My Take on What Healing Means

| By Paul | | Comments (26)

My friend castorgirl at Scattered Pieces recently posted What is healing? It's precisely the question I need to ask myself today.

I, too, have been saddled by questions recently such as Where am I going?, What's the point of all this hard work?, Where's the progress?, How long will this take?, and on and on.

There are times when I can see that I've made huge progress and times when I am so mired in flashbacks or internal confusion that I feel right back where I was decades ago. There are times when I am super-functional and times when I cannot get out of bed. There are times when I am fully connected to my children and family and times when I cannot clearly recognize them. There are times when I feel so full of insight and times when I feel like these are insights that any child should be able to have or cannot put two and two together. There are times when my body feels so healthy and times when I am wracked with pain. There are times when I feel so full of life and times when I feel like dying.

The experience of those of us who have lived lives through dissociative coping and are healing is chock full of contradictions like these. It absolutely must be that way. All those contradictions have been with us forever. That's really not at all new. We simply weren't aware of them before. For most of our lives, we have survived precisely by avoiding the very contradictions we now must face. It was an ingenious strategy. It worked wonderfully when we needed it to. But many of us find that it is severely limiting in the here and now.

Healing, to me, means a commitment to increasing awareness and a commitment to continue to cultivate that awareness despite the short term pains it may give us. I have written before that healing is a messy thing. It's very messy! It's full of friction. Sometimes the price we pay for that awareness seems overwhelming and too much to bear. "We cannot do it anymore!" we often find ourselves writing (or screaming out loud).

But, there are glimpses of what that awareness can ultimately lead to. Otherwise, we wouldn't continue down the healing path.

It may mean being able to curb harmful behaviors. It may mean being able to sometimes genuinely "feel", whether it be experiencing sorrow or grief or joy or love or anger. It may mean being able to sometimes see yourself for who you really are; the big picture, so to speak.

If you are now saddled with contradictions, you have already made the decision that you want something more than what dissociation can give you.

The process of healing through increased awareness is the process of personal change and growth. It's not linear. It's not for the faint of heart. It takes courage. It takes strength. It takes hope and perseverance. For many, it takes faith in something greater than ourselves.

If any of this resonates with you, congratulations. I wish you well in your healing journey.

What does healing mean to you?


shen said:

Paul, this is a fantastic post!

It brought to the surface a sense of 'the whole me' of which I have barely been aware.

In the past, I felt as if I was usually quite healthy as well as sufficiently connected to those around me. Unfortunately, that was an illusion.

The underlying feeling of suicidal depression that sent me into therapy was just a symptom of the other side of me - the one that never felt connected or healthy. I was completely unaware of the other side of me - had no connection with it at all. I suspected that I was dissociating long before I knew what the word was, but I never knew what was happening when I lost time. I only knew that others didn't seem to notice that I wasn't there, and that I apparently did things during this missing time that I had no memory of.

This feels rather profound, but I'm having a hard time expressing it.

While I was constantly depressed, I also experienced the world as a healthy, connected human being, except when another part of me took over. I was completely not aware of the other parts, so it felt like a solid line of connected, healthy life with an unexplainable undercurrent of sadness. But that is not really how it was all along. The contrasts you wrote about above existed all along, I was just not aware of them.

Now that I am dealing with it, becoming aware of the other parts of me, integrating, communicating, etc., it feels like there is more turmoil than ever, when in reality it is probably less turmoil than I was experiencing overall.

This is an idea I have to think about more. The sense that things get worse during therapy is the illusion - in fact it is only my awareness that has become more acute.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to shen:

Shen, I want to be careful here, because I'm not precisely sure as to what you are saying. I think I do, but I'm not certain. I think part of healing means coming to some appreciation that contradictions like I listed have always been present. I made a sweeping generalization based on my experiences. I have some good reasons to think this may be the same for others, but I cannot be absolutely certain. People talk all the time about things getting worse during therapy. I think this is only a matter of perspective.

Kerro said:

You know, Paul, when I started this healing business I thought it would be like climbing a mountain - I'd make my way straight up to the top, and things would be all better.

Little did I know that it was more like climbing the north face of Mt Everest - that I'd climb a bit, then stop; that I'd stumble and have to get back up again; that I'd fall down in the snow sometimes and struggle; and that sometimes, I'd have to hunker down in my tent for a while to shelter from the blizzard outside.

Actually, if I'm honest, I didn't even know I was embarking on healing. I thought if I visited a therapist once or twice I'd be all better. Ahhh, blissful ignorance, eh?

