We talk about healing constantly. Healing our trauma, healing our inner child. But what does that mean? And how do we actually heal? And why do we use the word as if it has a universally accepted meaning?
I run my fingers over the cracks in my soul and wonder – does healing mean covering the fractures with a new layer of concrete, or ripping the base out and starting fresh? And what exactly am I ‘healing’ here? My inner child, this intangible abstract concept that I cannot touch, feel, or see. What does my inner child even need? Is it real, or is it something that modern mental health advocates have coined to sell more self-help books and gain views on their videos? And am I sure I even want to heal? Some damage feels too soothing to intentionally mend. It explains so much – why do we do certain things? Why have we made so many mistakes? Why are we constantly falling apart? It explains so much that the pain almost feels like comfort. Why would we want to heal when our trauma feels like home?
To me, living a healed life means living a life that is not influenced or impacted by an overwhelming presence of triggering emotions. It also means holding myself radically accountable for my actions when I was not healed and focusing my energy on the only thing I truly can control in my life, myself. Healing requires identifying every little nook and cranny where your pain pokes through, and following it down to its roots. And then, not ripping only what is visible, but tearing from the roots upward.
The process of healing is gentle, but the feelings that healing triggers are violent. Some days I yearned for the same poison I used to crave, but my Potential grabs my wrist before I can even reach for it. And day by day, the poison that used to taste like chocolate slowly starts to smell like bleach. And for the first time in decades, I can see the consoling habits for what they were – masochism. The satisfaction that came with hurting myself before anyone else could do it for me. For so long I thought my trauma was beautiful. I thought my trauma gave me purpose and color and something to fight. I became addicted to the feeling of overcoming my obstacles and hungry to prove everyone around me wrong, only for the high of each to last minutes before the emptiness in my gut would start to gnaw again, waiting for the next rush. I have always ached to prove to everyone, and myself, that my pain has made me stronger. And then at the same time, all I have done for so long is prove the exact opposite. That is when I realized that there is nothing beautiful, nothing romantic or sexy or brave about repeatedly making yourself a martyr in your own head.
Healing has not felt like what Instagram and TikTok described. I assumed that healing would be euphoric – full of new beginnings, a new sunnier lens through which I can view the world, and maybe even a few second chances. I thought that behind my pain would be beauty. Healing has been chaotic episodes of manic celebration one day, then falling through a bottomless pit of depression the next. Healing has been discomfort, realizing that as I untangle my trauma, a new me is somewhere to be found – one that I have not met before. What does an untraumatized me even look like? Who am I without my cracks and fractures and damage? Without the people that I will no doubt lose as my entire self changes? Healing has been forgiving the people who gave me my trauma in the first place because they are also plagued by their own trauma. Healing has been accepting that up until this point, I have lived my whole life in a state of survival in fight-or-flight. Behind my pain has not been a beauty, but the parts of me that I squeezed and squeezed and squeezed until all of the life was gone and I was small enough to hide behind the armour.
Is there an endpoint to healing? Do I finally get to a place where I am done actively working? Does it become less exhausting? When does healing and suffering stop feeling so similar? Now that I have started on my healing journey, even when I am not consciously working towards healing I feel drip dry and drained. I am waiting impatiently to reap the rewards that healing has promised. I wait anxiously (or excitedly, I can no longer tell those feelings apart) for the moment that the therapy, journaling, reflection, tear-filled nights, and EUREKA! moments finally bring me to where I am meant to be. To a place where my trauma does not dictate my life.
To my new home.