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  • Alexandra Hillenbrand

unintentional philosphy

Today, I went to the dentist to get the chip in my tooth fixed. She told me, "the tooth has darkened significantly from all the trauma." Since this is my dentist and not someone who knows anything about me, she could not have anticipated the way that those words sent a flutter through my skull, giving way to the perfect metaphor for my unfixable English major tendencies. My brain acted as a net, catching the phrasing exactly as she said it, ruminating over the words for the rest of the day.

Obviously, this healthcare practitioner was on the nose with her unintentional philosophy. The tooth has darkened significantly from all the trauma. For my tooth, every time it has experienced another chip in the same exact spot as before, more parts of it have broken off, deepening the crack. What was once a small fracture, has grown into an unmissable sharp crevice, nearing the core of the tooth. It's an interesting thing to think about, the inherent nature of pain and suffering. When certain traumas are relived critically and repeatedly, it becomes detrimental to the foundation of who we are. We are then threatened with the prospect of losing the very things that make us shine.

The person has darkened significantly from all the trauma. Traumas are those unhealed injuries that manifest in the forefronts of our brains and can often determine the direction of our choices. It's why we zip ourselves up into compressed, digestible versions of who we are. They darken us. They take away the freedom of existing without the fear of failure, judgment - of heartbreak. Of existing without everyday reminders of past hurts, things you wish you could redo, goodbyes you wish you got a chance to say. They make small things impossible. Like not being able to say no to plans for fear of future exclusions. Or letting people talk over you because you don't want to come across as 'too much'. Or not being able to touch certain topics without tears catching in your throat.

I am no stranger to letting life darken me significantly. It turns out when you ascertain to yourself that you are an unaffected person, it can actually be a lie. Shocker. I've spent many years of my life living in the grey and lonely purgatory of regressing on the things that have hurt me. It's easy to get caught up in the belief that it is healthy to do this. That it somehow makes us better people to suffer in the silence of regret and suffering.

What's different about me now? How did I overcome the darkness? It's kind of like fitness. Results don't happen overnight. You have to ease into it. Do the hard work, the exhaustive workouts, the sprints. Then, the rest days. Drink water and get sleep, the ladder of which is easier said than done. My biggest piece of advice is to find a therapist who understands you, who will laugh at the jokes you make at the expense of your experiences and still help you process them. Therapy is your biggest tool for understanding why some things hurt worse than others, the ways in which you have darkened your light, and most importantly, how to shine again.

If you ever find yourself overshadowed by the darkness of life, remember how possible it is to heal. To err is human. To suffer is human. To heal is human. Everyone is worthy of feeling light-hearted, of smiling just because they woke up this morning. Of falling down to rock bottom, then dusting off your knees and stitching up the cuts and trying again. The person has healed significantly because of their growth.


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