What is healing?

I’ve struggled long and hard to understand what is meant by the term “healing” within a mental health context.  I’m familiar with healing that can be quantified (e.g. a broken bone mending), but how do you quantify healing from childhood abuse?  Is it possible or desirable to do so? What time-frame should we look at as reasonable when we’re considering the healing process?

I’m very aware that this is the intellectual side of me asking these questions.  The questions are born from frustration at what is seeming like a very long journey that hasn’t got us very far.  I know that many survivors experience a decrease in functioning with the start of therapy, but how long can I expect this to continue?  I do what I can to hasten the healing process – I do the homework I’m set, I try to be as open as I can within therapy, etc.  But is this enough?  I’ve been told by therapists that I’m “working hard” within therapy, but I often feels as if it’s another part of my life that I’m drifting through.  There will be a moment of clarity surrounding why I do a certain behaviour, but it’s then lost in the confusion and dissociative memory gaps.

I’ve yet to fully understand what the term “working hard” refers to within therapy.  Yet, I often come out of a session absolutely exhausted or on an adrenaline high, both signs that I have experienced something extreme for what I sometimes dismiss as “sitting in a chair for 60 minutes talking”.  I have a great deal of respect for those who are working on their healing as a full-time endeavour, it’s not something that I have the strength for.  But I have no respect or patience for my own healing.  I’m still caught in dismissing and minimising the memories.  Liz has offered to assist with this process by using her as a sounding board to test out the feelings and potential accuracy of the memories.  There is a certain attraction in doing this, we could finally prove what is real and which memories have potentially been influenced.  But there is also a fear that Liz will say nothing about the validity of the memories, but rather ask us to look at them and analyse our feelings and emotions about the events.  This is my greatest fear, having no way to prove or dis-prove the memories and still having to do the work of recovering from the toxic mess they generate.

Part of my anxiety is generated from the proposed changes to the ACC scheme (check out the ACC category at Gudrun Frerich’s site for some of the issues surrounding the changes).  As an ACC client, the changes will mean more reporting, increasing need to measure the healing progress and the threat of my cover being stopped at any time.  There is no way that I would be able to afford therapy without ACC assistance, so this is  a huge issue.  This is not because we are attached to, or reliant on Liz; but rather I have a fear that if we can’t release the thoughts within a therapeutic framework, we will self-destruct.  Yes, I realise that I’m contradicting myself – how can therapy be “sitting in a chair talking for 60 minutes” as well as one of the things that keep us sane…

In totally other news, B entered us into a photo competition which we have absolutely no chance of winning or even placing in.  This goes against every single strand of perfectionism that runs through our body.  I do realise however, that it’s going to be an great deal of fun for them deciding how to photograph 100’s and 1000’s creatively.

Now playing: The Feelers – Stand Up
via FoxyTunes


17 thoughts on “What is healing?

  1. Those questions look like they should be easy to answer. “Healing” is used in two ways — sometimes to mean the process of healing, and sometimes to mean the endpoint of the process, being healed.

    The endpoint, just like a broken bone when healed can take your weight without causing you pain, is that your mind can take the strain of everyday life without causing you pain. The process is more mysterious, both for the bone and for the mind, but even so there are explanations that go into detail if you really want to know.

    Is is possible? Certainly. I see it happen often. Is it desirable? Obviously to participate in life without unnecessary pain is desirable, (but perhaps there is more to that question).

    Time frame? As soon as possible! In reality, a simple condition with a cause that is easily discovered generally takes a few weeks or months. A complex condition with an unknown cause generally takes many months or even a couple of years.

    Is it enough to do the homework? Yes. Anything else is your therapist’s responsibility, not yours.

    “Working hard” is condescending drivel. Either you are doing things that lead to permanent improvements or you are not. What you seem to be saying is that you are not, and that makes me wonder whether your therapist is working hard or just keeping things as they are.

    • Hi cbtish,

      I think I have the greatest trouble with the time-frame for healing. Like Kerro, I want to be healed NOW – yesterday would be better. So I get frustrated and feel as if I’m going nowhere when I don’t see any immediate results. I know that it will be a fairly slow process as I’m trying to alter a state of being that has taken over 30 years to create, but I’m not sure if the time-frame it’s taking me is usual or to be expected. I’ve heard 5 years for those with Borderline Personality Disorder, I don’t have BPD but this seems like an awfully long time. With the release or acknowledgement of some of the emotions, I find the lows are lower and harder to climb back out of.

      Thank you for your thoughts, it helped to clarify some of the issues.

      Kind regards

  2. I am one of the ones who has apparently been “working hard” according to my therapist, though I’ve still no idea what this means, either.

    I too want healing. I want to be healed. And I want it NOW. But sometimes I realise that part of my healing is waiting, as patiently as I can, even when it seems impossible.

    Hang in here. One step at a time.

    • I was thinking that yesterday would be better for this healing thing to be ticked off as complete 🙂 Patience was never one of my strengths… But yes, it seems to be as if hanging on is the only thing we can do some days…

      Take care,

  3. Hey! I like your new site!

    I used to find the dribble of “You’re working hard” to be just that – dribble. And then one frantic session, I blurted out to Mr.S, “What does that mean? I wish I were dead! I can’t do this anymore!” Know what he replied?

