I learned a new concept recently. It’s called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD.
Boy, does that explain a lot!!
PTSD is a term for the various symptoms a person experiences following a traumatic event. For those who have been sexually abused as children, PTSD usually shows up immediately in some form but can resurface at any time, especially following times of heavy stress or transition.
I wish I’d understood this a long time ago.
Not that I like labels. I don’t. I hate them, actually. I’ve been labeled many things. “Angry”, “Anxiety-ridden”, “Difficult”, “Needy”, among other clinical and incorrect diagnosis’ over the years. And yet, this one concept, PTSD, really does explain them all. Had we understood 40 years ago what symptoms constituted a trauma response I might have gotten the help I needed then. Had my first counselor 13 years ago explained this concept I could have dealt with it more effectively – and with hope – instead of being labeled as having various disorders and feeling frustrated and hopeless with what sounded like a sentence rather than an explanation of a physical and psychological response.
It’s especially evident in people who were abused as children.
Science has shown that adults who were abused as children actually have changes in their brain patterns. * In the study, researchers examined adult civilians with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and found that individuals with a history of childhood abuse have distinct, profound changes in gene activity patterns, compared to adults with PTSD but without a history of child abuse. “Traumatic events that happen in childhood are embedded in the cells for a long time,” said senior author Elisabeth Binder, M.D., Ph.D. So, this response is not just “normal” given the abnormal circumstances one has faced, but it has lasting effects even to the genetic level.
God created our bodies to do amazing things. He provided so many survival capabilities that allow us to survive. I find it amazing what people can live through and still function. However, I have always pushed Him for more. I want to do more than function; I want to thrive. I don’t want to just live; I want to live abundantly (John 10:10). I want to live fully, love fully and get the same opportunity as others to experience ALL this life offers without barriers or hangups. Am I asking too much? I don’t think so. So, I continue to push.
Yet, I have learned – and am learning again in dealing with the emergence of childhood memories recently – that healing takes time. When I had major surgery earlier this year, the doctor removed the diseased part of my body in a procedure that took a few hours. Once that was removed, my body was “healed”. Without that diseased part, I would be healthier than before the surgery. But I didn’t just jump up from the operating table and start running. I had to give my body time to recover; time to catch up and deal with what had just happened to it, no matter how good it ultimately was.
Attempting to rush or skip recovery causes delay of full healing and possibly further damage.
So, I have discovered, is the spiritual, emotional and psychological healing process. God has done supernatural surgeries on me. He has healed areas of my psyche and emotions that no one could offer help for. These are the areas that psychologists teach you to cope with because there is no cure outside a miracle. And yet, even with supernatural healing, recovery takes time. Letting my psyche and emotions catch up is taking time and patience.
I’ve learned to be grateful for the process. It has taught me so much. Without it I feel I would be incomplete – even with the supernatural healing. The Bible is full of people of great faith but none of them got there straight from the womb. They went through processes that taught them that level of faith and perseverance – among other important things. Joseph, Moses, Jesus…these Biblical greats didn’t do great things because they had some spiritual secret the rest of us are not privy to. They did great things because they went through the process.
I’ve met those who tend to over-spiritualize this process. They feel if you really have enough faith you can just jump up from that operating table and declare it done, in Jesus’ Name, and instantly be completely finished with the whole thing. I’ve been tempted to believe that at times too. It is an amazing thing when you know God is doing a supernatural work in you. It’s tempting think one powerful experience has taken care of everything in one fail swoop. However, we are not fully supernatural beings yet – only He is. He spoke the world into existence; we have to grow into our understanding and maturity over time. We are born and start out helpless – learning every little thing one step at a time. Amazingly, Jesus chose the birth route; He chose the process. Who am I to think I can skip what He didn’t even skip?
Yes – even Jesus.
Hebrews 5:8 tells us, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” He didn’t get to skip the temptation or the garden of Gethsemane or even the cross. He went through it – and the Word astonishingly says “He learned obedience” through it. If Jesus had to learn obedience by going through the process, how much more do I need to!! I would not be in a healthy, growing marriage, with 3 healthy children, in dynamic relationships with God and others and even attempting to give back what I’ve been given if I thought I could skip the process.
PTSD is not a sign of spiritual weakness or lack of faith. It’s simply a description of what I’m dealing with at the moment. Understanding the problem is the first step to overcoming it. And I’m not too spiritual to get help. I’m seeing a counselor and doing the things I need to do to help my psyche deal with the recent blows.
In the meantime, I am declaring in faith the full healing – even restoration of those changed brain patterns – as I move through the day to day process of that healing. Getting counseling and letting the process do it’s full work is not me being “hung up” or blocked in my spirit – that’s just me being human.