How we approach emotional healing

Eight years ago, my best friend broke her foot. She had crutches, and even had to do physiotherapy. Even to this day, it bothers her. If she lands on it wrong, or wears shoes with a heel, her foot can cause her pain for a couple of days.

The way her body reacted to a broken bone was normal. After you break a bone, or have surgery, or any other form of physical trauma, it’s possible for that part of your body to never quite be the same.

We’re patient with loved ones who have gone through physical pain. We help them get around. We bring them ice packs. We understand that they could be in pain, even a year later.

So why don’t we treat mental trauma the same way?

Silencing mental health is an ongoing conversation. We know that it’s wrong, but we still aren’t treating it with the patience that we would treat a physical injury. That’s because we still don’t regard the two as having equal importance.

The same way you wouldn’t challenge someone to a game of catch the day after a cast is taken off their arm, we shouldn’t expect survivors of emotional trauma to “just get over it,” or speak freely about it, when everyone around them deems that they have been “sad” for a long enough time.

As we are all becoming more aware and educated about rape culture, specifically on university campuses, I feel like the emphasis is only on short term care.

We’re told what to do if a friend is sexually assaulted. We’re told what to do if we experience gendered violence. We’re told to report it right away. We’re told to talk to a counsellor and seek resources.

But what do we do when a friend was sexually assaulted three years ago and they’re still hurting?

What do we do when we feel pressured to move on? Or if the support from loved ones feels like it’s fading or being forgotten?

I was subjected to domestic violence as a child, nearly 15 years ago. There is still a place in my brain that is not okay. There are still conversations that I would rather not have. There is still pain, but I am continuously telling myself that enough time has passed. Why is this still a part of me?

Some people recover from heart surgery quickly and steadily. Some people don’t. Some people get infections when the cast comes off. Some people are up and running the next day.

We understand that physical healing can take longer for some people and we address that. My grandfather had both knees replaced a few years ago and he still has a hard time getting around. We’re patient with him. We lend him an arm if he needs to catch his balance.

Post traumatic stress disorder is such a blanket term that is generally only associated with soldiers — another group of people we just expect to quietly “deal with their shit” — when the reality is American soldiers complete suicide at an alarming rate.

If you have lived a beautiful life, without experiencing any form of emotional trauma, then you are so very lucky to never have to endure the mental battle the coincides with passing time.

For those of you who have, be patient with yourself. Every passing day contributes to your healing.

Feeling triggered, or having a break down after enough time has passed to “statistically heal you” isn’t a relapse. It isn’t a step backwards. It’s part of the coping process.

Don’t push yourself, take your time and don’t be afraid to take an arm when you lose your balance.

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