Two Years

Two years ago today, I shared with the Facebook world via this blog that I have complex PTSD. Almost all of the feedback has been positive, and the only negative feedback I received was from a fellow therapist who thought I should not be so open about my struggles. I heartily disagree.

I blogged heavily for a year, and quit when I felt its purpose had been served. Even though it has been a while, I feel I have barely changed. My diagnosis is essentially permanent, so I have good days and bad days. Now, they are being managed by medication, and the result has been an answer to prayer. I still run. I still homeschool. My faith, however, is what has grown through the past two years. 

As my symptoms increased in severity, my faith had steadily declined. I felt God had forsaken me and was not answering my prayers for healing, a “perfect” marriage, or “easy” motherhood. I am not praying for healing anymore, and am working on accepting this as my norm. I am praying for God to strengthen me through the fire and for my trials to be used to turn my family towards God in a very real way. I pray for enough strength to not dissociate (which He has greatly answered with the help of medication), and I pray for enough wisdom and strength and kindness to serve my husband and lead my children to God.

As I have gradually become more open about my struggle, a group of Christian women have rallied around me to pray with me and love me. I have learned to accept support. I have learned that God strengthens us through the worst trials we face. Most importantly, I have learned that God comforts us with His unfailing love. God has given me the opportunity to share Christ in this struggle as well. It seems that as I have fought against God, He was still doing a work in my life and has still accomplished His purpose.

I have thought about shutting down this blog, but I still get hits and new comments. As long as my trials are an encouragement to others, I’ll continue to keep the blog running… Even if I do not have the time to post.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. -Romans 8:28

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My Beautiful Angel’s Birth Story

To my darling beautiful angel,

Each of my children’s labors and deliveries are easily in my top favorite memories, and yours is no exception. You, my angel, were my fastest (4.5 hours!) and easiest (2 pushes!) delivery! … and my easiest recovery!!

I had two bouts of false labor, that included strong contractions and my body extensively emptying itself out any and all directions. As you can imagine, the last two weeks of my pregnancy were very challenging. When I woke up at 6am, when you were 39 weeks and 2 days big, with more contractions, I was skeptical. I even sent Daddy into work!! I called him home less than two hours later, and told him to hurry! My labor was progressing very rapidly.

By the time we made it to the parking garage at the hospital, I was taking only two or three steps between contractions. Imagine my dismay when we realized we parked on the wrong floor! We finally made it into the OB triage (the place where they determine whether or not you are really having a baby today), Daddy’s hand on my back through each contraction. They discovered I was at 8cm (I’ll explain that when you’re older; it basically means I was pretty ready for you to come!!) and pushed me on the bed into the delivery room.

Upon entering the delivery room, the nurse looked right at me and commented, “Wow, you’re really calm for 8cm!” You see, my daughter, Genesis 3:16 explains that God made childbirth to be painful. He wasn’t kidding, either! However, I had peace as I was laboring (which, if you read your sister’s birth story here, you’ll see that I was not at all calm. It was embarrassing…). Anyway, I’m pretty sure she was the first person to *ever* describe me as calm, and there is a fair chance it’ll be the last time anyone uses that word for me.

The doctor came and determined that I was now at 9cm (wowza, that was fast!) and she told me if she breaks my water, it will probably go much faster. Now, this is different from water that you drink, dear… well, *you* drank it, but once you’re born you just don’t do that. From what I understand, much of it is comprised of your urine… that’s right, baby, you drank your pee. Anyway, another lesson for another day. The doctor broke my water, and then was immediately called into a cesarean section. She left and within seconds, I started pushing you out! The nurse made some sort of comment about me waiting for a doctor, but I couldn’t stop pushing! She called in a midwife instead. The midwife asked me if I wanted to push in a different position, and as I recall, I was interested but couldn’t really engage in the conversation because I started pushing again! That’s when I heard your daddy exclaiming,”Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!” I knew he was seeing your head, and I just kept pushing (well, not that I could have controlled it regardless). It was wonderful. All of the pain disappeared and I focused on pushing as hard as I could. I was able to put my legs wherever I was most comfortable. It was a peaceful experience.

