PTSD, Trust, and the Importance of Being Honest

I realize it has been a while since I have written anything, and there is truly no other reason except I just haven’t. I haven’t written because I haven’t been trying to take care of myself. I haven’t been trying to take care of myself because when I get overwhelmed with everyone else’s life stuff, my life stuff gets put on the back burner. instead of working harder to make sure I don’t shut down, I preemptively shut down all things “me”. I begin to fall farther and farther into my fantasy land of gaming and movies, pulling any plugs from their outlets of healing and light and attempt to rest in the darkness and ignore the ache.

I have not done a good job of speaking up for myself. I have not been good at it, but neither have I practiced it. When your spouse tells you over and over to be honest about how you feel-“even if it is going to hurt me”-and you still find yourself holding back, you are only hurting yourself. I have no one to blame but myself for where I am.

So, where am I? I had a very severe panic attack this week. One of those that attacks like a vicious wolf- bringing along spasms and flashbacks and darkness. There were many moments, when I was brought back to those woods again, that I wanted to scream out-but I was mute, as usual. Only able to utter small groans and sighs.

I learned something about myself this week: I am still angry. I am not entirely thrilled to be on this journey-to be who I am; who God is shaping me to be. I am not saying I am angry with Him, but I am angry that things are not how I expected them to be. It is hard to look in the mirror and still be able to see the scars in the back of my mind. I know how deeply I have been wounded, but I long to be scarless and have all things forgotten. I know this will never be so, as how can the pain and scarring be used for His glory if they are not visible? This is where the trust comes into play. I know He has allowed the pain for my good and His glory. I know that my story is not for me alone, and I have already seen Him use it to encourage others. I am blessed to be a part of His kingdom building. That doesn’t mean that it is easy. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have rough days, or weeks, or months. But I must always remember to trust my heavenly Father to carry me through it all.

I am incredibly thankful for the brothers and sisters I have walking alongside me on this journey. They have been there to, quite literally, lift me up when I could walk no further. They remind me that I am not alone and urge me forward instead of letting me fall by the wayside. The body of Christ at work is amazing to watch. I am so blessed to be a small part of it.

The hard part about living with PTSD, for me, is being fully honest. With myself, with my husband, and with those who I am accountable to. I have always, always been one who downplays my struggles and tries to focus on other’s needs before my own. But as the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Self-care is vital. Paying attention to my emotional and mental health is¬†vital. I have to be honest with myself and those around me if I need help-when I need help dealing with things. Life isn’t going to be easy. We have to work hard at being better, doing better, and living better.

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Let’s Talk About This

When people talk about sins, there’s always varying degrees of the severity of the sin. Like murder or theft are worse than lying or disobeying your parents. Anything to do with sex is automatically terrible and taboo and we don’t talk about it. The world is too broken, so confused about what is up and down, right and wrong. We, as the church, have the instruction manual on how to navigate the craziness and we refuse to have real conversations about life and death and what God has for His children. We feel so backward and scared about what people will do or say or think that we don’t even bother to care what God thinks. We don’t even consider that His cost is higher than anything the world would ask of us, and His cost is so much more worth it! His burden is so easy and His yoke is so light. But we forget our responsibility to His kingdom, the call on our lives, the demand the cross makes of us. We forget the cost He paid to get us back, to bring us out of the pit.

And so we walk around with our label makers, slapping every single person in our path with what we can see on the outside, what we esteem them as, while we sit on our high pedestal of “better than you’s” and “at least I’m not like her” self sufficiency. We cannot even fathom how much we have destroyed our own trustworthiness and validity by attempting to decide who is “worthy” of Christ. No one is!! Who the hell are we to think that we get to decide who can fall at the feet of the Savior?

I used to think I was somehow the worst Christian ever because I was still attracted to women. I couldn’t help it. I tried not to be, I am married to a man I adore and even have children with him. But I still had the desires and attraction to other women. Then one day my pastor shared a video of a pastor, a pastor, sharing his same struggle. He explained that, same-sex attraction was just like any other sinful desire. We cannot control the desires but we can fight them. We can choose not to partake. We can overcome. That was the moment that I knew I needed to admit my struggle and begin to fight against it. And I also began to realize that I had a unique opportunity to help other people who struggle with the same desires, to fight against them. I have a powerful story, but only because Christ has made it so.

The Church is full of redeemed sinners, just people, all with struggles and hangups, striving to honor Christ. At least that is what it is supposed to be. There are many churches that are anything but. They don’t talk about the sin, the struggles, they just talk about the love of God, the great plans He has to prosper you and make life happy. But Christ, Himself, told us we would have struggles, and being imperfect people, we are gonna screw things up at least a couple of times a minute. The awesome thing about admitting that you have struggles is that you are free from judgment. Not judgement from other people, necessarily, but freedom from casting judgement on others. You are free to look at another person with love and compassion in your heart because, you know, they are just as broken as you are. That is the power of Christ’s grace and forgiveness. When we can accept it for ourselves, we can’t help but share it with others.