It's as David said in one of my blog posts: healing never gets easier. It "just gets harder in more productive ways." Too true.

As Kate would say, Good and healing thoughts to you. :)

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Kerro:

Thanks Kerro. It's not quite the long and windy path that bothers me as much as the glaring inconsistencies that I'm continually aware of. For example, the loving life one minute and, just a short time later, wanting to end life. It's painfully hard for me to accept all of what I experience. I lived for a long time thinking that all I had to do was see a therapist regularly. I didn't realize I actually had to work in between those visits. Yes, David's quote is great. I do hope that he is wrong. For me, what keeps me going is that someday it will get easier. I get glimpses of this. Thanks so much.

Nansie said:

Hello Paul,

I see the healing journey similar to a roller coaster. There will be highs and lows, some extreme and some mild. I look forward to when the ride ends. I know that there is much I must relive and reprocess. I don't like feeling like I am ill but there are times when I am sure I am pretty symptomatic and what others would deem weird. Lately I have been very quiet and to myself. I believe in nodding and smiling and keeping my mouth shut when I am in a state of chaos. I add just enough to the conversation to keep me participating and no one knowing what is really going on. I can't help it. I have so much trouble really sharing any of this with the family. They can respect it and try their hardest to understand it but lets face it: no one can know what this is like unless it happens to you.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Thanks Nansie. I know things are hard for you. Hang in there. Sometimes we have to just hang on for the ride.

Kate said:

Well said.

Healing to me is the process of finding and knowing the inner truth and inner knowing I had before abuse, that I was robbed of. Healing to me is getting up and committing to change, one of the hardest things to do. Healing to me is believing in myself with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind. For me healing is the journey, not how far I get in the process of healing. I can commit to the journey and know that I can continue with that for the rest of my life. Where it takes me... that is something else entirely different.


Paul Author Profile Page replied to Kate:

Kate. I like how you think! Well said to you too.

Shen said:

What I was trying to say is this:

As I became aware of my feelings, thoughts, and past experiences through integrating these other sides of me, I have also become aware of the contrasts in a very profound way. I see the juxtaposition of my life right now, on a peaceful day with my family, and my life of the past which was filled with pain, anger, grief and fear. I flux between the feelings of the past and the feelings of the present.

In the past I was only aware of one set of feelings and thoughts at a time, so even though I felt quite miserable (suicidal) quite a bit of the time, I didn't have the frantic feeling that I've had during the last few years since I started therapy. I was diagnosed as bipolar because of my wild mood swings, but I was atypical in that my mood swings would come and go several times in a day. I was experiencing all the conflicting feelings, but not at the same time.

I was trying to say that it isn't that I'm feeling worse since I've been in therapy, only that I am more aware of all of my feelings and therefore more able to realize how bad I feel.

I still don't know if I've made sense of it.
Does it make sense to you?

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Shen:

Shen, I think I do get what you mean. I think we are saying roughly the same thing, no?

shen said:

Yes... that's right. I was trying to tell you that I got what you were saying, and then spit it out in my words so I could remember it.

Wonderful post, as I said :-)

I wonder why I find this so hard to articulate?

Nansie said:

Shen, I know exactly what you mean, I think. We have allowed ourselves, through therapy, to feel the feelings that have always been there. Some say with therapy things get worse before they get better. That is because as we feel safe our self awareness grows and little by little we gain a full self awareness all at the same time comfortably while being present with the world. All of us withdrew in our own ways and had minimal parts of us engaging in the world so that we could survive and go on to a better place. Now we are all working on taking back those parts, helping them heal - one by one, and then becoming whole again. Although I don't ever remember being whole. But yes you do feel worse with therapy. That is the point of it, to get to these wounds and heal them. With the comfort and guidance of the therapist this time they will process in a way that we can live with them day to day and not have to dissociate them. I look at them as cans of worms; we've all got them, even "singletons". My therapist says "the slower the better". I hope I have explained this right.

shen said:

Yes, I think that says pretty much what I was thinking. I guess the only thing I was trying to say that I don't see in what you wrote, Nansie, is that I think it is an illusion that I feel worse while going through therapy. I think I have always had all of these feelings, but not been aware of them because they existed in parts of me that I wasn't acknowledging. This is what I was trying to say when I said:
The sense that things get worse during therapy is the illusion - in fact it is only my awareness that has become more acute.

I'm glad you posted this, Paul, it's been very good for me to clarify these thoughts. I believe this has been in the back of my mind for some time and I just couldn't see it clearly enough to understand it.