My eyes were closed so I did not see you enter this world, but I heard your daddy say in the softest voice, “It’s [insert your sister’s name].” That’s when I knew I had just delivered a baby girl. The midwife rested you on my chest, with you still attached via umbilical cord. I had prayed through my pregnancy that I would be able to hold you right away, but didn’t have a chance to ask before you were born! God heard and answered. I was able to hold you for a long time, but they had to help support you because you were still attached. Daddy was able to cut your cord and then I nursed you for the first time. My goodness, were you hungry! The midwife took her time in cleaning and stitching me up (I’ll explain “stitches” when you’re a bit older, sweetie). Daddy said he wanted so badly to catch you as you were coming out, and the midwife told him he could have! It was such a different experience with a midwife, and your daddy felt it too.

So far, you are so calm. You are a great nurser, a great pee-er and pooper (the best on the maternity floor, we were told- amazing compliment that I’m sure you appreciate fully), and you are calm as your brother and sister poke you and scream around you. It was a beautiful surprise to be handed a baby girl, and my heart is so full to have you as my daughter. I am praying for you daily as you grow from baby to child to woman, and I am praying for the husband God has chosen for you. I thank God for you daily, my beautiful angel. Welcome to our crazy family.

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(your brother processing his childbirth questions through art, before you were born)

The Fruit of Tribulation

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I had a rough week. I think it was a spin-off from Thanksgiving… or maybe it was just a bad week. My husband and I fought ALL. WEEK. LONG. My son struggled with listening. My daughter was refusing food and waking up more than once in the night (she later cut two teeth). My house was turned upside-down with chores left undone and take-out bags overflowing the trash can. My self-harm picked up a notch. I was refusing to pray and refusing to read my Bible, which are often the very things that pull me out of a spiral like this. I realized that I am still dissociating and losing time, I am just not recognizing it, and it spiraled me further still. And then, all of a sudden, the storm cleared and I was at peace.

That is often what I go through. I feel I have no control over my emotions. I can have a really good day or a really bad day, and I have no say in the matter. I was previously seeing a trauma therapist who was helping me recognize the very early signs of dissociation and spiraling, and helping me develop the skills to pull out of it before it becomes an issue. She was helping… I think. I had to stop seeing her because of finances and lack of time. One thing she taught me was that when I am doing well, I need to build up my resources so I have them at hand when I start to spiral.

A trusted friend is taking me through a discipleship book, where I read, pray, and apply, while simultaneously communicating with her regarding my thoughts on the material. Shortly after I quit therapy, I reached out to her for something trivial and she saw beyond it, and offered the discipleship. That’s how she became my trusted friend. The discipleship book (link here) explains that there are two ways to face emotional pain: 1. Avoidance and self-protection (using our own unhealthy coping techniques), which turns the issue right back to yourself, often exacerbating the issue; and 2. Accepting the circumstance and passing through it with Christ. This would include prayer, building yourself up in the Bible, and reaching out to others for godly support.

The better we are able to be built up before the spiral hits, I believe the better off we will be during the spiral, as my previous therapist explained. According to the discipleship book (and the Bible), the best resources are from the Bible.

Here are some of my best resources that I’ll share with you:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, maybe found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 1:6,7

We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. -2 Corinthians 4:8,9

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you… Fear not, for I am with you. -Isaiah 43:1-5

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? -Isaiah 43:18,19

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials -James 1:2

After I read these treasures, I am able to be sincerely thankful for this past week.

-My son began reading easy readers fluently, where he had previously been reading only phonics books.

-My daughter cut two new teeth and is saying new words (including “amen” at the end of any conversation or song).

-My husband and I are reading the Bible together in the morning and at night, where previously we had not (except for brief stints); we do not get a lot of non-stress time together, as we run two businesses together. Progress. That’s godly progress.

-I have made progress in learning about the unconditional love of my Savior; nothing I do will make my Savior walk away. Also, when others are also walking in the unconditional love of the Savior, nothing I do will cause them to walk away from me either. Progress. That’s major progress. Towards healing and secure attachment.

Doesn’t the Bible say that trials cause us to make progress? I already quoted 1 Peter above, but what about this one:

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -Romans 5:3,4

While it is difficult to take joy in my tribulation, I am thankful for the fruit that has come from it. I’ll take that little nugget into the next series of spirals, knowing that when I come out I will have an even greater understanding of my Savior, and I know I have a husband who will not walk away despite the trials of having a wife with PTSD and a lifetime of baggage. I also know that I have a trusted friend who will help me to lift my arms in prayer when I am too weak (as Moses did in Exodus 17:12).

May you also see the fruit of your tribulation as you look to your Savior.

