Why Your Past Shouldn't Be A Burden

Pain isn’t a burden at all — it’s a gift.

woman in a car driving away getty

By Laura Van De Walle

It sucks you in, whispers to you until tears come streaming down your face. It wraps its arms around you until you can feel your chest tighten; it allows no air to escape.

It pushes and it pulls, tugging on the very parts that hold you together. The weight of it is crushing you slowly, and you know you have to run before it catches you.

It's the past.

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It’s the person you were that you left behind for a reason.

It’s the people and the places you got away from because it brought you to places darker than you ever imagined.

It’s the version of yourself that knows pain, heartbreak, and relentless sadness.

We all have that person or place that triggers this anxiety and, truthfully, it’s nothing short of terrifying. We spend months and years getting past the way it made us feel, and just like that you can be dragged right back into it.

My past is more than just one person or one place, and, as a whole, it doesn’t haunt me.

However, there are parts of it that follow me no matter where I go. I can’t seem to outrun or hide from these memories.


Sometimes it takes years of carrying a burden to realize that it only exists because it’s inside of you.

My pain created who I am today. It gives life to the words that I write and the words that I speak. It is the outlet through which I connect to the world and others who are in pain.

My pain isn’t a burden at all, it’s a gift.

Recently, I had an abrupt and unsettling reminder of what my life used to be like and it terrified me. After so much time and dedication put into moving beyond that part of me, I felt as though I’d lost years of progress.

Then, I awoke the next day and realized that nothing and no one could take me away from me.

This strong person who faced every day, even when I didn’t have the motivation or the energy to face it, is just as much a part of me as the pain. One cannot exist without the other.


Having a past that makes others question who you are isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s the people who do the questioning that should be ashamed.

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Our past isn’t baggage or some accessory we wear on our sleeves — it is us.

Pain and happiness are polar opposites, and it is impossible to truly understand one without the other. In this way, those of us who carry the weight of a past have learned to appreciate the present in a way some people will never truly understand.

Accepting that the mistakes we have made and the pain we have experienced isn’t gone overnight.

For years, I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay and that I can forgive myself for making poor decisions or believing in people beyond their worth. After all this time I still find myself struggling quite often.


It’s the good days that allow us to make it through the bad. Today was one of those days.

I decided to stop harping on myself for slipping up and allowing the past back in, even for a second. I decided that today I would be kind to myself and accept my pain and my past.

They may not all be good days, but it’s knowing there are more good days to come that keep you going.


It’s using your pain to find strength. It’s knowing that each and every day, you grow and you learn and you become a person that the old version of yourself would be proud of.

It’s coming to terms with your past and knowing that it doesn’t have to be a burden, not if you channel that pain into something good.

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Laura Van De Walle is a student writer and a contributor to Unwritten. She writes primarily on topics of health, self-esteem, and relationships.