I Am Not What Happened to Me
by Teresia Smith
Often, when someone experiences abuse or trauma, the advice they get from well-meaning friends is to just forget it and move on with life. However, that is not good advice as feelings don’t just go away, but instead linger and affect our thoughts and choices for a very long time. Some people, when they experience trauma, try to push the memories down and act like nothing happened, while others replay events over and over in their mind like a bad movie. It takes time and effort to work through our thoughts and feelings and often a counselor or support group can be helpful. Anyone who experiences trauma should take some time and work through the feelings but one must be careful to not hold onto those bad memories and get stuck in a dark place that obscures our present.
When working to move forward, we must ask ourselves if the events from our past, that are now over and behind us, are worthy of taking away all the joy of our present and future. Have we become the sum of what happened to us? Will we continue to allow the abuse we suffered define us and steal our joy? Or can we choose to work through our feelings and embrace life again?
I love how Fearless Soul describes it: “Truly, we all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.”
Authors Marc and Angel share this thought: “One of the most important moments in life is when you finally find the courage and determination to let go of what can’t be changed. Because, when you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself… to grow beyond the unchangeable. And that changes everything…. If you don’t allow yourself to move past what happened, what was said, what was felt, you will look at your present and future through that same dirty lens, and nothing will be able to focus your foggy judgment. You will keep on justifying, reliving, and fueling a perception that is worn out and false.”
I watched a movie recently about a man that collected coins. He had many, many coins in his collection. However, the most valuable coin was one which was minted with flaws. The flawed coin was worth more than any of the shiny, perfectly minted ones. This reminded me that the scars we gain from life’s battles leave us flawed but they also leave us with invaluable wisdom and knowledge and often with much compassion. And we can use those things to not only rebuild our futures but also to reach out to other’s who may be struggling.
We cannot go back and change what happened to us in the past. What matters at this point is what we do from here. Letting go of those painful memories doesn’t mean you forgot or that you don’t care or that you don’t still feel the pain. It is just realizing that at this moment, the only thing you can control is yourself and you get to choose your response.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault or domestic violence, chances are pretty high that you live with scars, both physical and emotional. But as you work through your emotions, you may find that your scars offer a renewed sense of self, a strength you didn’t realize you had, and the knowledge that the past doesn’t define you and you are not the sum of what has happened to you. If you are feeling stuck in those negative feelings and memories, we offer crisis counseling and support groups, where you will find a safe non-judgmental environment.
Call 256.574.5826 for an appointment or trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at our HELPline at 256.716.1000. Reach out today. You are not alone.