Heal the wound, Heal the heart

While I don’t claim to be an expert in medical wound care, I have seen enough nasty, smelly, screamingly painful open sores when I worked in healthcare to know that we can learn much from their process of healing. I submit to you that the stages of healing that occur when one’s body works to heal after an injury or surgery run parallel to other types of wounding that happens in life. Further, the risks for complications such as infection or swelling (aka edema) can be symbolic of the “secondary damage” that not only impedes the healing process in both but introduces entirely new problems that must be addressed as well. I have seen in my life that injury, damage, or wounding from various types of abusive behaviors have the same characteristics, the same impacts, the same risks for complications and the same potential for healing in due time as wound care management. These wounds can heal and the scar or scars fade if handled correctly. And while it all can take a little more time than we might like, the process can reveal wondrous truths and blessings as ordained by our Heavenly Father, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Heal the wound

Check this out from Wound Source:

The stages of wound healing are a complex and fragile process. Failure to progress in the stages of wound healing can lead to chronic wounds. Factors that lead up to chronic wounds are venous disease, infection, diabetes and metabolic deficiencies of the elderly. Careful wound care can speed up the stages of wound healing by keeping wounds moist, clean and protected from reinjury and infection.

Generally, remodeling begins about 21 days after an injury and can continue for a year or more. Even with cross-linking, healed wound areas continue to be weaker than uninjured skin, generally only having 80% of the tensile strength of unwounded skin.

This recovery assumes that the appropriate treatments and dressings are applied right away, any open wound is kept moist, naturally occurring inflammation is controlled, and

a new network of blood vessels must be constructed so that the granulation tissue can be healthy and receive sufficient oxygen and nutrients. 

Appropriate compression is applied with proper bandaging, elevation, and reduction of factors that can contribute to swelling. The presence of edema itself is a risk factor for new injuries and complicates the healing process tremendously when dealing with an open wound. According to the EO2 wound care technology company, whatever the reason for the edema, it WILL impair healing through several mechanisms. All of these factors need to be managed well for processes such as granulation and epithelialization to occur. These steps continue at various levels even when the surface wound has closed and things are looking better. The entire amazing physiological process is a testimony to us of the magnificence created by God in our human frame. We can overcome our injuries, our vulnerability to re-injury and complications, whilst moving towards recovery and leaving minimal scarring behind. And even the worst scars do fade in due time.

Heal the heart

Recently I was reflecting on the impact of abusive behavior at various times in my life. The impact was devastating and took on virtually ALL of the characteristics of the injury and damage of a medical wound. Both types of wounds require a careful healing process. In the distant past I defined the abusive behavior that I experienced as that which violated my rights as a human being and professionals labeled as sexual, physical, ritualistic, or verbal abuse. I don’t wish to get caught up in the semantics or seriousness of each type here; all are profoundly impactful.

An individual KNOWS when another person has crossed a line that should never have been crossed and profound damage has occurred even if it takes days, weeks, months, or years to fully realize it. The recipient feels traumatized and goes through a tender, complex grieving and recovery process to heal. For example, the difference between an expression of emotion and abusive behavior can be like a person who uses 1) mean verbiage versus 2) repeated verbal hammering in a tone that purposefully tears down the victim who is yelling “STOP! STOP!” A simple apology may not be enough for the beaten puppy of a person to get past the incident, particularly when the behavior has been repeated. The relationship between the two parties has changed. The recipient is injured, damaged, and wounded kind of like a 3rd degree burn to the soul. Special care and bandaging are needed for as long as it takes for the wound to heal.

Some of my own experiences of abusive behavior happened before I became a Christian: a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Some of them happened afterwards. Gratefully as unto the Lord, most have healed completely while a few have left their scars. There is nothing unusual about that. My purpose here not to belabor my own experiences but to share with my brothers and sisters in Christ what is and what is not abusive behavior then a model for how a person overcomes it. The Biblical Counseling Coalition provides some definitions as follows.

Abuse entails physical violence (Acts 16:19), threats of physical violence (Eph. 6:9), persecution (Matt. 5:44), sexual mistreatment (Judg. 19:25), reviling (Luke 6:28; 1 Pet. 2:23), speaking evil (James 4:11), or being under the misused power of another person or group of people (Gen. 16:6; 1 Sam. 2:16; Ezra 5:12).

