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The Difference Between Acknowledging You Need to Heal and Allowing Yourself to Heal

Healing. It is a concept and process that is rarely, if ever, quick and easy. There are some cases where the process is smoother and steadier than others, while in other instances, it can be agonizing, slow and dragging. It can also be draining, both physically and emotionally and comes in many patterns and waves. Sometimes, the physical side of healing can be easier than the emotional aspect and vice versa. Each case and instance of healing is individual and yesterday, as I placed my foot inside a sandal for the first time this season, I reached a significant revelation.

They are sandals that quickly became a favorite of mine after purchasing them early on in the summer season last year. Easy to wear, the style I longed for and even comfortable, I wore them more often than not and they were my fashion fix of the season. Then one early August evening, after spending several hours working feverishly at my laptop, I entered the kitchen to sit at the table and, out of frustration, somehow managed to drop the heavy, wooden kitchen chair on the little toe on my right foot. Surprisingly at first, while I did feel some initial pain, it wasn’t as bad as I would have imagined it would be. Looking back, it may have been the anger and adrenaline pulsing through me as I was tired and frustrated, which probably masked much of the initial pain.

There was little to no pain the rest of that evening and the next day after dressing and putting on those beloved sandals, I started to feel some discomfort. I didn’t think much of it, distracted by my other responsibilities of the day. However, later that day as I was walking through the local library the pain worsened. Attempting to walk became a feat I could barely manage. At first, I couldn’t fathom why I was experiencing a sudden uptake in pain, completely disregarding and even forgetting the prior evening’s events involving my little toe.

Realizing something was inherently wrong even though my toe lacked bruising or really any signs beyond some swelling, I made my way to the urgent care center. An x-ray later, I was told there were no fractures, but I still couldn’t comprehend the amount of pain I experienced. To me, I did not feel “in the clear,” and a sprain did not seem logical to me either. The next week or so, I attempted to traverse through the days as I typically did, but continued to struggle with walking. At first, I believed maybe those sandals were not the best footwear to wear at the time, so I attempted to wear another but still experienced identical pain. The swelling in my toe worsened and so again, I made my way for a medical intervention, this time visiting a local podiatrist.

Two different podiatrist visits and an MRI later and I received a diagnosis: bone marrow edema, indicating a stress fracture unable to be seen through an x-ray. Finally, a diagnosis was achieved, but the actions that followed I am not proud of and to this day, I wish I’d acted differently. Casts, both walking and regular, a boot and crutches were all suggested and recommended to me, but I refused them all. Instead, I continued to walk, wincing in pain, stopping every few steps to braise myself and whimpered through all of it.

Truth be told, the only thing that healed me was the arrival of the colder months and boot season. My favorite pair of boots, rigid, hard and similar to the composition of a walking boot, proved to be my saving grace, when all is said and done. After a week or so in the boots, my pain started to lessen and once again, I was able to walk with minimal to no pain.

Today, the pain is a distant memory, but one that I contemplated yesterday as I slipped my feet into those very sandals. It was a reminder of how slow the process of healing can be, but also how responsible we are for our own healing; it is evidence to me that our healing is our responsibility, alone. We can choose to push through it, as I did through refusing to wear the proper footwear and treatment, or we can compromise and endure the discomfort the healing process may and can bring us.

Healing is not always linear — often times, it is the contrary. Sometimes, we start the healing process and it abruptly stops, or halts over time and then begins again. Sometimes it happens without warning, while other times, it is a conscious effort to begin again. Moments happen where we think we are healed and then realize we are not; this can be after an inciting incident, or happen spontaneously. There have been many cases when I deemed myself “healed,” from certain situations, encounters and personal relationships and then I realized I’d only temporarily anesthetized myself. It’s important to recognize though in saying this, that struggling to heal or needing to begin or stop the process is not a failure; it is a sign we are human. It is a sign that life happens, situations arise, people change, needs shift and our attentions are required in other ways.

At the same time, sometimes we fail to recognize at first just how much we actually have healed through it all, as I did, yesterday. Slipping on those sandals and walking in them sans pain, it was astonishing to me how far I’d come and how through the agonizing last weeks of last summer and fall I managed to heal. The pain is gone and now I look back on that time and realize the choices I made were not the best and hampered my healing, but having the awareness of it is still healing in itself. Being aware and being grateful, is essential to the healing process — or at least for me, it is.

In saying this, I hope that if you are healing, no matter where you are in the midst of it, or even if you have yet to begin the process of it or recently stopped or felt stuck, know that healing is like an ocean; it ebbs and flows, sometimes encountering big waves or feats and other times, it is stagnant or maybe turbulent. Remember that healing is not a race to be run, or a test to be graded; it is a personal process filled with many changes and shifts. One thing though, is true and that is all of our unique abilities to heal in ways that work best for us.