    “I can see you are at the end of your rope.” he said

    “It’s not a rope, it’s a tiny little thread!” I yelled back.

    “Yes, but you haven’t let go.” he gently reminded me.

    At that moment all I had to do was not let go. I didn’t have to DO anything in particular, like exorcises or write anything down, nothing. My job was only to hang on. That was tough enough, it was hard – I had to work hard at just hanging on. So since that time, I see “working hard” as something that doesn’t have to move me forward, but it can be something that merely keeps me where I’m at.

    So those 60 minute just talking sessions, they are sometimes the thread that keeps us where we’re at. I really hope you don’t lose your coverage. It is very expensive w/o insurance. I’ve paid thousands of dollars every year because my insurance would only allow (are you ready? Wait for it…) … 3 visits.

    • Hi Ivory,

      The site is still a work in progress – apologies to those who visit and find that M playing with the coding has suddenly thrown everything out of whack 🙂

      Thank you so much for your words… I’ve never thought of healing as doing whatever you can to stay here and be as safe as you can be. But I think that’s what it is for me at the moment.

      Good grief, 3 sessions??? That’s nothing, not even a token gesture towards assistance. Even most short courses of therapy suggest 10-12 sessions will be needed. I’m so sorry that you’ve got so little financial help.

      Take care,

  4. You ask some really hard questions. And, unfortunately, these moments of “am I really going anywhere?” are asked at precisely the times when we are making a transition and attempting change.

    You are making a transition as you described in your last post. It’s a healing transition. And it’s scary. Our first reaction is to negate it, question it, or make an attempt at returning things to their original state. But I think you’ve decided, and learned from experience, that you cannot do that “old way” anymore. That’s precisely what healing is. When you make a decision to change direction and start doing it.

    As to the “you’re working hard” stuff. I do hear that all the time. I find it strangely comforting. But I can see how it would be considered otherwise. Working hard acknowledges that we are not passive in this, that we are working towards a better life. This is what you are doing.


    • Hi Paul,

      I think how we hear the words about “working hard” is very dependant on our feelings at the time. A previous therapist said it to me several times – at times it made me feel proud, but at times it was (as cbtish described) condescending drivel.

      I’m definitely changing rapidly in how I’m coping. Usually I don’t cry at all, but on Friday I was triggered by a children’s song and suddenly the tears started falling. I had no feelings of being sad, but I couldn’t stop the tears. Liz will probably consider this healing and progress, I see it as crazy making… It’s so at odds with how I’ve done things in the past that it makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

      Take care,

        • That’s what Liz said as well David. It still feels wrong, uncomfortable, weak and pathetic. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to cope with this change.

        • I felt that way too — and sometimes I still do — before I sat down and really thought about what it meant. It meant that the system was starting to trust me enough to try to get my attention. The tricky thing is that, of course, part of the system really hates the vulnerable part of the system, and its way of trying to get my attention is to flood me with these feelings of shame. So in a way, that too is a good thing, but it has to be put into perspective.

  5. I posted on this question on my site, thanks to you!

    I wanted to comment on the “memory” questions you raised.

    I, too, grapple with these questions. Especially when I get an onslaught of “flashbacks”. My immediate reaction is to minimize and discount and question the validity.

    I can fully understand that you would find yourself there.

    But, I also have part of me that knows that these questions aren’t relevant anymore. The question now is: How do you live your life and what is your genuine experience now?

    Hope that helps…

  6. I do not know when I will consider myself healed. In my heart I think I will know. I know that my life is richer with the healing I have done.

    My memories were mixed up. I some how learned that they were valid and as accurate as memories can be. It is an inside knowing. Having all of my memories for me was part of my healing. I wanted all of my experiences as they are part of what I am.

    The how long will this take is hard to deal with, a question that will be answered when I am done.

    I do not always know when I leave therapy that there has been hard work done. In part that is so I can find my way home. I need to get away from what happened for a while.

    Sometimes in therapy one is out and about and says “Good news it’s the Lazy Boy and you know what that means. No hard work today! My therapist smiles and after therapy I go home and sleep for hours.

    I asked my therapist about the working hard and she says she can see I am working very hard. I once told her “Well everyone works hard in therapy and she said “No they do not.”

    I hope you have fun photographing 100’s and 1000’s.

    • Hi Michael,

      I can understand that not everyone works hard in therapy, but I often wonder if I’m one of the ones who don’t. My therapeutic relationship is fairly new, so I know that I’m still doing a great deal of protecting of myself and my issues.

      I can relate to needing to sleep for hours after a session. I typically either want to sprint away as soon as I can, or go and sleep.

      It’s already been interesting with the 100’s & 1000’s, we now have them throughout the kitchen as we were taking photos of them dropping onto the kitchen bench yesterday 🙂

      Take care,

  7. Pingback: A ramble on healing, nurturing and the like – Part One « Kerro’s Korner

    • I sometimes get confused between the end point of being “healed”, and the process of healing which gets us to that point. I like your definition of being healed, it would be a great place to be…

      Take care,
      Sophie 🙂

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