This is an excerpt from my newest manuscript which is co-written with Dr. Ashley Streeter tentatively titled The Wounded Healer due out sometime this year.
"My biggest struggle in understanding my role as a healer was feeling good enough to be a healer.
That felt like a big job and I wasn’t worthy. Like a role that I may not be qualified or “deserving enough” for. Like maybe my purpose was to always be the person who needed to be healed by someone else better, smarter, and more whole than me.
Nearly my entire childhood and adult life I considered myself to be “broken”. There was this weird comfort in knowing that some of my eccentricities were the cause of something that wasn’t quite right because I didn’t feel the need to take responsibility for them that way. I was drawn to the memes and quotes that depicted brokenness as something everyone experiences and the spiritual bypass I put myself through by believing that being broken was the best way to become empathetic and resilient. In some ways, leaning into this relationship I had with being fragmented halted my own healing process for a very long time. I didn’t know if I could still be the connected, empathetic person I was if I couldn’t connect with my brokenness anymore.
I also exhibited many of the characteristics of the people who lean into their brokenness as a crutch. I was consistently negative and exasperatingly sarcastic, and people who were happy, peppy, or positive drove me crazy. Making fun of those kinds of people became my favorite joke. They irritated my spirit, and I wasn’t able to be friends with them in any real connected fashion. It was a strange era. I desperately wanted to help people like me, all without knowing what “help” looked like. I didn’t want other people to feel like me, and yet I had no idea of any other way to feel. That is until people started to connect directly with my brokenness, and I knew I didn’t want that.
My journey to healing started with the desire to stop people from connecting with parts of me that I usually hid behind comedic sarcasm and negativity. My most empathetic moment for other humans was when I realized I needed to heal myself so I could, in turn, help others heal. I wanted people to feel like they could connect with me over their mental health issues not because I was also in that place, but because I had been in that place and made it out mentally healthy. I wanted to show people that it could be done. Because if there is one element that is imperative to healing, it’s hope.
So, why did I think I wasn’t worthy to be a healer? It was really because I didn’t think I was worthy of healing. This meant to become a healer I didn’t need to start with praise or accreditation from other people, I needed to start by loving myself enough to believe I could have an impact and provide the hope that I believe is so integral to healing. My journey to healing others had to start within me.
And healing is a messy business. For some reason, as a society we often view healing as light pouring in; as bunnies and rainbows and gleefully skipping through the fields. Healing is far from that. For me, healing meant reading, going to doctors, seeing therapists, and figuring out who I was outside of being a mother who had only been taught how not to be a mother, a graduate student, a wife who was never taught how to be a wife, and a teacher. It was realizing my patterns of behavior and finding healthy coping mechanisms and strategies. It was separating out my behaviors that were related to my Complex PTSD and my actual personality and the understanding that resilience in my case meant that I didn’t have anyone to “bounce back” to, so I needed to love who I was and how far I’d come in spite of my experiences where I learned a lot of what not to do.
As I looked at other healers I realized that they never claimed to be perfect. Many of them had wounds and had caused wounds. They weren’t healers because they were healed, they were healers because they felt in the service of others and were called to their professions or gifts. In my experience, the healers in my life brought different elements of what I needed at any given time. My third-grade teacher told me I was smart. She was the first person to ever do that. My principal when I was a teacher, who stepped in as my pseudo-mother and allowed me to cry in her office when I became emotionally overwhelmed by my life. My best friends, who have shown me undying, unconditional love no matter what I have told them and no matter how much I've cried. I have had good therapists and doctors as healers, but the community I found myself constantly immersed in when I decided that I wanted healing was really what ultimately supported my process. Ignited by me; flamed by love and friendship. This is the way healing goes.
I believe that healers are individuals who possess a unique combination of qualities that allow them to make a positive impact on the lives of others. It is not necessarily a doctor or nurse, therapist, EMT, or counselor, although many people in these professions are healers. These qualities include empathy, compassion, humility, and a deep commitment to igniting hope in others. Healers are able to connect with others on a deep emotional level and have the ability to understand and share the feelings of those they work with. They are often characterized in society by their unwavering commitment to helping others and their willingness to put their own needs aside in order to support others, but I believe that when healers understand the need for them to restore themselves before healing others, they are some of the most powerful humans we can encounter.
In addition to their compassionate nature, healers are also known for their humility. Healers, in my opinion, do not work out of ego. They see their abilities as a gift and responsibility rather than a competitive edge and know they are just a vessel to facilitate someone else’s process rather than the source of healing power. They understand that they are not the source of the healing, but rather a facilitator of the healing process. They are humble in the sense that they recognize their own limitations and are willing to seek out the help of others when needed. In other words, they understand that if they are not healed in any given area, they may not have the ability to help someone else heal. Hence, of course, the concept of the Wounded Healer.
Reflecting on these experiences, I have come to realize over time that my perception of healers has expanded and evolved as I have grown and changed. I have come to recognize that healers are not just those who hold professional titles like doctors, therapists, or spiritual teachers, but also everyday people who embody healing in their own unique way. They are the friends who listen without judgment, the family members who provide unconditional love and support, the artists who use their craft to inspire and uplift others, the activists who fight for justice and equality, and the many others who bring light and healing to the world as individuals working for the collective.
As I continue on my own healing journey, I am learning to embrace the healer within me and to recognize that I have the power to create healing and positive change in my own life and in the lives of others. I am also learning to look for the healers outside of me and to honor and appreciate the many ways in which they bring light and healing to the world. Whether it is through a kind word, a listening ear, or an inspiring action, we all have the power and potential to be healers and to make a difference in the world.
In understanding myself I have begun to better understand others, and I believe that healers are all around us and that they have always been present throughout history, in every culture and community. They are the embodiment of hope, resilience, and courage, and they inspire us to be our best selves and to create positive change in the world. They see within us not just our wounds and the shape of them, but also the shape of who we are, including the positive qualities of our character and behavior. Sometimes even gifting us with reminders when we most need them. Whether we see ourselves as healers or not, we all have the capacity to bring healing and positive change into our lives and into the world."
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