Whenever we hear an inspiring story of someone’s healing journey that is full of resilience and hope, it is usually when they have healed from the most delicate and painful part of the story.
It is rare to hear stories of hope and resilience in the moments the incident is occurring. We do hear of the story but usually it comes across as traumatic, tragic and incredibly hard to listen to. Much like watching the news of horrible things occurring. When we return to those incidents later on, once healing has occurred, we are inspired by the hope and resilience that has appeared.
I came across a quote a few years ago by Glennon Doyle that said
“Share from your scars, not your open wounds”.
We can look at a scar and remember everything that happened around it, the bad and the good that came afterwards – “I went through this terrible thing and survived, and I am more grateful for life than before”. When we share from our healed scars we are sharing a story that is processed and no longer traumatic. We have found the transformation and hopefulness that comes from that full journey.
When we share from our ‘open wounds’ or the experiences that we have not processed and healed from, the intensity can scare people away. As humans, we need to know that the story ends well, or at least concludes at some point. It can be too much to bear when we can’t see hope and resilience in the story, which usually comes through once the process has gone full circle. When you imagine an open wound, it is confronting and scary and hard to imagine it ever getting better. It’s impossible to imagine that someone can come out of it positively transformed!
This doesn’t mean that we can’t share our story and what we are going through. It requires us to have awareness and clear judgement of who we trust to share our story with and when. Some people can handle the open wounds, some people can only handle the scars.
We share our experiences with people who can hold space for us when we are vulnerable and in pain and not turn away. People who can sit through any discomfort, ours or their own, and wholeheartedly listen to us. People who instead of looking like a deer in the headlights, they lean in and make us feel heard and loved.
These people may be the ones closest to you, supporting you and seeing everything first hand. They may be people who have gone through similar experiences and know the process. They may just be people with a gift or strength for empathy. When you find them, your heart knows.
When we are vulnerable and raw, we need to have solid boundaries to protect ourselves from people who can’t support us, who poke us where it hurts and/or load more issues on to us. The last thing we need is for people to be shrinking away from us while we are in difficult times. We don’t need to feel like we have to support them when they can’t handle hearing about our situation. It makes us feel worse about what we are going through and they may project their own fears and judgements onto our experience.
I have had many experiences when I have told people about my medical conditions and the first questions they ask are: ‘How did it happen?’ and ‘Was there anything you could do to avoid it?’. I understand that people unknowingly project their fears and are trying to protect themselves from it happening to them, but often we have no control over what happens to us.
This kind of interaction creates a distance where it becomes hard for empathy to flourish, because we feel ‘othered’, alienated, contagious, unfortunate or too difficult to deal with. We don’t feel supported because what we have spoken about was not responded with care for us, but only concern for their own self. These interactions with people stop us from reaching out and talking when we need to, and we need more than anything else is a supportive shoulder to lean on.
Gradually we find the people who hear our experiences, read between the lines, hear what is not being said, and support us wholeheartedly, no matter what we are going through. We start to learn to spot them quicker and build up a community of people who we can comfortably talk and share. Healing also happens in the space of feeling supported.
Eventually your heart will also know when you are ready to share your story with a wider community and still feel safe. This may be when you have processed and healed and feel settled with the experience. It can be part of the cycle – before the rebirth, we let go of the old and set it out into the world to be free.
Whatever stage you are at in your story, I hope you have people who are listening and supporting you. I hope you know that even if it is a messy open wound now, one day it will be a shiny scar and won’t hurt to touch.
Take heart and hope Readers, I’ll keep the light on.
It seems fitting to round up Mental Health month by focusing on the stigma that surrounds mental health. There is a lot we can do to make it easier for everyone if we tackle the issue of stigma.
October is Mental Health Awareness month and here are a few things we can do to support mental health.
We are all aware of the mental health campaigns urging us to check in with each other, to start the conversation about someone’s mental health… but do you know how to support and guide them to resources if they say “No, I’m not ok”?. What are the next steps to take? Do you feel confident to have that discussion? Read more about my experience completing the Mental Health First Aid course.
As soon as things get tough, you know you are going to need a few people to lean on. Who is on your team?
So you might not be much of a talker or know much about the medical world, but you want to help someone close to you? Here are a few practical ways to help someone with a chronic condition!