Help! Found Box of Stuff From HS (26 years ago) Now Stuck in the Past

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    I’m going through a really weird thing emotionally right now. A few days ago, I opened the last box of items that I had in storage at my parents house from my childhood. It was letters and pictures and some journals. I was expecting to just toss it all, as I had with all my other belongings, as I have gotten better at non-attachment and was doing it to de-clutter my life for new beginnings.

    I came across letters about a boyfriend who suddenly dumped me at the end of 8th grade (via letter!). I spent the rest of the night stalking him on Instagram (hadn’t even thought of him really since 9th grade) and got all these strange feelings and thoughts about what I could’ve done (as if my adult brain can compare with the emotional maturity of a 13 year old) during our relationship (have sex with him?!)  that might’ve prevented the breakup.

    The next day I found these spiral notebooks that I had written in in 9th grade. In these makeshift journals I had written about a guy who liked me and who I technically went out with (he asked me if I wanted to “go with him” the first time we went out). The two months of the relationship were as chaotic as a 9th grade relationship could be as a juvenile delinquent. I snuck out, ran away, fought my best friend (she was telling him I didn’t like him behind my back)… basically acting a fool and definitely not mature enough to try and even negotiate what the relationship needed to work. I think we only spoke on the phone, aside from cruising the town in silence when I snuck out of my house. Never really hung out and talked. Along with these notes, I looked through my yearbook and found a bunch of music that was popular at the time. I know this was a very impressionable time for me and it was full of a lot of lows. The breakup kinda broke me for a year. On top of the poor relationship I had with my parents and being on the verge of getting kicked out of school for skipping class to hang out with the wrong crowds it was miserable to say the least. .

    The issue I’m having is that my mind has totally been warped back into this period (27 years ago!). I’m obsessing over my journals and the details of what happened during the relationship to figure out if he ever liked me, while once again agonizing about how emotionally immature I was. And once again wondering if I should’ve just given it up (okay maybe I wasn’t that emotionally immature – I knew the guy just wanted to hook up with me —which he denied and told people I was different— and yet I had the bravery and insight to not do it (yay for me preserving some innocence in my crazy world!). Anyway, I even decided to stalk him on the internet. Surprisingly there’s not a trace to follow (thank god). But still. I’m like obsessed with finding out who he’s become and trying to mentally figure out what happens. I’m like an ace detective putting all my energy into this. I feel that feeling like one does when they have a crush. I’m not sleeping well, not eating, exercising (to that old music I found!),  have started thinking about how to become more healthy and physically attractive and even weird things like how I could possibly meet this guy again. I just moved back to my hometown and he lives in another state, so that won’t happen.

    Im wondering if I’m becoming manic, having a midlife crisis, or just having strong emotional flashbacks since I’m currently living with my parents again and I’m essentially in the same space as I was back then. I’m even seeing my boring home town as if I were still in HS.

    Im wondering how I’ve gone through many serious relationships and many many years have passed and yet I can still have such strong feelings surface, as if it were yesterday. Has anyone ever heard of this? Or am I going mental? I kinda just wanna understand what’s going on in my brain right now that’s making me fixate. It’s not in my character and I’m totally conscious of the fact that what we focus on becomes our thoughts and life. But I can’t break free! I’m like an addict to this old life and I’m starting to have feelings wishing I could go back in time! (Esp when listening to the music). Help!! Hoping someone can relate.



    Dear Sandy1:

    Reads to me that moving back to your hometown and to your parents' home triggered memories from the past. Not what I call “dry memories” but emotional memories, memories held in the brain with the glue of emotion.

    Maybe before you had dry memories. Having moved back to your parents' home unleashed that glue and the memories became alive, emotional, as if it all happened yesterday.

    “Now Stuck in the Past”- what happened to the recent past, the one you left behind away from your childhood home and hometown?




    Hi Anita,

    I really appreciate your reply-thank you so much!

    Interesting about wet and dry memories- I had never heard of that!

    My life has been great since leaving my hometown-lots is experiences and relationships, both positive and negative. I haven’t been in a relationship in 5 years and prior had been in a relationship for 10 years. I have done a lot of work since then and don’t feel I’m suffering from it ending anymore.

    When I left this town for college far away, I was overjoyed, having spent 4 years in high school dying to get out. Looking back, I think my high school years were a lot more traumatic than I realized. I guess when we’re young we’re always moving forward and really are super resilient when it comes to hardships. Maybe that resiliency allowed me to just keep moving into new experiences and forgetting the past – life is good now, so why would I think of what I left behind kind of thing.

    I realize as I’m going through these memories, I’m recreating them in my adult mind—in essence just making up fictitious memories, I think, which could be more harmful. My obsession doesn’t seem to be a good way to process difficult memories.

    It’s all very interesting. Aside from the fear that something is wrong with me for attaching myself to this, I’m also concerned that I’m creating new traumas in my brain.




    Dear Sandy1:

    You are very welcome.

    The dry/ wet memories, I don't think I read those terms, I may have come up with them myself, which would explain why you didn't hear these terms before. We may have a memory for years, a dry memory, or a gray memory and then.. suddenly we remember it in colors, in a new depth of emotion that wasn't there before.

