter what it is, whether it’s good or bad, we’re constantly judging...because judgment is simply perspective. So, when we’re about to share our stories, I think we’re judging people about judging us. And we are making up these false perceptions in our head, saying that so and so are going to judge me in this way.

What’s important to realize is that you’ll never know their perception, ever, nor will you be able to control their perception. The number one thing that you will be limited by is your own perception of how others view you. At the end of the day, someone else’s judgments of you do not matter because no matter what you do, no matter how many things you accomplish, no matter how good of a person you are, people are still going to talk. As well, if someone holds a negative judgment towards you, that is a reflection of how they view essentially, that is a them problem. Not a “you” problem.

If you’re letting one person’s judgment limit you, it’s preventing all these other people who could gravitate towards your story from actually hearing it.

It’s so easy to be consumed by one single person’s negative judgment and forget about the 100+ people who love and support you. Of course being seen in a negative light is awful. And it’s so easy to want to prevent that. But by holding back and aspiring to please, it makes us settle for mediocrity...when people desperately need to hear your words and be benefited by your amazing talents. You deserve to share your story and pursue the things in the world that are intrinsically meaningful to you.

I have received criticism about my book, but I have also had people who have told me that my book truly helped their lives. If I hadn’t published it, then that one person who reached out to me and said they were helped by it wouldn’t have gotten that benefit. I wrote this book for me and one person. I didn’t know who the person would be, but I wanted to help one single person, and I think I’ve hopefully done more than that. When it comes to sharing your story, it can come as a surprise for some people...especially when they have perceived you as a certain person. For me, people perceived me as this smart girl who always got what she wanted. So, by exposing my story, I thought how are their perceptions going to change of me now that I’ve shared this? But, at the same time, I need to stop thinking about what everybody is going to think and do this for me, and that one person. And I think that’s how people can go about sharing their own stories. If I share my story, it opens up a door for someone else to share theirs. That means by sharing my story, it was entirely worth it.

SWY: Throughout our conversations, you have expressed your gratitude for your mom’s continuous support throughout your healing and your journey towards embracing authenticity in your life. Why do you think it is so important to have supportive parental figures in our lives? Is there anything you would like to say to your mom?

H: I think it is important that parents are supportive in the sense where they are not just applauding your accomplishments and giving you praise when you do something good, but are also being there for you when things get tough and when you do make mistakes; that is a big component of being a supportive parent. You have to show up, I believe, for your kid no matter what they do. Even if they make the worst mistake ever, you still need to show up and be a good supporter, or else that causes distrust. For me, I can tell my mom anything. I’ve told her pretty much everything. Because I have her and we have such a close relationship, if I were to call anyone in the middle of the night, it would be my mom or my dad. At the end of the day, they might be irritated, but they would be so happy that I called them. The worst thing you can do is demean your kids for making a mistake rather than showing them what they could learn from it.

My mom and I have always been glued at the hip. I would ditch friends’ birthday parties to hang out with her. My mom is a mom and a best friend. I never felt uncomfortable about telling her anything, and I think that’s something that’s really good for a parent. It was interesting because in high school, I was still really close to her. Any chance I had to get her by herself with me, I would take. If I had the chance to get my mom’s partner to not come with us for a shopping day, I would hint at it because I wanted to spend quality time with her. We just loved each other so much that we always wanted to be around each other. We always had the best time when it was just the two of us, but I never made her choose between me and her partner. I would never do that because I love her so much that I knew it was her life and whatever makes her happy, I wanted her to choose it.

My mom and I have a really close relationship, but it’s been hard these past couple of years since more stuff has come out. I get irritated when I have to talk about her ex-partner, and my mom also has stuff to work on, we all do. With parenting, it’s important to ask your kids, over and over again if they are okay, because there is going to be a breaking point, no matter what. If you have to ask them a 1000 times, those 1000 times would be worth it. Don’t not ask, don’t ask once, ask a million times. I think that’s a really big thing with parenting, to ask, “Why are you feeling this way? Are you okay?”

No parent is perfect, but learning and recognizing your mistakes, owning them, and doing whatever it takes to rectify them. And that’s something I can applaud my mom for. If I were in my mom’s shoes and my daughter had told me that she was going to come out with my story in her book, I would freak because the first thing would be, “Oh, I’m a bad parent.” Coming out with my story could make her look like a bad parent. However, she was the first person who encouraged me to share my story. It had nothing to do with getting back at her ex-partner, but everything to do with her saying that I owed it to myself to be able to come out about it. I try to make it very evident in my book that no one in my family is to blame for this, the only person to blame is the person who did this. But at the same time, people think, “Why couldn’t the parent do better?” That’s the worst thing you can do. Even I overlooked what her ex-partner was doing to her too.

"No parent is perfect, but learning and recognizing your mistakes, owning them, and doing whatever it takes to rectify them. And that’s something I can applaud my mom for."

