Martian Manhunter#4 teaches us that when a survivor makes a choice to heal, everything about the survivor changes. At the end of issue #3, J’onn realizes the truth of how he arrived on Earth. Believing Dr. Erdell (the scientist who transported J’on from Mars to Earth) was dead, the Martian Manhunter comes to understand that all he believed to be true was a lie. Piecing fragments of memories together, J’on comes to understand his people were not warriors, but poets.
He did not have memories of his father, but memories of himself as the father to his own child who died in his arms. Even his appearance had changed to become more jagged, rather than humanoid.
Similar to J’onn, when we, as survivors of sexual abuse, make the choice to heal and not deny the trauma of our past, memories of the life we lived prior to and during the sexual abuse return. Sometimes they return violently, causing us to question our sanity and strength in the same way J’onn questioned the possibility of a virus causing him to hallucinate and the strength to save ourselves while being present for those we care for.
These memories of a person and life may contradict what we believe to be true in the same way J’onn’s memories contradicted what he believed to be true about his people and his past. The reality of the past, impact the present by changing the way we see ourselves and the way others see us in the same way J’onn’s form changed to resemble the appearance of his species.
After we choose to heal we feel a sense of relief.
We say to ourselves, “Thank God, I’m not crazy.” Many times the jubilation may causes us to want to know more and understand it all immediately.
We do not want to wait! We want to become better and we focus all of our energy into knowing the past, practicing mindfulness, and embracing our new identity!
We forget that healing, remembering, growth, and accepting the truth takes time and patience.
We are reminded of this when we stumble and reenter the Emergency Stage, becoming frustrated with ourselves and feeling like a failure. It is for this reason we must know that healing does occur in a bubble.
No matter how much we as survivors may believe and tell ourselves, “I don’t need anyone. I can do this on my own,” support from a partner, family member, therapist, or counselor is needed to heal. J’onn’s support came in the form of Dr. Erdell. The character knew not to be in a hurry to remember the memories. He knew, as trained therapist and counselors know, healing and remembering takes time.
While fragments of memories wavered on the edge of consciousness, he still could not remember everything, so the Martian returned home.
Once transported back to Mars memories of his past return.
The life he lived,
the family he loved,
the tragedy that made him forget,
and how time allowed him to heal and gain the courage to become stronger.
Rather than hate himself and view his actions as weak, as he did in the past, J’onn remembers, grows, and becomes complete.
This is what it means to heal from past trauma.
It means accepting the fact that bad things happen, but learning the skills needed to feel safe in our body.
This is the only way to kill our superhero and become a survivor.