Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Vironica Tugaleva.
Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is. ~Gary Zukav
Of all the relationships in my life, my most intimate and long-standing one was my relationship with my wounds. It was not a happy relationship, nor a loving one, but it was a relationship nonetheless. My wounds and I, we spent over a decade together. Even the most obnoxious sidekick becomes comforting after that many years of just showing up at your side. If you wake up every day to the same old biting pain and the same old tired story of who you are, it all becomes part of the scenery. Just the way things are.
As a child, when I got hurt, I’d hold out my bruised knuckle to my mother’s lips. Somewhere inside that childish ritual lies a hint of awareness about our inner nature. We know that love heals all wounds. As a kid, I was just doing what I had seen the adults do. When you get hurt, you ask for love. That worked for me, at least for a while.
As children, we open our hearts uncondition-ally. We take whatever we are given. We trust that what we are being given is good for us. After a while, however, I was no longer getting little scratches. I was getting deep, raw cuts. Opening myself led me into whirlwinds of pain. I didn’t know what to do. I held my wounds out to my mother, but all I got was anger and rejection. Confused, I held my wounds out to others only to be met with the same sorts of reactions – laughter, anger, indifference. What used to help was no longer effective. The wounds became more and more serious as I grew older. Just to take away the blinding pain of walking around with open injuries exposed to the world, I put bandages on them. At the time, it seemed like a great idea. The pain was gone and the wounds were covered. I breathed a sigh of relief.
A little while later, the pain came back. From underneath the bandage, I felt the throbbing pulse of infection. Confused and frightened, I put on another bandage, and then another. Each application would help for a while but, soon enough, the same old pain would return. Though the bandages would conceal the cut, the skin underneath was red and infected. Sometimes, I would look at my bandages and see that the swollen skin around them. I would get frightened. The mere sight of my injuries gave me anxiety. Having no other options in sight, I just put on more bandages. Not knowing how to heal, I settled for removing the dis-comfort of fear and pain.
Most people thought I was strange. After all, who wants to be around a girl covered in bandages? For a while, I thought: no one. Then, I found other bandaged people, people just like me. When I found them, I rejoiced. Finally, some company! Finally, peo-ple who would understand me, talk to me, and relate to me! There, within the confines of dark walls and equally dark stories, I found solace in similarity. There, too, I learned a thing or two about being wounded, about being bandaged.
The first thing I learned was that every set of bandages needed a story. I came up with my own set of excuses and justifications. I gathered the most shocking and the most horrific moments in my life and con-veniently packaged them into a narrative. As time went on, I altered the story. Some bits were just too raw, too real for even the wounded. I took those parts out. Other parts, however, never ceased to shock and impress. Those, I exaggerated. In the world of wounds and sto-ries, I also learned about bandages. I learned all the newest tips and tricks for how to cover your wounds with style and mystery, how to hide in plain sight, how to live through a mask. I learned to be dark and to love being dark. Soon enough, I was covered in bandages head-to-toe. I could have been anyone, even a plastic doll. There was nothing human about me, except that deep down under all those layers, I still needed love.
In a community of bandage worshipers, ne-glect of the external self is normal. Everyone stuffs themselves full of whatever they can get their hands on, anything that helps them avoid themselves. Everyone lies, hides, and hates themselves. Everyone has their own, personally branded, way of self-destructing. They define themselves by their bandages. In that place, when we saw someone who wasn’t covered in bandages, someone we called “normal,” we’d assume them to be boring, stupid, or deficient somehow. We had to. We had to believe that what we were doing was right. We had to do anything that we could to keep putting on those bandages, to keep hiding from the pain.
Relationships there were horribly painful. We would try to come together, but the wounds under the bandages hurt too much. We were stuck and helpless. If we stayed distant, we felt empty. If we came together, we writhed in pain. Again and again, we tried to love each other, but we just weren’t willing to do what was necessary. I’m not sure if this is true, but I suspect now that we all knew, deep down, what was necessary. We just didn’t want to admit it. We just kept bandaging and hurting. Lying and hiding.
After a while, bandages just weren’t enough. I had learned all the best ways to use them, but the skin underneath was now covered in puss- and blood-filled blisters that would pop on contact. Just walking around, people would bump into me and rub my wounds through the bandages. I’d exclaim in shock and pain. It became harder and harder to keep a straight face everywhere I went. These incidents got more and more frequent as the wounds spread under the cover-up.
That was when I met her. In a crowd covered with mere gauze, she was gleaming with steel. Her face never showed pain. When people brushed by her, they winced. She didn’t. She would look down at them and laugh. At that moment, I suddenly noticed that, no matter how thick their bandages were, the people in my little world were walking around with pain in their eyes – except for her. She didn’t have pain. Her eyes were cold and empty. From the moment I first saw her, I knew that I wanted to be just like her.
Soon enough, I became a perfect replica. I had my very own suit of armour. There, I was the queen of the bandage worshippers. They looked up to me be-cause I had what they wanted. I had freedom from pain. As time went on, the people around me either left or got armour of their own. After all, a girl who can’t feel emotions is just not safe to be around for people who can. They had to either get their own protection or get away from me.
Inside the armour, I was numb. I couldn’t feel the outside world and I couldn’t feel my skin. There was no more pain, but it didn’t feel good. There was no pain and there was no more pleasure. I was numb and empty. I knew that, no matter how much I tried to hide it, underneath all that armour, I was dying. My real flesh was oozing toxic sludge. My body was decaying and I didn’t have much time. To the bandage worshippers, I looked like I had everything under control. I knew – and all the healthy people around me knew – that it was all an armoured charade.
I tried to ignore the truth, but no one can do that for very long. I played in my metal armour for as long as I could before I got too weak to move, too weak to lie, too weak to play the game anymore. In every sickness, there comes a point of no return. Every bandaged, wounded person whose skin is on the point of necrosis has to make a choice: let it kill me or let me heal. In that moment, the risk of vulnerability suddenly became secondary to the risk of remaining hidden. There, I disassembled the armour. There, I peeled off the bandages, one by one, crying and screaming. Each one would take with it chunks of my flesh. Parts of me were already dead and many others were close.
Those were some of the most painful moments of my life and, sometimes, I still find little pieces of bandages lodged in my skin or hidden in my old possessions. After I realized the truth of my infinite and permanent self, I took the pain of raw, exposed wounds for what it was: necessary. It was the only way to heal. The only way to heal any wound is to keep it open, exposed. Temporary, but excruciating, pain is the price of healing. The bandages may cover it up for just a moment, but in the end, they only become a sick addiction.
My story’s not really unique. Most of the people who are passionate about healing others, about helping others find love, truth, and happiness have known love hunger. A healer is someone who seeks to be the light that she wishes she had in her darkest mo-ments. When you’re starving to death and you suddenly find food, it’s like a miracle. That’s what this was like. It was like a miracle. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced one of those, but when you do, you just want to share it with the world.
Vironica Tugaleva is an author, speaker, people lover, reformed cynic, and a different kind of spiritual teacher. She helps people heal their minds and discover their inner strength. You’re invited to read more about Vironika and her inspiring book The Love Mindset.
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