I think healing can only happen once you’ve decided that you cannot tolerate the pain anymore and that you’ve had enough of not being able to get out of bed in the morning, enough of being sad or whatever situation is contributing to your misery.
Healing asks you to release a lot of emotional baggage and let go of control and the idea that you can rewrite history. It requires you to come to terms with any feelings of shame, or failure or resentment you might still keep holding on to.
You need to leave the past where it belongs to be able to heal.
And that includes saying goodbye to things and people and places you believed defined you as a person and that you thought were grounding you when it really just kept you in a state of pain and sadness. Accepting a situation for what it is and confronting this mess is a painful step but worth it. It sets you up on a new path.
Ultimately, I think it’s a quest for happiness as in what makes you happy as an individual and the pressure you can put on yourself just to find it.
But it can be hard sometimes to resist the idea that you are nothing but damaged good especially when a lot of things seem to go wrong.
That’s what I enjoyed about writing Abby’s story – I could force her to heal and take action and move forward when I was very much stuck in my own life and in my own head.
And so I kept asking myself : What can I do to make her feel better? What actions can she take that anyone could take to feel better?
There are two things I’ve learned about trying to get your life back on track after failing many times over and healing your way back to life.
One: only focus on the controllable.
And two: HEAL stands for Hurt Ends At Last.
So, I wanted her to control the controllable as in her input and actively engage in her life through various stages of pain. So how do you heal after a trauma? How do you move on after a heartbreak? And how do you come up with a plan to get your life back on track when you don’t even where to start?
For Abby, this took the shape of therapy sessions. Therapy is her way back to life after being on her knees. I chose to write the book as an exchange between Abby and Dr Klein because that’s how I could best introduce all the themes that are at the core of the novel and of pretty much anyone’s life.
And beyond that, it’s a quest for love. The love you can’t have, the love you lose, and the love you need to have for yourself and your life.
How we try to find our purpose in life and our place in the world, and how we deal with spirituality and all of that. And then I built the rest of the narrative around the sessions with flashbacks until the story reaches its big plot twist.
And I know that healing is not always easy. What do you do when you’ve tried over and over again but no significant changes is taking place? What do you do when it feels like nothing is working and you’re out of options?
I think that the hardest, harshest realisation about healing is to accept the fact that it will take time. It’s the most unnerving thing for me because I wanted to feel better right away. And most importantly, I wanted it to last forever. I never ever wanted to feel sad again.
I remember discussing my book with a group of readers in Paris a couple of years ago and a lady asked me:
“Yes, but is it really possible … to heal?”
So there I was, with my very own share of personal failures and somewhat still on my path to recovery… But all could say was YES because I genuinely believe that healing is possible.
I think we’ve all failed at something – maybe we’ve made one or many bad decisions that cost us greatly.
I remember a few years ago, I found myself completely spiralling into depression. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to go to work and I spent most of my days watching Netflix and contemplating time pass me by. A part of me was witnessing the mess I was making of my life including the financial consequences lying in front of me but I couldn’t do anything about it. I was caught up in my thoughts and I felt stuck, slowly drowning every day a little bit more.
That lasted for months.
Until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was emotionally, physically, and financially drained, and left with only two options: to disappear or to get my life back on track.
I thankfully went for the latter.
In baby steps, at first.
I got out of bed, out of the house, back to work … I slowly started to reconcile with life.
I realised that healing is a journey, a process that requires you to keep moving because from action comes clarity.
I use the imagery of Dong Chim – I just like the idea of it being sort of a wake-up call that would trigger you to take action and get out of your comfort zone.
It’s like experiencing life on the other side of fear.
Of course there’s still fear, and there’s confusion but even if it seems like an insignificant step, just take it. You have no idea how far the accumulation of baby steps will take you.
It’s like building up a habit.
That’s what’s so great about reflecting on healing: one day, you’ll look back at how far you’ve come. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t where you want to be just yet. You are further than where you used to be and that’s what matters today.
Healing will surprise you kind of like failure can. You don’t know when this will hit you.
Healing is like beating an addiction and you might be tempted to go back during the process but I think you start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when the idea of going back to that place is scarier than moving forward. You’re more excited about whatever may come next in your life rather than what was. You’ve finally come to that point of realising your worth or at least that you’re worth more than what you’ve settled for.
Healing happens when things change you for the better so you can carry this newfound wisdom to your future experiences, the next stage of your life. It’s about choosing to take care of yourself, to fix yourself first and patch all the bits and pieces together in a non self-destructive way so that what you don’t have to carry on repeating toxic patterns onto the next stage of your life or onto others. You stop hurting yourself, and perhaps others too.
That’s what I think healing is.