This is a huge open-ended question as we all respond and react differently depending on so many varying factors. Varying factors that can change daily as we are dealing with so many variables at that moment in time.
But the very first step to any recovery and healing process is AWARENESS.
And I mean really going another layer deeper as to why you are having thoughts and feelings like this or responding the way you do.
For example, some people say the word f*** in almost every sentence and aren't even aware of themselves saying it. When they have been told that they swear a lot, they give you that, dismissive or perplexed face. To them, it has just become the norm. Likewise, someone who has been dealing with stress and trauma for years will almost become accustomed or numb to it all, squashing it down and shutting off any response. Trapping this negative energy within our bodies.
Ignoring awareness of our triggers, our thoughts and how it makes us feel.
Would you leave a rotting apple in the bottom of a bag and keep putting fresh ones on top?
We will soon learn that it will affect the rest.
Stress and Trauma can be carried and stored in our bodies in many forms.
Stiff or aching joints, inflammation of joints or water retention, irritable bowel syndrome, (IBS,) varying skin conditions, auto-immune issues, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure.... this list can be massive, sadly. The good thing here though is we are 80% in control of what we eat, drink and feed our brains. This simple step is giving ourselves a better chance and it's not difficult.
Affecting how we react and respond physically and emotionally and importantly, how we think.
We are completely in control of our thoughts. This is our choice.
When you become aware of how your possible 'throw away jibe or comment' at say a work colleague or partner, has actually affected them, or that taking a step back before replying, gave you a better-balanced answer to solving a problem, rather than reacting and shooting from the hip, you then begin to acknowledge your worth and how your words, actions, emotions and energy effect you and that of other people and you begin to touch on looking at how you want to respond in the future.
The rational part of the brain has been given space to have its voice.
I have always been open and honest. Some would say this is a good trait, and it is, but some people don't like hearing the truth either. So, sadly it has been used against me and opinions and assumptions have been made purely on my honesty and their perception and ill-informed judgement. But hey, it's their choice to think like this.
So, I cannot say that healing is going to be easy. It's most likely going to be hard work, you will be allowing the uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and emotions to have some space and be heard and it could be that it's easier to push them back down again, but they will still be there, unprocessed and festering. It may even take a long time. These options and choices are yours.
As an example, to maybe make it more understandable, if we all want to get to the top of a mountain to enjoy the view, we must be prepared to put the effort in to get there. Some will race up to the top in a straight line, some will wander off and meander, even taking the wrong path and finding it too difficult, but if they are choosing to reach the top, they will find a way. Some may give up and head back down, resenting those that pushed on. Maybe consider using another method? Cycle or use a motor vehicle. There is always a way, right? Others will take their time to rest, nurture and feed their bodies with the correct fuels. All this will help. The paths you choose maybe empty and lonely, some may be packed and full of people. Either way our end goal is to see the view from the top. Everyone should therefore be dealing with their own struggles of fatigue and times of weakness and doubt and not blaming others for not achieving goals. Recognising the struggles in ourselves should identify the struggles within others too. Here is the time to encourage and by taking action to improve yourself, we inspire those around us too. Take a moment to give yourself credit. Credit for taking on a challenge and pursuing it. Credit for everything you've been through and for acknowledging yourself. Listening to your aches and pains and knowing when to pause and rest a while. Awareness of your body, awareness of your emotions and thoughts. Awareness of how you feel.
Coming back to the question, how can you tell you are healing?
Well for me it's been a long hard journey. Only when I had no other distractions going on, mainly during 2020 lockdown, where all the hurt and trapped trauma energy, I had accumulated over many years, was given space to raise its ugly head, only then did I realise I had been carrying it all for so many years. It was no wonder I was exhausted and feeling broken. Broken physically and mentally.
Here is where my mindset comes in. I want to see the view from the top of the mountain. I have a drive to make things happen, I acknowledge that I have to make it happen and not just wish for it to happen. No one is doing it for me, I have to do it myself.
Rather than looking for excuses to talk myself out of it or comparing myself to others and how strong they are or fast they are, I want to see the view too and imagine how good it would be to achieve this. However long it takes me to get there, I want to do it.
Having the courage to stop and face these feelings and very unwanted emotions was a big ask for me. It's huge for anyone. I was fortunate in that I turned to exercise, namely cycling and karate, taking it out on myself and moving my body through exercise. Shifting the stagnant and trapped energy I had been carrying. I have always challenged myself with exercise. It's just instinctive. Trusting myself and being intuitive. Listening to my body. Something I have grown to do even more as I have grown older. Stopping and resting rather than, 'not knowing when to quit' lol. This attitude has however, got me to places, I never thought I could do, but sometimes the punishment on the body need not be so hard to still achieve the same goal. Not stopping, even with torn ligaments or broken bones isn't healthy, especially in the long run. Now I do choose to be sensible.
Being able to watch films and not be triggered or to address situations with the calmness I have always kept during service, but not dwelling on the outcome. No longer welling up for no apparent reason. Emotion is an energy and has to come out.
Crying is a healthy release of emotion. It isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of being human.
Being able to rationalise situations and thoughts and see them for what they really are. Stress and being under pressure mitigate so many rational thought processes. The signals from body to brain following the vagal nervous system shut down and information is lost. Dissociation, and pulling away creeps in and increase the self-doubt thoughts. How can we make informed choices on ill-informed information?
So again, to answer the initial question, you know you are healing when you begin to question the question.
You take the time to challenge and seek another alternative.
You begin to better yourself by taking gentle exercise, acknowledging you don't want to carry on as you are, and you accept the trauma for what it is.
You validate its effect on you, no matter big or small, it has affected you.
And you accept that you have the capabilities within you to change it all.
The healing journey can be a tough one, both mentally and physically, but when you begin to see the changes and feel the benefits, it does get easier.
Daily habits become lifestyles. Keep showing up and don't expect results straight away.
Remember, we are all reaching for the mountain top.
Everyone needs support and encouragement. The connection of eyes and even a smile can help lift someone out from where they want to leave. Positivity is infectious.
I look back at where I was and what I was going through and think, wow, you have come a long way. On your journey, look back and enjoy the view, it's all behind you. You're tougher than you realise.
Helping myself had to be a priority. Now, after doing so, I can help others deal with theirs too.