I seem to spend a lot of my time reliving my past. I try hard not to do this. I do exercises of non-engagement with my thoughts. I do cognitive therapy and change my thinking to something else. I read and listen to music or watch movies or tv to distract myself. But it’s always there, underneath it all. All the things I haven’t let go of yet that haunt me to this day.
It comes bubbling up when I least expect it. All the things in my past I wish I could forget. But of course forgetting isn’t really what’s called for. It’s remembering the lessons and then re-framing it to something bearable and acceptable, something that you can live with and feel OK about your life still.
I write a lot in my journals. It’s a mixed bag. I do good work there, in terms of working thru my issues and trying to see where I’ve blown it and where I could make changes. But so often I find that I ruminate, running around and around in my head. Instead of writing I get caught in many of the things in my past that I’ve messed up on. Ways in which I’ve let my Bipolar disorder run rampant and done things that I feel ashamed of and need to desperately stop thinking about. So I’m working on re-framing them in my mind as to what actually happened.
You see I think that memory is a tricky thing and that no two people ever remember the same event the same way. Just as we can’t step in the exact same river twice. We know that we change and grow as we age. so it’s absolutely true that the person who did those things in my past is Not the same person that is siting here writing this piece. I can look back at what that person did and divorce myself from the attachment to the feelings I have about the event. It’s like unhooking yourself from a tether in a real way. It’s the first step.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? There are plenty of people out there who will do trainings with you to help you do this, and charge you a lot of money for it. That’s fine, but I think we can do this for ourselves, tho it’s hard to do and I can’t say I’m always successful at it. But I keep on trying to get it right and I’m getting better at it the more I do it, as is usual when you practice something. You just have to see yourself as a separate person from the one in your past. You are, if my theory of memory and not stepping in the same river twice is true anyway.
Letting go is hard for me and I seem to have a tendency to hold onto the bad things easier than the good ones. I wrote a bit ago that it’s wonderful how when you’re happy you tend to forget the bad times and when you’re depressed you can’t remember the good times. But it’s not always like that. Sometimes the bad times gain ascendency and take over the mind, and when that happens – look out. Things can become irrational very fast and it takes a lot to hold on and stay in the present and not back in those bad times in the past that just popped up into your mind.
I dunno why memories do it that way to me. I guess it’s just the nature of them. I can be fine and having a wonderful time and all of a sudden out of nowhere a memory will come into my mind of a time in the past when I messed up bad and my world shifts and I’m in Depression, bad. All it takes is a second but it takes me away from this reality. I have to stop it immediately or I lose it and go back to where I was and I hate that, ya know?
So I have to re-frame it when I get over being upset. I can’t do it when I’m in a bad place too well tho I need to learn how to someday. If I can re-frame something to a better scenario when I’m OK then it’s better the next time it gets me when I’m not OK. It’s not like I forget the past or it didn’t happen. It surely did and I need to remember the lessons I learned from that time. But I don’t need to beat myself up for them and feel like I was a monster like I do sometimes. It can be hard to remember that you’re really a nice guy…
I guess I’ve talked around this enough and I should say what it is I actually to do when I re-frame things. I go back to the time and I look at the context of where I was at and what was happening at the time and at who I was and the person I was pretending to be then and see how hard on me it was to try to pretend I was OK all the time. Usually that’s when I mess up. I saw that I often did/do things that were not nice in ways that I saw as simple self defense at the time but in reality may have been cruel and unkind to others. It’s way different to see yourself as a scared person trying to survive than it is to see a mean one that was bad to others.
I cut myself some slack is what I do then. I see myself differently, as a person in need of compassion, not judgement. I relieve myself of having to have been a perfect person then, whenever it was – 40 years ago or last week – it’s all the same. I absolve myself of wrongdoing and I empathize with myself for being tough enough to make it this far in life and not kill myself before I got here. It’s been close more than a few times….
I Don’t Forget the Lessons tho. That’s pretty key for me. If I don’t learn something in this difficult process then what good is it really? It’s necessary to remember what you’ve done in life, it’s just not necessary to look at yourself in a poor light because of it. I guess some people call this forgiveness. I just call it Acceptance of my whole Self.
Whatever you call it it’s required for re-framing your past. You have to let go and get over it and go on with things. Oh, it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But we know it’s not. Those of us with a mental illness that causes us to berate ourselves all the time for things we’ve done and not done and never giving up on it. We know that our minds can be our allies or our enemies. The trick, I think, is to try your best to befriend your mind. Maybe I’ll write about that sometime…
Remember to allow yourself to Let go….