Image credit: http://www.daydaypaint.com/blog/tag/fruit-paintings-by-famous-artists

Sharing Toothbrushes

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I have suspected for about a week now that my husband and I are using the same toothbrush. We share a bed, a car, children, and at times we share the same food and drink. But, while I am only slightly bothered by it, I have a feeling my husband would be horrified. I think I’ll keep it to myself and try to quietly find a way to differentiate the toothbrushes. I think I’ll also keep to myself that my son likes to flip the toothbrushes upside down, because no matter how well and how often I clean the cup, the water at the bottom always seems to reek. That’s worse than sharing toothbrushes any day.

Speaking of children, my 4 year old is finally adjusting to being a big brother… finally. He had his sister laughing so hard last night that when it was time for bed, she started tantruming. Usually, she settles right into my arms. My son is also reading very well and enjoys doing math everyday. Right now, he’s putting together a 300 piece puzzle by pulling the pieces out of the box one at a time. He’s only put it together once before, and he’s memorized each piece so he knows what to look for as he’s digging through the box. He is so much like his daddy, with his humor, his intelligence, and his quick wit.

My dear 14 month old prefers to eat paper over food, and is more stubborn than my firstborn… by far. She can thrown a tantrum to bring down the house and will refuse to eat for days before she’ll go into a full day of eating like a grown man. She knows many signs but refuses to use them. However, she is the best snuggler in the whole world, and her laugh fills my heart with joy.

Right now, my life consists of taking care of these two characters at home most of the day, while answering phone calls for my husband’s business. I am over halfway through my pregnancy, and have started waking up for snacks in the middle of the night. We have a very small apartment and have been busy rearranging furniture to make room for the new baby, and I think we’ve finally started to get used to the idea of having three children.

I am also busy going through a discipleship book with someone I reached out to for something trivial, and she sensed I needed more. Through the unconditional love of the Lord, my husband, my son, my daughter, and my trusted friend, I feel I am moving forward. I will probably have PTSD for my entire life, and will probably fight with many of its symptoms for life, but I have a new outlook most days. My attacks do not last as long, and although it seems they are just as debilitating, I only completely freeze or lose time every couple of weeks. I’m able to endure the overwhelming feelings without dissociating most times, very much because I am able to cry when I need to. My feelings have been manifesting themselves through anger, and I am working as hard as I can to control it.

I have been on a major blogging hiatus, but I am beginning to feel creative and well again. I pray each and every one of you are doing well and I look forward to starting to read your blogs again regularly.

Each Victory Will Help You Some Other To Win

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Yesterday during our Thanksgiving meal, one of our family members asked my 4 year old son, “Do you know what the two steps to a perfect life are?” He shook his head “no,” and the family member continued on with an answer that was self-serving and borderline manipulative. After a moment of watching my son’s slightly confused expression, I took the initiative and responded to my son. I told him, “The two steps to a perfect life are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Apparently, my husband wanted to use this as a lesson too, and added the importance of always telling the truth.

Humans are self-serving by nature. For those of us who live with a PTSD diagnosis, it seems that self-serving qualities run rampant in our lives. We may seek to control others in our relationships (perhaps pushing them away and desperately trying to pull them back, both at the same time). We are inwardly focused and many times think only of how great or how poorly we are feeling in the moment. We may even become angry when someone else takes the control from us. It seems most, if not all of our symptoms were developed for self-preservation… they are self-serving. However, that is not how God would have us live.

In Luke 10:27, Jesus says that the most important commandments are, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and [you shall love] your neighbor as yourself.”

Will these commandments magically cure our PTSD? No, but they take the focus off of ourselves. A few days ago, I was texting with a trusted friend as I was being thrown into a wave of very strong flashbacks that usually make me dissociate entirely. I was very afraid and she told me to pray, but I can’t seem to do that when I’m struggling. So, she sent me verses to pray. That, I could do. I read the verses over and over for several minutes, and then all of a sudden the attack was gone. I was fully present. Through forcing myself to look to God instead of focusing on where my mind was trying to take me, I prevented a dissociation with the help of the Lord. I think that was my very first time ever of successfully fighting it. It gives me hope for future inward battles. The same friend always says, “Each victory will help you some other to win.” She’s quoting a hymn (link here). She also says, “Rejoice in small victories!”

