Wholeness Through Brokenness: “You’ve Got to Feel It To Heal It”

This week’s topic, though once again not written “on schedule”, is somewhat of a philosophical rant more than a recounting of experiences like my last posts.  It is something that I’ve discovered to be not only a “Brain Injury” concept, but an overall principle for wellness in all realms of being (emotionally, physically, psychologically) – “healing through feeling” and the process that entails.  No matter where we are at in our life’s journey, the ebb and flow of life dictates a state of constant flux.  Given this fact, I have come to appreciate that the best thing we can do to help ourselves along the way is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to have a constant attitude of willingness – an openness to the possibilities.

I’ve heard it said that the moment we think we have “arrived” is the moment we cease to strive. We will never “have it all figured out” but life has led me to believe that there is a distinct possibility for true healing if we are willing to let ourselves work through our experiences and process their influence on our lives.  In doing so, we become more aware, more enlightened, and more “accepting” of what is.  From that place, out of that personal resolve, comes a desire – an innate drive – to work toward the betterment of ourselves and consequently, the betterment of the world around us.  It’s almost paradoxical…passive activity.

I like what Paul has to say about it in the Bible…

Not Yet Arriving, But Still Striving
(philippians 3:12-16)

12 Not that I have already attained this—that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which I also was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: forgetting the things behind and reaching out for the things ahead, 14 with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways. 16 Nevertheless, let us live up to the standard that we have already attained.

So what has this “forward thinking/forward moving”-mindset meant for me in my world?

Through my struggles, and in supporting family and friends through theirs, I have learned that – as uncomfortable as it may seem at the time – feeling all your feelings, negative AND positive, is the best way to gain closure, or attain “healing”.  On an emotional/psychological level, cognitive behavioural psychology has been my best friend through this learning process.  The skills I gained through this training have been invaluable; but it took me at least two years to gain the confidence in their application.  “Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic process….The premise of cognitive behavioral therapy is that changing maladaptive thinking leads to change in affect and in behaviour” (Wikipedia). In essence, this approach identifies that your thoughts dictate your actions.  If we can change the way we think, we can literally change the way we interpret our world and, hence, our attitude toward and response to it.

But we first have to acknowledge the feeling: whether it be fear, anxiety, overwhelm, disappointment, joy, contentment, or elation.  From here the trick is to let that feeling be what it will be, observe and acknowledge your response to it and let that be.  Don’t “judge” it – making yourself right or wrong because of it – just be aware of it.  In doing so we detach the experience from our emotional interpretation of it and will slowly find it easier to “deal with” as we are no longer overcome by the sheer perception.

In the realm of physical recovery, I have found the same thing to be true.  Though the injuries and consequential weaknesses in my body have made for a somewhat painful experience at times, I have found that working around the pain – numbing it, or simply relieving the symptom – never actually resolved the issue.  The experience simply becomes more bearable in the moment (much like dismissing an emotion makes life seemingly “easier” to deal with), while the underlying cause is never resolved.

Having recently approached my physical recovery from more of a strength-based perspective (correcting underlying function) rather than a treatment-based one, I have actually experienced more gains which have been longer-lasting.  However, this process required “working through the pain” in many ways.  As I began to acknowledge and respond by correcting the source of the physical pain, rather than simply reacting to the outcome, I noticed that the frequency, duration, and intensity of these experiences lessened.  Interesting! 🙂 My body has learned a new habit.

In summary, it all goes back to a philosophy I learned from the time I spent working in the “chiropractic” world: an ADIO – or above-down, inside-out – perspective.  If we are willing to look inward and deal with the cause, we are more able to handle the outward expression or effect of that internal experience.  In so doing, I truly believe that we can re-acquire – or perhaps acquire for the first time – a sense of wholeness through our brokenness.

…this is my life…

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Welcome to the motto of my life…”try, try again.”

Given that my blog was meant to bring some sort of structure or routine to my week, I have already experienced my first epic “fail” in the process.  I was meaning to write weekly (even twice weekly), but timing has just not allowed for it recently.  It does, however, provide a perfect teaching opportunity as to how this “broken vessel” operates.  So, here we go…the first in a line of hopefully several ramblings…

As I believe I mentioned in the intro blog-post, I have been wanting to write a blog for a long time, but never knew where to begin or how to go about it.  Then recently, as things would happen in life I would jot down quotes that I heard and liked, or lessons I was learning along the way that I thought might make for a good story or reflection.  Then once I had compiled a list of 10 or 12 things, I figured I would have a good “beginning” for a few weeks of writing.  So I began…

