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How do we heal that which is broken?—a bone, a heart, or even our soul.
I’ve learned in years of practicing medicine that healing takes on all forms—what heals one person may not always heal another.
Sometimes, the injury is obvious and we know exactly how to treat it, manage it, educate, and give guidance—that’s the easy part of medicine.
Other times, the injury is so deep that our body rejects its presence. We manifest the ugly and the tortured in a mixed display of medical wonders. That’s the challenge and the mystery that must be unraveled.
We are complex creatures inside out. In order to heal, we have to know what’s really causing the injury: is it moral? Is it physical? And more importantly, are we willing to change it and face it in order to actually heal?
So what do we need in order to be whole? What do we need in order to put the pieces that are broken back together?
How do we heal?
Maybe we need a guiding hand, a thoughtful ear, or an invested partner. Maybe we need a firm push, an alternate perspective to open our eyes to what has been in front of us all along, or someone to unlock that door and give us the key.
I found in years of practice that few of my encounters actually required intervention or medical management. We typically have all the tools required to heal, but sometimes, we need help and direction in order to recognize that—someone to listen and identify the barriers that are presenting themselves weaved between the threads of conversation.
Maybe we don’t know we are wounded—I know I didn’t.
It’s not that I needed fixing, but it took a physical injury to identify that I certainly wasn’t whole. I avoided underlying pain and emptiness and filled it with something that ultimately ended up injuring me.
It made me actually look at what I was running away from. Physical injury allowed me to see the much deeper moral injury I was hiding all along: something that laid in the periphery, but that I was able to keep in the shadows until I had no other option but to face it.
Facing our injuries is terrifying—whether it is physical or moral. It is even harder to find the path it takes to heal those wounds.
For everyone, that path may look different, and we may need to continually start over and take a new path to find our way—everyone’s makeup is unique, and so must be our approach to managing our injuries.
So how do we heal?
Maybe we heal with laughter.
Maybe we heal with time.
Maybe we just need help to recognize that the injury actually exists, even if we can’t see it.
Sometimes, we need a village to hold us up and remind us that we are alright.
We will have setbacks, and we have to anticipate and be open to them.
Sometimes our expectations of healing are unrealistic and can be roadblocks to our path of recovery, setting us up for failure and disappointment before we even set our paths.
We can never fully count on a certain outcome, and if we do, we will inevitably be reinjured day in and day out.
There will be bumps and turns, and if we are open to that, we will be more resilient to move forward to the next challenging day ahead.
There will be moments of tears, deep sadness, and an indescribable aching to be whole again.
There will be moments of fear—one that we might never heal from.
We will even fear that we might never find ourselves again.
Somedays, I found myself lost and straying from my path. I wandered between moments of “before” and of those yet to come, which didn’t help me in my moments of “today.” The ghosts teased me with what I had and what I was most certainly never going to experience again.
I needed grounding, but I also needed the sobering knowledge that my path to recovery was never set from the start. I could no longer put Band-Aids on this sinking ship if I actually wanted it to sail.
I came to the point where I had to confront the pain and make the changes that were uncomfortable and completely foreign compared to my old medicating ways. I always had the tools; I just had to come to a moment that forced my hand to use them.
I had to accept the healing process and recognize my injury in order to find what that process would look like for me. I had to go through trial and error, go down one road and then another, until I found the key to move forward in my own personal healing process.
I also had to realize that this was a road that I had to travel alone. We may be lucky enough to have that person or that community to help us find some balance on the path to healing, but in the end, the journey is solely up to us.
No one can force our hand to use the tools, to take the medication, or make the necessary lifestyle choices in order to move one foot in front of the other on our path to recovery. Healing and becoming whole again are something we have to be willing to do for ourselves, and we cannot place that expectation on others. It’s our job, and ours alone, to find out what we need in order to fix what is broken.
Healing from injury is a lifelong recovery project, but finding my path has shown me that it’s worth putting in the hard work.
I’ve come to realize that I need to continue to work at it if I want to maintain the progress I have made—it’s not a story or a road that will actually ever come to an end.
I have my ups and downs, good and bad days, twists and turns, but I also have a better outlook and better tools on how to right myself without self-destruction and succumbing to injury.
Sustained injuries always leave a scar, and we are always prone to reinjury if we don’t continue to maintain our path.
The hard part is to continue to use the tools we have discovered, even when we feel the injury is healed.
The injury will always be a weak point—a reminder to continue to put in the work. And when we do put in the work, we will most certainly find a better, more fulfilling path.
Maybe we were never meant to recover at all.
Maybe we were just meant to find another road, and along that journey, find a better self.
I am still a work in perpetual progress, but I am, after all, only a human body with a soul.