Check the link that I provided above for a more detailed discussion on this topic. Focus on the Family describes emotional and verbal abuse specifically and at more length on their website HERE. They add that

Wounds that typically accompany emotional, physical and sexual abuse must not be ignored. Both men and women inflict verbal abuse, but women tend to be more often on the receiving end of this destructive behaviour. What may seem innocent and infrequent at first can escalate.

All forms of abuse follow a pattern that, left unchecked, will only increase over time. Injuries from verbal and emotional abuse can run deep and leave lasting scars. Many emotionally and verbally abused people reason that, because there are no bruises or broken bones, their abuse must not be serious. But it is. Fortunately, support and resources are readily available to guide individuals into safe, loving relationships. In their well-received book Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend state that, “Our pain motivates us to act.” If pain motivates you to act against emotional and verbal abuse, then listen and act.

We can easily see the many parallels between the topics of wound care and recovery from abusive behavior. The pain of each motivates us to act, to fix the situation. What appears on the surface may not reveal all of the layers of injury, damage, wounding that must heal to withstand the testing of the tissues or trials that inevitably follow in life. Choosing to do the work of repairing any remaining wounds of my own experiences required 1) heeding the Lord’s unveiling of my eyes that what actually occurred was damaging and 2) following the leading of the Holy Spirit to move towards restoration. Part of heeding this ongoing process includes writing this blog today. In the past my care also included significant Christian counseling, support groups, Christian books, and the like. Forgiveness, seasoning in my walk with the Lord, restoration of relationships, compassion for others, and spiritual discernment are among the gifts, the fruit for doing the work of recovery.

So what are some specific parallels between healing a physical wound and recovering from abusive behavior?

  • Stop the source of injury. In wound care they call this hemostasis where the body begins to clot your blood to stop the bleeding. In personal relationships this may include setting some ground rules, some boundaries, or simply separating from the other person for a time. The thrombus or clot must hold lest it become dislodged and result in a more bleeding, a more serious injury. Similarly, the two parties in conflict must, in my humble opinion, work to stop attacking one another. Yes, the recipient has responsibility here too.
  • Inflammation in wound healing controls bleeding through swelling and helps prevent infection by bringing fluids/nutrients to the site. Inflammatory words are exceedingly difficult to control when emotions are running high in an abusive situation. There can be fallout and setbacks while the two parties seek to figure out the best way forward, if each are committed to actually go forward together. Bringing in a mutually agreed upon 3rd party is much-needed medicine at this time to help tone things down. The effect of inflammation may hurt for an unknown period of time and look as ugly as an open sore desperately trying to turn a corner towards healing. Proper “bandaging” and self care for emotional wounds must begin in a responsible manner.
  • Wounds are kept moist and hydrated as new cells called collagen and its matrix begin to form. In contrast, the two parties that are able to work together to address the woundedness can do simple things to care for the other parts of the relationship, their shared responsibilities. The darkness still needs to be addressed and treated correctly and what this looks like may change as the two go forward. The antagonist in the story must stop the abusive behavior and create safety in which the protagonist can flourish. New “medicines,” new habits, and new means of communication are needed. Figuring this out takes time. It may actually may be the party that was hurt the most who lovingly leads the two of them through the process of forgiveness and restoration to a better relationship.
  • An even longer phase of wound healing is that of maturation. Find your own parallels in this summary from Wound Source:

During the maturation phase, collagen is aligned along tension lines and water is reabsorbed so the collagen fibers can lie closer together and cross-link. Cross-linking of collagen reduces scar thickness and also makes the skin area of the wound stronger. 

Recognize that, in the words of Bay Care Health, the healing process will vary among individuals and will depend largely on the cause and severity of the wound. I submit to you that all types of wounds are the same in this regard. And as we noted above, the new collagen fibers are vulnerable to re-injury but their re-formation makes the area of the wound even stronger. This process in wound care may take up to a year. We know that while the body never really forgets an injury and neither does the mind, its power over us can change significantly. The things that happen in our past become our story, our testimony of the Lord’s amazing grace in our lives.

