The Single Reason Trauma Survivors Do Not Heal

RecoveryInRealtime cover

Author of #RecoveryInRealTime shares more about the writing process behind her “Anti-workbook” for surviving multiple traumas. The following post was published at Publishing for a Change, LLC. Shared in full here, with permission: 

I don’t wear trauma like a badge, but I do know these scars are stories that can support others, as we all walk the path of a lifelong recovery – whether you are a survivor of sexual assault, damaging religion, emotional abuse, or witness to a violent act (to name a few of my scars), I know what it’s like to keep chasing “healing.” Imagine endless thirst while crawling through a desert of memories – That is the survivor’s search for healing.

I know what it’s like to have lovers, friends, and family members set out eggshells of “discomfort” as they become weary of our attempts to understand the trauma.

I know what it’s like to have fellow survivors minimize the recovery process by pontificating about their psychological successes. We do this sometimes as a form of denial, by the way. We claim we are “beyond trauma” so we don’t have to deal with it in any new forms, but that is not true. (It always cycles back – and it “should” if we are recovering, not resisting.)

I know what it’s like to have intrusions from social media – ignorance from people who are trolling posts, or even that dreaded “suggested friends” list – ever seen an abuser or abuser’s relative show up on your page? I have…

I know what it’s like to go several months without thinking about any major effects from trauma and then be right back in a grief cycle as if it all just happened yesterday.

There is only one reason trauma survivors do not heal.

It has nothing to do with reading the right books (though I think mine is helpful, it is for recovery, not “healing.”)

It has nothing to do with having the right therapist (though this is a vital part of the process).

It has nothing to do with being on the right medication (though medication can be a tool for recovery).

It has nothing to do with how much time has passed since the trauma (time does not “heal” wounds of trauma).

The reason trauma survivors do not heal is simple: HEALING IS NOT A REALISTIC GOAL.

I created #RecoveryInRealTime as an Anti-workbook for a very specific reason – I was cycling through another iteration of my grief. I was grieving the innocence of my faith, as I thought about how toxic religion had destroyed a healthy sense of trust and hope. I was grieving how my body still maintained a level of memory of sexual and emotional abuse. I was grieving…

And the only resources I could find were hashtags about awareness/prevention or books about the BEGINNING stages of trauma recovery – 300+ page workbooks, starting at the novice stage of recovery. Worse, I had my original copy of The Courage to Heal, which had become nothing more than a bright-yellow paperback eye-sore on my bookshelf. I read my own notes in the book, which I owned for almost two decades…

And I decided to burn it.

I made a fire…

And I burned it.

Because what I was lacking was certainly not the COURAGE to HEAL.

I was lacking a tangible reminder that HEALING wasn’t about about courage at all.

Healing had become like a dangling carrot on my path – it was costing me my sanity every time the cycle of grief found me.

Healing had become a false belief that with enough therapy and support, the effects of trauma would be wiped out of my life.

Healing had become an obstacle because it wasn’t realistic.

But… I had courage alright…

The courage to burn a broken path, with an unrealistic goal – and write my own damn resource book!

Is #RecoveryInRealTime possible? Yes.

If you’re a long-term survivor, you’ve probably had enough of the unrealistic goal of “healing.”

We minimize the grief cycle every time we accept the product of “healing.”

I do not want to “get over it.”

I do not even want to “heal” from it.

I want to have the courage to see it when it visits and process it, in real time, so I can keep living my life.

Survivors and loved ones reading this – please consider…

How much lighter would the burden be if the goal was integration, not healing?

What if the journey is the destination?

What if the process is the goal and there is no magical product known as healing?

We must stop selling healing and start buying into our own stories of recovery.

This is why there are 125 hashtags

So you can see yourself in the black and white print another had the courage to put out there.

I gave you a mirror.

Look deeply.

See your own recovery as it happens, right now, in real time.

See your own story, as it unfolds, each new chapter, at every new turn of your life…

It is not the courage to heal that we need to find…

It is the courage to see and share… without apology, for the rest of our lives.

Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.

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Disclaimer:  Therapies and books that recommend healing often provide immediate respite for the beginning stages of healing. #RecoveryInRealTime exists for long-term process for survivors – an angle on trauma that is often minimized. If you are just recently disclosing your trauma, you may find that these resources are incredibly helpful. 

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