Friday, March 30, 2012

Reflection on healing as a process

I have not written here in a while. I have made numerous attempts, but the result has been 24 unsaved incomplete documents minimized at the bottom of my computer screen. I will go into that more later, but I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on the healing process.

I came across the poem "Welcome to Holland" in my text book for a course on counseling clients with communication disorders. I will include the poem at the bottom of this page in case you haven't read this poem but are interested. Though the poem addresses issues that parents face following the birth of a child with developmental difficulties (and the analogy does not completely align - in sexual assault, "Holland" can initially be a very "terrible ugly place, full of famine, pestilence and disease"), the poem's message regarding the grief process is a powerful one that also applies to those of us who have encountered rape or other traumatic experiences that cause severe life alterations.

When you are severely violated, your world - your reality - is shaken to the core...often times with very little warning. Even if you have the most amazing foundation of self-confidence and security prior to the occurrence of rape, something inside you changes. Something was stolen. If you were a virgin, it wasn't just your virginity that was taken. It wasn't even just your confidence in other people. Something in us - something valuable - is swiped away along with whatever acts were performed to our bodies without our consent.

Sometimes it's impossible to put into words what was taken, and we are left only with our feelings regarding what happened. Often, this inability to express our internal experience leaves us with overwhelming feelings of loneliness. Needless to say, there is a lot to mourn.

I ran and ran and ran from the grieving process. If I never mourned what I had lost, then maybe I hadn't lost that piece of myself. And, well, I ran and ran and ran until I became utterly exhausted and literally could not run another step. That's what lead me to ultimately seeking effective professional help and beginning the grueling healing process.

It would be a lie to say that I am through the mourning process. At times, I think I've progressed through it, but then it creeps in and surprises me. I used to look at these times as failures. How the heck am I still allowing this mess to influence my life? But now, I'm working on just acknowledging it for what it is. It's part of this whole healing process. It's what is going to make me feel whole again.

The beginning of the grieving process was absolutely brutal and disruptive. Something I wanted to speed through. Feel the horrible pain and then forget about it. But I'm learning that healing is not like that. The pain will continue to lessen and hopefully become only occasional episodes of mourning - but I will never forget about it. This experience is just one of many that make me who I am.

I will never live in the world that the old me experienced prior to December of 2002. But that's okay. No longer is my goal to speed through the healing process. It is merely to heal. To learn what this Me has to offer.

Welcome to Holland
By: Emily Perle Kinsley

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You get a bunch of guide books and make all your plans. The Coliseum...The Michelangelo David...the gondolas in Venice. You get a book of handy phrases and learn how to say a few words in Italian. It's all very exciting.
Finally, the time comes for your trip. You pack your bags and off you go. 
Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?!" you say. "Holland?? I signed up for Italy! All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
"I'm sorry," she says. "There's been a change and we've landed in Holland."
"But I don't know anything about Holland! I never thought of going to Holland. I have no idea what you do in Holland!"
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you have to go out and buy a whole new set of guide books...you have to learn a whole new language... and you will meet a whole new bunch of people you would have never met otherwise.
Holland. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy...but after you've been there for a while and you've had a chance to catch your breath, you look around and begin to discover that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a great time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you never got to go to Italy, you may never be available to enjoy the very lovely, very special things about Holland.
(Copyright 1987 by the author)
In Luterman, D. (2008). Counseling Persons with Communication Disorders and Their Families (5th edition) (p. 54). Austin, TX: Pro Ed.

8 comments:

  1. I am so glad to see a post here. But certainly understand your absence. I must say I so have appreciated you commenting on most of mine. You too are an encourager, and I appreciate you and what you have to share.

    What I have learned from my pain is that, yes in time little by little you will be healed. But, there is always a "emotional scar" that will be a reminder. It could be a positive reminder though. That is how I look at mine. From where I came from to what I am today. But the scar will remain.

    You are doing good in your healing. Believe me, I wanted to rush the process too. But, you just cannot. I know that pain can be unbearable and that is what we are trying to avoid. But, we went through the worst of it when it happened to us initially. And we survived! That is something to be proud of. If you can. You are a survivor!

    Although I have not arrived yet to total freedom, there will come a day where I will feel whole again. I pray that for you too!

    Thank you for sharing that poem as well.

    Safe hugs to you dear one.

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    1. As always, thank you so much for your kind words, JBR. I really appreciate it. The work is hard, but like you said, we will reach that wholeness. Freedom is ours to take!! Thank you for ongoing support, even during my absence. xx

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  2. it's good to see someone healing.... i was raped 3 years back and my life is still not on its track.. i too stand by you sweetheart as i ,too, have endured nasty episodes of sexual abuse and rape... somehow i am proud to say that i am a survivor of incest and rape and same is the thing i say for you .... you are a survivor!!!! best of luck with your healing.. i know it's very very difficult to let go of these things..... there's a pain (invisible one) which becomes a constant reminder.. nevertheless :) we will heal one day :D best of luck to you <3

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    1. Shadow, thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. I am so sorry to hear about the pain you have had to endure as a result of the selfish, cruel actions of those who should have been there to protect you. Like you said, we will keep on keepin' on until we can put this behind us and live freely! Thanks again for your support. xx

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    2. you took that one outta my very own heart .... thank you very much Worth-Waiting-For.. :)

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  3. Still trying to learn this very important lesson. I just wish the path were easier. But it's not. Some days it feels as if the process could kill you, other days you feel empowered like you can take on the world. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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    1. "Some days it feels as if the process could kill you, other days you feel empowered like you can take on the world." - That statement could not be more true!!! I still get these highs and lows - sometimes on a daily basis - but I'm just trying to go with it. It's so easy to be self-critical when it happens, but I'm beginning to recognize it as part of the process. I think - I hope - that is a good thing :-) It's going to be hard work, but we are going to get there! Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. It really means a lot. xx

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  4. I am here to bear witness that the highs and the lows smooth out. The body gets used to a state of goodness and well being. There is a phenomenal ground swell of gratitude to have lived through horrific experiences and to experience the profound treasures in the journey. I had no idea the world that would open before me as a result of PTSD and post polio syndrome laying claim on my body letting me know I needed to heal. It gets better and better and better every day in every way. Sure I have my weepiness and melt down moments but I have learned now to laugh - even giggle - breathe deeply and feel joy and love in my heart. Blessings to all on their healing journey.

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