When I was working as an Occupational Therapist, we told our patients in rehabilitation all the time when they got discouraged that recovery is usually a jagged line with lots of ups and downs. They had to work through their fears of getting re-injured, having delays due to complications or a re-occurrence of a disease process, and grieve the losses associated with an extended hospitalization and rehabilitation process. Like my older friend Wanda used to remind me in a 12-step support group, “you gotta feel it to heal it.” Range of motion exercises after a shoulder surgery are excruciatingly painful and so are flashbacks of abusive behavior. It’s like the surgery or incident is happening all over again. But it’s not. Eventually the body and the heart starts to heal with ongoing and proper care. Lord willing, most folks do get better. We come to realize that setbacks, hurts or new injuries are just one part of living in a fallen world with fellow sinners just like us. We learn so much in the process. Thank goodness the Lord Jesus Christ helps us to overcome it all!

Interpersonal relationships seem to me to go through the same wound-healing process as restoration comes, as trust is earned: it “takes what it takes” to get there. The prevention of pressure wounds in particular includes daily skin checks. This entails looking for areas of redness over bony areas of the body and making immediate changes to reduce the pressure, nourish the tissues. Could we say that better care of our personal relationships with a better daily maintenance plan can help raise the threshold over which unwanted behavior spills over? I do believe so. Are we following our home exercise programs, our Spirit-led care plans? I could go on but you probably get my point by now.

Gentle Reader, there’s so much to say on these topics and I am not an expert on either one. I am a fellow sojourner to those who have experienced both and I have seen the power of the Lord in healing all kinds of devastation. Let our salty tears be the saline, the healing salve that washes us clean indeed. May the cross-linking of our entanglements in this life give way to the redeeming grace of our risen Lord Who restores us through and through. For His glory! Amen. JJ

1 Corinthians 2:9, No eye has seen nor ear has heard, healing wounds

If only I knew

If only I knew back then what my new life would be like, would I have chosen it? Probably not.

The summer of 2007 was a very exciting one for me. I had just met an amazing man of God and had established myself in a beautifully decorated condo in one of the nicest suburbs west of Chicago. I had a great job that paid my bills along with some extra resources that I inherited when my Mother passed away. The grief associated with her death was complicated by navigating the affairs of her estate. Regardless, a new love makes everything nicer, lighter, and bearable even exciting. In due time I would come to understand my Pastor’s advice not to marry in the same year that I lost my Mother to her complicated health issues. Steve and I married at the end of the year anyways and I was off and running in Indiana with my Intended Beloved. God was so good!

Before long I was completely overwhelmed by all of the changes in my life. When I worked in mental health, we used to give our patients a Stress Management Scale to check off how many changes they had experienced in the year prior to hospitalization. Life events were given weighted scores, tabulated, then matched to a scale predicting susceptibility to illness. Yeah, my score was over 300 which is ripe for a stress-related illness. But thankfully, it didn’t happen. The adjustment to a new family life, State, house, church, job, pet, grocery store, bank, yada, yada, and husband was still completely overwhelming. Then I had to leave my new job in Indiana to find another because of ethical issues. Holy cow. It was a lot of changes in a very short period of time!

Then my Dad, who had been estranged from our family for 27 years, contacted my brother in Michigan. Mike was still living in our Mom’s house so my Dad was able to use our old phone number to reach him. Soon I was in touch with my Dad as well, catching up and trying to figure out how to deal with the sordid memories and circumstances of his leave-taking from our lives so long ago. Overall it was a good process. He was kind and generous. He shared stories, many of which I hadn’t remembered. After a few years of slowly getting re-acquainted, it was time to meet in person at his home in Florida. Mike was invited to go separately but never accepted the offer. I did. Steve and I went under an extremely stressful set of circumstances with my job at the time that would later magnify how important that visit to see him would be to my future. It was really good to see my father again.

