Letting Go Of My Shadow

As we become adults, we sometimes realize that, regardless of the type of environment in which we were raised, everyone has demons. Everyone has had things happen to them that they wish had not happened. Everyone has bad memories that can haunt them. Everyone has some level of regret. I had a lot of things happen in my past that had been relentlessly tearing at me. After I became a mother of two little girls, it became much worse. Until recently. Resilience used to seem like a false notion to me — a facade to put up to the rest of the world while your insides are still at war. Today, I may actually understand just what resiliency feels like. I have brought a notion of peace to my mind and body.

I grew up in a loving family with both a mom and dad at home and three older sisters. I have a family with which to make memories. I lived in a nice home. I had clothes and shoes. We had family dinners. I participated in sports and extra-curricular activities in school. I had the necessities in life and much more. My home life and family have motivated me to continue to strive to be better in my life. I know I can be and because I know I will always have their support.

Even with all of that, by the age of 16, I had been sexually assaulted. Twice. Because of those experiences, I engaged in sexual acts at far too young an age. Because of those experiences, I have experienced differing levels of depression. I felt isolated. I felt bad about myself and so I hated others, especially the “mean girls.” The circumstances surrounding each events along with my own guilt have tormented me since the moment that each one took place. At times, I was able to suppress my feelings and memories. When I became a mother that changed. The feelings seemed to intensify. I truly carried around hatred for people that had done things to me in the past. There were times that I felt like I was two people — the adult that I am now and the girl I was at various stages of my childhood. I cannot describe how it feels to have your childhood shadow follow you around. I know that it has hindered some of my adult relationships. I know that I have been more cautious or apprehensive of new social gatherings. I have been anxious and even paranoid at times. I have carried around anger and pain. I have been holding back from really living!

Two recent experiences have shown me how much I have been allowing my past to affect my current self.

First, one of my daughters recently experienced bullying at school. She too has a sensitive heart. It not only broke me to see her so upset but also triggered the pain that I am still carrying around. Pain that I held and didn’t tell my mother, unlike my daughter who is sharing with me. I held it in and became a bitter person by the time I reached high school. As she started sharing with me, I realized I did not want her to hold her feelings inside. I appreciated that she is able to vent with me. I want her to know that she is ok and I will always help her. These conversations seem to give her strength — the kind of strength that she will need the rest of her life to deal with difficult situations or people. They seem to help her understand that sometimes there are people in this world whose struggles are bigger than ours and that their expressions are often misdirected. In our conversations, we talk about compassion and to not hold hatred in her heart against herself or others. We talk about courage and confidence and taking the high road in her responses or actions. We talk about not letting the words or actions of others change who she is.

I was recently put in a situation where I came face to face with a man who had sexually assaulted me. I was in a professional setting so I had to be professional and do my job despite the voice inside screaming “run away or pretend that you are someone else.” I could hardly give a fake name with my co-workers standing beside me. I smiled, participated in small talk regarding my job, and finally walked away calmly. During that encounter my heart was pounding, my body was hot and my chest was tight. I couldn’t hear. I felt as though I was watching the situation happen from outside my body but the person I was watching was much younger and unsure of herself. Although from the outside I probably appeared normal, inside I felt broken.

Having these two situations happen in a relatively short time of one another was eye opening. It made me realize that all this time I have been carrying around a little girl who needs to be set free. I as an adult can never fix the little girl that I was. I can’t go back in time and make her feel better. I can’t change her memories. No amount of getting even, hating etc. will make the events of the past change for her.

I CAN NEVER FIX THE LITTLE GIRL THAT I WAS!

That was my big revelation. It may seem like common sense but for those of us who carry things from our past, letting go is the hardest thing to come to terms with. This realization has restored my belief in resiliency and what it means. I have finally bounced back. I am able to realize that the past happened and is unchangeable. I have learned that who I was and the things that happened to me in the past DO NOT have to define the person I can be today. I must take the advice I have given to my daughter and hear it for myself. I want to have strength, understanding, compassion, courage and confidence. I want to let go of the shadow of the girl that I was go so that I can live in the present as the woman that I know I am.

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