What Healing From Trauma Actually 'Looks Like' — Because It Damn Sure Isn’t Pretty


This piece was written by Ari Eastman, a Thought Catalog contributor

I reopened some wounds last night. I mean, not literally. Though I guess that wouldn’t be atypical. I do have a tendency to pick at scabs. I’ve scratched things off until they bleed. I’ve pushed the tweezers a little too far. I’ve never been good at knowing when to stop.

Last night, I dug up repressed memories. I took a shovel to all my layers of defense mechanisms and didn’t stop until I hit bone. I stopped making jokes. I looked at the hurt and let myself sit in it.

And it was fucking uncomfortable. I hated every second of it.

Healing is not just hot tea and bath bombs from LUSH. It’s not a slice (…or four) of pizza and the familiar comfort of old “Sex and the City” episodes. It’s not yoga class or an impulse purchase of three pairs of yoga pants that look exactly the same after the class is over because you’re totally going to become a super Yogi now and need a wardrobe to match.

All those things can exist in healing. They can all be moments, be facets, be tiny attempts at patching up holes we’ve been living with for longer than we care to admit.

But healing, real healing, is usually ugly.

It’s not something you’re rushing to Instagram. It’s filled with dirtiness and secrets and things you’ve let go on too long. Healing looks like my puffy face. Looks like the nights spent crying because I can’t keep running from the skeletons in my closet. Looks like an empty plate because I was still nauseated at dinner from whatever bullshit I did the night before. Looks like trying to piece things back together when I don’t know where to start.

I don’t think we ever get over trauma. Not in the way we’ve come to learn the definition of “get over.” We adjust, maybe. We fiddle with the rearview mirror. We discover new parts of ourselves. Because, damn, if there’s one thing I can applaud humankind for, it’s our resiliency.

I look at scars on my body and think about how they healed in such an understandable process. Like, I could see it healing. I saw the bleeding stop. I saw the scab form. I saw the scab fall off into something else. I saw things start to feel lighter. I saw the entire thing.

But emotional healing doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t get lighter every month. You can work so hard, you can come so far, and still fall back down without any warning. It doesn’t nullify what you’ve done. It doesn’t erase your progress. It’s just a reminder that healing doesn’t work in any linear way.

Some days, the hurt is so far away from me, it’s like it didn’t happen. It’s like it happened to a different girl. Someone I can almost touch, but she’s so distant, I can’t claim her as mine.

Some days, the hurt is screaming in my throat.

And on those days, I try to tell myself this is healing too. I try to tell myself there is validity in those emotions. In that hurt.

We are healing every day. It just doesn’t always look like it.

This story was brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Yuris Alhumaydy


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

Maryland Responds to Death of Man With Down Syndrome

The death of a young man with Down syndrome three years ago has resulted in a tangible change that will hopefully help protect future generations of people with disabilities in his state. In January 2013, Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old with Down syndrome, went to see “Zero Dark Thirty” at a movie theater in Frederick, Maryland. After the [...]

21 Gifts Special Needs Moms *Really* Want for Valentine’s Day

Sometimes the gifts we really want can’t be bought in a store. The Mighty teamed up with A Very Special Needs Resource to find out what moms of children with special needs would really like to receive most this Valentine’s Day. Their responses have one common theme: love. Here’s what they had to say: 1. “I would love to [...]

Why Michael Jordan Is Wrong About Labels

According to a Hanes’ commercial, Michael Jordan hates labels. He rips them off strangers in movie theaters and airplanes. And Michael has a point — clothing labels can be irritating and painful — they can stop you from shrinking a favorite sweater or ruining your best pair of jeans. Similarly, labeling people can also be irritating and painful. [...]

How My Daughter Changed the Way I See My Father and His Mental Illness

My daughter was born on my father’s 51st birthday. As I lay in my hospital bed watching him cradle his first grandchild, I hoped and prayed the baby would make a difference. At the same time, I knew not to expect a miracle. Just weeks before giving birth I had been in the emergency room [...]