Hills and Valleys of Healing

At my first treatment program, I was in a group with four other residents. The room  we met in for class had windows frosted with condensation. There were cheap motivational posters taped on the walls. One of the residents, a 20-year-old female with cork-screw-, curly hair, was Narmean. Narmean’s girlfriend was her childhood best friend, but no one in her family knew. This added to her unstable sense of self and why she stayed mostly quiet. She wore flannel shirts, and only made eye contact with her sneakers.

During our last class, the oldest resident became vocally stressed over her inability to move on from the sexual trauma her father had done. The program had been particularly hard on her, because she didn’t feel she progressed fast enough. Narmean looked up from her feet and said, “You’re moving with a broken wing.”

The group went silent.

Narmean went on, “Life gives us stages that are like hills between valleys. You watch others just fly over the valleys and onto the next hill, but because you’ve a broken wing, you’ve to walk across a bridge. Walking, you feel that you’re not moving very fast. The baggage you carry weighs you down. You realize you can’t physically carry it any further without collapsing. So you throw it off the bridge, but just one piece at a time. Until you become lighter and lighter and lighter. Then you reach the other hill, and look down into the valley at everything you had to throw out to get there. So you will get there. It just takes a little longer.”

After that treatment program ended, Narmean electively stayed for a second round. She emailed me a couple of months later that her depression had gotten worse—she was still deeply hurting over things she didn’t understand.

Stuff happens. People leave. Life crumbles. Rock bottom isn’t always rock bottom. No one is immune to the emptiness these disappointments induce. To get through the hills and valleys of life with a broken wing, it’s hard because it has to be; it’s painful but it’s real. Through this process is where we discover a hunger inside us that refuses to believe that what falls apart is all there is.

I hope for Narmean, she too has walked the bridge into healing.

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