At some point you have to choose healing.
I’m not talking the miraculous “positive thinking” or saying that everything will get better overnight. I’m not saying you don’t need therapy or medicine. I’m not saying it will be easy. I’m not even saying what healing looks like.
But I am saying that at some point you have to choose healing. To want it. To move toward it. To desire it. To reclaim your life apart from the things done to you.
I get it. Sometimes I am angry at the harm that has been done to me. The ways that I was mistreated. The trauma that was inflicted upon me by a fundamentalist church and family. The trauma that continues to be inflicted upon me by a hostile world. And sometimes I just want to stay in that anger and trauma. I want to rage at everyone. I don’t want to do the work of healing because it’s hard. Because it’s unfair that I have to do it at all. Because why should I have to do all of this work when the people who did this to me just get to move on with their lives as if nothing has happened? Why is the burden on me to heal and to make the world a better place? Why is it always the oppressed folks who have to save everyone else? It’s not fair! I don’t want to do it! I want to just be angry and mad because anger sometimes feels good. It feels good to yell and scream about harm done. To tell other people exactly where they can go. Staying in the anger feels safe. Because it’s what I’ve known. Because it’s comfortable. Because it allows me to place all of the burden on other people. They did this to me so I get to act however I want. I can inflict harm on others, and take up space, and make other people do the work because I have been hurt, damn it!
And so the cycle of trauma continues. The cycle of rage and hurting continues. And I don’t get any better.
But then what if I chose healing for myself? Just for me. Because I want it. Then it’s not about them anymore. I’m choosing wholeness because I want to be whole. I’m choosing to work for healing in my life because I want to be healthy. I want to have healthy relationships. I want to be a healthy person. I want to break the cycles of trauma in my life.
This isn’t about forgiveness, even. (Though for some people forgiveness is part of the healing process.) This is simply about not allowing my entire present and future to be centered on the things that happened to me in the past. It’s about not allowing my regret over what I missed out on to cause me to continue to miss out on things. My healing doesn’t have to be dependent on other people getting their act together. Or apologizing for me. Or even stopping the hurt that they are causing. My healing is for me alone. Certainly my healing also benefits other people and my community, but first and foremost it’s for me.
Look, sometimes I wish I hadn’t grown up in the evangelical church. I wish I hadn’t been indoctrinated with purity culture, with terrible theology about…well…everything. I wish I had gotten to grow up as a boy. I wish I had transitioned earlier. I wish I had waited to get married or not gotten married at all. I wish I had left earlier. I wish I had done a ton of things differently. I regret the wasted time. I regret the unnecessary pain. I regret the damage done. And yet I want to choose healing.
Can I stay angry? Sure. Can I refuse to ask for help? Yup. Can I continue to rage over and over and over again at what happened to me? I can. But is that the person I want to be? No. It’s not.
I’ve been in settings where the entire conversation has focused on past hurt. On what someone missed out on. On what so and so did to them. On how they have been cheated and robbed. And there is certainly a place to share those stories (though I would like to say that often that place is with a licensed therapist). But when you ask them “What is giving you life now?” “How are you using your gifts now?” “What are you doing to give back to your community now?” And they can’t answer but instead launch into a new litany of harm done I just feel sad. Because they are continuing to allow these past circumstances to rob them of their lives. They rage about not having transitioned earlier, not having been allowed or able, but yet they aren’t enjoying their lives now. And I get it. It sucks to think about all of the time you missed out on. But you are continuing to miss out on your life.
As people and as communities we can’t move forward or change anything until we choose to pursue healing. On an individual and communal level. This isn’t about cheap forgiveness or even forgetting the past. But it is about not allowing the past to continue to rob us of our present and future.
You might need to see a therapist or to be on medication. You might need to do some intense healing work. You probably can’t do it alone. And no one else can do it for you. You have to do the work yourself. But at some point you have to choose to move toward healing.