Have you ever asked yourself “Why does healing take so long?”
How healthy is your relationship with your memories, thoughts, history and your pain?
When I was in my deepest depression, I lost myself in an unhealthy way. I was buried inside of my pain. I badly wanted the pain to end, but I couldn’t find my way through.
Deep pain, deeper living
It was one of the most difficult periods of my life. I remember the sadness slowly lifting, like the slow return of spring after the freezing-dark of winter. I wanted to move on, quickly get over my sadness and get back to my life. Feelings confronted me: Shame that I took time away from work and was not able to fulfill my family responsibilities. A desire to be cured and never become caught underneath an overwhelming-sadness again.
When I talked to my Therapist, it difficult. I wasn’t prepared for it. I knew that I needed to go deeper. My depression was calling me somewhere beyond my current ability to manage, to cope and to feel. The depth of my depression meant that I needed to find a greater depth of living.
I wanted a cure, an end to the fog-thick-straight-jacket of depression. I wanted it to be over, to move on and feel fine… again. Move away from pain, shame, memory, history and darkening thoughts.
I wanted a cure, but I instead I found healing.
Cure is a destination, but healing is in who you become
Cure and healing mean very different things. Cure implies an end of a condition or illness. It is more often a medical or external solution to a health problem. One day you are ill, the next day you have been treated. It may take time, but you become disease free.
Healing is set apart from cure. You find healing, but in spite of this, symptoms may persist. At times, you may even feel worse. Healing is not something that is done to you, instead it is something you do. Or more correctly, it is something you become.
Healing is a personal transformation. It is a change of heart-mind-soul that invades your relationships, your way of working, your viewpoints. I don’t believe that healing can come without a long, hard look at yourself. You have to come to terms with yourself, stark-naked-no-holding-back.
You let go of fear and demands of an end of pain, but rather than surrendering under it you learn a new way of relating. You find hope, again.
Healing is stumbling towards a new relationship with our experience, rather than trying to cure it away.
“Healing implies the possibility that we can relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with the eyes of wholeness.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
As you build a new relationship with your experience, slowly you become. You find new eyesight, you learn to see again, but differently.
We talk about healing with words like transformed, changed, growth. But healing is more, because it is not something finished, over. You are now in a relationship with yourself in a way you never thought possible. You learn to embrace yourself with all of your nuance and shade and the formerly-cast-off: Your moods, sadness, anxiety, memory, history, and thoughts.
With time, you move away from feeling out of control, beyond help and powerless, hopeless. You recover, but not because of cure.
“With this change of perspective comes a shift from feeling out of control and beyond help (helpless and pessimistic) to a sense of the possible, a sense that this situation might just be workable if you yourself are willing to do a certain amount of work.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Healing work is relationship work. And relationships thrive with attention, effort, welcoming. My previous attempts to all-out-confront and cure my emotions and end-my-sadness backfired. The “cure” pushed the moods deeper, festering and pulsating.
Fracking shoots pressured steam deep underground in search for cash in the form of oil and gas. Fracking creates tiny cracks as it snakes through rock in a fever-search for liquid gold. Cure is little more than emotional fracking. Cure, when applied to depression, to moods that torment, to addiction is an attempt to wrestle insight, learning or a solution away from difficult and painful turmoil.
Finding healing is not surgery. It is more like meeting on the dance floor. Feet move, heart pounds, arms flail, self-conscious yet always moving. When you dance, for too-short moments you lose yourself. At first, awkward but slowly you relate and connect with your partner. You discover that how you used to dance alone was little more than a personal earthquake.
Healing calls, “Come and dance with me…” Look deeply and for life-giving-moments, lose yourself. But then you find not a cure but you find more. Of yourself. You find a new relationship with parts of yourself formerly caged in the dark shadows.
An article is not a stand-in for a therapist. If this article hits you, resonates with you and awakens a desire in you for a deeper life I encourage you to celebrate that. Find a qualified professional who can teach you to dance.
I hope that you enjoyed this article. It makes my day if you are inspired by something that I write. I invite you to read some of my other writing:
I write articles that talk about the kind of changes I am trying to make in my own life. I hope that my writing also helps you. My topics include addiction and mental health recovery, relationships, and personal growth. I work as an Addiction Therapist, an Editor for the Good Men Project and freelance writer, and Adjunct Professor at City University, Edmonton. But what is most important is that I have a family and I am in recovery from depression and anxiety. My mental health experiences are part of my personal University degree, but they do not define me.
I hope to inspire you, to inform you and on occasion to entertain you. But most of all, I want to connect with you. Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you like what I have to say, please share my work with your friends.
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Keep it Real
Photo by Army Medicine