Sydni Brooks | Tuesday, April 6, 2021
During one of my several hourlong school breaks watching TikTok videos, I managed to end up on the self-love and emotional healing side of TikTok. Most of these topics included people growing after relationship breakups, recovering from addiction or abuse, or learning different mechanisms to deal with harmful behaviors. Many of these videos displayed people making healthy meals with motivational voiceovers or sharing self-care activities, such as skincare routines or making habits out of strict but productive schedules. While these videos are extremely relaxing to watch and sometimes provide great strategies on dealing with stress and anxiety, they create the notion that if you take part in these healthy activities, your relationship with your traumatic experiences and burdens will be one of complete prosperity and growth. However, much like everything in this life, nothing is ever that straightforward — and nothing is ever going to be that straightforward.
I had always hoped that my experiences with personal growth would be extremely linear. I would experience something painful, be upset about it for a small while and maybe even participate in some negative activities to “numb the pain.” Eventually, however, I would ideally find some internal motivation to pull myself up from the trenches, work to emotionally overcome my stressors and create this all-time great lifestyle filled with healthy activities and positive affirmations. When I would have “completely healed,” I would have an incredible testimony to share with others on how they can follow the same steps to recover from their trauma.
However, in my experience and the experience of others, this is just simply inaccurate.
Regardless of the unfortunate circumstances you might have had to endure, everyone experiences and internalizes trauma differently, so there is no single direction everyone can take to healing. Furthermore, there is no straight path to complete healing. While I think that everyone experiences the rocky roads of growing after turmoil, not a lot of people show it.
The face masks and the green goddess salads might make you feel better initially, as you learn to take time to pay attention to yourself for once. However, the real growth in healing comes from the internal changes that you must choose to approach. Have you negatively changed who you are and your behaviors because of your trauma? Do you experience heightened anxiety or panic in triggering situations, places or around certain people? Have you garnered a sense of apathy towards your goals, or do you have a different, maybe a more negative image of yourself than you used to? We forget to ask ourselves these questions because they take longer to review and manage — and because we made the executive decision to “take care” of ourselves by sleeping a little more or getting a wild hair cut to physically express bodily autonomy, we believe we have done the job.
These questions aren’t the easiest to answer overnight, but they are necessary to truly grow from your traumatic experiences. When we begin to ask ourselves these questions, we begin to enter phases of healing that tackle our personal needs rather than appeasing the eyes of the onlookers in our lives watching us heal. We begin to heal for ourselves instead of our desire to look or feel healed. These questions follow their own timeline to be answered, and just like the process of answering them, it can be different for everyone.
The road to healing is also intended to have several stops and detours as we learn how we personally best deal with the issues in front of us. You may have several good days and then the next few resemble the days most recent to the traumatic experience. We may return to bad coping mechanisms and unhealthy habits because another incident has triggered negative responses. We may find ourselves several years on the path of healing and still have intense emotional responses to the same issues. These vital milestones of growth shouldn’t be neglected or disregarded, as these are the moments where we are tasked with the decision to choose wellness or comfortability in sadness. Though these negative experiences are arguably the most important, they aren’t the moments in the journey of healing that are glorified or widely represented.
The negative reactions to healing and the demanding internal questions asked to find the true purpose of the healing can take an indefinite amount of time to continue experiencing and answering, and the responses and answers to these issues might change throughout the process. Because of the variation and longevity of any healing experience, is there really a true definition of healing? We aren’t intended to change the behavior of others, so triggering experiences with people will always occur. Do these experiences simply not garner a response when you are healed? Or is mastering the ability to deal with these situations differently qualify you as “healed”? If there is no definite date on complete growth, how can you justify if you’ve attained it?
Much like everything in life, there is no definite answer. Because everyone experiences trauma differently, we all internalize, deal with, relapse from and identify our standard of healing differently. As much as social media and influencers want to encourage the positive aspects and lessons of self-care and healing, the more commanding facets of healing are the ones everyone experiences but very few validate. If we can recognize the importance of accepting the behind-the-scenes of growth, we can be more authentic with ourselves in our growth.
Sydni Brooks is a junior at Notre Dame Studying English and gender studies. She is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and calls Flaherty Hall home on campus. With equal passions in writing and helping others, she hopes to serve her community well in her future. She can be reached at [email protected] or @sydnimaree22 on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.