This is a post of transformation. I posted this in March of 2017, two years ago, on my MaryDeMuth.com site. Molly’s insights into the healing journey are amazing.
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.
Now see how far Molly has come!
She wrote this to me, this week.
Mary,I signed up for your 21 day series of letters and e-mails. I was blessed by I believe it was letter 16 as it brought back my writing about “The Bends.” I had not gone back to that piece of writing in quite some time. As I was talking with my friend who has read most of my writing, I told her about the encounter with that “old perspective.” How I felt so hopeless at the bottom and weary struggling through the muck. She suggested I write something new and share it with you and that maybe it would not only encourage me but bless you as well to know how much ground I have gained and the joy in the progress I have made. To be able to celebrate with others. She was a dear close, steady, gentle, patient part of my support system who for a long stretch kept telling me, I know you have no hope of your own but for now just borrow some of mine as I struggled at the bottom and in trying to ascend and rise up from it all. Anyway, I took her advice in writing something new and sharing it with you. What was interesting is that I found it fitting to entitle the piece “The Surface”. Here it is should you wish to read it.A couple days ago, I had an unexpected encounter with an old piece of my writing. I had sent some writing to an author I had corresponded with about the impact of her work in my life. She then asked if she could share it. I agreed as long as it was anonymous. This week, I received an e-mail in which she used that writing as a way to encourage those sludging through the mucky process of healing. Wow! How encouraging it was to reread the place I was then and where I see myself now.In that moment, I felt like I was arduously pulling my feet out of the sludge at the bottom. That every time I took a step, it was excruciating and only muddied the water. I likened my healing journey to the ascent from the bottom. I felt like I wanted to rush to the surface but knew that would only result in “the bends”. It was a point in time where I felt hopeless. Surrounded by mud and the darkness at the bottom. I knew it was a better view than the quicksand I used to feel trapped in. Yet it was still a very desperate place.What a stark contrast to where I feel I am today. It has been an excruciatingly slow and painful ascent to the surface. However, as I processed the very tumultuous events of my past week that included extreme triggers, relational hurt, illness and so many other trials, I found myself realizing that I am not sinking. Yes many things were threatening to drag me back underwater, but I was surrounded by people who kept throwing me life preservers. More than that, I recognized the victory in the fact that I likened it to being drug back under. That meant I am no longer on the bottom but have succeeded in surfacing. I have not only reached the surface but am surrounded by safe and trustworthy humans that will surround me when I need it. A huge feat in my healing journey as I had come to trust and rely on no other human being. Yes, I still have a long ways to swim to make it to shore, but I am no longer stuck on the murky bottom. I have gained leaps and bounds in a relatively short amount of time. I look ahead at the long swim back to shore but I can also look back and celebrate as I see the magnitude of the victory in the ascent.Looking from the surface down to the bottom where I have come from, I found myself full of hope and strength. Events and trials that would have weighed me down, pulled me back to the bottom and threatened the progress I have made, no longer threatened me. Okay they were beyond difficult and I cried MANY tears throughout it all but in the end I was okay. More than okay actually. I could see the good that was coming from the situation. I could see how to keep swimming despite it all. I was not only relying on the life preservers of others, but finding the beauty of my own strength and hope but more so that of the One who holds it all.I have no idea how long it will be before I can once again look back at this piece of writing and celebrate again. Celebrate the fact that I have not only reached the surface where I can breathe and see the light, but I can shout in joy as I set my foot on the solid shore. All I know is that I will do whatever it takes and swim like mad to get there. I cannot help but think of the words “tenacious pursuit of healing” that I recently read in a blog post. Those words stuck out to me in that moment and what a great way to sum up this next leg of my journey. A tenacious pursuit of the shore that lies ahead of me, full of freedom, grace, forgiveness, hope, and healing poured out in measures and ways beyond anything I can imagine.
May you be blessed by those reaching out to not only share the hard things with you but the joys and victories no matter how “small” they seem. We both know that any forward progress is a tremendous achievement. Thank you for being someone who is a voice for others and brings hope to those who are unable to muster their own!
I pray this brings you hope. And perhaps it would be helpful to look back on your life and see just how far you’ve come. I know that when I am in the muck of healing, it’s very hard to see progress, but nonetheless, progress is there. You are on a journey. And there will be fits and stops and starts, but our God is so good to be relentlessly healing us.