My past is holding me back from my future. How can I get my life back?
There are issues from my past that have me very heavily burdened in my heart. I've been torn for so many years and I need help so I can move on with my life.
I experienced trauma when I was 8 years old and I did come out about it until I was 40.
Now I know this is what's holding me back on my happiness. I've met a very loving and caring man but because I'm holding on to these things from my past I’m pushing him away.
How can I get my life back?
I'm so sorry that you have been haunted by the past for so long. It must have been incredibly difficult to open up about something so dark and vulnerable. But by shedding light on it you have already taken the first step toward healing.
Trauma can wreak havoc on relationships if it isn't healed. In fact, we are all reacting to things every day based on perceptions colored by our past experiences. The good news is, you can heal by gaining an understanding of how trauma from the past is affecting you now, developing healthy coping skills, and working through those memories and emotions with a therapist.
This will require some "rewiring of the brain," meaning that you will identify the negative thought patterns and beliefs, and replace them with something more helpful. For example, if your negative reaction feels like "I'm abandoned and alone," you might work on changing it to "I can get my needs met, and I'll be okay regardless." Or if you find yourself feeling like "I'm not worthy of love," you might change that to something like "I deserve to be loved."
Most likely, the reason you're pushing this man away is because something about this relationship is triggering negative beliefs and emotions from the past, and your reaction (by pushing him away) protects you in some way even though there may not be any real danger now. You probably know this logically, but trauma gets stuck in our emotional mind which you can't reason with!
That's why you have to work through the emotions to be able to see things more clearly from a new and more helpful perspective. I like to think of emotions like clouds that block the sun and make it difficult to see anything clearly. If we ignore and avoid the clouds all the time then we will spend our lives looking at the ground. If you can learn to safely weather the storm, you'll find that before long it will pass and you'll be able to see things clearly again.
I recommend working with a therapist who is trained in treating trauma and who you feel comfortable with because they will be able to tailor treatment to your specific needs. You can have the happy life and healthy relationship you desire and deserve!
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It may not feel like it, but you are in a great spot! You know what is holding you back!
It sounds like you want to deal with your past and find healing, so you can move forward in freedom. Trauma is life-altering and at any age, especially when we are young. Meeting with a counselor who works from a trauma-informed perspective would probably be beneficial, as there can be so many layers to the effects of trauma.
More good news: you have met a very loving and caring man! Since he is loving and caring, he most likely will want to support you in healing. Honesty and vulnerability in safe spaces build intimacy; have you considered sharing with him what's behind your distancing behaviors? You may have an ally in your healing just waiting to be allowed in.
You are headed in the right direction to get your life back considering therapy.
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I'm going to second that it is completely brave of you to share something you kept hidden for over 30 years. That's a HUGE deal!
Something awesome about the brain is that it can learn at any time in the human lifespan. No matter how long you have dealt with the affects of trauma, your brain has potential to rewire and change how it operates.
This is just my assumption, but it sounds like you are just realizing the impact the trauma has had and is continuing to have on your life. First of all, that's phenomenal information--many people spend their lives blind to these influences and may never get help. On the other hand, it can be super overwhelming to now have all this insight about yourself and not know how to deal with it. It's OK to feel that uncertainty and/or stress about the process--that's totally expected and will most likely feel less powerful the more you move through healing.
I understand your fears about pushing away someone you care about and that seems important to you. That's quite a normal behavior as a result of childhood trauma. When we are first learning our relationship to others and the world as children, trauma can teach us that others are unsafe or may hurt us. Almost all my clients have experienced childhood trauma and one of the things we spend time exploring is what they may be trying to protect themselves from by pushing others away. Vulnerability can be scary for everybody, but why specifically is it scary for you? I bet there's a really logical reason!
It's unclear how long you've known this man and how connected you feel to him, but could he potentially be a support person for you? If you feel uncomfortable with that, that doesn't mean anything bad. It just means you aren't ready. It's not easy to talk about such hard things. It does seem like you know that you behave in ways that push him away--what would your behavior look like if you didn't? That doesn't mean sharing everything or no boundaries, but meeting him somewhere in the middle. Sometimes the brain needs evidence that being vulnerable doesn't always equate to danger or rejection.
As others have noted, a counselor can help if you so choose to go that route. I can't say what your journey will look like, but I already have so much hope for you since you are obviously incredibly courageous and motivated to work to make your life better. If 8 year old you can make it through trauma, then 40 year old you can definitely work through this!
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You already are doing that! You are reaching out (virtually still counts!). You are accepting your past, you are not denying what happened to you, you are talking about the past. You are already doing a great job of starting this journey. You get your life back by doing things differently.
I would think about how you would like to process your past. Do you want to talk to someone? Do you want to write about it? Do you want to pray about it? Do you want to read and research books about trauma? Take some time and think about what you want to do. Think about what would work for you and dive in. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, so I am biased - but I really believe that counseling works. Having an objective, professional voice that can guide you on this process is so valuable. But please choose what makes you feel comfortable - not what everyone else says. I think you are very brave for reaching out and wanting to work on this. That takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength.
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I'm so sorry you had that horrible experience!
It's common for those who've experienced childhood trauma(s) to not disclose the events until later in life. Sometimes it doesn't feel safe enough to share the information until the person who hurt them is far away, or even dead.
Trusting and vulnerability are difficult, especially when we've been hurt. So, it's not uncommon for clients to share that their desire to be close to their loved one (emotionally, physically and/or sexually) doesn't match the reality of what they are able to actually experience.
But, there is hope!
You have met a loving and caring man, and you have a self-awareness that you did not experience before. I am confident that the help of a licensed professional counselor (preferably trained in trauma recovery) can help you navigate this healing journey and help you gain the tools needed for the life you want.
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Have you explained to your prospective partner about the feeling of vulnerability which you've got?
Disclosing one's truth to a trusted person will improve your sense of feeling safe and loved. It may also take off the pressure you feel to complete your own trajectory of making peace with your past burdens of ilife.
If you find your possible new partner is patient and understanding, then you've both removed pressure off yourself and will feel validated and loved for speaking your plain truth and finding it well accepted.
If you continue to hide your deeper complexity, or if you explain yourself and ask for the person's patience and understanding, and he avoids giving this to you, then you're better off knowing sooner than later the limits of understanding which this potential partner has.
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