Less than 2 months later, my Dad passed away. Mike never got to see him. My own visit and especially having shared it with Steve, were instrumental in figuring out how to manage my Dad’s affairs from where we lived in Indiana. We had a dinner with my Dad’s “tribe” of friends along the Forgotten Coast (so telling, eh?) of Eastpoint, Florida instead of a funeral per se. And over the next year, it would take dragging my brother through endless legal procedures to settle our Dad’s estate especially the selling of his truck. Later on with the inheritance that I received, I bought a newer truck like my Dad’s and became a woman who drove a truck — NOT a compact SUV or car like every other woman I knew drove! After all, I now lived in Indiana. Seems like every 3rd person here has a truck for work or various projects where ya gotta haul something from here to there! I liked gardening so it worked better for me than my Hyundai Tuscon. Over the next 4 years I finally had an opportunity to take the class to become a Master Gardener. Perhaps the truck was part of the overall uniform? It sure hauled a lot of soil and mulch, paddling gear and other stuff. How did I ever live without a truck in the suburbs of Chicago? Well gee, back then I lived most of my years in a townhouse then a condo!

My life drastically changed at the end of the same year of 2011. I was barely past the grief and memories stirred with the ordeal of my Dad dying when I contracted a serious illness kayaking in a local reservoir. Perhaps this stressor finally broke me down. Viral hepatitis became the first domino in a cascade of serious health issues that challenged even our brilliant family practice physician. Sure I had some hormonal and orthopedic issues in the past, even chronic pain, but nothing compared to the daily convulsive episodes and myriad of severe symptoms that beat up my body as I practically crawled through 2012. By February, I could no longer work. I felt that I was putting both my occupational therapy patients and myself at risk should I continue. I struggled to concentrate, to function, to sleep, to complete basic activities of daily living. When my Doctor thought I had underlying chronic Lyme disease, the treatments he prescribed felt like they nearly killed me. Then came the first of a series of alternative medicine treatments. It was the Beam Ray Rife machine that triggered the daily tics, the seizure attacks that escalated into the worst hell I could ever imagine. The episodes wouldn’t be diagnosed as epilepsy but they were equally as devastating. It felt like my life as I knew it was over. Actually, it was.

If only I knew that I would become seriously ill just 4 years into my marriage with Steve, would I do it all over again? To me that is a rhetorical question. Who would choose the extreme stress of almost complete social isolation? This included separation from Steve’s wonderful adult children and family who hadn’t had enough time to get to know me from their homes out-of-state or out-of-country, let alone my own friends and family. Who would choose re-injury of chronic pain issues every day and every night when the involuntary, violent convulsive episodes would start about 10:00 pm every night and return upon wakening every morning? At one point I noted over 30 symptoms to my complicated, serious illness that baffled specialists in-state and out-of-state. Over the course of the next decade, over $100,000 of savings and income would be spent trying to find answers. Treatments would diminish the worst symptom but not remove it or the episodes would increase again after a few months of a reduction. It would take almost 9 years to find cranial nerve, especially trigeminal and vagus nerve roles related to a condition diagnosed as Autonomic Dysfunction. We found tools more recently to stop them after a period of time but not prevent them. The grief and frustration were crushing to both of us. Steve had support from his family and friends, work and church. My support circle caved in with each passing year. I made a few new friends online dealing with similar issues. I knew I wasn’t alone because of their friendship and prayers from them and believers who became distanced; the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit kept me alive and going most of all. He alone re-started my breathing hundreds of times . . . I now longer feared death but saw it as a type of relief should it come.

We simply cannot know what lies ahead of us in our little lives. The Bible tells us that man makes his plans but it is the Lord who orders his steps (Proverbs 16:9). The Bible tells us that He has plans for us, to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). The Bible tells us to trust in the Lord and not in our own understanding, that He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). The Bible tells us a story where He restored the years that the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25). And so much more. When the months rolled into year after year after year of serious illness for me, when the convulsive episodes and tic attacks racked up into the thousands, when people close to me started to doubt their medical origin even when confirmed by tests and experts, when the money ran out for aggressive treatments, when the illness alluded three large research medical centers in the country and several specialists out-of-state . . . I hit terrible periods of despair. Then I planned my suicide in October of 2019. When I realized to follow-through on my plan would be to believe the lies of Satan himself as he smiled in my mind’s eye, I realized that I was being deceived. Death, like divorce, is not an answer but a new problem. Believe God’s word and promises instead. I chose to accept that I am simply too finite as a human being to fully grasp these Bible verses, God’s real plan for my life, what I cannot see, what my life is really about. I chose to follow Jesus.

