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Is It Possible to Let Go of the Past When You Have PTSD?

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Today I was assured that it is OK to let go of the past. What? Wait, let go of the past? But the past makes me who I am now, and that might not be a great reference for my past — I’m battered and bruised emotionally, and I’d wager fairly heavily medicated. But I think the point was mostly that I need to recognize the painful things that have happened to me — the trauma and hurt, the powerlessness I have felt — does not have to imprison and hurt me on a daily basis now.

• What is PTSD?

This afternoon I’ve grappled with the thought of “letting go” and what that means for me. If I am being truthful with myself, I could admit I am a willing captive to my past — I believe I deserve to be treated poorly, to serve other people’s needs regardless of how that impacts me. Demanding more for myself and my future makes me feel guilty and selfish, and that is more uncomfortable than the ache in my chest from the nightmares and memories.

As I’ve spent some time bartering with myself to find a balance between self-preservation and selfishness, I have come to the following conclusions:

To let go does not mean I stop caring; it means I understand the difference between those who deserve my care and those who demand it.

To let go does not mean I need to trust everyone; it means it is OK to let safe people in and be vulnerable with them.

To let go does not mean I am admitting I am powerless; it means I recognise that the situation was outside of my control.

To let go does not mean I am to blame; it means I accept I am unable to control others’ actions or change the past.

To let go does not mean I do not regret the past; it means I am willing to heal and live in the present.

All of the above tells me it is OK to let go of the pain and to let go of the past does not mean it is no longer a part of me. It means I deserve to move on with my life; it means I get to anticipate a happier future where I am not victimized, but instead am strong enough to advocate for my own needs to be heard and met. It means that instead of being voiceless and frozen when faced with those who are only interested in making themselves happy, I can learn I am worthy of the same consideration they are giving to themselves.

I only wish it was as easy to truly believe these things in my heart, but making the logical connection is a start. For all my life, I have felt inadequate and hopeless. I have lived believing it was my destiny to appease others at my own detriment, best to do what people want voluntarily before they demand or take it from me.

Letting go does not mean I am accepting the horrible actions of others; it only means I am admitting that I am worthy of love and acceptance.

Follow this journey on The Art of Broken.

Unsplash photo via Biel Morro

Originally published: May 31, 2017
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