The power of letting go


This blog is about surmounting fibromyalgia and mental illness. Inevitably, I had to get around to talking about forgiveness.

I wasn’t surprised that Google records 5 million searches a month for the phrase ‘how to let go.’

People are hurting and they want to heal and move on, but can’t seem to.

You might be asking what on earth this has to do with overcoming fibromyalgia and mental health problems?

Alot actually.

It is no secret that stress and emotional baggage can manifest themselves into physical symptoms. They can impinge on our health, exacerbating symptoms of conditions we are already dealing with. Chronic stress can also lead to a host of illnesses or habits that might affect our health in the long run.

The price of bitterness

Personally, when I am carrying heavy emotional weight I find myself suffering a flare of fibromyalgia symptoms, along with low mood, anxiety attacks, increased insomnia and migraines. On the flip side, when I am free of worries and stress, I find I manage my health better.

I am sure that like me, you have been hurt or wronged. Many of us carry heavy burdens that we don’t even realise affect our lives. Holding resentment for someone is like imprisoning yourself, except you have the only key to the prison gates. Running won’t do either. I have been bullied and hurt physically and emotionally by the people closest to me throughout life. My inclination was always to run away, so I did. But I soon realised that the mountainous hurts were with me wherever I went.

At the time I didn’t want to hear the f word but I admittedly I have witnessed the power of forgiveness or letting go. I was just reminded of it while looking at the movie Brother’s Keeper, and I have been so moved by the power of forgiveness that it is a main theme in a novel I am currently working on.

Letting go is never easy. Some hurts go very deep, and perhaps some wrongs cannot be made right. But forgiveness is transformative and can literally make us new and able to press on despite the wrongs committed against us.

For me it’s still a  work in progress but here are some tips on how to let go.

1. Make the decision to let go

I have heard people say that holding a grudge is like setting your own house on fire and expecting your neighbor’s house to burn. It is true. Malice and resentment eats at us internally, affecting our emotions, mood and interactions with people we care about. It is important to make the decision to start the process of letting go. This is the first step to setting yourself free.

2.  Express your hurts and feelings

Vent to a close friend. If possible express your feelings to the person who wronged you. They won’t always own up to it. Years ago I repeatedly confronted a close relative who had caused me years of pain which ultimately led to my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and Complex post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Initially my relative refused to acknowledge the pain that they caused me, and eventually they partially admitted it. That made me so angry. After years of suffering I felt like an apology was the least they could do! but when I realised ‘sorry’ was not forthcoming I had to accept that in order to move on with my life I needed to forgive that person even if I felt they didn’t deserve it. Someone also told me to write a letter detailing all my feelings about the wrong committed against me, then tear it up. It sounds silly but it actually made me feel a bit better.

3. Understand forgiveness isn’t about the other person, it’s about you

I used to think my relative wasn’t worthy of my forgiveness. But which of us is perfect? or worthy of forgiveness? There were times when I needed forgiveness. Imagine if the person I wronged didn’t find me worthy? There can be no healing without forgiveness. Letting go doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with the person who has hurt you. It just means that you choose to shed of all the hurt ad bitterness and move on. Forgiveness can often signal growth in the ‘forgiveee’ (ok I made that word up!). Holding a grudge is easy. Forgiveness shows real strength of character.

4. Don’t dwell on it

Once upon a time when I was deeply troubled about certain hurts I would retell the story over and over to anyone who would listen. However, each time it would cause me distress. Once I had gotten past telling the story to vent my feelings, retelling it again and again didn’t actually help. It only evoked more anger and pain in me. So the lesson is, stop retelling the story unless there is a good purpose behind doing so.

5. Focus on the positive

Try to pay attention to the positive things happening in your life. Take up a hobby that you like, volunteer to make a difference or practise mindfulness. I have found mindfulness most helpful when confronted with low mood due to depression. It is simply the art of paying attention to the present moment (for instance sounds, scents, feelings- take in the flavours in your food, the scent of your fresh coffee or listen to your own breathing, look at the smiles of babies) without judgement. Volunteering with charities close to my heart like Depression Alliance and Mind also a big a big difference to me when I was grappling with letting go of past hurts.