All I have is here and now with you Gentle Reader. It’s not up to me to end the timeline. It’s not up to me to write the next chapter of the story of Just Julie Writes at Hope Beyond. My hope and future are in the hands of the Lord. I pray that my hands type as unto His grace, His redeeming power to overcome.

It is up to me to choose to enact a faith in an infinite God Who is beyond what I can see. He knows I have seen and endured a lot of horrible things in my life before I ever met Steve. What I could not even imagine before this past decade was what it would be like to go through it all with a man who loved me more deeply than I knew existed in life. He was often my Jesus with skin on. He is loyal and yet human, strong and tender, God-honoring and God-fearing, loving and still driven to pursue his own dreams too; Steve is my provider of all I would need in my earthly husband. I am truly blessed. We did reach a crisis point in our marriage twice during this nearly 10-year journey within our over 13 years together. We got through them and healed the pain of potentially losing each other. More intimacy grew between us as a result, along with trust. The spiritual battle that came along with each test melted away as unto the Lord. Only the Lord knows what those moments were really all about.

Only the Lord knows what all of the changes, the stress, the spiritual battles, the strife in our lives are really about. I’m sure that each of us would freak out if we really knew what the trials in our lives were really about. One day all will be revealed. For now tis better to lay down our swords and pick up His along with His shield of faith. Put on the entire armor of God while we’re at it. This life is not for wimps, I tell you. JJ

His Passion, My Passion

If you want to fly my dear then so shall I

For what good is a day on the ground when our hearts can soar?

You in the air, me looking up from the garden dirt

Ye, we both find our earthly treasures in things big and small.

How could I have known

That our lives would center this way and it be good?

What a privilege it is to love you my dear

To witness my man truly come alive.

If this is God’s plan (and I see that it is)

I shall follow you as unto the Lord, let’s go!

The rest of me will catch up a little later I think?! 🙂

EAA Air Adventure July 23, 2019

He’s going to make it

My beloved is following his dream

To fly, fly away, up into the sky.

Tis nightfall before the test of his study

Everything in him has turned accordingly.

I knew from my past what to do

The helpmate must get behind her man.

Extra chores, some sacrifices and then

You will share the joy of your man realized.

For settling one’s fears yields a greater good

Don’t worry dear wife, he will share this with you.

Your life will be even better than ever, it’s true

Fall in love with his loves as you do him too.

The rewards will come naturally and exceed your dreams

Your own desires will be satisfied along the way too.

God’s plan is so good. Trust in it this night.

My beloved is going to become a private pilot

“Gooooo Steeeeve!” I love you!

UPDATE: And after rescheduling due to overcast skies, Steve became a private pilot on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. Congratulations my love! We celebrated with his first flight that Friday with my beloved as Pilot-in-Command and yours truly. Story to follow . . .

31, 23, and 6:13

Never could I have ever imagined that I would spend the better part of the 5th decade of my life battling a serious illness. Then on cue from the Masterful Maestro, Jesus Christ, a few tweaks in 1 type of medication and 2 supplements began to turn things around. What has transpired seems miraculous to me.

31 symptoms aren’t as bad right now as they were when I wrote them down on December 29, 2018. A few more are gone.

23 triggers of sometimes violent, convulsive episodes have diminished in severity as they were when I wrote them down on December 29, 2018. A few more are gone. A few days per week I have none.

And in a matter of a few hours from now, at 6:13 a.m. to be exact, I will be able to board a plane all by myself to head back to Rochester, Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. An aggressive schedule awaits me for my follow-up treatment and medical visits. I’ll stay in a special condominium that will accommodate any ongoing chemical sensitivities; I’ll even learn to Uber and Lyft. Yay!

I am hopeful that things will turn out alright. I am slowly getting stronger and pain levels are coming down with various therapies that are finally working! Master Gardening activities are ticking up and I have a sewing project that I work on in the hours when I am feeling better. Call it my transition back into life.

What a good feeling. Thank you Lord for seeing me through to this day. Thank you also to my beloved, Steve, who has faithfully walked with me during thousands of dark days and nights. I am so blessed. Restoration is coming at last and I am as humbled as I am grateful.

Lord, please hold my heart and my hand as I make this trip. Let’s go! JJ


And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

1 Peter 5:10