Ivory said:

I'm still learning what healing is. I actually hate the word because it implies that someone else knows what healing is and that person may not be the best example of what "healed" is. For example: What if all of us who dissociate are actually healed? What if we are really the way it ought to be and everyone else is broken? (We did survive, right?) It's then no wonder we have a hard time of it trying to "fit in". A lot of people would not have survived, even as we did. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I'm the rebel. I often fight progress by stomping my little foot and refuse to move forward because, darn it, I shouldn't have been put in the position of having to heal in the first place! And then, I hit bottom and have to begin again to adjust the way I think. It's all in my thinking, my collective thinking and that is what usually hangs me up. My adult self knows the right way to perceive something, but one of my littles doesn't yet understand and it's like tripping on the same log, over and over.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ivory:

Ivory, I like the word because it gives me something to measure, to identify with, and gives me hope. I hear you on your contrarian view. I wish that were true and we wouldn't have to suffer so. None of this is fair, if that's what you are trying to get at.

castorgirl said:

Hi Paul,

Thank you for expressing so well what many of us struggle with.

One moment at a time...
Take care

Ivory said:

Sorry, I ranted above. What I don't like about the word "heal" is 1) it denotes labeling - such as what many bloggers have been talking about lately. It does, as you mention above, give measure. And that is the #2) I don't like having to live up to someones else's measurement of healed or healing. It makes it impossible for me reach my own perception and ability of healing. There is always a scope of healing determined by society or by therapists. It makes many people afraid and/or ashamed of their own degree of healing and if they are struggling, they feel worse because they begin to wonder what is wrong with them and why they haven't reached some imaginary goal set forth by someone who doesn't really know what it's like to have DID.

I've ranted again, sorry. That's what good posts do, makes me think. And, no, none of it is fair.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ivory:

Ivory, You do not need to apologize. Everything you say is fine. I don't see the word healing as having anything to do with society or anyone else. It's about me and my own measures. My ability to say that I am healing allows me to be more gentle with myself. Healing is not just a word, either. It's a real process.

This is a brilliant post, and a helpful perspective on the healing process. I think it can be incredibly difficult to know how to measure progress, particularly when the journey involves so many ups and downs. I think for me it is about becoming more aware of those contradictions and different parts, and beginning to have the ability to choose to do things differently where we want to. I am becoming incredibly aware of how I am afraid to express anger for fear of rejection, for example, even though I know it is often counter-productive, but I am beginning to realise I can choose to push against my natural defences. Not that I am suggesting this is easy by any means!

However I think (and I'm not completely sure here) but I think that nobody is completely healed, not in this lifetime anyway. There are those who are more whole, and those who have learned to live and work with the scars from the past, but I think to some extent we are all on the journey.

shen said:

Thesamesky, I think you are so right. It is a journey, and I don't think we are capable of or meant to learn it all in one go-round.

Nansie said:

Well Thesamesky, Could it be possible that we go from being reactors to actors in our lives? No longer are we dodging bullets and putting up defenses? So then we know we are "healed". But for us we will never quite heal? Just become somewhat whole. I know that I am proud to be a survivor (among the many other feelings) but at some point I want to go from surviving to living. When the pain becomes my past and I am living life instead of making it through each day, I will know I am healed. If there is a higher level I will keep working for it though.

shen said:

Nansie, referring to things as "reactive" versus "active" is something I have done in my own writing and personal journey. I was excited and fascinated to see you use the same terms.


Hmmm, good concepts. :)

A Survivor said:

I think healing, for me, has to do with accepting what has happened, accepting the way I am as a result and working to improve myself without beating myself up. It means accepting whatever pace I can heal at...however fast or slow...and resisting the opinions of others regarding the speed of my healing.

It means learning to be true to who I am and why I am here. I have a purpose. Living according to that purpose is part of my healing.

Sometimes healing involved resignation. Sometimes it involves fighting. It definitely involves transparency...with myself...and oftentimes with select others.

I need God's help with my healing and, oftentimes, I need the help of other people, too. Although, the role other people play varies. It seems to mostly be supportive. I am the one who has to do the work.

Anyway...these are the off the cuff thoughts I have after reading this post.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to A Survivor:

A Survivor, These are wonderful thoughts. Thank you.

Wow, Paul! Great post and dialogue you've got going here. I don't think I can really add to it today, as I am having one of those days where I'm hunkered down in that tent on my way up to the top of Mt. Everest, waiting for the blizzard to die down. Good analogy, Kerro. I also like the quote: "...healing never gets easier. It 'just gets harder in more productive ways.' Too true." I need to stop waiting for it to get easier.

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