How Long Does It Take A Wound to Heal

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth 1948 The Museum of Modern Art, NYC

Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth 1948 The Museum of Modern Art, NYC

The wounds of childhood run deep. They run broad and wide and fester when they do not experience the light of understanding, of compassion, of acknowledgement, of love. Tears may be shed, cries and protests may erupt in the moments during or following an injury, but when unattended, the wound is covered up with ignorance, indifference or cruelty. The injury  is ignored as if it doesn’t exist, as if it never happened. The sands of time, layer upon layer, muffle the sound of the heartbreak, cause the bleeding to disappear from sight, but healing cannot occur. The bleeding and heartbreak continue on out of sight, underneath a layer of scar tissue.

I received a laceration to my hand in an accident, now four years ago, that has a left a scar. Shards of glass from the window beside me, the window I instinctively pressed my hand and arm against to brace myself as the car rolled…and rolled…sliced the tendon between my pinky and ring finger as it shattered against me on impact. Once the car came to a standstill and I found a small portion of my senses I knew I had suffered a serious injury to my hand though I could see nothing but blood. Somehow I knew that beneath the blood my fingers had been rendered useless. I even thought I had lost my pinky. It was instinct, out of sight awareness that led me to this conclusion.

The surgeon craftsman in the trauma center repaired the damage to the best of his ability though he had to be creative with what was left of the sinewy tissue. He enjoyed the challenge. I was grateful for his confidence.  After two hours of surgery, it took twelve weeks of bi-weekly physical therapy and home treatment  to regain some use. It took better than a year for the pain to stop and two years for me to stop being aware of the discomfort of the minor malfunction. This wound, was a simple, fairly obvious wound to attend to and heal, in the overall scheme of things.

The deeper wounds, the ones that are out of sight and remain unattended, discounted by ourselves or overlooked by those who have the power and awareness to help us heal, do not receive the treatment they need, the support of a team of experts, the attention of skilled rehabilitation specialists. We are left to carry them by ourselves, live with them and to attend to them in whatever way we can.

The accident left me with a TBI and PTSD. Both were not diagnosed or attended to in my post-accident medical treatment and it wasn’t until my hand began to heal that it came to my attention that I had been crippled in a far more significant way by the accident. I had not lost my finger but I had lost my life as I knew it,  my sense of security, my ability to trust myself or the world around me. I could not think. I could not remember things for five minutes. I could not plan or execute. I could not leave the house.

In that car, that day, I had been a sitting duck. I was a passenger in the car. I had no control over any part of my life. I was a victim just waiting to be victimized again. And, I was. Thank God. In spite of the pain and anguish I experienced during the years since, it does not compare to the anguish I suffered for a lifetime prior as I lived with buried wounds day in and day out, fighting depression, anxiety, self-doubt, deep, deep despair, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, failure, failure, failure. That accident shook everything loose in one fell swoop. I was turned inside out and upside down, literally and figuratively, my insides poured on the sidewalk to be picked through and inspected.

One by one, piece by piece, bit by bit, day by day I sort through and heal, sort through and heal. If the truth were told I’m still afraid to let go of the deepest numbness that replaced feelings too intense to hold, too lethal to bear. Yet, I know this is the only way to continue healing. One must open up the wound, must shower it with attention, understanding, and above all love, allowing tears to flow, anger to surge so that healing can take place. If we keep the lid on it, it we keep the bandage on the cut it is slower to heal and may never heal at all.

Ripping off the bandage is painful. It is best done with another, with someone who loves us and who can hold space for us. It is not something that can or should be done alone. Allowing love in is part of the healing process. Allowing others to care for us, to hold us and touch our hearts again is what we all long for. It’s what we all require.

So, how long does it take a wound to heal? It takes as long as it takes, but it begins when we take notice of the wound and give it the attention it requires. The healing process moves forward each time we shine the light of truth, understanding, love, acceptance and forgiveness on our hurting places. It ends when we no longer think about it.

About Dorothy Sander

Writer.

12 Comments

  1. Powerful words: The healing process moves forward each time we shine the light of truth, understanding, love, acceptance and forgiveness on our hurting places. It ends when we no longer think about it.

    The Wyeth painting caught my eye too. Next week I’ll be attending a lecture on Wyeth and his painting at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Jacksonville. You may see some commentary on a upcoming blog post.

    Great post, Dorothy!

    • I’ve always loved Andrew Wyeth. I saw an exhibition of his work in NYC years ago. To see them in person is quite a treat. Enjoy the lecture next week. I would love to go myself! I will look forward to your commentary.

  2. One your best pieces ever!

  3. For me, one of the most difficult parts of pain—physical or emotional—is not knowing when it will end. The despair that causes, and the subsequent loss of hope, can often be as debilitating as the actual injury or trauma. Herbs4hope is right, Dorothy—this IS one of your best pieces ever.

    • I so agree, Candace. When we’re in the midst of pain it’s impossible to think it can be any other way. For me there has always been this second layer of pain. The original pain and then the pain of despair, or hopelessness, or fear. Bit by bit I’m beginning to see that, while I may not be able to immediately stop the first pain, the second layer is more of a habit of thought and separating the two layers has been enormously helpful to me. (Too much to say! I think I’ll go write another blog! :)) Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you!

  4. What a powerful and heartfelt post! I so agree with you and have found it to be true in my own life. I have needed to pick away at the scar of so many wounds but by exposing them and going deep into the layers of pain, new skin has been able to grow! It is through the trauma, through the pain and through the grief that we find true freedom. The hard work is so worth it!

  5. What a painful story to read, Dorothy. And just after reading Mani Feniger’s, I felt it twice as much. However, both of you came to the same conclusion about wounds: going into them rather than around them is worth the pain. May your telling of the story help you heal even more.

  6. It’s the constant opening and closing of the wound that makes it sometimes take forever. Leaving the wound open to the air and light of day, may be painful but it is the only way to make it stop. We do what we can do on a daily basis and every day we chip away at the darkness until the sun shines through without the pain.

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