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Mariah's avatar

When you feel it's time to leave a part of your life behind you, how do you go about doing it?

Asked by Mariah (19271 points ) April 8th, 2011

Something has played a significant role in your life, but it’s time to let it be part of the past now. How do you let go? Especially when it has influenced your way of thinking?

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19 Answers

yankeetooter's avatar

I need to give up someone who has been on my mind for something on seven months now…and I don’t know if I can do it. This person has influenced many of my decisions in that time, and probably without realizing he was doing it….I was coming away from “losing” someone significant in my life at the time, and this person took over my heart by filling their shoes. They filled the void in my life, and became my reason for doing so much positive in my life. Now that I know I need to let him go, I am worried about what negative impacts this might have on me.

This is the problem with letting others influence your decisions, even if they are healthy, positive decisions. Once that person is no longer in your life, the motivation for maintaining these good life choices can fade…and where does that leave you? Directionless, lonely, and questioning what you really want out of life…

BarnacleBill's avatar

Some things can be eased out of. My decision to stop going to church was not made lightly, and took two years of trying different churches, denominations, etc before I finally figured out exactly what was wrong with it for me.

yankeetooter's avatar

I know @BarnacleBill , but I’m having a really hard time letting go, and this person has been wrapped around so many of my decisions of late that it scares me…I wish that I could run away to another part of the country for a while, just to ecape…or erase my memory like on Men In Black…I just feel lost right now…and right when I start to feeling better, it hits me again. Will it ever get easier?

Mariah's avatar

@yankeetooter That is definitely hard. People often say not to let someone become so vital in your life for precisely that reason (what do you do if they leave?) but that is easier said than done at times. I’m sorry you’re having a rough time. I think it will get easier with time.

For me, I’m trying to learn how to not be sick. I had chronic health problems from age fourteen till I had surgery to cure it a few months ago, but now I’m realizing I don’t know how to not be sick anymore. That is, I still go to the ER at the drop of a hat, I don’t know how to relax about small changes in my body, and I don’t know how to make myself not extrapolate everything out into infinity. I want to let go of the fear and the sorrow that went with being sick – I don’t need it anymore. But that’s how my mind works now.

yankeetooter's avatar

I’m trying so hard, @Mariah . It seems impossible, but I’m trying. Just hurts so much…

faye's avatar

Time will do it for you @Mariah, especially after it’s reversed and your energy is up. Illness will fade away.

Mariah's avatar

That’s what I’m hoping for @faye, thanks for your comforting words. I think it will help to be distracted taking class (I’m taking calculus online starting May 31!) rather than just stewing in it all the time. I keep getting scared because I’m having allergic reactions to everything now that I’ve gone off my immunosuppressants (even pads! I’m allergic to pads!) and I just am scared of what my immune system is capable of. The upside is I could probably fight off the swine flu in ten minutes. ;)

yankeetooter's avatar

Hey, @Mariah , math is my “thing”. Let me know if you need any help…

Mariah's avatar

@yankeetooter Hey thanks! Math has kind of been my “thing” too in the past but who knows what six months with no schooling will have done to me. So, it’s nice to know that the offer stands. :)

yankeetooter's avatar

Yeah, no problem! @Mariah !

Vunessuh's avatar

Distraction works well for me. Work. Gym. Hobbies. My responsibilities at home. Friends. Whatever.
As does creating and analyzing a pros and cons list regarding why I’m moving on from this particular thing. This helps reassure that I’ve made a good decision and puts my mind at ease. It allows me to look forward to my future rather than dwell on the past.

Very rarely I say fuck alla that and have a meltdown. Releasing all of your emotions can be very therapeutic, especially if they’ve been building up for a while. Sometimes if you get them off of your chest, you’ll feel fantastic afterwards. There’s just a certain time and place for that.

Good luck to you, hon!

ddude1116's avatar

@Mariah if you’re well enough, and capable, try going on vacation. Just to take some time off and devote it solely to being somewhere else (and someone else, if you dig that sort of escape) until you’re feeling better. Not only will that prove to yourself your strength, but it will ease your head of all your concerns.

Symbeline's avatar

When I muse, slave and obsess over a part of my life that was significant at some point but no longer does anything for me aside from making me try to eternally eat myself as does the Ouroboros, I try to find some means of distraction. It might seem, well what’s the word, retarded I guess, to some, but hardcore movie nights, intense game playing or reading like, three quarters of a 1000 page book in two days exhausts me. And this is good, because it also exhausts away what ties me down.
Then, when I get some good rest and feel all alive again the next, or two, days after, my mind works better into trying to tackle what has me focusing on the thing that should not be. You can find new avenues and paths this way. It might not always work, but besides drinking this is the best I’ve found, and it worked enough that I reckon it. Hobbies and passions can help a lot.
I realize that my way of thinking can actually easily be altered. The problem is when you cement yourself into it way too much and can’t fathom otherwise. But if you stagnate well…that’s what you’ll do. Plenty of stuff happens all the time everywhere that might make you think twice about your convictions, comforts and whatever. It’s not always good but it’s not always bad. I guess you’ll have to decide that for yourself, but in my personal case, getting anchored to something just isn’t any good if all it does is bring anxiety or sorrow. There’s a reason for that somewhere, and it needs to be tackled. Evil Dead and Parasite Eve may not help you, but I suggest some form of intense (and healthy, I mean not like drugs or booze) form of distraction to pour cold water over your head, so to speak.

