What does it mean to be healed?


Pensive. Photo by Eleanor Wong.

It's an interesting concept. Whether it's phsyical wounds or ailments, emotional trauma, or even those light-hearted and yet mortifying social mishaps that happen in our daily life, I think it's safe to say that healing is the end goal and hope. No one likes to be left in limbo, and in many ways, healing brings about closure. It can cap off a chapter in life and close the gap of pain.

In this way, healing should be a positive journey, since it brings about a positive impact in our life.


The journey of healing is something that I've become quite familiar with.

I spent the past six years looking for something better to do with my life. At the time I wasn't really sure what that thing was, and I was pretty much grasping at straws while I felt myself dip into withdrawal from the world around me. A series of unfortunate relationships, bad decisions, and pure anger consumed me in a way that I didn't realize at the time was detrimental.

When I found myself at the bottom and I wanted out, at first I thought that this was my new normal. That this was me receiving the life I deserved: a life that was painful, anxiety-driven, and dismal with no purpose.

But as people pushed me to try counselling the first time, I found something different in my life. Things began to change, and two years after the fact, I got a tattoo to symbolize all the great healing that was happening in my life.

Two months later, my "healed" life was ripped apart at the seams, and the distance I had gained in the name of "progress" was taken away from me. Suddenly, I found myself back at square one.

As I went through counselling a second time, I couldn't help but feel like my tattoo was premature.

Clearly, I had jumped the gun at this whole healing thing. How could I be back in counselling when I had solved all my problems the first time? How could I be back where I was when I had come all this way?

In fact, I didn't just find myself back at square one. I was so far out from square one, and worse off than where I was previously.

But again, as time went on, I conquered my anxiety and depression. I moved on. I healed.

I found myself living my best life in 2017, riding a high and vowing that I wouldn't have to go back to counselling ever again. My healing was my redemption, and that I was finally a healed woman from all the demons that plagued me the first and second times.

The only problem? I wasn't actually a healed woman. In fact, there were still some things that I was struggling with that I chose to not acknowledge.

And so, after nearly a month of fighting with myself, arguing with friends, and swallowing my own pride, I started counselling again - for a third time.

Healing, as I'm beginning to realize, is not linear.

Photo by Eleanor Wong.

I'm not going to even go into the math implications that this statement makes. But what I mean by this statement is that there isn't a steady rate of change where healing happens in our lives. We have good days, and we have bad days. But just because we have more bad days than good in a particular stretch of time, that doesn't mean that healing isn't happening. It doesn't mean that you're reverting back to your old ways.

It means that you are growing.

It wasn't because of social stigma that I resisted counselling a third time. It wasn't because I was afraid of what my parents would say. But rather, I was upset, at the time, at my inability to heal. If I was healed, I told myself, I wouldn't need this anymore. I wouldn't be feeling bad, and I would be able to just deal with it.

But as we grow, we change. We're not static beings, but we are constantly active and being impacted by the world around us, the conversations we have, and the people who are in our lives. And while all of these may be determinants or impediments to our healing, one thing remains: our healing is not linear.

Something that stood out to me recently that helped me to realize this was the idea of re-breaking bones in order to help the healing process.

Clearly, as I'm not a science student, I was appalled by this logic that someone shared with me. If a bone was already healing, why re-break it? Doesn't that just impede on the healing process?

My friend challenged me by asking, what if the bones weren't properly aligned? Healing can't possibly happen. And if it were just left as such, it could lead to greater problems down the road. In this way, they concluded, the re-breaking of a bone isn't to set the patient back or make them worse off, but rather, to help them heal in the proper way.

In this way, these little set backs were more opportunities for growth. In order for proper healing to occur, I need to be broken from time to time.

It all began to make sense for me, and I was able to see this re-breaking in action. As an example, I got back into counselling with the intention of dealing with very specific things. But through my initial assessment, I got into a bunch of things that I didn't realize had great underlying significance in my life. It was uncomfortable to bring up old wounds that I thought had disappeared by virtue of me suppressing and ignoring them. Clearly, that is a poor way of dealing with things. While this is going to be scary and painful, I now see this "re-breaking of my emotional bones" to be a step in the right direction.

Can a person ever be fully and entirely healed?

I feel like it is naive to say that there will come a point in our life where we will be entirely free from the baggage and suffering that we have in our life. Each instance becomes a mark of our identity, and with it brings life lessons that shape us and make us stronger people.

Can we ever be fully healed from them? Maybe not. But maybe it's not so much the idea of being entirely healed, but rather, an acceptance of who we are and of the ongoing healing process.

I believe that we can still be entirely happy and joyful with the person we are despite the suffering that we face. In fact, in the up moments in between my valleys, I have found happiness with who I am. It's also a reminder that the bad days come with the good, and without the bad days, we don't realize how good the good days can be.

Healing is not linear - it is an ongoing process and it changes with every new experience. The end goal shouldn't be full healing, but rather, an acceptance of who we are and how far we've come.

My sister Eleanor is an incredible photographer and all the photos you see here were taken by her during our recent family trip to California. Check out her work here!