Playing Make-Believe With Your Healing Progress
“I just want to be healed already!” I said out loud to myself once I closed the car door. I had just finished a Sunday afternoon run where I was caught off guard by tears that came uninvited. Feeling defeated, I let the sobs overtake me as I slumped over the steering wheel. “Great,” I thought, “I was a failure as a wife and now I’m failing as a divorcee.”
A mere hour later, showered and presentable, I responded to a friend’s inquiry about my well-being.
“I’m doing great actually. I barely even think about it.”
Of course, that wasn’t really accurate. I said it because I so desperately wanted it to be true.
To some extent, I think we all play make-believe with our own healing progress at some points. Whether driven by internal motivators or because we fear external judgments, we pretend to be further along than we actually are.
So why do we pretend to be over it when we’re still in the thick of it?
We pretend to be healed because we want to leave it all behind us.
We know that when we’re going through hell, we’re supposed to keep going. But the temptation is strong to try to simply close the door on that hell and pretend as though it never happened. We tire of being known as “the divorcing one,” we groan whenever the lawyer’s missives intrude and more than anything, we just want life to be normal again.
We pretend to be healed because we feel pressure to move on from others.
In the beginning, the sympathy and concern pour forth with abandon. And then the empathic and inquisitive words begin to wane until they are all-but absent. Our pain, so prominent and attended-to int he beginning, has been tossed aside like yesterday’s news. It’s not that others no longer care, it’s that either they have reached compassion fatigue or they are unaware of how long it can take to heal.
We pretend to be healed because we are impatient with the healing process.
Healing from divorce is a marathon. No, scratch that. It’s an ultramarathon. It goes on and on and on. And every time you think you’re over it, the finish line seems to have moved just a little bit further away. All of that is not even taking into account the Chutes and Ladders nature of healing, where every arduous climb can seemingly be undone in an instant.
We pretend to be healed because we feel ashamed for still struggling so much.
“It’s been five years and I’m still really struggling,” the voice whispers to me over the phone on an introductory coaching call. Unspoken, but evident behind those words was, “I’m ashamed that I’m still struggling so much after all this time.” A shame that had led this particular person to pretend to be “over it” with everyone around them. It was only to themselves on the long nights – and now to me – that they could admit that healing was still ongoing.
We pretend to be healed so that we can adhere to some prescribed timeline.
We have a tendency to put too much importance on anniversaries – assuming that as soon as some arbitrary date rolls around, we will have magically shed our pain. You wait for that date with anticipation, as though it’s a graduation and you will receive your freedom. And then when the day passes and the relief hasn’t come, you decide to simply pretend that diploma stating your completion of healing.
What’s the problem with pretending to be healed?
When we don’t give ourselves the space or the time to heal, we risk stalling or even complicating the process. Much like with a wound to the flesh, ignoring it or sealing it in without first washing it out can lead to a larger problem than the initial injury.
Furthermore, when we are playing make-believe, we are preventing others from being able to render aide and we are closing ourselves off from receiving help. It can be scary to admit that you’re not okay. But often the only way to get there is by first admitting that you’re not.
There are no “shoulds” when it comes to healing. You’ll get there on your own path and on your timeline. Be patient enough to take the time you need. Be brave enough to speak your truth. And be humble enough to admit when you need help.