As a survivor, one of the things which I have recently come across which has deeply frustrated me is this homogenization of the word “healing” and the several people who have turned it into some kind of trend. Most people expand on a personal experience with pain and then talk about the right/wrong way to heal. Here is the problem with that statement. Healing is a deeply private journey which is entirely unique to the individual experiencing it. And there IS no right or wrong way to heal. This may seem like a radical view, but to heal is a very broad term that people have collectively associated to recovering from just about anything and therefore expect all survivors to somehow heal the same way.
This is wrong.
People heal in such an individualised way, that it will take some survivors ten years to heal from something it took another survivor one year to heal from. And do you know who are the most cruel when assessing survivor’s journeys? Other survivors. Because they genuinely believe that their way is the only correct way to go about things, and this is simply not true.
As a sufferer of emotional, physical, financial and sexual abuse, I can promise you the way I healed from each of those experiences is entirely different, even from each other. So this idea that there is some kind of right/wrong way to heal is not only short sighted, it turns your healing journey into someone else’s like there is some kind of barometer to measure the way you heal. I wrote about this a long, long time ago: “Some people survive and talk about it. Some people survive and go silent. Some people survive and create. Everyone deals with unimaginable pain in their own way, and everyone is entitled to that, without judgement.”
No one has the right to tell you how to heal, or turn the term healing into some kind of trend because this is exactly how things go wrong. Telling your personal story as a survivor is perfectly fine, but don’t act like your journey is the only way for others too. I have several friends who turned to something explosive and what I didn’t agree with (drugs, alcohol, indulging in high risk behaviour) because they were hurting but all I could do was stand back and be patient with them whilst they got it out of their system, because I understood that this was cathartic to them. And not once, even if I didn’t agree with it in my own mind, did I tell them how messed up and wrong it was that they were choosing to heal that way. Do you know why? Because even if I cared intensely, I knew it wasn’t my place to judge them. You can’t stop human beings from doing the thing they feel the need to do anyway, they need to come to that realisation themselves, and shouting at them will simply destroy your relationship with them and make them feel misunderstood.
So I chose to do the things that I could to keep them safe. I was their emergency call, their designated driver, their phone call when they were breaking, their comfort when the pain hit, the person they needed to talk to so they could work through it, the person who held their hair back when they threw up after consuming too much alcohol, I made people around them aware to be patient with them, I encouraged them to go to support groups. At the end, you will save yourself the way you need to feel yourself. This is what all survivors need. People who are there for them and who understand how intensely personal the healing process is, who don’t try to force feed their own private views and experiences with healing as fact and make them feel misunderstood.
Like my views on religion, I genuinely believe that healing is a very private thing and constantly shoving your personal process in other people’s faces is actually a huge part of the problem. A lot of the expectations that are on trauma survivors and their healing processes right now have been created by a society that has decided FOR THEM, how to heal and how to survive.
Healing is far more nuanced than that. And this homogenization of the term and turning it trendy has got to stop, for the psychological health of all trauma survivors.
Take it from one survivor to another: you heal the way you need to, at the speed you need to, at the rate your need to, in the way you need to. There is no right or wrong way to go about this. Find the thing that helps YOU survive and ignore what others have to say about it.
At the end of the day, the people who need education about healing is not survivors themselves, its the people around them who do not know how to correctly support and be there for a survivor DURING their healing process. That’s who we should be focusing on educating.