…and then I “lost” my list…

Haha! Funny, right? 🙂 I thought, this is one of those “perfect examples” of how I deal with life – I would use it as my first actual rambling post and hopefully restructure my ideas from there.  And then, lo and behold, today I sit down to write and I found my list! It’s comical in my mind because my experience (response to losing my list) is an example of each of my blog ideas in some way, shape, or form.  It’s reassuring to note that these life-lessons that I’ve experienced (and I’m preparing to write about) have become new habits and coping strategies in life.  So I AM actually learning along the way! 🙂

So, the topic of today’s rambling is “time vs energy management”.  I read an article about it through someone I follow on Twitter, and it’s something that I struggle with daily.  If you google it, there are many life coaches who have written blogs and articles on the topic, and it seems to be a popular realm of thought – not only for those of us with a “challenge” but for anyone with a busy schedule.  It makes sense that we only have so many hours in the day/week – an objective measurement that applies across the board.  However, we also need to consider that we each only have a limited amount of energy to be used in that time – and this measurement is not so objective.

I’ve heard people discuss the idea of health and wellness, particularly fitness pursuits, and the time commitment involved.  They break down a 24-hour day into the appropriate increments – 8hrs sleep, 9-10hr work day, etc. – and then they claim there is still plenty of time leftover for at least an hour a day of exercise.  This is likely quite true in the objective sense.  However, let’s also consider a person’s “24-hours” of energy.  If I use an hour of energy (not just physical but mental/emotional energy) for every activity that I perform in a day, how does that change my situation?  And, I’m not just talking “every activity” as in a scheduled appointment (massage or chiropractic) or an overall activity (soccer game or coffee with a friend).  I’m talking about the energy it takes to get out of bed, shower, get dressed, plan meals, cook meals,  plan my schedule for the day, time the drive…and the list goes on.  Consider for a moment that every functional activity, though somewhat “automatic” and seemingly “normal”-looking, expends 3 times as much mental/emotional energy for someone with a brain-injury than for someone with an un-injured brain.  And if there is any hint of depression or anxiety involved that number could be incrementally more.  Now try and fit that 24hr calculation together and tell me how the equation works!

Life with a brain injury involves a delicate balancing act.  And that skill of co-ordinating, itself, consumes 25% of our energy! Plus, the process of learning is extremely draining so learning and re-learning to deal with life on a daily basis = exhaustion.  Allowing myself to “go with the flow” was a huge factor in managing my energy.  There’s an emotional connection to the entire process – needing control of the situation, needing to know what’s happening next, and becoming upset when something goes awry in the schedule.  That’s why structure is said to be the “best thing” for someone with a brain injury.  Because with structure and consistency, a person develops a sense of “mastery” over his or her life and derives a sense of accomplishment or success from it.  And, though I somewhat agree with this need for structure (especially in the first few years of recovery), I found that because structure is not always practical in life (“the only thing constant in life is change”) then learning to be flexible was actually the more helpful lesson for my adapting to society (rather than having to impose structure and deal with consequences). Along with that, was the emotional lesson in “letting go” of having to have my day go a certain way and accepting that the day can be just as great – if not better – by just letting it happen.

The management of time vs. energy, then, clearly needs to be evaluated on an individualistic basis.  It involves a lot of personal reflection, self-assessment, and being open to possibilities along the way.  It involves identifying strengths and weaknesses, then prioritizing and scheduling time according to the required energy investment.  It involves “having perspective” and a flexible approach to life, being gentle with self (if something doesn’t get done it’s not the end of the world) and accepting of change.  That’s why I’ve always loved the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 🙂

…this is my life…

Hello world!

So…here I go…my very first blog post.

It’s funny, this has taken some time to work up to, strangely enough.  I’ve already mapped out several planned posts, and have put quite a bit of thought into this process.  I am using it as a venue for creative expression, connecting with community, and a means of developing some type of routine.  My intent is to write weekly – we shall see how successful I am.

Let me begin by introducing myself.  My name is Amanda and I have a story to tell.  Having been very near to death and back, I feel I have a unique perspective on life and its many facets.  As a teenager, I acquired a brain injury from a serious car crash which left me in a coma for 11 days.  Having now out-lived my former self, I can say with confidence that “everything happens for a reason”. 🙂

I live to serve a risen Lord, forever indebted to God for my second chance at life.  For this reason, I have entitled this blog after 2 Corinthians 4:6-10

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

My life is my jar of clay…broken though it may be.  I pray through my sharing my struggles and successes, you will see His light in me…that you will be inspired and encouraged.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

“I implored the Lord three times that it (hardship) might leave me, and God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”