At first, I assumed I knew what healing is. It's when the pain stops–when my condition ends and I get my body back.
But is that really one specific moment? If my pain left me tomorrow, would that mean I was completely healed? What if my pain comes and goes? What if it stems from an unidentifiable source or condition? What does that mean about healing? When is better all better?
I think that often we define healing as an end result only. Yet it’s really hard to point to.
Is there a day in which I am not healthy and then suddenly, the next day, I am?
Is Healing A Single Moment in Time?
Healing is the process of change that we undergo day by day in our efforts to reconnect with wholeness and health. It may mean letting some things go–habits, hates, hurts–and it may mean adopting an entirely different lifestyle.
It is the process by which we create a new relationship with our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and our spirits as demanded by some crisis in life, whether it be illness, trauma or injury.
Healing is the process of working with, dealing with, loving and having compassion for the renewed body and the new self that is trying to emerge through our pain and illness.
When we are in chronic pain, our pain is inseparable from our lives, but so is the process of creating wellness. Healing is about who we are becoming. So healing, like pain, is inseparable from living. We are, paradoxically, living with the pain and healing ourselves little by little at the same time.
The Nature of True Healing
After years of seeing only infinitesimal improvements in my pain levels but finding deeper meaning in my life and in my relationships anyway, I now believe that true healing goes beyond just repairing the physical mechanism. It involves all layers of the self, since we are like a wonderfully intricate pattern of interwoven parts–mind, body, spirit, emotions–all merging and converging. The body acts as the obvious vehicle for the self, but there really is no point of separation. We are it and it is us.
Healing severe or chronic pain, I believe, includes transforming our relationship to the pain, and, ultimately, it is about transforming our relationship to who we are and to life. Healing requires change. The stronger the pain and the longer it has been around, the deeper the transformation that is being called for.
So, when are we finally healed? Maybe there is no “final” to it. Maybe it is a lifelong process.
On the other hand, maybe some healing happens every minute of every day, including today. What we can point to as our healing is already present. It is what we choose, what we do, what we think, and what we feel right now as the most positive response to our body's need for comfort, for restoration, for endurance, for rest, for soothing, and for change.
It's not easy, and the way is not always clear, but the process and unfolding of our best choices each day–all of that–is the healing.
Sarah Anne Shockley has lived with nerve pain from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome since 2007. She is the author of The Pain Companion, The Light at The Center of Pain, Living Better While Living With Pain, and 30 Days of Living Better While Living With Pain.