The Healing Journey

When approaching this series I was hesitant to use the word healing because it implies that once it is “healed” (whatever it may be) then we may never have to deal with it again. The truth is, the healing journey is messy and unpredictable. I wish I could say there is this simple path you walk down and it’s over. That it is possible for you to do all the right things as you heal and everything will turn out just right. In reality, the path has a lot of obstacles and a few thorns that will catch you along the way.

When I was five, my grandmother had this beautiful, cranky, golden cocker spaniel. This dog already didn’t like children and I had decided I needed to put a muzzle on her for whatever reason. Well, you can imagine what happened next. The scar on my arm is a constant reminder of that event, along with the fear and embarrassment I felt afterward.

I think the same goes for our emotional scars, or those scars that appear to go unseen. Even though we have been on the healing journey there are points in time when we become aware of those emotional or spiritual scars. A friend says, “We need to talk.” and you immediately get defensive expecting them to attack you and who you are. Something your boss says at work triggers a reminder of the degrading words your mother used to say to you. Or maybe you experienced a major loss and that time every year seems to start the grieving process all over again.

I think these sudden reactive responses surprise us, or at least they do for me. I often think, “I’ve been doing so well and have been feeling great, why is this happening?”
Whatever your trigger points may be I just want to say that it is completely normal to react. It’s normal to have those deep wounds that have been healing reopen again and bleed out a little bit. It’s being aware of these moments and being able to process the experience that makes all the difference.

Every year, I approach the end of October knowing that an old wound will reopen. I wait expectantly for some sort of clue, some sort of trigger to help me understand why the weeks of depression start to come back. Why I begin to feel disconnected, not only from those I care about but within my body. Why, as the sun hits the horizon I begin to feel dread. Why, as the night approaches the pain that I am all too familiar with consumes my body. Why the helplessness, the hopelessness, the vulnerability comes back, full force. I have no answers for this, nothing. The only conclusion that professionals and I have deciphered is the time change. The time change is my trigger every year, and it’s so frustrating.

As I curl up on my bed in despair I can’t imagine people seeing me like this. The fear paralyzes me, preventing me from having anyone come over. I don’t want to call anyone, sobbing incoherently. The shame begins to overwhelmingly taking over. The scary thing being, it used to be ten times worse before I started taking the medication.

It’s because I am taking the medication that I am able to do two things to help myself in these moments. I am able to find the strength to get out of bed and turn to my music or running.

Running helps me to connect with my body again. When I feel my muscles burn as I run up the “hill of death” on old 63 I am reminded to be in the present. I often close my eyes concentrating on each muscle moving, the pain reflecting how I feel. Reminding me that I have the strength to keep going, to persevere.

I often listen to super emo and sad music when I’m feeling particularly low. These songs help explain the pain I am feeling in ways I can’t even express myself. I play these songs and belt them out alone in my car, praying that God can hear that His daughter is in pain.

Another form of song I turn to is the Psalms and they brought me much comfort over the years. The authors share their raw, unfiltered emotion with our Lord. None of it is perfect and it doesn’t have a cookie cutter solution. Some of it doesn’t make any logical sense. Only making sense internally and deep within my soul.

About a month ago I was going through a death in my family, this event unleashed a shit-ton of other things that I had been healing from the year previously. The grief becoming present when I have a rare quiet moment.
One morning, as I searched the psalms frantically, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, trying to find something that described how I was feeling, I ran across Psalm 13:

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
With sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me (many times).
I will sing to the Lord
Because he is good to me.

So much of this psalm seemed counterintuitive to me. It seemed demanding and questioning, but it made so much sense. It felt real and honest, and I found solace knowing that my Father understood and was there in that moment with me. I may not feel Him or have an answer, but I knew I was able to communicate my desire to Him. That He knew what I wanted, what I needed.
This is a Psalm I often turn to when I’m feeling depressed. Praying it over and over again, allowing it to fill my soul…. Identifying with feelings that it produces…. And letting them go slowly, one at a time. The peace isn’t always there afterwards as I would like, but knowing I was able to communicate with someone about my true feelings makes me a feel at least a little better.

It is after engaging in these two activities that I engage in relationship and allow my community to help me in my time of struggle. Sometimes I reverse the order, when I’m needing a particular pick me up and it’s someone I can trust.

So the moral of the story is…. This healing journey doesn’t really end. Things are going to happen to trigger old emotions. There are going to be times when the stressors pile high and you wonder how you got to this point in your life. There are going to be times when you react rather than respond. There are going to be times when it is more difficult than others.
The awesome thing is that, it’s okay. We are all a beautiful mess… and our God loves every little bit of it. Partly because He gets to walk through it with us and love us in the process, even when we feel we don’t deserve it.

So my questions for you are:
What are your trigger points, what do you feel as a result? What are some things you need to do for yourself when you feel triggered?