July 20, 2015

We All Have to Heal. This is How.

Graeme Law/flickr

Learning how to tune in and not check out is vital to our healing.

Whether it is a loss, trauma, broken heart or just a bad day, our own willingness to heal, learn and evolve is the most potent drug on the market.

I have to remind myself often that, as the infamous Ani DiFranco taught us, “Every tool is a weapon, if you hold it right”. So for my sake and for those on this journey to heal with me, I’m going to put my own arsenal on display as a reminder to myself of how far I’ve come and in hopes of helping others on the path they, too, are wondering on.

Our minds can only be unlocked once we feel safe—this is grace although it doesn’t always feel that way. Darkness can flood us even at most unexplainable times of happiness. It’s frustrating, but no accident. It is not a sign that you are broken or weak, but a confirmation that you are stronger than you were yesterday. Only when the mind feels you can handle what is behind the locked door, will it allow you to experience it.

Distraction from ourselves is the false art of healing but it is something so many of us use as a defense mechanism. Whether it is with work, kids, chores, substances or taking on the responsibility of solving everyone else’s problems, we make sure we keep our inner truths and triggers on mute. There is power and control in coasting, but there is liberation in awareness, the only difference is that awareness hurts more. There is protection in busyness, because a quiet mind leaves one vulnerable to self reflection.

By turning away from what we are really feeling, we are denying the opportunity to heal. We have to embrace quiet and stillness, not treat it as an enemy.

Stigma is a powerful defense against self care. It’s the hand that feeds shame. No one is immune to its crushing depth, even those trained to combat it. Overcoming the stigma that keeps us from speaking up and reaching out is just one more battle. The good news is there is a powerful tool, one we all have, that can be used to win this fight—it’s your voice. You may have to go searching for it and it may shake a little at first.

When you first begin to speak your truths, the stigma you feel will sting like dirt on an open wound but it’s worth it. The more you speak about what was done to you, the more empowerment will begin to override the pain. You will find strength in your vulnerability, if you work at sharpening the tool you already own.

There is a specific alley of healing that most walk down. I call it the check out alley. To some, myself included, intoxication is the key to checking out because it’s a way of creating a different version of yourself—a version where the “real” you leads, and the “broken” you gets to take the back seat for once. At the tale end of a buzz, greed and despair can take over, self medicating leaves one with a vacancy of pain and a temporary relief disguised as bliss. The ease of life and laughter flowing through my veins when I check out is a survivors false paradise. If we don’t figure out a way to get to an elated state of mind without first walking through check-out alley, healing will never be an option.

Triggers are the windows to the parts of us that still need healing. A trigger can be a smell, song, touch, scene in a movie, hearing a certain name or pretty much anything that your mind associates with personal experiences. When we are triggered, our brains go into “loop” mode. Our body re-experiences the feelings, both emotionally and physically, of a moment in our past and these are the moments worth inspecting. The only way to deactivate the trigger is to ask ourselves, why did that moment make me feel like I want to cry, punch something, run away, freeze, etc.? Healing begins when we are able to recognize those moments and understand them. Healing is a mind and body experience.

I’ve worked in the field of mental health for almost ten years, read countless charts, observe a vast array of dysfunctional behaviors and thought processes, empathically experienced people’s stories and saw many highs and lows on the path of recovery. The body is like the mind’s canvas and discovering the patterns of behaviors and thoughts can lead to physical healing. If we don’t accept that what happened to us affects the way we act and feel, the negative energies we harvest will manifest as illness. There are consequences when we ignore the signs. No differently than having “just one more drink.” If we ignore that little voice and our already unsteady feet, we will get sick. It’s that simple, but never easy.

Reaching out will lift you up. As much as we want to “do it on our own”, and prove to ourselves that we are stronger than what is holding us down, we can’t. I’ve fallen face first on the pavement many times trying to convince myself that I can succeed on this journey alone but there needs to be equal parts insight and willingness to learn from others. Find your tribe and use them. The people in your life, whether it is professionals, family, friends or someone you just met, all have something unique to offer you on your journey. Connections to those that share your experience or are vested in seeing you smile are vital pieces to getting through the maze. Use them.

We are all faced with unfortunate experiences in our lives, whether they are horrific acts against us, unfortunate events that happen to us or because of poor decisions we or someone else makes. Regardless of the root of the pain, we need to be able to use the tools we all possess to move forward.

It’s not a matter of living in the past but rather being vulnerable enough to investigate our past to improve our future.


Author: Dawn Daum

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Graeme Law/flickr

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