“So take your time ‘cause time is what it’s gonna take”Zahara, My Guitar
That’s a line from a song of Zahara’s that I particularly like called “My Guitar”, she basically says that healing takes time, there is no lie there. Time, however, is just one of the components needed in healing, it is not a passive process.
The same way when someone breaks an arm or a leg… it’ll take a couple of weeks for the bone to repair itself but time alone cannot guarantee a full recovery – the bone may have to be realigned and a splint, cast, or brace put on, surgery may be needed too – depending on the nature of the injury. If you leave someone with a broken leg and allow “time” to heal them the injury would probably go septic and you could potentially kill this person by not giving them medical attention.
We’ve all felt pain and experienced trauma at some point in our lives and just because time has passed and the people around you have forgotten or don’t know about that trauma doesn’t mean that all is well with you.
Story time: It was a Thursday afternoon at school – some time in July in the year 2017, our Religious Studies teacher was MIA and instead of making noise or silently reading our notes someone suggested we recount the really trying times in our lives and find a silver lining? Something like that, my memory is a bit foggy. When it got to my turn I spoke about how my dad and my grandad passed away in 2015 and how in hindsight I was at least grateful that our plans to travel for the holidays didn’t become a reality the Christmas prior (2014) because we would have inadverently missed out on our last Christmas with them. (The plan was that my sisters and I would go stay at an aunt’s leaving them behind)
Then I got hysterical, I had never really dealt with that loss, I had just assumed that since some time had passed, I was okay- I bawled my eyes out as if I was being told the bad news for the first time. The reality is that I had only succeeded at sweeping the grief under the carpet and I hadn’t processed those feelings. Talking about that event was like someone tripping over the lump under the carpet… it triggered me
My classmates may have been confused, I know I didn’t understand what was going on – so what more them. I thought “it has been two years, all is well, what was that outburst all about Zothile, pull yourself together sis” I went home and no one really spoke about the elephant in the room, 4 of my classmates made me a little note of encouragement the following day but it ended there.
Clearly I eventually got the hint that I had to work through some things – thus I’m talking about this now. When something is brought up and it makes you feel some typa way you need to investigate what caused you to react in that manner because it just may be a red-flag to show you that you haven’t healed or gotten over something. Cry, by all means, just don’t forget to take some time to investigate what is going on beneath the surface and fix the root cause. There are things that cannot be undone or reversed like a death – but with a lot of intentionality, communication, time and Jesus – you can find a way to cope and reach a point of acceptance.
There are other tell-tale signs that a person hasn’t healed, it’s not just tears and panic attacks you should look out for. What about inexplicable rage? Constantly talking ill about the person who wronged you? Contorting your face when you hear a name or see them on your instagram feed? Being unable to clap for other’s success? Having trust issues?
The pain and trauma can manifest themselves in different ways and just because it happened a while back it doesn’t mean they have lost their potency.
Time, alone, hasn’t done me justice, I left “time” to deal with some things and in 2020 I was still pressed by a snide remark from a Whatsapp Group Chat in 2015. It is 2020 and your girl is still salty about that time in 2018 when we were revising Chinua Achebe’s “No Longer At Ease”, in his book he wrote something about gap toothed girls being quite pretty – someone looked at me square in the face and said “Hayi”
(Hayi means no, mind you I have a gap tooth, what was sis trying to say lol) 2-3 years is a considerable amount of time but without doing the hard yards of actually processing that pain and pruning the negative branches planted I didn’t go far by means of healing.
I cannot stress this enough: time does not heal! I have watched enough Channel 171- Investigation Discovery to verify that. The serial killer who kills beauty pageant winners will say something like “I do this because in the year ’92 (28 years ago) I didn’t win Little-Miss-Something so if I can’t win noone else can” .A little extreme, a tad bit dark, but it just shows how you cannot expect a clock to tick and think your internal turmoil will vanish.
I am not an expert at emotional and psychological first aid, but here are steps I think you can take towards healing.
- Identify which situations, conversations – people -that trigger you
- Investigate. Identify what happened and look into how it really made you feel(eg. anger is sometimes a secondary emotion – you could be angry because you are disappointed or you don’t want to appear vulnerable)
- Ask yourself why it made you feel that way- was it an unmet expectation, an attack on your identity?
- Process those feelings by taking some practical steps such as journalling, having an honest conversation with the people involved if possible, talking about your feelings with a trusted friend/therapist
- Find the long-term solution and map your way out of that rut: positive affirmations, communicating how you feel more often, being patient with yourself
- I find praying about what’s weighing you down very helpful too, we have the Prince of Peace
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 New International Version (NIV)
So don’t get offended when someone says “You need Jesus” because we highkey need Him.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6 New International Version (NIV)
One last thing – time+issues that haven’t been dealt with = disaster. We’ll talk about that on another day.