So, as I wrote about a couple weeks ago, I have developed a fun case of tinnitus. It is not fun. I’m still hoping it goes away on its own, which it might – it comes and goes – but a huge part of tinnitus really seems to be psychological. The good news is that tinnitus is insanely common and that even if it is chronic, a full 98% of people eventually habituate. Habituate occurs when someone gets so used to something that they no longer even notice it.
And that leads me to today’s entry.
Look, this whole thing sucks. I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually – many famous and successful people have – but it has made me think about a broader problem: How can you try to forget something?
The truth – I think – is that you can’t. You can’t actively forget something. And that is a statement that has major impacts on someone’s mental health. If you lose someone, experience a trauma, or have an event occur you’d prefer to forget, you can’t. Just like I can’t forget this damn tone in my left ear.
Memory is quite a pain in the ass if you ask me. There are no filters on it. There’s no recycle bin. You just…have to figure out how to cope.
So, how can you forget, when you can’t forget? A few thoughts.
First, I think one of the best things you can do is accepting that something occurred. In my case, there’s no cure for tinnitus, although there is ample evidence that therapy and time can help alter your perception. That being said, to some extent, this annoyance may always be with me. But if I fight against that, I stir up more feelings of pain, guilt, and more. The same may apply to you and your situation. I’ve read people say that they realized that they had to accept their tinnitus and embrace it – turn into it – not try to run away from it or muffle it with noise. I’ve come to appreciate that perspective.
However, that brings me to my second point. Accepting that something will always be with you – be it the memory of an assault or the ringing in your ear – does not mean that you are accepting a lifetime of pain and trauma. Quite the opposite. You accept so you can heal, so you can deal, not so you can lie down and die. You are not a prisoner of your memory or your experiences, and I think there’s a power in accepting something. What does that mean? Well, to quote a question my wife once asked me: So, what are you going to do about it?
No matter your experience or your pain, odds are good that someone has been there first. I exchanged Emails with a guy named Matt Tanner, a HR professional who developed acute, chronic tinnitus after a cold. He showed me an incredible webinar by Dr. Bruce Hubbard, a psychologist who developed severe tinnitus distress after he got tinnitus. That video discusses how people deal with tinnitus and gave me a great deal of hope.
Let me take that and bring it back to you. Whatever you have gone through – whatever your pain or trauma – I am sorry. But keep in mind, odds are very, very good that your issues have been experienced before. To that end, find others who have spoken about their pain and their trauma. Ask them how they dealt, how they got through. Their advice may be invaluable and life-saving.
Third, remember, there is always something you can do. If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know what an advocate for good therapy I am. Therapy can be a life-saver in almost any instance, and I am so grateful to have someone I can talk to about my various issues – including this. I’ll add that other things can help: Exercise, meditation, or a good hobby can be incredibly valuable and have therapeutic value on their own. All of these items have something in common: They can give you a sense of control and agency. They can help you learn a growth mindset that is so critical for any sort of recovery.
Back to the title of this entry: How can you forget? You can’t. You probably can’t. Instead, you can learn. You can grow. The only way over is through.