I’m going to work to commit every Thursday evening to writing about self-care – what it is, how you can achieve it, and how we can become better together. As this series progresses, feel free to chime in with your thoughts, questions and concerns. View the series in its entirety. You are now viewing part 7.

Trigger warning: Because I value the fact that people consider this a safe space to analyze their own thoughts and experiences, I feel it necessary and vital to show respect for that by alerting you to the content of this post. There is quite a bit of conversation regarding sexual violence and safety in this essay, and I would encourage you to govern yourself accordingly.

What does healing look like?

Healing is the final step before fully letting go. It doesn’t look like acknowledging something as right, but looks like accepting things as they are. It looks like understanding, even if that “understanding” only consists of “I understand that this is so ridiculous and obscene and devoid of logic that you clearly weren’t even thinking when you made this decision.” And yes, it sometimes looks like foregiveness.

Healing looks like taking the steps necessary to move on.

Emotional healing looks like same way as physical healing: when a traumatic experience leaves us wounded, it might leave an indelible scar, but eventually, the wound stops feeling so fresh. The skin starts to reconnect, the scar covers itself, and it gives itself time to regenerate and grow, anew.

The key difference between physical healing and emotional healing, however, is that we don’t need to know what facilitates physical healing in order to make that happen. It happens on its own. Not knowing what facilitates emotional healing, however, could result in us never healing from things that’ve happened to us in the past. Failing to heal from past transgressions could negatively affect our lives entirely – everything from the way we connect to other human beings to the way we perform when our boss gives us orders – and even further the cycle of emotional eating.

For me, healing has always involved understanding. My writing about sexual violence, rape culture, and how that affected my weight gain wasn’t just explanatory – it was exploratory. I needed to dig deep into these things, how they could happen in such a just world, and – most importantly – I needed to realize that people do awful things that affect others, and this oftentimes has little to do with me as a person at all.

Wow, it’s just as hard to write that as it is to read it.

Remember what I said about shame and its ability to make you feel like you deserve to be isolated? You deserve to be excluded from everyone else? When traumatic experiences happen to you, and you don’t heal properly (or worse, your search for support in the healing process results in you feeling more wounded), you find yourself living a life of shame – a life where you feel like you don’t deserve human connection, engagement, support, and love. You sabotage any efforts that anyone else puts forth to try to love and support you by treating them poorly and making them feel unwelcome. You sabotage yourself by undermining your goals – purposefully or subconsciously. You don’t believe you deserve the love, the engagement, the support and praise that comes with success, and so you act accordingly.

Healing allows you to acknowledge the role that both you and the other party in the traumatic event played, although it must be noted that sometimes you played no role in the event at all. Did you lose a meaningful relationship because you didn’t give enough of what your partner needed, and were selfish? Did you undervalue their importance in your life and they responded by leaving you? Did you fail to give them what they needed? Or were you cheated on, because you underestimated how much of a scumbag your ex truly was? (Because only scumbags cheat. Facts only.) Being able to process this healthily allows you to correct whatever mistakes you’ve made, and act better in the future. If long-term partnership is your goal, it helps to realize that you have a tendency to be selfish towards people you claim to care about. (I can tell you, for me, I had to learn that my selfishness came from my own feelings of isolation – if I always felt like there were rarely any people around to tend to my needs, I still behaved like I had to be out for solo dolo even in a relationship. As soon as I changed that, I wound up getting married exactly a year later.)

Healing makes you better. It makes you smarter about life and the way you relate to the people around you. Learning about the kind of world that allowed such awful things to happen to me allowed me to stop feeling like I was the problem, and helped me realize that my habit of self-soothing through food was unhealthy. Healing from my experiences with my parents not only improved my relationship with my mother, but it made me a better mother to my child. Healing from my experiences with my extended family allowed me to change my feelings about building a family of my own, and shortly after that… started taking the prospect of building my own family seriously.

Healing allows you to acknowledge that you’ve made mistakes without shame, and gives you space to grow from them. Healing makes you smarter. Healing gives us the opportunity to learn ourselves and our own needs, and sometimes, it does require taking a few steps back from the social scene to make that happen.

Next week: Why I chose celibacy for my journey, and what that gave me.