What does it mean to heal?

Perhaps this is the wrong question. Instead, I propose: What is there to heal?

Healing is the process of a body, having been injured in some way, doing what it takes to restore itself to normalcy. Merriam-Webster says, specifically, “to make sound or whole” and “to restore to original purity or integrity.”

Take note of the words I have highlighted. What are they saying?

This cultural idea of healing, applied to a person’s spirit rather than body, draws upon the idea of an abnormal body being made “normal.” It assumes that any person not normal should be made normal.

But there are all sorts of bodies in this world. Bodies with broken bones, broken skin, disfigured limbs, faces, with cuts and gashes and wounds, missing limbs, missing organs, organs which work in abnormal ways — according to our cultural norms.

And, much the same, there are all sorts of people in this world. People who have survived assault and abuse, been subject to violence, faced trauma, been manipulated or neglected, dealt with addictions, lost loved ones. People who have experienced any number of things which cause them significant distress.

These people are expected to “heal” from their experience. They go through a modest amount of time processing the event emotionally and then return to normal.

But why should they be made normal?

Why should any broken person be pushed and pressured into a form which does not fit?

Why is it that a person who is anything other than normal is therefore less than whole?

Why can’t a person simply be who they are, even if they are injured or broken or disfigured, and still be considered a whole person?

Any person who has faced trauma will need to find ways to process their trauma, ways to cope, ways to live with what has changed in their life. But that person should not have to push hirself to go back to how things once were — or to make things resemble what they are for a person who has not faced that trauma. Things may be different. There is not only one way to live a life. There are many. And perhaps you will settle into a different one — one which works better for who you are now — which may not have worked for who you were before. And that way is no less right.

What do you do when life changes? You adapt. You make things fit you. You don’t make you fit everything else.

It’s ok to be broken. Being broken does not make you less than whole. It makes you different. And that’s ok.

12 thoughts on “What does it mean to heal?

  1. *sniffles* You made me cry, but… thanks :). I’ll be showing your post to my mom, sister and brother. We’ve struggled to recover from feeling like a statistic for many, many years. We’re all broken in our own special way and we helped each other make a place at home where it was kind of OK to be that way. The world beyond those doors is another story entirely and it makes me miss home sometimes.

  2. Thank you for this post. I am whole the way I am even if it doesn’t fit the dominant culture’s definition of whole.

    I know I’m supposed to morn not being “normal”, but I don’t.
    .-= thetroubleis´s last blog ..On work. =-.

  3. Yes. Especially this: “Why is it that a person who is anything other than normal is therefore less than whole?”

    i witness folks go through physical traumas, and all they can talk about is “getting back to normal”, and i dont say anything, because hey its their process. But it sucks to hear over and over and over, because this is what theyre saying: “i am not normal. i want to be normal again”, and that packs a punch.

  4. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

    I’ve never been “normal,” and in fact for most of my life have spat upon the notion of normalcy as defined by our culture being something desirable.

    I ran into some trouble, though, when I had a really crappy bipolar episode, broke all to hell, and ran right into the brick wall of wanting to be “normal.” Maybe not normal like everyone else, but I wanted to go back to what “normal” had been for me.

    So it’s a pitchfork with multiple points. There are multiple values for “normal.” Deviating from your own standard of normalcy is really awful, and that is not something I had ever thought of before it happened to me. Before I had that sense of wholeness stripped away from me.

    I do realize, now, that I’ve always been bipolar, and a lot of my perception of “normality” was me blaming stuff that was actually caused by my mental illness on other factors. So I have had to retroactively redefine “normal.”

    It’s a mess. I am trying to learn what “whole” for me really means. I think that’s a more valuable thing for me to try to figure out than “normal.”

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