Is Healing Ever Finished?
April 14, 2020
Do you ever finish healing? Maybe not. Perhaps this is a journey I’ll be on for the rest of my life… I ponder on the eve of my birthday. We all break, heal, break again, heal some more. This is universal, though manifests in unique ways to differing degrees for distinct humans at different moments with varying paces, triggers, processes, outcomes. I’m not done healing, not even close. I will never have all of the answers, and don’t purport to seek that. I can’t operate on defined recovery timelines, and such is not an existence I would ever choose. But I’m here. Me. Present. Going about life.
Fully aware of the inherently nonlinear nature, infuriating complexities, and unknown duration of any personal/psychological/physical healing journey, I try to remind myself that I am still living all the while. Many things can be true simultaneously, even that which may appear contradictory at the onset. I can recognize the validity in all, make space to hold all, work to acknowledge all, yet move forward in a healthy way. The presence and persistence of scars — both literal and metaphorical — are not signs of some irrevocable damage, rather markers of moments, events, happenings, time, a life lived. Although incomplete, the places where they have begun to heal have become stronger, knitted together with new layers of growth. And I, overall, am more resilient because of it.
Plus, my brain is actually healing. The PTSD and anxiety, panic attacks and depression which took me the brink of perilous psychological break have subsided significantly. Trauma is horrifically real and its fallout devastating, but my days and mental processings are proof that TBIs subside, that cells regenerate, that neurological injuries heal, like every other part of the miraculous entity that is the human body. I can rely on my brain more and more with each passing day, which liberates me to dare to take on that which may be unfamiliar or even pose surefire, though not insurmountable challenge.
Optimism has long been one of my guiding principles, as I navigate whatever may cross my path, through an innate and treasured personal lens of positivity, passion, purpose. That was wholly out of reach for the bulk of my harrowing recovery post-accident, yet I feel it blessedly returning. I see the world, I take in stimuli, I process information with a lens similar to the one I once knew as belonging to Erin — that which I recognized, cultivated and trusted. What a wondrous experience! But more than even that, I utilize the vast tool belt of skills I was forced to gain to survive trauma — and feel bizarrely better equipped to handle the unknowns that lie ahead. The unprecedented state of the world, the compounding stresses of life, the blindsiding news of this past week, the who-knows-what around the corner — none of this is remotely simple to comprehend, yet forge ahead we must. And I am once again able to commit to trying, with at least some confidence in my ability to do so, without freezing, fretting, fearing, failing, falling.
A full spectrum of emotions are real, are valid, are allowed, are welcome. I can feel all the things, including the unpleasant, the troublesome, the complex — and continue onwards. I choose what/when/where/why/how to process or streamline, to explore or ignore, to internalize or release entirely on my own without needing to offer up an explanation for anyone else or myself. Trusting my instincts is a beautiful thing, as is challenging my response in any given moment. I posses agency and a formidable, yet wholly incomplete sense of control, which is both empowering and liberating.
I will never again say everything will be okay — because when it did not feel that way to me, rather the complete opposite on frequent occasion, such words of seemingly empty hope did not help. I instead will simply say: it will be. Whether it is meant to happen, I know not, but what is IS. And something will inevitably follow — for you, for others, for the community and world at large. Nothing is promised, nothing is set, nothing is even understood. But the earth keeps spinning on its axis and humans continue inhaling and exhaling oxygen.
If a person chooses or is given the opportunity to continue on this journey, we learn, grow and change every single step of the way — intentionally and by happenstance, markedly and infinitesimally, positively and also in ways we may come to question. I have not, will not and am not going it alone, nor will I walk blindly, ignorantly or passively for but a moment. I do the work. I seek help. I grapple with the darkness. I smile (imagine that!). I yearn for meaning, despite total lack of certainty in what I may unearth, reveal or discover.
My experience over the past seven plus months — since life literally hit me head on, stopping me dead in my tracks, bringing all I knew to a grinding halt with a split-second accident — has been the most unimaginably-grueling, earth-shattering, physically-consuming, psyche-destroying horror. I don’t know why the event happened, and am not currently seeking any fictitiously over-simplified, neatly-packaged, so-called revelatory meaning, nor know if these insights may ever come my way in such a manner. But I have learned incalculable amounts. I have grown tremendously. I have seen my empathy skyrocket, as any sense of knowledge, security, frame of reference and self was repeatedly busted wide open without warning, explanation or reprieve.
Trauma has undoubtedly changed me. Everything changes me — and will continue as such. I am now far more attuned to these shifts, aware of how I respond to and live through life’s experiences. Change and time are truly the sole constants, profound blessings and sources of outrage and targets of fury. We are not stagnant beings locked in any one instant, place, context or framework, rather designed to keep doing, keep going, keep growing. And through it all, there is peace to be found, if only through the pieces.
Life is a glorious, peculiar, unfinished journey that no one has, can or will ever figure out, or even comprehensively define. We are invited to explore, to question, to revise, to adjust, to pivot, to develop, to become, to exist, to live and to learn, to breathe and to be. All all the while, we are hold space and find time and do life. Ah yes, this eternal journey of unfinished healing.