Ruminating over the past doesn’t mean you want to return to it.
Not being able to forget what happened doesn’t mean you’re content to keep reliving it again and again, even though right now, you very much are.
The wildest thing about life is how unassumingly it keeps moving. You lose the person closest to you and the world affords you a few days of grieving, and then you’re expected to just keep going. You go through something so life-shifting, mind-altering and deeply traumatic, and find that society only has a small bandwidth for tolerating your fear.
Here’s what you’re allowed: you’re okay to cry, you’re forgiven for being sad, or canceling a few plans here and there. You’re permitted a few days off of work, and someone to listen to you vent a handful of times.
But processing and accepting the gravity of something that touched every last inch of you is not something you can do on a mental health day. It’s not something the world affords you enough time for, and so, you botch the job. You carry on.
And then, one day, you wake up and discover that by every identifiable measure, you have moved on. You’re so many miles from where you started you can’t even remember it clearly. What you’re underestimating is the fact that though you can leave a place, or a person, or a situation… you can’t leave yourself.
Why would it ever come as a surprise that you keep thinking about the past? You weren’t given the opportunity to shine a light on that particular darkness and deem it okay. You weren’t given much of anything at all.
When your mind is stuck in the past, it isn’t because it wants to return there, it’s because you were impacted far more deeply than you ever realized, and the aftershocks are still rippling through you.
They surface as a thought here and there, but under the surface is a deep echo that has the power to place you right back where you were, as though you never left.
You can leave the country, get remarried, build a whole new career, date 12 other people, find an entirely new friend group, feel happier and more fulfilled than ever, and still grieve for what your younger self went through.
Even though you’re different on the outside, that part of you still very much exists within. That younger self doesn’t just want you to keep walking, it wants you to turn around and acknowledge it.
And you will, with time.
You are not wrong or broken for feeling the way that you do. You are not crazy. You responded to your circumstances as any healthy person would have. If anyone else was in your shoes, they would have reacted the exact same way. They would feel the exact same way.
You were a healthy person who went through something traumatic and responded accordingly.
You are someone who moved on because they had to, but who wasn’t sick enough to disassociate entirely from the past.
The fact that you can still recall what happened is a signal that you’re healthier than you think, more willing to heal than you realize, and more forgiving than you ever imagined you could be. Everything that’s haunted you are arising in your consciousness so you can see it, and bow out with grace.
You are not the person you were, even if all those pieces are still very much a part of you.
You are not broken for being in pain, you’re seeing yourself out of it.