There are certain dates – anniversaries, holidays, etc., that almost always bring painful feelings and memories. They are reminders of horrible things that happened, or of tragic loss, or of perceived failures. Often these dates and the surrounding weeks interfere with my normal functioning. I am less resilient to normal ups and downs. I have less energy and an increase in migraines and other physical symptoms. I sleep less and have more nightmares when I do sleep. There is an increase in flashbacks of prior trauma. Needless to say, I dread these times.
Recently, however, there has been a shift in my awareness. Normally, during the anniversary times I am reminded of all the painful things I experienced. To a certain extent, I relive parts of these experiences, flashbacks that are reminders of my wounding. I have seen this remembering as evidence that I am broken beyond repair, and less valuable than other people around me.
But my perception is changing. What if these anniversaries are a reminder that I won? What if they are a time to reflect that I am actually not broken, but that I am healing? Yes, awful things happened previously on these dates, I am not minimizing that in the least. Actually, I have seen the struggle around these times as a way to honor those parts of me that endured the pain. I thought that anything less than what I go through around anniversaries would be dishonoring and discounting of what I have been through. But what if the reminders that come up can be reminders of what happened, but not in a defeating kind of way. I survived! The bad guys didn’t win! I didn’t take my life; I didn’t end up giving up and losing myself to addiction or anorexia or living out the rest of my days in an institution. This is not judgment for those who struggle with those things – I have certainly spent my share of time in dark places. But I emerged on the other side – I have a family, I have a job, I have people who care about me, I am not lost to the darkness.
This is not to say that life is great all the time, or that I don’t hate that those memories still linger inside of me. I know there will be more flashbacks, more migraines, more sleepless nights. But that’s ok. I can handle that. I have handled worse. I am not broken beyond repair. I was broken, and I am healing. They tried, but they couldn’t break me beyond my capacity to heal.
So today, rather than hiding from another holiday that holds memories of abuse, I am spending some time in quiet reflection that this day is a reminder that the darkness didn’t win. The shadows tried to consume me in the past, but today is a reminder that I am not a hostage to the shadows anymore. I got out. Today I am quietly celebrating that I won. I am not without scars, but I won. Today, I am grateful for anniversaries to remind me that I went through some hard shit, and I came out victorious.