by Comprehensive Staff
By Penney Wilson, Advocate
“When will I heal?” Sad voices, angry voices, desperate voices, all wanting to know, “when will I heal?” As an advocate, I hear this question often. I wish I had a crystal ball that I could wave my hands over and say, “In exactly three days and six hours you will be healed from all your pain and trauma. You will never again feel the effects of the abuse you have suffered." The truth is, I can’t tell anyone definitively when they will heal - but I can tell them it is possible and life can (and likely will!) get better in time.
Healing is different for everyone. To me, healing means understanding that you will have good days and bad days, and that you are likely going to be triggered again at some point. Healing is recognizing what those triggers might be, how they may affect you, and knowing you have the tools to manage those feelings. It is all in how we perceive healing and trauma. The effects of trauma are much like any other chronic condition: we know it’s there, we learn how to live with it, and while it does have an effect on us, it does not need to define or control us. We manage it and move on with our lives, and we are always in the process of healing.
Perhaps we can think of the healing process as a cut or a wound - if you cut yourself, it sometimes appears to be haling on the outside but may be infected underneath. We may have to open the wound and allow it to heal from the inside out, and it can leave a scar. Trauma is like a scar. We live with it and sometimes we are able to forget it’s there until we or someone else notices it, then we are reminded of the pain that occurred and how we got the scar in the first place. These reminders are our triggers. If we accept that there may be times we are triggered regardless of how much time has passed or perceived progress made, we won’t be so surprised when reminders occur and we will be more prepared to deal with the effects.
I think we should stop thinking of healing in terms of deadlines, and start focusing on how we move forward and live our lives. Personally I see healing as a journey with speed bumps, switchbacks, and detours. Healing is always in flux and always fluid; it can be measured in baby steps. Sometimes we take three steps forward only to take two steps back, but we are always on the healing journey.
Trauma and abuse may make us more aware that the world is not always a safe place, but we live our lives despite it. Please remember to take care of yourself, practice self-care, and know that it is ok to feel whatever emotion you feel and not apologize for it. Know that it is ok to reach out and ask for help when you need it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but of strength, and help is out there. Know there are many kinds of scars, some we see and some we don’t, but there is no need to apologize for your scars. You are a survivor, and scar tissue is pretty darn tough.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about victim advocacy services at Comprehensive, click here.