How to Put Your Life Back Together: Remember Who You Were

Just two days ago, as I sat sobbing my eyes out to an old friend, she put her arms around me and told me to remember the happy days, what it was like when I was at my happiest.

“Don’t you remember?” she said, her eyes wide open and bright, “You were SO happy, Jamie. You were bubbling over, you couldn’t stop talking, you had plans, you were talking about the future, you were so excited. You were so happy.

I thought for a long while and then I said to her, a fresh set of dramatic sobbing about to start, “I can’t remember that, Sal.”

For all the upbeat posts I’ve been writing, the last 6 – 8 weeks or so have been awful. Read all about that sickening pirate ship ride in my previous post if you haven’t already. Then when I thought about it a bit more, I realised it isn’t even just 6 weeks. It’s been about at least three years that I’ve lost who I was.

In my moments of feeling extremely down these few weeks, old friends – from 10 years back, 15 years back, 25 years – have been writing and talking to me, reminding me (without me even prompting or asking) of all the happy days, reminding me all in their own ways of the happy, bright, sassy, confident, independent, strong person that they remember me as. And as I read their wonderful love-filled messages to me, I wondered where that girl has gone because I just don’t know her anymore, I haven’t seen her for an awfully long time.

I remember her distantly, like an outdated version of me before the “system upgrade” went terribly wrong. I remember the girl at university that was that happy, bright, independent, fun-loving, couldn’t-give-a-fuck-care-about-anything, alcopop girl; I remember the girl I was when I first came back to Malaysia, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, dreaming and hopeful, full of wonder and excited about her life-about-to-begin. I remember the girl that people used to fall in love with, like one of those too-big heroines in a Rushdie novels.

I like this girl. I think (if I may be so bold to say) she was a girl that people liked to like. And now, over the last three years, she’s turned into this hollow, dark, fearful, sad shell of a person. Some people saw me shrink and darken through the years. They saw that girl disappearing behind a sad shadow and they had tried to tell me in different ways, quietly, but I hadn’t heard, hadn’t listened, and then one day I woke up, looked in the mirror and it was a different girl looking back at me – one that had these dark rings under her eyes and who looked frightened to even see her own reflection.

So I’m trying to remember who I was now – that bright girl, the one that people loved to love, and to dig her out into the sunshine again. Air her out like an old pillow, plump her feathers back and get her going again.

I’m realising now how important this is as you emerge from a difficult, dark place – to remember who you were and to understand that you were not always this person who is scared / sad / guilty / fearful / disempowered etc. You were once bright and airy too, you stood alone and strong, and you did wonderful things. There were people who loved you for so many things that you have probably now forgotten and if you can only find a quiet moment to go back and remember those very things yourself, you’ll start to go back to the person you were.

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