Wellness is not a new concept, although to be honest it is for me. The dictionary defines it as the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal. I don’t like that definition because it seems incomplete. The National Wellness Association (who knew there was such a thing!) defines wellness as an active process through which people become aware and make decisions towards a more successful existence. find them here That’s better I guess. I don’t like the term successful existence because it’s just very subjective.
For me, wellness is about wellness. I think of that old Horatio Spafford hymn, It’s okay, written after a tragic loss. This, for me, is well-being, when he can sing:
When peace like a river accompanies my path,
When sorrows roll like waves of the sea;
Whatever my fate, you have taught me to know
It’s alright, it’s alright, with my soul.
For years I thought that well-being and/or well-being were fortuitous. One was happy or not. And if it wasn’t, then one needed to manufacture that happiness, either through serious effort or simply by drawing a curtain in one’s mind on unhappy things. I remember a manual on how to become a good housekeeper that suggested throwing all dirty dishes in the sink and covering them with soapy water would give one a clean feeling. Of course, over time, the bubbles dissipate, and reaching into cold, dirty water is worse than starting with an empty sink.
Our minds and hearts are the same way. We can cover the wounds for a while, but then the magic curtain falls aside, revealing our inner chaos. I have learned to heal, through my own research, with the help of wonderful therapists and mentors, and faithfully seeking the counsel of the Holy Spirit. And as I talk to more and more women as my blog grows, I find that a lot of women are a lot like me. They want to improve, to experience well-being on a deep level. But also like me, knowing where to start is really hard. This is my journey, but I haven’t found the basics to change much.
1: Know your wounds.
Every ER has a triage for a good reason. They need to separate patients according to their degree of injury. Knowing your injuries sounds easy, but it’s actually the hardest part. Sure, we know about superficial wounds. But just as a body can hide cancer or infection, our minds and hearts can hide serious trauma. Even for decades. And we as humans have a terrible habit of treating our deepest wounds as superficial wounds. Like the rape victims I talk to who say it no longer affects me But those of us who self-medicate in a myriad of ways don’t always see our self-destructive behaviors as symptoms of trauma.
So I’m going to make a general statement that I rarely make and that you may not agree with. If one has experienced abuse over a prolonged period of time, significant loss, serious physical injury or illness, divorce, poverty, or war, and has not received at least some therapy, chances are they have a wound that it still affects some area of your life. . To make the sentence user-friendly, I said ‘one’, but I really mean you. Me too. If we can’t remember entire parts of our lives or if we have memories and relationships we don’t even think about, we’re not completely okay.
2: Wounds need attention.
Wellness does not happen naturally in the presence of trauma. My husband recently had several moles removed. Some were quite large. My first reaction was that they needed to be exposed. That used to be medical thinking. Light and air heal wounds. Not so, said the doctor. He said that the wounds should be covered with an antibiotic ointment and kept moist. That would inhibit pain, healing, and infection. Our emotional wounds are also like this. Often, we expose them, especially to the wrong people, and they become even more painful. Well-being or healing those wounds is not a matter of enduring.
Well-being is a matter of treating yourself gently. I remember a dear friend saying that if she had known that she had PTSD from the old house she lived in with my ex, she would have insisted on taking me there. She supposedly would see him for who she was and “get over” him. Not so. Numbing people and places is not healing. It is to re-traumatize. Instead, I have carefully plumbed these memories and drained them of anger and hate. I’ve covered them with the antibiotic of forgiveness and repeat as many times as necessary. The nightmares have ceased and the anxiety has subsided, not through harshness, but through regularly applied tenderness.
3: Wellness requires a steady diet of truth and love.
Truth is not a concept. The truth is a person. And it turns out that Love is also a person! The same person, in fact! Jesus is the healer and we must all accept what a relationship with Him entails. How one has a personal relationship is a mystery, people are still writing books about it. But this is the wrong way to approach it. The question is how me I have a relationship with Him and how do I grow it? That looks a little different for everyone. I think about him a lot. I talk to him. I imagine being on stage with Him. I pretend to hold His hand when I’m sad. The Bible helps me compare my experiences with what He says it is. Bottom line: I involve him in every aspect of my life, from my physical health to the last fight I had with my husband.
Learning to heal, to find well-being, is synonymous with developing a lasting relationship with truth and love, in other words, with Jesus. I do not say this lightly. In the thousands of hours I have spent ministering to people in healing prayer, those who are fully open to Jesus heal faster and more deeply. Interestingly, you don’t even have to have a relationship with Him before you come to me. But I guarantee that when you do open up, you walk away with the beginnings of a true relationship with Him. He can’t wait to meet us in our pain. And sometimes it’s the people who think they know him, the ones who keep him in a religious box, the ones who can’t seem to find well-being.
Sometimes I come across people who are frustrated that their healing seems to come so slowly. Usually, when questioned, they have a very definite idea about your specific injuries. But as they open up to me, all kinds of traumas come up. One thing I have learned is that trauma is not a series of unconnected infections, but a network of related illnesses. You cannot treat a single trauma. You have to look at them all. The source trauma informed how we would respond to the next one and so on.
4: Well-being is not a choice but a thousand small ones.
Wellness is choosing forgiveness… again. Wellness is saying no to toxic relationships… again. And wellness is submitting our dark thoughts to Jesus over and over and over again. In fact, the road to wellness is a lot like the road to Calvary. Paul was singing praises in prison. He perhaps understood that the chains on our bodies have nothing to do with the chains on our souls. I didn’t leave my abusive ex because it was the right thing to do. If he could have done it, he would have left me much sooner. I left because God had started to set me free inside. The comfort I experienced in his loving presence freed my heart before he could begin to free my mind, body, and spirit from the cycle of abuse. Jesus is the way. And sometimes, He is the Exit.