If you’re familiar with Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you know that her method of simplifying requires you to get all of one type of item together (clothing, books, toiletries, papers, etc.), touch each and every one, and decide if it gives you joy before you choose whether or not to keep it in your life.
Moving on from trauma is similar.
When I left my abusive marriage, I started processing many of my experiences on my personal Facebook page, sharing with friends and family who had only seen the pretty picture I shared for public consumption, showing them what my actual experience was like behind the mask.
At first, I shared because it was cathartic. It was validating. It was community. So many people reached out to me, via comments or private messages, to thank me for sharing my story. They shared their own. I’ve seen a ripple effect of friends beginning to publicly share their own stories of leaving abusive relationships, and even people acknowledging that their relationships are traumatic without them ever realizing it consciously before.
Sharing stories has power.
I’m also sharing my story because I have to touch it. I have to pick up the years in my hands, turn them over, look at the rough spots and the pretty spots and decide that it’s okay to let go of the happily ever after I thought I’d found. Even amidst good memories of laughter and comfort and companionship, I can sift through these experiences and realize that they don’t add joy.
What makes this process a little more difficult than admitting you don’t wear an old dress anymore is that a lot of the good memories involved in a traumatic or abusive relationship were just lies and manipulation. They’re part of the cycle that keeps people hoping that the bad times won’t repeat.
The good times happened in a pattern, after I’d gotten upset at the inequalities in our relationship, after some inane multi-day discussion about something that shouldn’t have been a fight, after I called out a double standard. Suddenly things were better again, he’d treat me to a nice dinner out, we’d have sex that weekend, and our normal easy life was back.
Until it wasn’t.
Every day I unearth memories through this new lens, and I see that what I once thought was sweet was actually possessive, what I once thought was supportive was actually controlling, what I once thought was misunderstanding was actually covert and deliberate gaslighting.
But I have to touch it all to let it go.
Hiding it and never thinking about it will just extend the amount of time it eats away at me, but by being so open and honest about my experiences, I’ve found that I feel less and less grief, anger, and resentment. I’ve touched it, told the stories I wanted to tell, and let it go. Touching the trauma has helped me set it aside.
And opening up about my experiences has helped me realize that finding what I do want out of life includes a good amount of leaving behind what I surely don’t.