When I was a little girl I was always covered in bumps, bruises and scrapes. My knees were a constant testament to my complete lack of spatial awareness or ability to gauge where my lanky limbs ended and a coffee table began. No sooner had the graze on my left knee healed than another inexplicable bruise was purpling up on my right shin. From falling off my bike or my roller-skates to bumping my elbows on the door as I careered around the house with what often appeared to be boundless energy, these bumps, bruises and grazes all told a story of where I had been.
One particularly memorable injury happened when I managed to pull a shelf down on my head causing a deep gash on my forehead that bled everywhere and, after healing, left scar tissue in its place. Even now, over 30 years later, there is still a tiny white spot of scar tissue on my forehead.
“We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken.”John Green
I read once that every cell in the body dies and is regenerated over 7 years. With a little bit of research though I found that the 7 year term is rather arbitrary and the reality is that some cells regenerate far more regularly. Red blood cells live for about four months, while white blood cells live on average more than a year. Skin cells live about two or three weeks, whereas brain cells typically last an entire lifetime. Our bodies are constantly healing, repairing and renewing, fixing what was broken and starting over again. Yet, when trauma happens, this repairing and renewing happens in a different way, leaving scar tissue in its place as the body swiftly works to repair what has been damaged.
Perhaps that is why we always say that time is a healer. Our body is always working hard to repair and renew. But can the same be said of other types of healing – healing wounds of the soul and damage to our mental health?
This past year has finally brought the conversation about mental health into mainstream news and media. For many years suffering in silence was the expectation and even the mention of struggling with mental health was seen as taboo. Yet, with notable figures speaking out about their personal struggles with mental health and sharing the ways in which they have worked towards healing and sought help and support, it has opened the conversation for others to speak more openly about their own challenges or to seek support for their own healing.
Healing is not linear. So often we are faced with images that show healing as a path with ups and downs but, in reality, it is so much more complex than that. We are constantly connecting and reconnecting, coming in and out of different parts and stages of recovery and healing. Not only is healing not linear, it isn’t a path at all. Instead the process is continuous and forever changing – just like our own body is constantly changing, repairing and healing.
We all have mental health and everyone will have bumps, bruises and grazes along the way. Grief, anxiety, trauma, addiction – all will leave grazes and damage and all will leave scar tissue as we heal. And yet, how beautiful those scars are because they are a testament to the healing that has taken place.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”Khalil Gibran