6. Forgive yourself

For years I was consumed by anger and resentment towards the people who had wronged me in life. It took several more years for me to recognise that I was also upset with myself. I felt like I was partly responsible for the things that had befallen me. It took a long while for me to say sorry to myself but I did. We can oftentimes get trapped in ways of thinking and acting that are unkind to ourselves. I know that living with fibromyalgia has made life challenging and oftentimes I’d get upset with myself when I am unable to achieve all I would like to. I know many other fms patients who are very unkind to themselves too. Sometimes we just have to learn to say ‘it’s ok’ if we can’t do what we want to do or meet other people’s standards. We’re trying our best with what we have and at the end of the day that’s what matters.

Remember that when we refuse to let go and move on, we are actually hurting no one but ourselves.

Gentle Hugs:) x

6 Replies to “The power of letting go”

  1. You cannot be more right! It is indeed no secret that stress and emotional baggage can manifest themselves and affect our health indirectly. We do have to learn to let go, to forgive not only the other person who may cause us hurt but also to learn to forgive ourselves.

    1. Thank you for putting into words what I have been trying too do. Thankfully, bitterness is not there. But the wounds, the terrible hurt, the desolation is very hard and that feeling of “no good” stays around. I am still a good person who loves GOD and does my best to be obedient to Him. Those that are NOT supposed to leave you, who are NOT supposed to take away the self esteem and leave you to rebuild…. it hurts deep within the heart. Yet, I love them, and I want them to love me. Why does every conversation seem to drown you in anything but feeling unloved, unsupported, uninterested, not caring enough to show support to the caregiver when he is exhausted and can hardly go on and is petrified I’m dying? Where was this close family? We are still here….. If one is educated then being with someone who has problems will helped. And then the side effects of loneliness and lack of support (meaning lack of love) will help us even physically. I knew that years ago, and grieved then that most likely without the help of those who were my dear family that was in our home, I would never be back to what I should have been. I LOVE seeing families step up to the plate.. it’s a beautiful sight! And how wonderful for the patient! It is so encouraging to see families have a love that includes sacrificing for one that sacrificed for them. My doctors are all aware of our situation and feel very bad. They will talk about it to see if anything has changed. ALL agree that education is needful – just as research says. Why is there not the obvious solution? Many of us don’t care to live. We keep it quiet because no one understands the life lived in pain, in confusion, in fear at times at what our body is doing, yet we are not allowed to have a voice. I hate to sided opinions… one for one person and one for the other. We all vent, so is it fair that we do not allow some to be quiet? I have a wonderful family and I’m very proud of them. I am shocked at the lack of caring……even when I have offered to hear them talk of what this has done to them, their grief, their misunderstandings, etc… To help them deal with things better. We THINK we are coping, but many times others see we are not. They are not, but do a good job faking it. Family meetings are when I am attacked, not with knowledge, not with compassion that they are unaware of, not with things they do not know, nor are interested in….. As my husband said, “we stand alone, silently, desperately suffering for someone and we must be quiet.”

      ChatCat76, Healing of the Wounded Heart

      1. Hi Cat,
        Thank you for stopping by. I truly empathise with you. I could feel the pain between the words you have written. In an ideal world we would all want to reconcile with people we have had differences with but this isn’t always possible. Some of the issues you describe I have in my own family, grudges that have gone on and on for generations to the point where people can’t even remember why they don’t speak to eachother but they would rather uphold that, despite identifying as believers.
        Sometimes I find this to be a real test of my faith but what else can we do but lead by example? and the live the way we believe God would have us live? It is not easy living among unsupportive or uncaring family. I hope you will find the strength and courage to forgive them. I hope that you and your husband are able to find support from friends? Wishing you well. Gentle hugs:) x

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