Also, @Vunessuh GA :)

Mariah's avatar

You guys have great advice. My situation has been hard. Distractions are hard to come by – friends are all away at college, I’ve not been taking classes or working, and while I’m not so weak as to be homebound, I’ve had some complications that have made it difficult for me to get out much. But when I do find a distraction, those are the days I feel the best, so there is absolutely something to that idea. I’ve found solace in working out (as much as I’m allowed – cardio is OK but no heavy lifting if I don’t want a hernia), and in throwing my mind into my interests in robotics and in jewelry making. I can’t wait for my online class to start at the end of May because then I will have something else to focus on.

@ddude1116 Omg, a vacation sounds sooooooo nice! My next surgery is in under two weeks, though, and after that I’ll be in no state to be going far from home. I should see about doing something like that over the summer, though.

Thanks all, you’re extremely insightful.

Hibernate's avatar

Not gonna read all the above.

My personal thoughts. Just move on [ not simple ] Change your way of thinking or use the old way just be sure not to let it make you regress.

Time DOESN’T heal wounds so don’t think it will pass in time since it won’t happen.

You could try doing different things as distractions but it won’t help that much either since after the activity is over you’ll start thinking back.

You need to find your own way of dealing with it ^^

peridot's avatar

If there are no people involved in this situation, try a quiet ritual or even a “letter” to it, mentioning what you’re taking from it having been in your life and why you feel it’s time to move on. That helps cement the benefits of it as well as reinforcing your stronger, more developed self for whom the situation is no longer working. If it’s a person, a sit-down encompassing the above in face-to-face fashion might be in order. Or not. Depends on the recipient.

In either case, if you have personal belongings (mementos, etc.) as a result of this part of your life, choose which things stay with you and which go away. Ideally you’d want to have things in both categories: stuff to trigger positive memories, and stuff to get rid of to make a physical declaration that you’re moving on.

Earthgirl's avatar

Mariah I’m not sure if I understand how being sick has influenced your way of thinking. Can you explain about that a little? I can certainly understand how it would affect how you go about living your life and how you think about yourself. Chronic illness is difficult to deal with and to have had it when you were so young makes it even harder. People often don’t understand because while they know that young people get sick too, they think of illness as something you deal with in old age. I was sick with Hodgkins disease when I was 19 years old and I understand the sort of hyper awareness of thinking that every little pain or lump could mean you are sick. The fear stays with you for a long time. At least it did for me. I had to talk myself out of it. I think when you are through with your operations and able to work more towards your goals and be more independent, you will naturally move towards a new way of being. Jewelry design is a great thing to work on while you are recuperating! I like doing jewelry design also. I am thinking of putting some things on Etsy.
Just keep focusing on the positive and moving forward. Your illness has been a big part of your life and it has probably helped to make you the person that you are in. I find that those who have lived through difficult times are often more compassionate and resilient. Not that you would have chosen illness as a character-building exercise, but hey, it’s not wrong to acknowledge to yourself what was positive in a difficult experience. I am so happy for you that you are going to be getting better now. I wish you all the luck in the world! Don’t be afraid to be happy. It sounds crazy, but sometimes that is what the fear is about. Seek out everything that gives you joy. .

wundayatta's avatar

I’m really confused. How do you know when it’s “time to leave something behind?” What does it mean to let it be part of the past?

We have a couple of examples in what @yankeetooter and @Mariah wrote. @yankeetooter writes ” the motivation for maintaining these good life choices can fade…and where does that leave you? Directionless, lonely, and questioning what you really want out of life…”

@Mariah says that she doesn’t know how not to be sick. Then she lists a set of behaviors she wants. She wants to be more comfortable with her body so she doesn’t go the ER at “the drop of a hat.” She wants to relax about changes in her body and stop catastrophizing. She wants to let go of fear and sorrow because she believes she doesn’t need it any more, but her mind is still thinking in old patterns.

@yankeetooter is afraid she won’t take care of herself any more. She fears that life has lost its meaning for her. She placed all her meaning in this relationship, as she did, it sounds, in a prior relationship. For her, life is about being in a deep relationship with a man.

I think this is not an issue of leaving something in the past. In fact, that is true for @Mariah as well. The issue here is imagining what you want in the future, and then seeking it. Perhaps @yankeetooter wants another good relationship. She can work on finding that. Or perhaps she wants to learn to be stable in and on her own. It’s not clear. But the first step is to define what you want, so you can work towards. it. It should not be defined in a negative—what you want to get away from.

