Wounds That Never Heal: Regret

Chronic wounds are wounds that take more than three months to heal or years to heal. Sometimes, these wounds never heal. They scab over, open while oozing fluids, exerting pain with external contact. The Family Health Team (2015) assert that “while cancer can sometimes present as a chronic wound, chronic wounds typically fall into three main categories: diabetic ulcers, venous leg ulcers and pressure ulcers”. Diabetic patients with compromised immune systems might require amputations in the cases of chronic wounds and gangrene complications. These injuries might cause infections and even tissue death which can cause life threatening complications.  However, what about wounds that are not physical but hurt all the same or even more?  In his book, Discourse on Colonialism, Aime Cesaire likens gangrene to colonialism. A wound inflicted on Africa causing the death of culture, people and civilisations. The vulnerability is in the ” the nakedness of Africa where the scythe of Death swings wide”. (Aime Cesaire,1939. )The dismantling of heritage and traditions came with the advent of religion and conquest. On one hand,  the colonial masters gave religion and, with the other hand they took the essence of a naive people. Continents brought to their knees amid the throes of vain conquistador ambitions. Albeit separated by the Atlantic sea; the Americas and Africa would never be the same. What-ifs abound and in the midst of it lies regret, pain and longing lurking in the shadows. Colonialism inflicted wounds that would never heal across populations and regret inflicts wounds that would never heal across mindsets.

Medline Plus (2016) details the stages of wound healing. First, the skin breaks with a strike to the subcutaneous or top layer of the skin depending on the injury.  Blood starts to clot within a few minutes to stop the bleeding. The blot clots dry to form a scab which protects the tissue underneath from germs. The immune system starts to protect the wound from infection while tissue growth and rebuilding occurs. Scars form. The scars that form will be not be as strong and flexible as the surrounding skin but the wound becomes stronger. While some scars will never go away completely; others never heal. Not all wounds bleed. Wounds like psychological and emotional trauma mirror these stages as well. The emotional trauma that comes with losing a loved one or experiencing a heart break is just as intense as fatal physical injuries. Just when when we think the scabs are growing; the wound opens up fresher than ever exerting even more pain for having been ignored for so long. Chronic wounds. The Kubler- Ross model describes the five stages of grief accompanied by loss as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Regret is a common thread that runs through these stages. What if we had spent more time together? What if? What if? The pain remains in the fact that these are events we cannot control so we feel anger, then we try to let go but keep getting haunted by the experience. Even when we accept, the wounds of loss never heal as they can bounce back fresh in our memory. For example, victims of Eugenics. Women and men made sterile in racist control of their reproduction. The babies they would never have. The unfathomable pain of losing what cannot be restored. The helplessness in not knowing how to let go completely and be rid of the painful memory. What if?

In Toni Morrison’s Home, Cee had been abandoned by a lover. She thinks she found happiness by working in Doctor Beau’s office and starts to admire him. She thought highly of him but then he drugs her and makes her sterile. He takes one of the essences of her womanhood, her fertility and tries to convince her that it was done in her best interest. After she is rescued by her brother, Cee goes home to recover. She goes through a hard time and doesn’t get a lot of comfort from the country women who “met the tears of the suffering with resigned contempt”. (Home, pg. 123). The women put her up to sun smacking which involves spending at least one hour in the sun legs a-spread in a bid for a permanent cure.  After she was told she would never bear children, Cee feels nothing in a moment of denial, and proceeds to get angry at the fact that she had been deceived. She tries to comfort herself in her stage of bargaining. She would never have a baby but at least she was alive. She had been changed but she would help herself. Cee slowly starts to accept her situation but regret lingers. What if she had been educated and understood that the eugenics books she had seen in the Doctor’s library belied his evil  character. What if she hadn’t been born poor? The list goes on in cascades of pain, longing and regret. Longing for the baby she could never have, the pain of the attack on her, the regret of not knowing sooner. A wound that would never heal. However, Cee accepts this is a part of her that would not define who she was if she did not let it. Acceptance becomes her strength.

There is a stoking pain in helplessness. The things we have no control over like loss, assault, domestic abuse hurt us the most over and over again. Could it be why we fear change but still embrace it? The irrevocable nature of change sure is terrifying. We can never get back what we lost and this haunts our very core. After I read “Clay’s Ark” by Octavia Butler , I wondered if Blake Maslin at the time of his death regretted having escaped his previous captivity or ever taking the road trip to Arizona. If he had not escaped Eli’s ranch, maybe he would not have become a prisoner at the hands of a vicious car family. His daughter, Rane would not have been killed so violently. The disease would not have spread to the whole world. However, at the end I realised that the unpredictability of life cannot be met with forlorn nostalgia/reminiscence of the past. Letting it go does not mean forgetting the pain exists. It just means setting the pain aside to be able to brave the coming of a new day. We must find the strength to prevail.


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