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

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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.

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Unsplash photo via Yuris Alhumaydy

Originally published: May 23, 2018
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