I really wanted my mom to do this joint interview. Because there’s this whole other half of it. If you’re in a marriage and then you realize that your kid is being abused by your spouse who you’ve loved all these years, that is so incredibly heartbreaking. I think she owes it to herself and to other wives, husbands, etc. who have gone through something similar, to share her story because then that might make them heal faster. I don’t want her to live with this. I don’t want her to feel guilty every day because of what he was doing to me. I want my family to move on and to not think about it anymore. He shouldn’t rent space in our minds. To hear what she has to say is really important to me. I think me doing this alone wouldn’t show the whole picture. At the end of the day, a parent is trying as hard as they can, but they make mistakes. You shouldn’t categorize them as being a bad parent, ever. I would still call my parents the best parents in the world.

SWY: What is the most important thing you want others to understand about survivors of abuse? If you could say one thing to a survivor of abuse, what would it be?

H: Their abuse doesn’t define them. It doesn’t define your whole self. I’m an outgoing person but also serious and like to take time for myself; there’s a lot of different things that make me, me. Everything in your life is this giant puzzle, and every experience forms who you are. That one piece, that unfortunate piece that you had to go through, it has helped to shape who you are today, alongside many other pieces. It’s important to not be ignorant of it and to acknowledge it. Who you are, as a whole, is a beautiful thing.

It’s important to sit down and actually be introspective and acknowledge, you know what, this piece of my life was really horrible, but what meaning can I extract from it? But that takes time. It has taken me years to realize that had I not been pressured and felt like I had to be perfect, perhaps I wouldn’t have got the good grades I’ve gotten, perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten into Queen’s, perhaps I wouldn’t have experienced all these things. Each experience contributes to another experience, and I believe that one horrible experience contributed to so many wonderful experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. So, grounding yourself in gratitude is really important, especially when healing from past experiences.

Also, to recognize we all have a story, and that you can rewrite your narrative. When I was realizing all these things, I wrote my narrative as this girl who was never going to be loved by anybody because I felt unworthy of love. I really believed my mom’s ex-partner was going to show the world that I was a horrible human being that wasn’t going to be loved by anybody, and that was the narrative I was construing from that one experience. But, you can always shift your lens. When I started writing my book, I was like “Oh, maybe this experience is adversity that could help somebody else, and that could prevent somebody from doing this to somebody else. Oh, maybe this adversity made me a lot stronger than I thought I was. Maybe this adversity made me strive to be perfect, even though trying to be perfect is not a good thing, but at the same time, it propelled me to achieve great things that allowed me to get to the position where I get to pursue my purpose. When you shift that lens and that narrative, it allows you to rewrite your narrative for the future and choose what you want to follow.

To any survivor, I am entirely apologetic. I am saddened by the tragedy of somebody believing that you deserve to go through that pain and inflicting that pain on you. At the end of the day though, you get to control your response. At the end of the day, you do owe it to yourself to heal because you deserve to live a life that’s true to you and one where you can pursue your dreams despite what somebody else did to you. I think letting go is different from moving on, it’s being like, “Yup that happened to me, it’s going to come into my life as it does, but I'm going to come to terms with it.” Letting go is being like I went through that but I’m not going to let it dictate every choice I make.

"To any survivor, I am entirely apologetic. I am saddened by the tragedy of somebody believing that you deserve to go through that pain and inflicting that pain on you."

SWY: On the contrary, if you could say one thing to a perpetrator of abuse, what would it be?

H: I think perpetrators have their own inner demons. I try to find the good in everybody no matter what they’ve done. But what I would say to a perpetrator is, “I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through and who has hurt you, but that does not give you any sort of justification to hurt another person.” You have to own your mistakes and make it right, and if you choose not to, then I’m unsympathetic to your situation. I’m unsympathetic to you hurting people who haven’t hurt you. That’s a “you” problem.

If they do choose to come to terms with the fact that their actions are hurting people, I wish them the best because they can own up to what they’ve done to somebody else and say, “I did a horrible thing, and I don’t know if that person will ever forgive me.” I think doing the very, absolute best you can to live a life that can rectify your mistakes is the most important thing here. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. We’ve all hurt people. But for me, when it comes down to somebody intentionally inflicting pain on somebody else, there’s absolutely no excuse for that, despite the trauma you’ve gone through. If they don’t choose to get help, if they don’t choose to rectify their mistakes, and they don’t choose to change their behaviour, then I’m not sorry. I don’t think anybody should have to be sorry for somebody who is not apologetic, whose harmful actions are intentional.

SWY: Everything about your story and who you are now shows an incredible amount of courage, strength, and resiliency. What would you say was a major turning point for you? Where does your strength come from?

H: I think it was two instances.

