Someone once said that time heals all wounds. Whoever said this was a sucker.
Anyone who has ever been wounded, physically or emotionally, would tell you this isn’t exactly true. Let’s look at this physically. If you get a big gaping cut on your arm, what happens if you just allow time to take its toll? If you manage somehow to not bleed to death, you will probably start to see horrible things happen, like infection, gangrene, and the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse.
Anyone with an ounce of first aid knowledge will tell you that you need to clean the wound and then manage to close it physically. You will also need to attend to said wound along the path to recovery to make sure that the zombie thing doesn’t happen. This is exactly what happens when we are emotionally wounded. Simply waiting for things to get better will often lead to long periods of misery, and eventually zombification.
I have been working a lot with Misty lately to help her recovery from some pretty severe emotional wounds following her divorce, and it has taken me back to my own experience and how it could have been better.
Two years ago, I finalized my divorce about as quickly and painlessly as humanly possible. This means that we didn’t have a long, drawn out court battle. I mean, we literally had NOTHING, so it should be easy, right? We were separated for 11 months before the papers were signed, so I really thought that all of my time alone had prepared me to move forward and be happy.
Boy, was that a sack of lies!
After the divorce, I immediately jumped back into the dating pool. I thought I was ready. I thought I had learned the lessons I needed to learn and that I would be able to make smarter decisions about who I shared my time with. I was wrong.
First, let me say that I am the WORST dater alive. I seriously should never be allowed to date. It is probably a felony somewhere. I have the worst taste in men, when left to my own devices. I went out on a few dates, but after each encounter, I felt like shit. I felt bad about myself, and that is not where I wanted to be. I realized that the 5 guys I had gone out with were carbon copies of my exhusband. Apparently, I have a type, and they all belonged to the ever-popular Massingil family of douches.
Then, I met someone. Someone completely different. Literally the polar opposite of my exhusband in every way. He was funny, smart, and liked all the same geeky things that I have always liked, but rarely said because my stupid jock ex thought they were dumb. He was totally not my type, in the sense that he treated me well, and really wanted to spend time with me (see, stupid). But, I made a decision to give him a try, because obviously my choices were marred by years of neglect, abuse, and just not feeling that I was worth any more.
Nearly a year ago, I married that man. He is amazing. He has been loving, supportive, and the nicest person on the entire planet.
But, it still didn’t heal the wounds. You see, time passed, and I had a great person in my life, but the old wounds were still there. Since time is supposed to heal them, I tried (ha!) to ignore them and just focus on all the good in my life. But, apparently, my psyche had other plans.
I started getting sick (again). I couldn’t figure out why, but I was really sick. Like in the hospital a minimum of once a month, and as often as three times a week, at one point. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong! Neither could the slew of doctors that I saw more regularly than members of my family. I had every test known to man, but they still couldn’t figure it out. “Maybe it’s an ulcer,” “Maybe you have cancer,” “Maybe…shit we just don’t know.” Once these so-called experts had exhausted everything they could think of, they said, “Look, if there isn’t anything physical, maybe it’s mental.” I kept telling them, “I’m not crazy! I am sick!” But to no avail. And trust me when I say that I FULLY explored that option too. Because when you are desperate, you will try just about anything. (More on that later)
And then, it happened. I felt bad again. But not really any worse than normal, but it seemed logical to hit up the ER again, just in case. Turns out, that time, I had a heart attack. A freaking heart attack at 35 years old. The cardiologist told me that I had no heart disease, no blockages of any kind, but that STRESS had caused my condition. Apparently, years of emotional trauma can, in fact, kill you.
Luckily, I didn’t die. Since that happened, I have actually been extremely healthy, for a few simple reasons. I had to let go of the emotional pain of the past. It wasn’t a matter of time, but a matter of doing the work. Actually looking at all that pain, and working through it. It is hard. So. Freaking. Hard. It is examining the life you led, and not just blaming someone else for your situation, but truly looking at the role you played in getting into the situation. It meant forgiving myself for my choices, but it also meant forgiving HIS choices. Forgiveness is hard for me. It always feels like losing. But, the thing about forgiveness is that is isn’t for the other person, it is for you. It doesn’t mean that what they did was OK, just that you aren’t going to hold on to that pain anymore.
Carrie Fisher, in her book Wishful Drinking, said that resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. I think that is 100% true. It wasn’t hurting him that I was holding on to the pain. It was only hurting me. And I don’t like being hurt. Seriously, ask my mother. She once laughed in the face of a doctor who was concerned that I might hurt myself and told him, “She would never do that. I have never seen a child who put so much effort into NOT getting hurt. There is no way she would ever inflict intentional pain on herself.” Thanks, Mom!
But, I kind of did inflict pain on myself. By allowing all of the old wounds to fester, I created a world of sickness and pain that was completely unnecessary. If I would have just addressed the issues, I could have cut this whole thing short. It took a lot of reflection, journaling out the pain, and really addressing the issues to get past it.
And today, nearly a year after my heart attack, I am healthier and happier than I have been, maybe ever. I am able to devote my love and affection to the man I married, and we have a great relationship. Sure, I still have things that make me anxious. It’s a family trait, and that may never go away. But I have been able to handle most of that without flying off the deep end. I am sure that the hospital system misses my frequent visits, but I swear once you have a heart attack with NO medical insurance, it will motivate you to get the hell better.
Misty has been challenged to get to know herself. In essence, to date herself, before she gets back into the dating game. She asked me, “Well, how long will this take? Like six months?” My answer to her was, “Until you are healed. There is no time period.” I kind of think she wants to stab me for that, but it really is true. I hope that through this experiment, she can find the healing and closure that she needs that will allow her to move forward without the Louis Vuitton steamer trunks full of emotional baggage blocking her path to the future.
Photo Credit: ©Elizabeth Blessitt Photography