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Recently, I’ve thought a lot about my childhood trauma and how it’s shaped me as a person—for better and worse. I know my adverse experiences have helped me in some ways. Being bullied and ostracized helped me develop greater empathy for others. Growing up surrounded by addiction and family dysfunction taught me to be independent and self-sufficient.

But I also know those experiences have negatively impacted me. Because of them, I struggle with trusting others and letting them in. I focus all of my energy on self-preservation and often only think of myself. I deal with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. And for a long time, I didn’t acknowledge or recognize my trauma because it was too painful. I didn’t want to admit that it had irrevocably changed me, and when I did, I let myself become lost in anger and resentment. I refused to address my issues because I didn’t feel like it was my burden to carry. More than that, I didn’t take accountability because I was afraid that if I tried to I’d ultimately fail. And so I refused to take control of my own life until I realized I was only hurting myself by blaming everyone else.

When I first started therapy, my therapist asked me to write a list of all my accomplishments. Before this, I thought of my life in terms of limitations, I focused on all my emotional baggage and fixated on how it doomed me to be perpetually unhappy. But writing down everything made me realize just how much I had accomplished on my own, in spite of my experiences. I graduated college with honors and a sizable savings account. I accomplished my first of many half marathons. And today, I have a great job, an apartment, and friends who love me because of who I am. More importantly, I love who I am.

I’ll always carry a piece of my childhood with me, I know that. But I also know I’m not the scared little boy I used to be. I’m not the boy trapped in the closet because he’s afraid of what will happen if he’s honest with himself and others. I’m not the boy who lets the neighborhood kids bully him because he doesn’t think he deserves better. I’m not the boy who bottles up his thoughts and feelings because he’s been trained to keep those things to himself. And I’ll never be that boy again.

Today, I have the power of choice. I choose how to interact with the world and the people in it. I choose how I feel about myself. And from now on, I choose to let go of the anger and resentment I’ve felt and move forward in my quest to become my best self. 

As an adult, I’m choosing to heal my childhood trauma and reclaim my life. And I’m doing so by acknowledging and recognizing my trauma and its impact. I’m doing it by reclaiming control and not letting the past dictate how I act in the present. I’m doing it by letting go of it. 

And by that, I don’t mean I’m embracing it. What I mean is that I’m no longer going to allow my bad experiences to rob myself of living a good life now. I’m not going to dwell on the past or worry about what’s ahead. I’m just going to deal with things as they come.