healing Is Hard
November 8th, 2019
Reality check: healing is hard, ugly, merciless. And I write from deep in the trenches of pain and trauma. Whether viewed as rising, recovering, returning, rallying, recuperating, restoration or anything else, this is the most difficult work of my life for mind, body, soul, brain, self. Rarely do we hear about these struggles in a consistent, real time, unfiltered manner from someone in the throws of it, see the messy open wounds, bare witness to the horrific process of actively fighting. It is easier to hear about agonizing experiences through the sanitized lens of memory and the safety of distance, to not reveal the non-glorified failures throughout the painful, far-from-linear process of healing and, in doing so, open oneself up to additional risk, peril, shame or judgement at the most vulnerable of times. We too often skip over the depths of darkness without an honest conversation about what is actually required and tested physically, mentally and emotionally to brave, to persevere, to simply make it through the impossibly difficult, devastatingly complex and wholly unknown journey.
People say I am brave to be so vulnerable, that courage is contagious, that my openness enables others to be more emotionally daring, that struggling aloud invites more widespread introspection. But I am just living my raw truths in the best way I possibly can while telling the only story I know: my own, in hopes that I then better understand it to figure out what comes next. We’re all imperfect, emotional beings with questions, uncertainties and needs. In committing to show up authentically and dare to do the work, both privately and publicly, I will inevitably fall, as I do, over and over and over again. Forget posturing or perfection; I am merely trying to muster the strength, fortitude and tenacity to survive.
I have no clue what will be — and have come to see that expectations only set me up for disappointment. But I refuse to suffer in silence, or cast off my sharing as weakness, frivolity or indulgence. I have no shame in exposing my all too real horrors, my daily collapses, my agony, my tumult, my confusion — always seeking to maintain invaluable, critical perspective. I second-guess my own judgment, decisions, feelings, actions, most everything, but I get honest enough to recognize how my emotions, sensations and behaviors are interconnected and part of a much larger story. Some of which is true, some fabricated to protect myself, some needs to be challenges, some must shift or disappear entirely to better align with my values, desires and goals. I also revisit troubling narratives, probing deeper understanding of the origins of such negative emotions. I must own, grapple with and explore the difficult, because I am the sum of all parts, whether seemingly incongruous or wholly integrated. I can neither deny, disengage or hide, nor permit any one part of my story to singularly define the complex, ever-evolving being that is Erin.
There is no way out, but through — whatever the challenge may be, whether physical or mental, inadequacy or heartbreak, scarcity or fear, past or present, major or supposedly minor. We cannot skip the darkness, the middle, the abyss, the depths of despair or conflict; turning around is never an option, even in the absence of respite or break. While light may not be visible, while all may be unfathomably chaotic, while pain feels utterly debilitating, I must find faith to stay the course, navigate its tumultuous path, and push tirelessly to overcome the constant hurt and larger adversities alike.
I don’t need to compare suffering, for any true emotion or experience is valid. I don’t need to rise in a glorious manner, with some grandiose projection of triumphant wisdom. I don’t need to edit, as to appear acceptable or meet professed standards. I don’t need to understand how this experience is shaping me or what I may come to view as learnings in retrospect. I simply need to choose to engage with this struggle, both inward and outward, rather than opt for numbness or avoidance. Being genuinely curious about and facing tough sensations, decisions and emotions rather than offloading the inherent pain or discomfort means opening myself up to greater risk. I need not have it all together in order to begin, for that alone would be an inconceivable, paralyzing ask. Through this process of reckoning that I neither wanted nor expected in the wake of my accident, I am coming to see who I am, what I am made of, how I handle unthinkable darkness. Addressing the innumerable emotional, mental, physical and behavioral aspects at play is inevitably transformative, introducing fresh perspectives, leading me to thoughts I never imagined, and informing how I chart my day-to-day and life ahead. But healing is hard.