It takes honesty, and large doses of humility served over a long period to get to the root cause of your pains.
Don't stem your healing
Because most of us find ourselves in situations that we never prepared to get out of (exit strategy), your healing crisis will need intervention.
Ask for help; don't let pride keep you hostage. Have faith. You will certainly need God's help to escape bondage, but you have to be obedient enough to allow him to act on your behalf. That means doing the right thing even when it hurts and hurt it will. Think about the long term goals when healing becomes painful. Be thankful that you've woken from your slumber and celebrate small achievements, no matter how tiny.
Remember that the way you think and perceive things can also keep you hostage, preventing you from experiencing complete healing. Fear often gets in the way.
How badly do you want things to get better?
Doing things for the sake of doing something will take you nowhere. Half-hearted actions will also lead you nowhere. Find a support network, the kind of people who won't judge you, people who understand your struggles. They come in different shapes and sizes, depending on what you're trying to achieve. It could be a forum, a couple of friends or even a relative, church group or online podcasts and videos to encourage you on your journey.
Don't forget to try new things. Remember, too, that what works for me might not have the same effect on you. We're different, after all, with unique needs and challenges.
Defining the problem
It takes honesty and large doses of humility served over a long period to get to the root cause of your pains and struggles. For example, you don't cover up your blemishes with thick make-up when you're experiencing a breakout! It only makes the problem worse. I've seen people who are struggling go out of their way to paint a picture depicting that all is well. We all need positivity from time to time, but don't pretend that you've arrived when things are bad. Healing will leave you vulnerable. Recovery is not pretty. Rest if you must, shut down if you have to, and allow detox reaction to run its course, whatever actions you choose to take. It might look like a disaster, but deep down, long-lasting changes will be taking place.
Where you feel the pain might not always point towards the source.
A life lesson from boils!
When I was growing up under the African sun, boils were a rite of passage for many. Had one, and the pain was unbearable. My mum asked someone to squeeze the puss out and add some salt to the wound! Screamed my head off I did during the process, yet, the person kept at it. How very mean, I thought.
I'd later learn that had they merely taken out a certain amount of puss, the buildup would have been worse than before. The only remedy? Squeeze until an almost clear liquid showed up. Most people who grew up in Africa can relate; they don't always treat ailments like in the west. For the first time in days, I slept well after the squeezing episode. The salt gave me a burning sensation, but it aided my healing. Within days, the wound healed completely.
It sounds gross, I know, but you and I have learnt to live with certain situations because we're afraid of the painful process that comes with squeezing gunk out of our lives. And so we dress wounds that should be addressed. Before we know it, the wounds become toxic, and we continue living from a place of pain. Remember also that where you feel the pain does not always point towards the source. That is why it can be easy to dismiss certain people as overreacting; you may know the whole story. You might have touched a nerve when someone reacts in anger. That's why it's always encouraged to be gentle with one another. However, when it comes to emotional, psychological and spiritual pain, the best doctor is yourself. Good practitioners address the root causes instead of merely keeping the symptoms at bay.
A healing testimony to remember
How about a healing story to shed light on the topic of discussion? A few years ago, I showed up at the doctors with chronic back and shoulder pain. I worked in a busy office environment, so I tried everything I could to alleviate the problem. Raised my feet while sitting behind the desk as much as I could. Tried to put something behind my chair to give me a cushioning effect. Revised my sitting position and addressed ergonomic practices to ease the pain.
Finally, I decided to visit my doctor. In all the times my kids and I have seen him, we've never left the practice without learning something new. For example, when my son hurt his arm, our referral back to the GP (general practitioner) from A&E felt like a one-on-one tutorial — left the surgery armed with knowledge about bones. My son even boasted about his scaphoid and FOOSH injury (fall on an outstretched hand). The doctor pulled out an anatomical human skeleton figure and gave us a lesson about bones, including the elusive scaphoid, which can be missed by X-rays. And so, I went back to the hospital, challenging their diagnosis to the point of being asked if I worked in the medical field. May we all learn to identify the root causes of problems before rushing to solutions.
Anyway, let's move on with my story. The GP would acknowledge that my back was taut in general and suggested that I seek massage therapy. Fair enough. But he went further than that. He asked me to extend my arm towards him. "How are things?" he asked.
"Fine," I gave him the golden answer to everything, good or bad. "How are the children, OK?" Told him they were doing great, no complaints. "Is there anything that could be worrying you right now?" Took me a while before I could spit it out. "Work," I shrugged, feeling a bit ashamed. Others always seemed as if they were coping, but not me. People were talking about work, work, work! The harder one worked, the better, so it seemed. But there I was, admitting that my job was probably not working for me.
The doctor wheeled towards his desk and said words that would change the trajectory of my career forever.
"Here's what I want you to do. I want you to go back home, and I want you to get a pen and a piece of paper. I want you to write things down. I want you to plan your life. And I want you to QUIT THAT JOB. Now."
He didn't write a prescription. With the benefit of hindsight, that was his prescription and the greatest gift I could ever get. Took a leap of faith, I did, without another job offer on the horizon. They were preaching that faith works at church, so I held on to that message as I jumped. To onlookers, I was crazy. But I was free. There was no plan B. Guess what? The symptoms completely disappeared a few days after leaving that job.
I want you to go back home, and I want you to get a pen and piece of paper. I want you to write things down. I want you to plan your life.
For the first time in years, I started thinking about what was best for me and what I wanted to do instead of merely responding to demands, expectations and trends. I dared to say goodbye to the rat race and took bold steps that even surprised me. Did some calculations to help me stay afloat; credit card, here I come! However, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with clarity. Every action I took from then on was well-thought-out. Yes, the crisis phase (financial) still came in and lasted longer than anticipated. Still, there were pleasant surprises that I can only attribute to God. Let's say I lived to tell the tale!
