"We can draw lessons from the past, but we cannot live in it."
-- Lyndon B. Johnson
Everybody has a past. I know this because the majority of what people talk about is their past. And typically, what they talk about is not good, made light of because it wasn't good or they are simply angry about it. But where does that get you?
You are living in the year 2011. Many didn't think we'd make it past 1999. Remember the frenzy surrounding all the clocks going to 00:00:00? I was not panicked at all. To me, we have smarter people in the world than that. I shook my heads at the doomsday people I saw stocking up on food, generators etc. Even my Grandmother was involved, sending me $20 telling me to buy candles, matches, etc. I had to fulill that promise because I loved my Grandmother dearly.
But what does it gain us by living in the past? I can speak from experience. In the early 90's I was living in the past...a long many years of them. At the age of 3 I was molested and that continued until I was 5. Then at the age of 7 another incident occured. From the age of 11 until 37, something happened to me every year by somebody different in the form of sexual abuse. I thought I had reason to live in the past.
I was fortunate to find a Psychiatrist who was also a Christian. This proved important to me because I am a Christian and the last thing I wanted was for somebody to tell me my problems were all due to being a Christian. I had been told that by previous psychiatrists I'd run into. I was glad to be rid of them.
Daily I had nightmares, flashbacks, and even dissociative episodes. But slowly my doctor got through my thick skull. He told me I had to stop living in the past. I yelled at him that would be easy if I could forget it. He explained that I had to embrace the emotions of what had happened, forgive the person and then move on and enjoy what life lay ahead of me.
I could not comprehend what he was saying at first, but over time it began to sink in. I read dozens of books he suggested I read, prayed, did exercises he suggested I do, such as not allowing certain people tell me I was to blame for this and that in our family. Once I felt empowered enough to stand up to my family, I began to see things clearly.
And when I chose to forgive the people who had hurt me, a whole new life opened up to me. My nightmares lessened, my flashbacks nearly disappered and my dissociation disappeared. It was not an overnight thing. I saw this doctor for roughly 8 years, sometimes 3times/week.
Today I live in the present. Yes, I occasionally have a flashback or nightmare, but for the most part, I now pass on the knowledge I learned from my psychiatarist. I learned how to put up boundaries and enforce the consequences of breaking those boundaries; I learned that I was not the problem in my family, but perhaps one element of the problem; I learned that what happened to me is not happening now. That was the biggest lesson I learned. While it may still FEEL like it was happening to me with all the flashbacks, nightmares etc., it was NOT. I was A SURVIVOR. I had OVERCOME all those assaults and I was still alive.
What I have learned from my past is that nothing that happened to me was my fault. It is something I still struggle with off and on, but for the most part I KNOW I DID NOT CAUSE THE ASSAULTS, I DID NOT GO LOOKING FOR THEM AND NOTHING THAT HAPPENED TO ME IN REGARDS TO THE ASSULATS WAS MY FAULT.
I took those lessons I learned to the Psyche ward with me when I was admitted the several times during my recovery process. I ALWAYS found more than one person who seemed to attract to me. Once we shared our stories, they would want to know how I cope. I told them what I had learned and the varoius ways I cope now: journal, draw, scrap-book, colour, listen to music, pray, meditate, etc. I was in and out of the psyche ward a lot at that time and not once that I went in did my story not change somebody else's life for the better. They went home with new ways of coping, a new outlook on life and a more positive energy to put into living.
I have not been in a Psychiatric Ward for almost 5 years now. Between medication and good professional supports, I have not had to be admitted to one. I have come close a few times, but I had forgotten what I learned or I needed a new coping technique to add to my list.
My lessons were to remember that it happened THEN and is not happening now.
I have a daily maintenance plan of things I do daily to keep me on level ground.
When things seem to be spinning out of control, I have a crisis plan in place I follow through on.
I do various creative activities which keep my mind stimulated and positive.
I play the piano which is a wonderful use for when I am feeling moody.
When somebody tries to put the blame on me for something, consider the source. Don't let one person bring you down to zero.
When I need help, I reach out for it without being ashamed to ask for it.
I know there are people in this world that are far worst off than myself.
I believe one of my biggest lessons is that what I have learned is to be passed on to others so they too can experience freedom.
I could go on with the lessons I've learned, but I want to keep this short.
Just because I have dealt with my past does not mean it won't creep up on me again. Life is a recovery process. We are always learning and always recovering from something. When my past creeps up, at first it may knock me off my feet and pull me back a bit. But I have good supports who are there to encourage me, listen to me, pray for me, challenge me to remember that I have come through this before and I can make it through again.
Not once yet in my 42 years of living have I completely lost hope. God has always sent somebody my way with a word of encouragement, someone to pray with me etc.
The only time I have found it good to look back is to see how far I've come. I cannot believe who I was when I was 24 years old when I moved out on my own. Angry, depressed, resentful, accusing, etc. Now I have forgiven all the people who have hurt me and pray for their salvation. I pass on the knowledge of not just surviving but thriving in life despite all the obstacles that come our way.
Live life for today because we cannot get it back. Once the day is over, it is over. The question is, was what you did worth the time you spent on it, or did you waste a precious moment in time? How you live your life, despite what has happened to you or what you have been through, is still your choice. I want to live my life in a way that will help others see that living in the here and now is so much more productive and positive than hanging on to the pain and mysteries of the past. You have right now, a Present. Unwrap it and enjoy it. If you just sit there and look at it all wrapped up, what will you ever gain from it? Enjoy today for yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is a day that never comes. We only have the present and it is only here oncce to enjoy and fill with positive energy and actions. Remember, yesterday robs you of the joys of today, where today can bring a bucket-full of joy you had never expected...and never received had you not let go of the past.
"We can draw lessons from the past, but we cannot live in it."
- SEPARATING MYTHS FROM FACTS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS
- Journaling Has Healing Effects Well Worth Trying
- Now What? Stress, Positive Coping
- For Any Christian Struggling With Identity or Self-Esteem, You Need This
- Vacation Anybody?
- The Beauty of Selfless Acts
- The Journey To A Healtheir You
- Patient - Self-Advocating and Helping Your Medical Team
- Stress and How To Conquer It
- When It is Right To Trust Other People