The Healing Journey
I guess it goes without saying that these last few months have been some of the hardest of my life. There have been several times that I’ve sat down and started writing a few paragraphs, only to re-read it and toss it in disgust. Too much sadness, too much hurt, too much anger.
Writing is an outlet for me that has always helped though. Letting the thoughts out, putting them on ‘paper’, letting them go in a way. It helps me to internalize what is going on inside my head, and articulate it. It helps to understand the thoughts and emotions that are at first just a whirling mass inside me until I capture them and pin them to the screen. Seeing them written down makes them less scary, less intimidating, and more tangible. Making them tangible makes them real, which means I can do something about it. For me, it’s almost always one of the first steps of healing. Write it down.
So believe me when I say I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately. Most of that writing hasn’t been anything anyone would want to read though. Sad, broken essays of hurt with grammar that would make my mom cringe. Dramatic monologues ranging from angry and spiteful to mourning and self-pitying. All part of the healing journey, but not necessarily anything that needs re-reading!
As time has continued to pass there have been certain themes that stick though. Certain aspects of myself, my personality that I have been able to critically analyze, over and over again, peel back the layers of justification and false confidence, and expose the broken core. It’s hurt like hell, but it’s impossible to start healing before the real sickness has been diagnosed.
I know everyone is innately different, but for me, the healing process has come in 5 stages. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this pattern either. It’s surfaced nearly every time when a trauma happens in my life – not always the same length of time, not always as well defined, but these stages have followed me since I was just a kid. Maybe writing them down will help someone else to relate, maybe it will just help me heal a little more.
- Shock. When the fallout first happened, when my world shattered, there was no pain, there was no anger, there wasn’t even a solid understanding of what was happening. I was spinning, I was lost, and I was just desperately trying to survive and keep moving. Whether it was forward or backward or in mindless circles. I had. to. keep. moving. Stopping momentum would have been like stopping breathing. As long as I was moving, I knew I was alive.
- Denial. As the realization of what had happened, and where I was really at started to sink it, it became overwhelming. My mind was trying to process, trying to think logically to move me forward, but the implications were just too much. My body went into a near self-preservation mode. I felt myself existing more in the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘this isn’t happening’ then in the reality. I kept trying to rationalize a way back to before, a path back to happiness, but the more I fought to go back, the more I started to question where that happy place I wanted to return to really was – if it ever even existed.
- Fear & Anger. Externalization was next. Emotions started to finally come to the surface. Coming to the realization that maybe, just maybe what I wanted to go back to, what I was craving with all my heart and soul, had never been real, it filled me with an intense loneliness. It scared me. And then it enraged me. Anger at myself for being naive. Anger at others for using my naivety. Then fear again, fear I’d never be able to be successful in love, fear that I would never be in a healthy relationship, that I wouldn’t even know what healthy looked like if it smacked me in the face. Back to anger, trying to push my mistakes to others, justifying my hurt with the actions of others. I bounced back and forth, working through the details of what happened, why it happened. As I continued piecing together how and why things happened though, I started to understand more, the problem became more tangible, and the harsh, raw emotions started to finally subside.
- Understanding & Acceptance. I still didn’t know how to move forward, but I was beginning to understand where I was at. The crazy whirlwind of guilt, anger, fear, and heartache was beginning to subside. The hurt was still there (maybe it will always be here) but the problem was manageable. I had accepted where I was, and it was time to start moving forward again. I knew what had happened, I knew why it had happened. I could see where the mistakes were made, and I had a pretty good understanding of WHY. It was time to make an action plan for improvement.
- Moving Forward. This is where I am right now. It’s not the first time either. I’ve been here before, when other events have shook my world and I’ve had to go through these stages, pick up the pieces and move forward. I don’t know if this stage ever actually wraps up. To forget would be to lose sight of the lessons learned, to risk making these mistakes again. Self-improvement is a never ending battle, and I firmly believe that it requires a healthy respect for the mistakes of the past. Not to give them the power to consume, but to acknowledge their existence, understand their causation, and do everything possible to never repeat them. It doesn’t make us broken to have flaws and imperfections, it makes us human. Recognizing these areas where I’m habitually struggling has been the first step to becoming stronger and healthier. Recognizing that I can’t do it alone, has played a critical role as well. Opening myself to the fact that asking for help isn’t weakness, and it doesn’t make me less of a strong, independent woman, has opened the door to improving areas of my life that I never even thought possible.
Through all of this I’m feeling myself learn and grow and become more confident and strong, and at this point I can finally say it feels GOOD. There’s still the sadness of course, I doubt it will ever leave fully. Love is love and when your heart is shattered, it never goes back together quite the same. But that’s not to say that life can’t be beautiful again. It will be. It will be even better.