I had two concussions this past year as a result of playing football, and if I’m being honest they have left me in a lot of pain. Not so much physically, although they brought headaches and pressure to my head, but more so mentally and emotionally. I’ve never had any diagnosed concussions until this year, but I know that I’ve had some, yet up until this year they haven’t really effected me that much.
This time around, they felt so isolating and confusing and I felt at times (and sometimes still do) like reality was so foggy, and that’s a scary thought to be having at twenty-three years old.
Before I talk about those concussions I want to tell you a story.
A couple of years ago I was talking to one of my roommates about the term healthy and he brought up the fact that our “health” doesn’t just consist of how we look on the outside, it’s our whole self. Our health consists of all of “us”–our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social being. Typically, there is a lot of cross-over between these areas of our body, but if we don’t take time to look at and analyze the specific areas on their own, we can become an unhealthy person. And if we don’t balance each of the areas out, we can become even more unhealthy. At first, I disagreed with him because I thought if my spiritual health is my main focus and is 100% healthy, then even if I’m unhealthy in other areas, I will still be ok!
It’s a good thought, but it’s not true, and I don’t even think our Father thinks that way. He created us as complex beings, and that means He cares for ALL parts of us, not just our spirituality. He wants us to understand Him and connect with Him, and that starts spiritually, but it carry’s over into every part of us.
So back to my concussions and their weight in my life. Last semester caused me to really stop and look around. I’ve come to realize that I am truly the only person on this earth who knows how I feel and what I’m thinking so it’s important to be honest and real with myself, first. My mental health is part of my overall health and I want to take more time for it. Chance the Rapper just recently launched a mental health awareness campaign titled My State of Mind and pledged one million dollars to go towards mental health research and development. His whole goal is to “make it admirable to be honest with yourself.” I almost cried when I first heard him say that because I know how much we need that. And I know there are so many people in the world who don’t understand why they feel the way they do and they want answers but they don’t know how to talk about it because it has never been the “right” thing to talk about.
Being healthy starts with realizing we have a lot of responsibility and power within ourselves to take care of ourselves. Not necessarily to cure ourselves or heal ourselves, if that’s what is needed, but responsibility to analyze how we are feeling and to talk about it.
People cannot read our minds, but they can listen to us and if we are honest with them, they can help us when we are hurting, mentally especially.
In reality, being healthy has a lot of layers/levels to it. It’s never just a single area that needs to be healthy, we’ve got to be healthy in all areas if we want to truly whole.
So, here are some thoughts on how I’m learning about myself and how to be healthy. I hope they can be an encouragement for you!
Physically: So obviously physical health is important–it’s usually the first thing we think of when we hear the word “health”. But I think it takes knowing yourself and what you personally need for true healing, strength, and health. Sure, I want to be able to do as many curls and squats to look like Carl Lentz or my older brother (and someday I just might) but for me right now I’m trying to exercise in a way that is going to help me in this season of life. And I find that recovery is actually what I need most. I have a lot of pain from my years of playing sports and it has really been revealed to me recently how much healing needs to be done. So, I’m doing that, first, and then I’ll start body building again. Just kidding, I’m not a bodybuilder.
Mentally: Mental health has become a popular subject (almost a buzzword) these days, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. For years, it has been portrayed that having depression or anxiety meant you were a “bad” or “crazy” person and I don’t know how that every became a thought. Like Chance said, it is a brave thing to be honest with yourself about how you are feeling and where your thoughts are at. Sometimes my thoughts confuse me and scare me, but that doesn’t mean I should have to hide from them for fear of what others might think. I want to face them, head-on, so that I can at least acknowledge (even if I don’t always understand) what is happening within my mind.
Spiritually: We all have a spirit, whether we acknowledge it or not. We can do a lot of things to soothe or restore our spirit, but most of them are not the true thing we need. It’s almost as if our spirit has a part missing, and we need that to be filled in order to be/feel complete. To be healthy spiritually is to have a relationship with that missing piece, which is God’s Spirit. Having a relationship is to have communication through the ups and downs of life. It takes honesty, trust, and mostly vulnerability to build a relationship, and the relationship with the Holy Spirit is no exception. Yet, it’s His honesty, trust, and gentle presence (the very thing that allows us to be vulnerable) that will truly alter our life. I will no longer be scared to be vulnerable in His presence. He’s a good Dad, and He will protect me.
Emotionally: Vulnerability is the key to healthy emotions, too. Whether it is joy or sadness, emotions are important. We don’t have to shy away from our emotions or be scared of what we are feeling, because our feelings are REAL and they are OURS, so they must be telling us something important about ourselves. For me, in the past I haven’t always wanted to walk through some of the dark emotions that I’ve gone through in life. Heartbreak and betrayal scare me and I would rather just ignore those feelings, but ignoring them doesn’t mean they go away. So, I’ve been working on sifting through my emotions whenever they come up, good or bad, regardless of if I “want to” at the time, because I know in order to be healthy, I have to allow my feelings to flow out of me (or at least through my heart and mind). And in doing that, I can love everyone around me better.
Socially: Relationships are SO important. They are what life is all about. Therefore, being a socially-healthy person, is a standard to have for overall healthiness. This doesn’t mean conformity or zero arguments among the people you hang out with, it just means you seek out honesty and trust, above everything. As you work through the highs and lows of life (and relationship) together, acquaintances turn to friends and friends turn into brothers and sisters. That’s who we really are.
With grace and love,