I don’t know where you are as you read this. You may have deep hurts that you aren’t ready to let go of. You may have been struggling with your particular struggle for so long, you can’t possibly imagine being free from it. Maybe you know you are living in a manner opposite of what God has called you to, but you just don’t know how to get out of it, and worse, you don’t know how to own up to it without fear of rejection and ridicule.

The Bible gives us an account in John, chapter 8 verses 1 through 11, of a woman. We don’t know much about her, other than that she was caught in the act of adultery. She was brought to the temple courts where Jesus was teaching, by Pharisees, who wished to test Jesus. We don’t know if this was something she did often or if it was a one time occurrence. I think it must have been a recurring sin for her, how else did the Pharisees catch her in the act? There is no indication that she wished for forgiveness. I am sure she fully expected to be stoned to death, as the law required. But Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisees, and He passed judgement like only He could.

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The Bible says they left, one by one, the older ones leaving first, until they were all gone and it was just her and Jesus. He asked her where her accusers had gone, if anyone had condemned her. She answered that there was no one.

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Any one of us could stand in her place. Each and every sin is worthy of death and each and every one of us has sinned. But our story doesn’t end with accusation and condemnation, it ends with forgiveness and a command. We don’t know what happened to the woman, if she did indeed leave her life of sin. But we do know what our lives look like. We know our deepest struggle and we try to put on our best face, even though it hurts like hell. We also have a choice. We can choose to keep walking in the direction we are, and keep falling into the sinkholes along the way. Or we can choose to turn around and walk with Jesus. Walk with those who know our struggles and still love us because they know the love of Jesus and have to share it.

I invite you to walk with me. Let’s have a conversation, and keep having it. Let’s talk about the things we struggle with that no one wants to talk about, without fear. You are loved and welcome. And you don’t have to walk alone.

My Story: Part One

The following is a part of my story. While I try to be truthful without being explicit, there are things in my story which cannot, and should not, be altered for a softer read. Please feel free to comment with your own story or ask any questions you may have. Let’s start a conversation.

High school. Senior year. Some say high school was the best years of their life. I never aspired to that, as I knew adulthood would be much better. Had to be. The previous three years hadn’t been terribly special. I didn’t expect my senior year to be much different.

Well, it was quite different. We started off with a new schedule: block scheduling. Four classes a day for two semesters-each semester with completely different classes. I liked it because most teachers didn’t want to lecture for the whole hour and a half, so we got time to work on homework. I spent a lot of time writing that year, as I either finished my homework quickly or simply didn’t do it. I wasn’t playing volleyball or basketball anymore because I had injured my left foot over the summer and couldn’t run on it yet. Some days I wonder if things would have been better if I had been able to play…

Then the attacks on September, 11th happened. ¬†Everyone was an emotional mess for several weeks afterward. I don’t know how many in the school were truly impacted, but we readjusted as things settled down. A few of the guys and girls in my class were talking about joining the military after graduation; we wondered if President Bush would reinstate the draft.

By the time December arrived, I had gotten into my groove and was looking forward to all the activity the month had coming. My eighteenth birthday was going to fall on Homecoming and my friends from church had a surprise planned. Then, the choir and drama classes were putting on A Christmas Carol. This was going to be the biggest production I had been a part of, and I had a lot of roles, both on and offstage. They were all small, but that’s what I liked, so it worked.

I was preparing for the play, painting a mask for one of my costumes. There had been a group of us, and technically, I was supposed to be at lunch with the rest of them. I had decided to work through lunch-I really couldn’t tell you why. Maybe I was just that into making it perfect, who knows? So, I’m sitting in the hallway in front of the choir room. The choir room was at the end of a hallway which also had the upstairs bathrooms and the civics and biology classroom on it. Our canvas was situated pretty much in front of the bathrooms, too, so anyone going to use them had to walk right by. I’m sitting on the floor, minding my own business, working on my mask. One of the eighth grade boys walked by and headed into the restroom. When he came back out, he just stood there leaning against the wall. At first, I didn’t even notice he was still there, but then I looked up at him. He had unzipped his pants and was holding his penis, smirking at me. He probably said something to me, but my ears had started ringing and I couldn’t move or speak. He walked over to me and pushed himself on my cheek and tried to move toward my mouth. I was able to lean away from him, but I couldn’t make myself get up or speak or scream. He kept trying and I could tell he was talking to me, but I didn’t hear him. I began to feel numb and my mind was screaming, “Get away!!” but I couldn’t do anything. Thankfully, someone began to come down the hallway and he darted back into the restroom, then returned to class. The teacher of the class he was supposed to be in came and stood at the end of the hall with him a bit later and asked if I had needed his help. All I could do was shake my head. I wanted to scream, to jump up and run to her and tell her what had happened. But I was still numb, and all I could do was shake my head.

