You Are Not Your Experiences

null
Lili Kovac / Unsplash

The first time I recall being defeated was when I watched my mother leave my father. I was six years old. Fragments of me are still left in my childhood home.

The last time I recall being defeated was when I looked into the eyes of the person I thought I knew more than anyone-only to discover a stranger. And just like my childhood, fragments of me are still buried in the hands of my past. Until a couple of months ago, I thought that those two instances defined who I was. And in a way, they do.

But I am not them.

Being vulnerable and honest with the world brings a joy that nothing can compare to. And once you’re there, it’s as liberating as shouting the lyrics of “Hero” by David Bowie as you drive through a tunnel. For the sake of being exposed, I started this out with two of the most damaging moments of my entire life.

One happened at the age of six, and the other, 19. Even though the gap is huge, the way I felt, the way I feel now, it’s identical. I stopped being so naive. And since then, I’ve realized two things:

1. Just because you go through some shit, doesn’t mean you have to remain shitty.

2. You have the absolute power and control to not let those things define you.

“Every experience, good or bad, is a priceless collector’s item.”

It’s up to you whether or not you want to leave it on the shelf.

A little backstory about me:

When I was 17 years old, I started dating a 23-year-old. I know, it’s weird. At the time, though, I didn’t think anything of it. It started out great. Almost too good to be true. And it was.

I quickly found out that he was battling addiction, and, at 17, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. If I am being completely honest with you, I was so naive that I was living with the guy and still didn’t catch on. Incredibly long, painful story short, I spent two years of my life being lied to, manipulated, used, and most of all, drained of everything good I ever had. Emotionally and physically.

Two years doesn’t seem that long of a time until you get yourself into a position where you don’t see a future. Or, if you do, it’s dimly lit.

I couldn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through because everybody I associated myself with had never experienced the trauma of dating someone who has an addiction. Their lives were normal. They were happy. And they never once had to worry about their partner sneaking off to get high behind their back.

It sort of creates this person underneath your skin that you don’t recognize. You become filled with paranoia, and every word you ever hear is now questionable.

I think the worst thing about it is that you lose your self-worth. You think that you are this terrible experience that you have been through and nothing else. That no matter what you do you will always be tainted by an image that should have never been painted to begin with.

And although you will always carry these moments with you, you have to decide if your want to be better outweighs the quicksand that’s trying very hard to pull you under.

Any time I start to feel overwhelmed with angry thoughts flooding my brain telling me that I should’ve been smarter, that if I just realized what was going on around me that none of what I went through would even exist, I think of myself getting into a life or death situation.

Let me explain.

If you were in the metaphoric quicksand of every bad experience you’ve ever had, and the only viable option was to give everything you have to escape or die, wouldn’t the adrenaline kick in? If it was only up to you to save yourself, or no longer exist?

You have to decide if your want to live outweighs those experiences pulling you down.

And, I swear, when I put it in that perspective, it’s so much easier to quickly put that collector’s item back on the shelf and realize, I am not that person anymore.

Whatever it was that you went through that was so bad, your existence is greater than that. Always. Every time. Hands down. You are not your experiences. No matter how much you think you are.

You have to rise up and know with all of your heart that you are better than anything negative that has ever come your way. Any person that has treated you wrong, any friendship that failed, any pain that has ever been inflicted on you, you are bigger than that.

“The human heart beats approximately 4,000 times per hour. Each pulse, each throb, each palpitation is a trophy engraved with the words ‘you are still alive.’ You are still alive. Act like it.”

The magic is in you. Even when you don’t think it is. You have the power to change how you view yourself. Don’t let every bad thing consume you. You would be doing your heart an enormous disservice.

You are what you want yourself to be. Choose wisely. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

The People Bringing You Delicious Dairy

A new Thought Catalog series exploring our connection to each other, our food, and where it comes from.

Meet Alise Sjostrom