    You wrote in your original post that during high school your relationships with your parents was poor. How is it now and how do you feel being in their presence?




    Dearest Sandy1,

    You are not alone.

    I am by no means a trained counsellor, but I can tell you some advice of my own.

    It is very normal for people to be stuck in their past, especially when they want to change something that they have done in the past but are unable to do so. By dwelling in the past, they hope that they are able to make a change such that their future will be different, but what they are doing is actually the opposite.

    I experienced this first-hand.

    There was also a period of time where I was unable to get out of my head and I kept repeating a bullying incident in my life numerous times for a few months. It was horrible, and I felt that I was in an emotional wreck every day.

    However, I learnt that life is imperfect and that we all have different experiences that shape us into who we are today. What we all went through is unique to ourselves, and it is what makes us special.

    Only from crises do we learn and grow, and what we can do is to stop overthinking about the past and the future, and just focus on the present. Although it sounds easy, it might not be as simple executing it. This is because our human brain is hard-wired to keep thinking, and these thoughts will be in a self-entertaining loop unless boundaries are set.

    What has happened has already happened, and we can do nothing to change it.

    What has yet to happen has not happened, and we have no control over it as well.

    The only thing we can do is to live in the moment, laugh when it's funny, cry when it's unbearable. It is all part and parcel of life. Although some parts of our history are emotionally scarring, they are there to serve a purpose. These memories are there to teach us something, and slowly but surely, we are becoming stronger humans.

    You can do it. You might not think you can, but you are able to pull through this like you have once before.

    Stay wonderful and brave.





    Hi Anita,

    Sort of like learned memories vs emotional memories. I just learned that memories can be completely false after being recollected and tweaked over time…

    My relationship with my parents is about as good as it can get. I find that despite being an adult, I sort of revert to acting like a teenager with them – it's so weird. About 15  years ago I was getting in touch with my feelings and decided to try and make our relationship a more loving one (we never say “I love you”) and to see if my dad could be more emotionally available. I think maybe they budged a little, but I gave up figuring it just isn't who they are.

    To answer your question, I feel comfortable in their presence, but still have reservations for speaking my mind or even really being myself. Daily I think about moving so that I can get my freedom back and feel free to be myself again instead of feeling so inhibited.



    Dear Jun,

    Thank you dearly for your sage advice. And I'm so sorry that you had to endure bullying, but I'm sure, like you said, it's contributed to making you the thoughtful, caring, wonderful and brave person you are today!

    Everything you wrote helps, especially the part about the brain being hard-wired to play on a self-entertaining loop unless we set boundaries. It helps to hear that others have gone through something similar.

    As difficult as bringing up these feelings and memories has been, I think they may be playing a part in why I hold myself back and have such limiting beliefs. I am determined to use them to better understand what I was going through back then, why it's beckoning me (aside from just being a distraction from my present life), and try to heal that section of my life that lives on in my subconscious. I was thinking that maybe I didn't respond well to rejection back then, but here I am again today with the chance to take the path that I would have liked to take. To understand that not everything works out the way that we want it to, that not everyone will like us, and so we need to love and support ourselves so that we can be there for ourselves and act accordingly when hardships come up. So much easier without raging hormones (and the internet to support you!).

    It's very helpful to have the discussion with you and others who offered their help and opinions. Just writing out my feelings helps to solidify what I'm feeling and learning. So thank you!

    Stay wonderful and brave yourself!




    Dear Sandy1:

    You moved back to your parents' home after many years of living away. The emotional experience you had when you lived at home as a child, 26 years ago, returned with intensity. That experience was that of loneliness, of a desire for love amidst the lack of it.

    In 8th grade what you did in your loveless home, was looking for love with a boyfriend. Twenty six  years later, recently, you did the very same thing: looking for love with a boyfriend, the same boyfriend: “I spent the rest of the night stalking him on Instagram (hadn't even thought of him really since 9th grade)”

    You even had the same thoughts 26 years later: “about what I could've done… during our relationship.. that might've prevented the breakup… I'm obsessing over my journals and the details of what happened during the relationship to figure out if he ever liked me.”

    In your recent note to me you wrote: “I feel comfortable in their (your parents') presence, but still have reservations for speaking my mind and even really being myself.. Daily I think about moving so that I can get my freedom back and feel free to be myself again instead of feelings so inhibited”

    Just like it felt then, the child that you were, inhibited, not free to be you.

    The interesting thing is, we carry our childhood experience through our adulthood everywhere we go. Unless we heal and resolve what needs to be healed and resolved, we keep living the same past in many ways, often not aware that we are.

    When you went back home, your childhood experience was brought to your felt-awareness with intensity. Now you know, don't you, that your childhood experience of living without love, was always with you.

    Notice: you wrote that you feel comfortable in the presence of your parents. We do get comfortable with what is familiar to us, with what we adjusted to best we can.

    I hope to read more from you.



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    Dear Sandy1,

    I'm glad you've decided to take a step to challenge yourself and let yourself learn from your past experiences. Not many manage to do so because they fear the past, and I admire your growth mindset.

    You can do it!

    Feel free to take a break when need to, you are also a human.

    Yours sincerely,


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