The Time it Takes to Heal and Why to Resist Counting
There are times when mental illness is inexplicably and irreversibly triggered, feeling out of the blue and bringing on the question of, “why is this happening?” Hospitalizations or acts of deliriously erratic behaviour, unlike the person you have known before. It feels sudden, shocking, and destabilizing. It might change how you see yourself or others, it might just be paramount in a series of upcoming challenges.
I am not an expert on the cause, here. I don’t know if any of this is truly out of the blue, because science has acknowledged several potential triggering factors that could clarify how we arrive at these moments. For me, what happened felt like the longest slow burn in history. There was a suddenness to the escalation of my condition, but thinking back shows me tremendous kindling. There were a million hints of varying sizes, but I didn’t see them. Nobody did. (As an aside: just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there!)
In all those years I learned things that had the duality of being helpful and hurtful. I was excellent at being alone and independent, but also unwilling to give other people a chance. My fight or flight mode had me surviving many painful things, though it disrupted my ability to be present in normal circumstances.
What I have started to realize is that it took me many years to get here. Many years of defence mechanisms and resistance, insecurities and pain. Those things don’t leave overnight. They don’t scurry away after a week of therapy– in fact, I think it is fair to say that the true time it takes to deeply heal can rival the time it takes to make these things. Not always. But often.
That’s a scary thought, to be held to the past and the things that hinder my healing for so long. To have this idea that it could take quite some time when I really feel I need to see results now. But what do we get if we take this observation and look at it from a perspective of self-compassion?
We get the recognition that change is scary but valuable. We get to see that it is okay to take time, we can give ourselves permission to recover without assigning deadlines. Without telling ourselves that we should be here or there. We could instead make room for what we want to practice or learn. No should have, not resenting ourselves for what we needed to survive.
I’m tired of trying to grow all the time, trying to create the kind of life that I want. That is half of what is inside of me. But I’m also surprised by how much I have seized and changed and there is more of me here than ever before. I am early in addressing all these things, but I see myself growing with clarity.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I do need to let myself feel frustrated and resentful. I have to keep processing the pain as I go. But I can make the choice to invite in the idea that even if things move slowly, they are moving to change my life and I can see it.
Here's to the possibility of trying, even if our inner voices are not always on our side. Even if it feels like the clock is ticking. We can let ourselves try.