I’ve decided that the next few “Storm Survival” posts will center around my experience with healing wounds…both physical and emotional. These difficult seasons often involve wounds. Wounds we have from the past, wounds we have given ourselves, wounds others have given us, wounds from circumstances. This past year I have been on the receiving end of some pretty deep blows which brought me to a very raw place. The type of rawness/hurt that made me want to take my heart, tuck it away in a locked box and throw away the key. It will be safe there. But healing doesn’t happen in the box. Healing happens when we allow the “healing process” that I wrote about on Monday. Which means keeping our hearts exposed and accessible…this can be vulnerable…scary and down right hard. I think the fear of the pain and uncertainty involved is what can keep people from engaging the process and true healing. It is easier/safer to choose the box and protect our hearts from further hurts.
If you follow this blog you will know about my recent physical wound which is teaching me so much about healing. After the accident I knew I would need stitches and my colleague took me to a local general doctor or “Huisarts”. From my experience they don’t actually DO much except act as a gate keeper for the rest of the medical system. Typically, I show up for a 10 minute appointment…they ask me some questions to determine the nature of the problem…and then if they decide it is severe enough they will refer me on to a specialist. I was fully expecting to have the cut evaluated and then be sent to a hospital to have the stitches put in.
WELL after the doctor evaluated the wound, and gave me the “You’re very lucky” speech, he reached for his suture kit to clean it and put the stitches in.
WAIT! Hold up…YOU are going to do this? Now?! My brain was racing. I wasn’t quite mentally prepared and nowhere in his kit did I see any anesthetic. YOU are going to put stitches in WITHOUT giving me any pain medicine?! Ummmm. I have had stitches before and they numbed the area so well that I couldn’t feel it for another 6 hours. Now, NOTHING!! Crap, this is going to hurt. This is going to hurt A LOT! Immediately, the fear of the pain gripped me. OK, deep breath…I don’t have much of a choice. Another deep breath and I closed my eyes…it should be over quickly.
And you know what? It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had built it up in my head. My imagination was so much worse and the FEAR of the unknown and “what could be” ran away with me. It wasn’t nice. And, yes, it hurt but I needed it for healing and apparently I didn’t need anything to numb the pain.
It made me think of all the things I can allow FEAR to build up in my head. And how often I think I NEED something I don’t. I am not saying that healing deep emotional wounds is the same as getting stitches. There are things that can and probably will really hurt…but for me the healing on the other side is worth it. And we don’t do it alone. I’m learning to trust more and more that God really is who He says He is. He wants nothing more than to heal our wounds. Honestly, it can sometimes be hard for me to know how to relate to an invisible God ESPECIALLY in a crisis. But He has been faithful over and over. Part of my healing this year has come from learning how to trust Him completely and learning that He really will keep me from going down. He really will! He loves me more than I can imagine and has spent the last year and a half showing me what that looks/feels like. It’s been incredible. And as difficult as this season has been I wouldn’t want to go back. I LIKE the person I am…and THAT is freedom.
It is tough to give REAL practical tips for this that don’t sound cliche but I’ll give it a shot:
- Don’t do this alone. Find friends or a community to surround you. If you have some deep pain/heart ache try working with a counselor. We’ve all got wounds and we can’t heal on our own. We need community.
- Pray A LOT. He will be faithful to answer just don’t be surprised if it is not how you expect
- Read the bible – learn the promises it has for you. My favorite this year:
Don’t Panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need for fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
The poor and homeless are desperate for water,
their tongues parched and no water to be found.
But I’M there to be found, I’M there for them,
and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.
Isaiah 41:10, 17 (The Message)
I have often heard “Time heals all wounds”. But does it really? Is it time or something more that heals wounds? I have become fascinated with how our body heals since cancer and especially since my accident in the lab 10 days ago. As this physical wound heals, I can see many parallels to the process of healing emotional wounds. But, no, time does not heal wounds. Allowing time for the “healing process” to take place is what heals wounds. These might look like the same thing on the outside but are very different in practice.