I went the rest of the day on autopilot, barely speaking to anyone. I was just ready to get away from that place. After my last class, I practically ran to my truck. But as I got there, he was already there. “What the hell?!” I thought. I thought about going back inside, but I was just ready to get out of there, so I got into the driver’s side and prayed I had remembered to lock both doors. I hadn’t. He got into the passenger side and started talking and unzipping his pants. I began to hyperventilate as he grabbed my letterman jacket and covered himself. He grabbed my hand and all I could do was lean forward onto the steering wheel as he held my had on his penis. Just as I thought I was going to pass out, my friend Jess tapped on the window. That jolted me enough to jump out of the truck and hoarsely whisper, “Get him the fuck out of my truck.” She ran around to the other side and yanked him out as I sank back into the driver’s seat. I was shaking, hard, but I was determined to get out of there. She climbed in next to me and I drove her home.

She was the only person I was able to tell about it. She wanted me to tell someone else, but I couldn’t. And I couldn’t explain why. I was scared out of my mind, I started having nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks. The strange thing was, it didn’t seem to be connected to the incident. It was something else altogether, and that scared me even more.

It was the beginning of March when she finally convinced me to tell someone. She knew what was going on in my mind and we thought maybe I would get some relief if I talked about it. So, I approached the teacher who had asked me about needing his help back in December. She didn’t recall the day, but she listened to what I had to say about it. I don’t remember how long it took between me talking to her and the guidance counselor coming to see me at the softball game, but I don’t think it was the same day. We were watching the game when she came and pulled me aside and asked to hear “my side of the story.” Anxiously, I recounted what had happened. She listened very quietly, and took a deep breath before she spoke. She told me she was very sorry, but there was nothing they could do. It was my word against his. I don’t recall how I responded, but I know that moment was when I gave up altogether. They didn’t believe me and nothing was going to be done.

My suicide attempt was a cry for help. Which I got while I attended the adolescent day program for five weeks. Turns out, I was having flashbacks of being raped at ten years old. Figuring that out turned out to be a setback, as I then decided I would rather stroll through traffic than deal with the emotional repercussions. So I spent a week on the impatient unit, getting to know kids who had a lot of problems. I started realizing how blessed I was to have a stable home and an environment where I could heal.

Once I got back to school, I was just ready to be done with high school. There were, of course, rumors about why I had missed five weeks of school, but I really didn’t care what anyone thought. I knew what had happened to me, and I finally had some answers to why my mind was driving me crazy. I thought once I got out of high school, things would get easier, but they don’t really tell you what it takes to grow up, do they?

A little about me

So, I’m not sure how to begin this post, exactly. I have never been much on introductions as I have never been good at the small talk thing, and the whole “So, what do you do?” question makes me exceptionally uncomfortable as I have never been quite sure how to answer it. Like, why do we have to base our entire identity on our occupation? I mean, I kind of get it: there are a lot of people who have worked very hard to get where they are and they are very proud to share their life’s work with anyone who will listen. But I’m not all about that. Because we are so much more than what we do to earn an income. Or how we like to spend our time.

For me, my identity is who God says I am. How do I define that? Well, let’s look at some things. I am a woman. I am a mother to three beautiful children. I am a wife to an amazing fella. Okay, many people can say these things. So, what makes me unique? Well, I play the guitar at my church. Two of my three children are on the Autism spectrum. I enjoy (sometimes too much) playing video games on my Xbox.

I am also a survivor of sexual assault. Twice. I still struggle with same-sex attraction. I deal with depression and anxiety on a regular basis. I sometimes take a super long time to say what I need to say-especially if it is something that is about my emotions. Which I am not very in touch with, by the way. I am still learning to feel, even though it has been almost 10 years since my last flashback or panic attack. I still have nightmares. Focusing on my kids and their quirks and struggles has helped distract me from my own. Sometimes I am not sure that has been an entirely good thing.

But I believe God is good. I believe He has a plan so much bigger than my struggles. I believe He has placed me where I am with a purpose greater than my weakness. So that is why I am here. To let you in on a little bit of my journey.

A very dear friend of mine once told me, “Our struggles are not for us. They are for us to share with others. They make us relatable, and our stories meld into God’s story and it’s how we can communicate with the world.” I wholeheartedly agree! So, I am here to share my story, and maybe begin a conversation. I have always tried to be as open and honest as possible, and I pray I will continue to be that way.

Thank you for stopping by today, and I hope you enjoyed your visit!