According to the doctor, my pulse raced the moment I mentioned work. Didn't realise that he was listening to my pulse as he asked questions. In other words, he was trying to find possible causes of my chronic pain, and the beating didn't lie. I kid you not when I say I haven't had back or shoulder pain since, even though I still do a lot of desk work.
I realise that many people aren't lucky to come across such doctors. I also know that some people genuinely need help in the form of pills or medical interventions. But there's nothing heroic about doing a job that's slowly killing you. There's nothing commendable about working ridiculously long hours so you can buy big houses while your children don't have anyone to watch over them. There's nothing noteworthy about exceptional organisational skills at work while your life is in tatters. We focus on cosmetic things and spend our lives proving to others that we've arrived. At what price?
It wasn't that the people I worked with were terrible. I was in a job that involved consistently being on the go, answering outside and in-house calls, managing a long paper trail, dealing with customers and other employees who relied on me, and so much more. However, my natural work style isn't like that. I don't always make it visible to people that I'm working with. I love research, analytical thinking and joining the dots before coming to a solution. I love creating, not just ticking boxes. I ask questions a lot instead of merely following protocols.
There I was, in a job that required top-notch administrative skills and possibly removing oneself from situations to be effective. I don't operate like that. I serve from the heart. And so I'd take the stress and people's issues back home. My organisational skills could do with improvement, I admit. Still, my excellent customer skills and human relations weren't enough to perform at the optimum level. I don't like being rushed, yet, speed was the backbone of the job. It was a compatibility issue with the benefit of hindsight, but I couldn't stop because people stay for the long haul, don't they?
I can now see what went wrong because I was brave enough to go through a healing crisis instead of holding on to something that wasn't working because of fear of the unknown.
Most of us are suffering because of our inability to let go.
Healing Crisis: Life Lessons
Several healing crises have taught me that sometimes, it's OK to let go instead of fighting for what's not yours. It's OK to shut the door and cry your eyes when you hurt, instead of showing up when you don't feel like it. It's taught me that you can live well for less. It's taught me a thing or two about getting priorities right; there were many times that I found sheer joy from the fact that my kids were thriving, and that was enough.
Healing taught me about the power of getting rid of toxic friendships. It taught me to stay true to values and that you can sleep well even when you know that things aren't perfect as long as you know that you tried your best. Healing crises taught me not to be pretentious, and equally, not to entertain people who are. It taught me that when you're operating from a place of being authentic, you'll meet amazing people who will accept you as you are. They don't focus on how many scars you've got or how you got them in the first place. They see beauty beyond your blemishes.
Blemishes and scars are part and parcel of life, so is getting hurt.
Imperfection is beautiful
The above statement has taken me a while to embrace, I guess it's something that comes with age, but it's true. Blemishes and scars are part and parcel of life, so is getting hurt.
Most of us have metamorphosed from who we were growing up, and that's the way it should be. Some of our gains have come out of blood, sweat and tears. Hello, scars and blemishes! Instead, most of us do everything we can to hide the imperfections that prove that we're still standing. It's taken me so long to realise that sometimes, all you need to do is moisturise a scar and let it be. Embrace it, and it becomes a part of you. Talk about character.
There will be reminders of our past hurts, but if that's all you focus on, you'll never enjoy life. If all you worry about is what went wrong, then it becomes nearly impossible to see the good before your eyes.
If all we focus on the horrendous pain we went through: a bad marriage, divorce, being retrenched, stressful jobs and the like, we'll never move on. We'll meet amazing people along the way and make them carry the burdens of our past. We'll continue to point fingers when we should be checking ourselves out. We'll become experts at finding other people's blemishes while we ignore the erupting boils in our souls. We will project our pain on others and hope to feel better in the process.
May we all learn to see the beauty in scars and blemishes so that we can see the sparkle in every one of us. We're all broken vessels, and no one is perfect.
Remember, a blemish-free life is only possible if you haven't lived. You don't hear warriors talk about baby soft skin. They show off their scars!
Take your time
They say that time is the greatest healer. That's true. Most people look for quick fixes, making even bigger mistakes in the process. For example, you might see a black person with blemishes resort to skin lightening creams to eliminate imperfections, damaging their skin and body in the process. They might experience short-term gains and receive compliments about radiant skin, but the long-term implications can be far-reaching. Cutting corners takes many people back more than they realise.
Be strong and courageous
You have to be brave to experience complete healing. As previously mentioned, you also have to define your problems as much as possible before you start addressing them. Understand what you're dealing with before you implement solutions. You will falter and make mistakes, but don't be hard on yourself. Don't let others shame you, either. There will always be people who refuse to move on from what once happened to you. Let them be. You have a new life of promise to lead. Living in guilt is not saintly either. It's time to move on, warts and all!
The journey of life involves many falls, bruises, sprains and painful moments. Don't numb the pain; it's a sign that something is not OK. Get back up again if and when you stumble. Do not be afraid to quit if a remedy is not working despite your best efforts. You might be working towards the right goals, but with the wrong tools, or vice-versa.
Next time you experience some negativity or counter-attack as you try to become a better person, remember that a healing crisis is real. It gets worse before it gets better. As for my skin, I'm beginning to see an improvement and will try to continue doing the right thing now that I know what it's like to lose what you've got. It will never be perfect, but at least, I'll live with the fact that I'm trying, and for me, that will always be enough. Don't forget that if it's not broken, don't fix it!