Healing from Trauma is like the Bends


I received this email from someone who is reading Not Marked. She is working through healing from past sexual abuse. A counselor is helping her, as is the book and workbook. I’m so proud of her. I’ll call her Molly. Her words were so wise, and her metaphor so apt, I asked her if she’d be willing to have me share her words here. I pray they bring you comfort. May you know you’re not alone as you seek healing from trauma.

Healing from Trauma is like…

Right now I don’t know where I’d be without the counseling or reading these materials and working on the reality of it all. Well I guess I can figure I’d be hurting and back to all my “old ways.” Living tirelessly to keep it down, hidden, tucked away and trying to maintain an alternate reality while only just digging myself deeper and perpetuating the trauma instead of healing it.

In the work I’m doing it is exhausting, and I am weary but not because I’m digging myself into a deeper, darker place. Maybe more like I’m swimming from the mucky bottom up to the surface, pulling my feet out of the heavy, sinking mud is hard and each step seems so laborious and slow at first, but it is forward progress nonetheless.

The movement, while it gets me closer to the surface, stirs up and muddies the water making it hard to see. And as I free myself and can start to swim, it is like a diver surfacing with the proper equipment and at the right speed. I can’t stay underwater forever, but  if I try to race to the surface too quickly I’ll be like a diver who experiences “the bends” or decompression sickness.

Something of that sort happens trying to resurface too quickly from trauma. That may not be the best analogy, but I don’t feel like my feet are as stuck in the mud.

However, the process of ascending to the surface at the right speed is daunting when I feel like the surface is so distant and I just want to be at the surface already.

I will have to contemplate not just treading water and start swimming back to shore where I can wade out of the water and walk freely, bask in the sun, and find rest and shelter. I may get to shore and collapse on the solid ground and just take some time to breathe in the fresh air until I can gain the strength to stand upright again and continue on.

I don’t think getting to the surface will mean I have arrived and healed, but every move gets me closer. I am realizing the hope in this view opposed to when I used to feel like I was in quicksand where there’s really nowhere to go but down and in which any and all movements make the situation worse. I guess in some small way this is me starting to see a path to healing or maybe starting to feel little flickers of hope and light where I only saw darkness before.

Huge thanks to “Molly” for sharing this valuable truth about healing. It’s murky. It’s mucky. If we try to push it quickly, we get the bends. God is a gentleman healer, and sometimes the process feels extremely slow. Keep at it, friend. Keep fighting for the pristine air above. Keep kicking.

The world needs your healed heart.