I have been thinking a lot about healing lately. I have a tremendous gift in that I get to work with a dear friend this year on an emerging project out of New York. As we travel together, we talk about our own ever changing, constantly painful and often enlightening pathways to healing. I am always reminded that the journey is not linear; that healing is work and that that work is often as exhausting and lonely as it is necessary. The definition of healing is to become sound or healthy; to alleviate a person’s distress or anguish; to correct or put right. The assumption in this is that there was a wound or injury to be corrected. That healing comes only after hurt.
When a physical injury happens, the body forms scar tissue while healing. Our magnificent biosystem knows that the injury cannot happen again and over compensates by reinforcing the area against further harm. If our skin is cut, we have a scar. If a bone is broken, extra bone grows back. Our bodies know that the area must be protected. This is not in question; there is no discussion or thought it just happens.
What then happens to our mind when the hurt is not as obvious? How will our brain respond and protect us from ever being hurt again? It will reinforce just as our body does. Our brain will protect us from the pain that needs to be corrected. But is that healing? And what happens when we need to remove the scar because the protective shield we have put in place is actually preventing more than just further injury?
As people who have survived incomprehensible pain, we have reinforced and protected even the most intimate parts of ourselves. We have corrected the wrongs by creating barriers to ensure that we are not hurt again. We are brilliant in our abilities to self-care in ways that are misunderstood and diagnosed and treated but they also keep us safe and make us whole. Until they don’t.
I cut my leg on a piece of glass as a child. My body formed a large scar on my left thigh as a result of the wound to ensure that I could not be hurt there again. But as I grew and my body changed, that scar has moved and changed and now is it is an ever-tightening piece of skin that causes me discomfort from time-to-time. The scar, which was formed to correct an injury is now causing me a different pain.
My healing is not linear. As I grow and change, some of the scars I have formed to protect my emotional pain are starting to cause me discomfort. They have protected me and prevented re-injury and for that I am grateful and humbled by the masterful way my mind and body took care of me even when I didn’t know it was happening. But now, I must look at some of these and do the hard work of peeling away these barriers. I must do the exhausting work of finding new healing. I don’t know where the process will take me and I can’t ensure that I don’t get new wounds. But I know I must allow myself the gift of vulnerability. And I am grateful for all of you for the support needed to try.
written by my beloved friend and brilliant colleague, Tanya Stevens, whom I hope we will hear from often..