I am normally more of a physics girl and only tolerated the biological sciences when they were necessary for my degree. Recently, I have been more curious about what is happening “behind the scenes” in my body. Cancer was a wake up call that our physiology doesn’t always work the way it is supposed to and natural processes in our body can go haywire. Our bodies are extremely complex and the more I learn the more I am surprised that things don’t go wrong more often.
When we are physically wounded (wound: an injury to living tissue caused by a cut, blow or other impact – typically where the skin is broken) it kicks off a chain reaction of healing processes as our body’s defense systems turn on. I’m not going to go into it deeply but will give a brief description of each stage. If you are more interested this was a very straightforward explanation…plus a
boring and informative helpful Youtube video here. There are 4 primary phases of wound healing:
- Hemostasis: (within minutes of the initial injury) Constricts blood vessels and stimulates clotting to stop the bleeding
- Inflammation: (typically up to 4 days) Redness, swelling, warmth, and pain are typical symptoms as the first responding white blood cells clean out debris and stop infection
- Proliferative/Granulation: (4-21 days) Establishes the frame work for new tissue and repairing the various damage (skin layers, other tissue, blood vessels, and capillaries)
- Remodeling/Maturation: (up to 2 years) Increasing the strength of the new tissue
2 years!! This is longer than I expected when I started researching. It has only been 10 days and the cut on my wrist is dramatically improved. It blows my mind that my body will keep working on the fragile new tissue to make it stronger for the months to come.
My body is not passively allowing time to pass but is moving through the healing stages by actively fighting bacteria, rebuilding new tissue and repairing damage. Healing starts with the first 2 intense and painful stages…follows with creating something new but fragile…and finishes with a strengthening stage. I believe we go through similar stages with emotional wounds and time does help in reducing the pain…but without some work in cleaning and removing bacteria we are at risk of an infection and will never be able to build something new and strong.
I will leave my rambling Monday thoughts there but will write more in the days to come.
I am not going to add many words to this post. I thought this was a great video to follow my post yesterday on wounds. Our wounds prevent us from embracing vulnerability.
Vulnerability is scary and uncertain BUT it is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love.
Please take the 20 minutes to watch until the end. If you’re reading this in an e-mail you will need to click over to the blog to watch.
What are wounds? When most of us think about them we probably think of physical wounds. We think of the time we fell off our bike and scraped our knee or cut our hand while cooking. Wounds HURT. They compromise the integrity of our skin defense and allow bacteria in. They typically require action on our part to clean them and bandage them to prevent infection…but sometimes they become infected despite our best efforts.
Emotional wounds are harder to recognize and even harder to treat. We all have them. Some have more than others. They are the product of hearts interacting in an imperfect world. We can wound people even when we don’t mean to. We can especially wound people when we mean to. We can have wounds from our childhood and family or previous relationships…we can inflict them on ourselves with our choices. They can be caused by an action or a lack of action. A harsh word or a lack of love and acceptance. They are painful places in our heart that can drive choices without realizing it. They ache. They allow us to believe lies about ourselves and look for quick fixes. Our wounds might tell us we will never be loved and therefore we will seek out unfullfilling relationships to fill a void. Our wounds might tell us we will never be good enough and therefore we are always striving for perfection or not trying at all. Our wounds might tell us we will never succeed and therefore we never try accomplish anything because we are afraid of failing. Wounds feed addictions and insecurities. They can cause us to react in ways we don’t recognize.
The danger with emotional wounds is when you don’t know you have them. They have a lot less power when you can name them, treat them and actively fight against them. I have an insecurity every time I push the publish button on this blog. What if people don’t like what I write? What if it’s not good enough? I have a wound around perfection = acceptance. And I counter those questions with…Do I like what I wrote? Yes. Is it perfect? No. Am I happy with it? Meh..Yes? Good enough…PUBLISH. In the end who cares if no one likes it. Of course affirmation is nice but it shouldn’t drive my choices. I have to choose to be myself regardless. If i didn’t realize that wound existed I may never have started this blog because I was paralyzed by what people thought. Aren’t you guys lucky? 😉 Guys? You there? Just Kidding.
God tells us he is the healer of the broken hearted and wounded. When we are insecure in ourselves we can be secure in Him. Quick fixes wont work. But God promises he will heal us if we only ask…not always in the way we expect but always in the way that we need.