@Mariah has defined some goals. She wants to learn how to behave as if she were healthy. She wants to learn to live as a healthy person. In her mind, she still sees herself as a sick person. But she knows this and she knows where she wants to go.

The first thing for @Mariah then, is to clear up her vision of what it means to be healthy. It’s not enough to say “I don’t want to be sick.” You have to envision how to be healthy and what healthy behaviors look like. Then you can use mindfulness or some other mental technique to retrain your way of thinking.

I’m not going to go into mindfulness training here. If you meditate and do yoga, you’re off to a great start.

What interests me about this question is that it is about running away from something instead of towards something. When you are running away, you have no idea where you are going. You could be going anywhere—even back to where you came from. You have to run towards something, and in order to do that, you have to define what you want to run towards. Once you do that, you can make a plan. You probably won’t get to where you thought you wanted to be, but you will get someplace and it will be different from where you were.

However, I also want to question the idea of running away at all. Your experiences have been valuable and have taught you a lot. You don’t need to fight them. You can incorporate their lessons into your life. In fact, if you embrace them, that can make it easier to move somewhere else.

Your experiences are a part of you. There is no need to cast them away. So often, we fight with ourselves and it is so unnecessary. In fact, your experiences have given you many strengths. You can use those strengths as a place to build your future from. So another thing to do is to reflect on what you have learned from these experiences.

I’ve come through a serious bout with mental illness in the past few years. It has taught me compassion and made me capable of a level of empathy I never could have had before. It has also given me a lot of knowledge about a particular subject area. I have made relationships that I would never have had otherwise, and some of them are the most important relationships in my life.

I say, don’t run. Build. You have a strong core. Build on it. Build on what you know of yourself and build it in a shape you want. You are not rebuilding. You are building. Knowing that can make a huge difference.

Mariah's avatar

@Earthgirl There are a few specific ways in which being sick has impacted my thought processes that I’d really like to reverse. First of all, stress exacerbated my symptoms, so I’ve definitely fallen into a pattern of constantly trying to reduce and remove stress – obviously not necessarily a bad habit, but I’ve taken it to extremes at times. I almost never take risks because I completely avoid situations that make me anxious. I have become aware that it has become a crutch for me at this point – I procrastinate or completely avoid any situation that makes me anxious with the excuse that I’m doing it “for my health.” Driving makes me anxious – now I’m 18 and I still don’t have my license. Being overwhelmed with committments makes me anxious – instead of getting involved in campus life I sit in my dorm room and play video games. So when I find myself feeling as though I’m wasting my life, I write it off as not my fault – I’m sick, I need this relaxation. This is a habit I want to break out of, because I want to have a meaningful college experience and I want to be able to move forward in life, and both of those things are going to require me to take risks and put myself in situations that stress me out a bit. I need to let go of that crutch.
The other major thinking pattern that I need to eliminate is the one that goes “I’m not feeling well tonight, I wonder what’s wrong, oh shit it’s probably going to turn out to be something chronic and I’m going to be miserable for the rest of my life.” I have developed this really bad tendency to extrapolate everything out to infinity and am a paranoid wreck in general. I’ve become very “worst case scenario.” Not exactly a thought process I want to hold onto.
I’m sorry you went through what you did. I certainly agree that the fear is not just going to disappear overnight. I’m glad to hear it sounds like you’ve worked through yours. I think the main answer to my original question is going to turn out to be time.
And I have to agree, as many bad effects as being ill had on my thought processes, it had its share of good ones too. I wouldn’t trade away my experiences or what I’ve learned from illness. I do appreciate all your advice.

@wundayatta You make a good point – I phrased this question extremely negatively. I’ve been thinking more about leaving sickness behind than about moving towards health. I guess in a way they are synonymous, but in another, talking about leaving illness behind me implies the desire to discard my memories of it. I don’t want that. There are some particularly nasty mental habits I’ve picked up from being ill (described in my response to @Earthgirl) which I do want to completely destroy – I don’t see them benefitting me at all – but I want to keep the positive life lessons around, and being ill taught me quite a lot of those.
My idea of what health should be like, what I hope is in my future, is a lot less worry and a lot more energy. I want to move towards a life where I’m not freaking out about every little thing, and where I’m a very active participant in those activities that I find to be intellectually, socially, or emotionally stimulating. This is what I want for my future.
I am working on being mindful. I went through a long stretch after my surgery where I think I was pretty depressed. I wanted happiness to be handed to me and I was waiting for it. What it took to snap me out of that was a visit with my best friend, who is away at college 6 hours from here, so I don’t get to see her often. After that night I began journaling daily – I’m seeking my happiness now, not waiting for it, which I think is a big step in the right direction. I still have a lot to learn. Thank you – your response was very thoughtful.

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