Physical Healing and Mental Health Are Closer Than You Might Think

The scrapes and bruises from my fall down the stairs are healing, as they do, from the outside in and in uneven fits and starts. My fall was a spectacular one – a moment of unsure footing a third of the way down the stairs, and I landed at the bottom rather covered in minor injuries. (Nothing broke, which I consider lucky.)

A scrape on my arm lost its scab thanks to a rough towel, setting the healing back several days. The bruise on my shin has been slow to color, but is quite deep and the most painful of the lot. Bruises on my back are quite colorful, by contrast, but shallower and less painful. Each one of these injuries calls attention to itself a million times a day, calling out when a scrape is brushed by my clothing or one of the bruises is battered by the children climbing on me.

Our minds, I have realized, heal in much the same way as our bodies. We have protective mechanisms that shield our psyches from trauma, which go into play almost unconsciously. Memories of trauma are often suppressed quite soon after the event, so we can go on with our lives somewhat “normally.” When approaching those memories, we often work from the outside in – dealing with the ramifications of the trauma in our day-to day lives before we visit the trauma itself.

Healing from trauma is, like physical healing, not a journey that follows a straight road. There are fits and starts, side roads and backtracking. One day we feel as though we are making progress; the next, we are cowering from our fear of remembering what happened, or losing control of our tempers because of unnoticed anxiety.

We ought to take care of psychic wounds the way we take care of their physical counterparts: protect the wound, expose it to light and air as needed, and give it plenty of time to heal. Too often, though, we think of trauma as something to be “gotten over” and rushed past. Like picking at a scab, though, rushing the healing process can cause additional damage or create permanent scarring. I believe we simply have to let healing run its course.

In my case, sublimated trauma found its way out through physiological processes: seizures and amplified migraine symptoms. These were signs to me I was not providing the proper healing environment for my psyche. I had, to use the physical metaphor, put the trauma wound under a waterproof bandage, where it was festering and creating a systemic infection.

Approaching my trauma gently and providing the proper healing environment through therapy have allowed me to address the systemic infection, resulting in far fewer seizures. I will be dealing with this trauma for quite some time to come, but the road is perhaps a bit clearer now, a bit straighter.

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