In Grade 11, I was taking an Indigenous studies course. I was super excited about it because honestly I grew up in a very White town with minimal exposure to other cultures. So I was deeply involved and enjoying this course. At the time, I had started an additional project in the class to support Indigenous Peoples living in Attawapiskat. I was excited to raise money and write letters to support this community. I shared this at dinner and almost instantly he said something incredibly racist about Indigenous peoples. That moment, I stood up. That was the first time I stood up. I was tired of it. However, as a result, I was threatened to be kicked out of my home, for quote unquote being disrespectful, ironically.

Being a child, I didn’t know what else to do either than to apologize in order to stay. I made it sound like I was apologetic for my response to his comments but I was not at all...still I was ashamed for saying sorry for something that I was entirely in the right about.

Regardless of what I said or how I said it, I was at the tipping point, like I was done. If he kept it up, I was going to keep voicing my opinion. Although it scared me, fear wasn’t going to turn me away from doing what’s right.

The second instance was when I started dating my ex-boyfriend. It was a breath of fresh air because I had never felt so comfortable around a person and I felt very loved for the first time. However, he was a massive bandage, and I was inflicting a lot of dependency on him which definitely caused a strain in our relationship. But my ex-boyfriend didn’t know any of this and probably still doesn’t know.

After our breakup, I realized (as a result of therapy), how much he covered up this big, massive hole in my chest. Because he filled it, he really did. But it was temporary.

When I came to terms with the fact that a lot of my relationships have deteriorated and a lot of my accomplishments haven’t been validated and love has never existed for myself because of one person, who was my abuser, that was a really big turning point.

A year after my break-up and my mom’s ex-partner being out of the picture, that New Year’s Eve I thought to myself, “You know what, something just has to change. I’ve been trying to find people to fill this hole. I’ve been trying to utilize school to fill this hole. I’ve been trying to find projects to fill this hole, and it really does come down to me. If I want anything to change, I need to believe that it’s going to change. I need to have faith that it’s going to change. I need to have hope and trust, and I have to really internalize this belief. I need to start loving my whole self.”

SWY: If you could say something to your younger self going through tough experiences, what would it be?

H: I would tell her to stop being the meanest person to herself. I was a very mean person to myself. If anyone was the most abusive to me, it was me to myself. Any mean thing that anyone ever told me, I did it to myself about 10 times worse. If someone called me a bitch, I would tell myself that a billion times in my head. I was quite mean to myself in terms of what I looked like, what I thought, how smart I was. Literally, no matter what I did, I criticized absolutely everything. I believed that everyone was judging me, and I was making all these assumptions. Everyone else is consumed with what their own lives are. Stop doing things to appease other people, and start doing things for you. It’s okay to be selfish. Know that right now isn’t the most perfect time in your life and it might keep getting harder, but in a few years from now, you’re going to be a completely changed person.

I always want to tell myself though that despite how hard it may be, you're going to grow from this and you’re going to be shocked at the person you can become. Keep being a good person despite what the world throws at you. Five years from now, you’re going to have this amazing, accomplished and fulfilled life. You’re still going to have hardships, and that’s inevitable about life, but you’re always going to be achieving so much more despite what you’re currently going through. Right now, it’s not going to matter in five years. Do the best of your ability to be always a good person no matter what you’re going through, and you’re going to end up somewhere really amazing. I think that’s what I would tell her. That person was a really sad and lonely person in high school. I really don’t like the girl I was in high school, but that girl did shape me into the girl I am today, so I applaud her for being able to get through that.

"I always want to tell myself though that despite how hard it may be, you're going to grow from this and you’re going to be shocked at the person you can become. Keep being a good person despite what the world throws at you."


Dear Mom: Hailey's Letter

Dear Mom,

Mom, my best friend, the love of my life. There are no words that can express the gratitude I have for the amazing life you have blessed me with.

I don’t believe that life is simply a start and a finish, racing down a straight highway, only ever moving ahead. Rather, life has it’s bends and turns, bumps and stops, all experienced at different speeds. Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to move forward. And sometimes, you just have to embrace what you have in the now.

I think a lot of what we have discussed is what has happened to me but we have not looked in the rearview mirror at what has happened to you. I think you have blocked what has happened to you with your guilt about what has happened to me...which is absolutely not your fault.

I believe you deserve to heal. Based on my journey, I had to go back to the past, to the bumpy, turbulent path, to come to terms with what had happened to me. I believe that you deserve to say, “I am a survivor,” so that you can move forward a little more peacefully.

My deepest dream is to rid you of your guilt and instead, have a joyful and peaceful life. I am reaching that place, and it is beautiful. There is no one else in this world who I believe deserves it more than you do.

Additionally, you are a phenomenal parent. Thank you for encouraging me to share my story with the world. Thank you for sharing yours. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for being the light in my life. I cannot wait for our future journey together, the laughs we’ll have, the memories we will continue to create.

I love you.



Starts With Youth would like to sincerely thank Hailey for her courage, strength, and vulnerability throughout this interview. To learn more about Hailey, visit her Instagram and website.

To read our interview with Trisha, Hailey's mom, click here.