This is something I struggle with immensely. Letting go. Putting the past behind you. Moving on. For some people these come easily, but for people like myself it really is difficult and leads to damaging mental distress.
In the picture here, we have two sides to myself. The left hand side picture was taken when I was in a psychiatric hospital earlier this year. I’m not ashamed to tell you that when this was taken, I was very much broken. A shell of myself. My mum later told me that this time was the most unwell she has ever seen me. My memories from this year’s admission are somewhat muddled and blurred. I remember an array of traumatic things, though.
I think there’s a difference between remembering and holding on. Holding on in the sense of holding on to the past; not letting go. Remembering is okay. It’s okay to remember. But it’s not okay when you’re constantly thinking of it, obsessing over it, to the point where it’s impacting the present. Sadly, a lot of us have negative memories from our past. I do not wish to go into detail about mine, but I will tell you that I, still to this day, have flashbacks from when I was a relatively young child, up until, well, this year (a lot of my flashbacks involve hospitals and hospital admissions). The picture on the left is someone trapped in the past. Someone exhausted and pained by haunting memories. Someone who resorted to clawing at their face to rid of ‘bugs’ that were crawling all over it. I have been stuck in the past for so, so long now. And I know I am not alone. Many of my friends are the same. Letting go is hard. However, the picture on the right, the same person, a few months later. Stronger. Braver. Embracing the present and learning to leave the past where it belongs – in the past!
Now, I am by no means fully recovered. But that’s okay! It’s truly okay. Because I am still growing and learning how to make it so I am more in control than my illnesses.
I cannot stress the importance of being able to rid your mind of plagued parts of your life. I think once a traumatic event has happened, it does need to be processed, and this can take a long time and will often need assistance from a therapist. But there comes a point when it’s time to let go. To say ‘okay, this happened to me and it was awful, but I am alive here and now, and I am going to thrive’. I promise you no good will come from living in the past. And since I started practising some grounding exercises and mindfulness, becoming more aware of the present moment, I’ve really noticed a difference in how I approach things. You are the ultimate controller of your mind, not your illness, not stress, not bad memories, nothing. You are in control. A lot of us don’t realise this, or don’t know how to make it so we’re in control. But it is possible.
To all my friends who are struggling,
You are so, so strong. And I am constantly astounded by the strength I see in every one of you.
We will be okay. We will keep fighting.
(All pictures are my own).