Love letters: For all those who held my hand

Camila Ribeiro
6 min readDec 9, 2023

Hi, I know… it’s been a while. I’ve been trying to come back here, but, for some reason, I got lost again. Not just “some reason”, a reason I know very well, a reason that always tries to drag me down… but not this time.

I think that if this “bad” thing hadn’t happened and tried to slow me down, I wouldn’t have realized more things that I needed to explore from my past and, finally, be at peace with that or, at least, be able to give a name to it and recognize that some people who hurt me just acted like that because it was their way to cope with the same traumatic experience that I was dealing with.

I don’t know why I started talking about that; I already had plans for this story… but I guess it’s just how I narrate things and how my brain connects some information from past experiences and new ones.

I started this letter because I wanted to confess something that makes me feel stupid and dumb, and I just realized it now. Did you read the other letters? You should, so you can understand the context of what I will approach now.

You might remember that I admitted I was trying to change myself to fit in with others, thinking that was “real love,” or because I was afraid of being alone forever. That’s how this letter started.

I remember always liking to hold pinkies with my little sister when we would go out, and I always thought that was super cute — and here we have the connection with the first part of this story, the past coming back to haunt me — but I don’t actually remember someone holding my hand.

Actually, I do remember a few occasions.

I was walking with a “date” after dinner, and he held my hand — I think this was like one week we were seeing each other — and when he did, I immediately told him, “What do you think you’re doing? Did you ask me? Why do you want to hold my hand?” He laughed at me, and we kept walking, holding hands. I was feeling so weird.

A few months after, we started dating for real, and every time I tried to hold hands, he would say, “I don’t like it,” or “It’s too hot today,” “I feel uncomfortable with PDA,” and I accepted that. I always tried to grab his hand, but we never did. So, I asked him, “Why did you hold my hand that day?” and his answer was, “Ah, I thought it was something you would like.” Ok, so why not anymore? Maybe because he was trying to take me to bed?

It doesn’t matter anymore. I came to the ridiculous conclusion that I’ve learned to hate holding hands because that’s how I’ve learned to behave.

You might be asking yourself now: ok, where is this going?

I just realized that I have lost so much of myself over the years, and that’s why I can’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore, no matter what I do to “change.”

Just now, I realized why I am the “weird” friend. I always observed how my friends interact; they run to each other, hold hands, hug… and I would be a little bit distant, saying, “I don’t need to hug you to say good night!”

Every time a friend of mine would hold my hand — because yes, they do that with me, naturally — my head would immediately start spinning:

  • How long should I keep holding their hand?
  • Do they look like it’s time to let go?
  • Am I being annoying?
  • OMG, how much longer?
  • If I try to let go, will they hate me? Maybe they’ll think I hate it.

This 5 minutes feels like forever. Why are they holding my hand? What should I do when we let go?

Or when entering a circle of people:

  • Do I hug?
  • How many kisses?
  • If I just say “Hello,” will they hate me?

But they have never let go. One at a time, they are always holding my hand and making sure that little by little, I will heal — even though they have no idea about my side of the story and the impact of this little action.

They hold my hands because they love me and are proud to show it. And me? Well, I’ve learned that I should hate it… and they are teaching me, unconsciously. Yes, I am still learning more and more about myself. I can see who I was and who I became, but I don’t know who I am. It’s like I’m in between, and just now, I am learning what I like, what is real, and what is trauma.

Saying that, I will connect the stories again. This “situation” that happened made me reconnect with people I dearly love, but I am not sure I ever said it… actually, it has been years since we all had a decent and not hateful conversation. We cried over a call, we forgave each other, and now we are all united to solve this “situation” that is also a complication of our shared trauma.

We can now give a name to it and recognize it, now we can start to love each other and say it out loud.

This is another thing I never understood correctly: when is the time to say “I love you”? How do I know I love someone? What if the person doesn’t say it back? I think it’s so fake to say “I love you” to everyone, even to “friends” that I barely know, and they tell me, “Ahhh, I love you!”

No, don’t use that sacred word lightly.

Maybe I had this impression of love that was completely wrong and made me crazy for so long. I thought that I had to fit in, but I never felt that I belonged. Then I learned that saying “I love you” to my closest friends was actually so beautiful and fulfilling, but still, never using it lightly.

Maybe I thought I loved before, but I do believe that I did. Twice, to be honest. I only said those “sacred words” two times in my life — talking about relationships — and only one I might regret, don’t know about regret… but I wish I had been wiser at that time.

Well, now I see that I don’t need to pretend that I don’t like to hold hands and be silly, that if someone loves me, it will be for who I really am, and if this person doesn’t exist… well, I haven’t figured that part out yet.

I feel nauseous just thinking about writing what I will write now — because that was what I learned that I had to hate — but I want those silly things and someone to be a partner, literally someone who will always have my back and supports me equally.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love having my time, my cooking spiral craziness while listening to some murder podcast, but at least someone who would share the meal that I cooked. I am so tired of giving 110% of me all the time and people not even giving five minutes of their day to even ask, “How are you doing?”

You know, those things that I don’t know if they are just fantasy and delusion, or if they do exist… I believe they do exist, because I am a bit like that. Someone who would call you just to hear your voice. Someone who would have your back even if you might be wrong. Someone who would send silly messages or anything that makes you feel loved.

To not feel invisible, to not give and be content with nothing in return. To not feel annoying or always trying to make all the effort in the conversation.

When I have insomnia and I need to listen to a podcast, I would rather ask someone to tell me a story or just distract me until I fall asleep. Someone who gives back without me having to ask, without me having to change and fit in, and not be myself in order not to be just a ghost and end up being even more pathetically invisible.

I want something easy, something given out of love and not pity or ego-driven motives. Maybe now I can start to open myself up to explore it with new eyes, and not allow others to treat me poorly when all I did was care and give.

I am really tired of the world out there. There’s no love, just bodies and empty minds. There’s no fairytale and no prince(ss) charming. There’s only me, myself, and I, and all those who held my hand, and that might have to be enough for me.

I’ve chosen others over me many times, but now I am choosing myself.

I see myself now, and I am sure I am not invisible. My friends knew it all along, and now I can see that too.

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Camila Ribeiro

UX/UI Designer | I am a mess, and here is where I share some of my mental confusion.