Focusing on the Lord will not cure our PTSD, but it does help. It takes the focus off of ourselves- and don’t we spiral most when we are most self-focused? God does not promise to heal us, but He promises to strengthen us through the trial. Each victory, no matter how big or small, will help you some other to win.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:10

Image credit: http://www.presbyterianhymnal.org/resources.html

Love One Another Deeply

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I have recently learned that it is not okay to withdraw from relationships… not just not okay, it’s a sin! Go figure! It makes us feel terrible to withdraw anyway, regardless of us withdrawing for emotional safety. 1 Peter commands us to love one another deeply, and Proverbs 17:17 says that a friend loves at all times. Withdrawal is a form of self-protection, which is meeting our needs through our own  means. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not a sin in and of itself, it is our brain’s natural response to dealing with extreme stress. PTSD does, however, make certain sins feel safe, including withdrawal, minimizing our own and others’ sins, avoiding conflict, controlling, manipulating, anger, or being judgmental and condemning… They are all in the name of self-protection from further pain, but not what God would have for us.

I am learning that my perceived needs, which include security and love, are not needs according to God. God has already freely provided them for us through Christ, but they are not needs… they are privileges. For the longest time, I have thought that if I could simply find someone, completely unassociated with my trauma, to love me, I would be well on my way to healing. I desired unconditional love that does not trigger. Guess what! That does not exist!

I would find someone to mentor me but I’d panic and push them away as soon as I began to feel vulnerable. I have even begun to push away the most important people in my life: my husband and children, because they make me feel most vulnerable. It’s the feeling of vulnerability that scares me. I am finding that I cannot run from feelings.

I have tried time and again to even push God away… Maybe because He was there during my trauma and allowed it; maybe because I feel debilitated in my PTSD at times; maybe because He isn’t healing me as quickly as I desire. But try as I might, He will not leave. He chose me before the foundation of the world, and determined every step I would make before I was born (Psalm 139). He knows when I will choose to make my bed in hell, and when I will choose to look to Him. He knows my self-preoccupation and He knows my desire to glorify Him. I can be as angry at Him as I want, and yet it does nothing but hurt me those around me. It’s miserable.

What’s my alternative to self-protection? Accept what God has for me, and look to Him for contentment and peace. In therapy, it’s called radical acceptance. And it is radical! But it also requires the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to be okay with what God has given me, including my trauma. My training tells me to explain to my clients that they must find their own way into radical acceptance and healing, but I do not know anyone who has healed from complex trauma in their own means. I believe walking with the Lord is the only way. As I seek to glorify God in my thoughts and actions, He will soften and transform my heart. It is the most difficult task I have ever undertaken, because it includes a complete change in mindset, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Galatians 4:13, NKJV).

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
 -1 Peter 4:8

Image credit: http://www.ibelieve.com/inspirations/love-each-other-deeply.html

Why I dropped to the half marathon- I’M PREGNANT!

I’m pregnant!

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I have been very quiet on here lately because we’ve been keeping the pregnancy quiet- and that’s all I want to blog about! I am 12 weeks 5 days pregnant, and due at the end of March 2015. We were able to see the baby on ultrasound yesterday, and he (or she) was hanging upside down kicking his legs, completely oblivious to the outside world.

We are a little overwhelmed at the prospect of having three babies to take care of, but excited- both at the very same time! I have quit therapy because of the new baby, though. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. My therapist is a trauma therapist, and I do not want to process my trauma while I am pregnant. It’s hard enough to keep my emotions in check with ginormous hormones and a big fat belly, so I think I’ll spend the next year focusing on what she has taught me. We will keep in contact, and perhaps in the future, if I need it, I will return to finish what we started.

Right now, I am focusing on meeting my children’s needs and trying to get food on the table regularly- meals is my Achilles heel. We are also now the proud owners of TWO businesses, one of which has been running for the past two generations. My husband is the third generation to take it over. We are excited but again, overwhelmed! 🙂

I am also strongly considering changing my blog url and my username. I am ready to move on from being identified with my mental illness. I still want to bring awareness to it, but I am not a victim. I am a survivor. I want my blog to reflect this. I am tired of dwelling on my struggles. I am ready to move forward and focus on my health, not my past.

I will post on my half marathon next. It was quite an experience!!!

 

Fear of vulnerability

There is one feeling I cannot bear: vulnerability. I don’t like people in my world acknowledging my blog posts; I wish I had never shared my blog to begin with. I feel too vulnerable. When I speak about my struggles, I avoid eye contact at all costs, even in therapy. I feel too vulnerable.

When I get that distinct feeling of vulnerability with someone, my need to sabotage above all costs overrides my desire for self-control and health. I think the only reason my marriage has stood for five years is that my husband scoffs at awkward and emotional topics; he’d rather discuss politics, sports, and his current research on finding the perfect running shoe.

I have been rejoicing over a family member who just adopted two children, and I have been watching the kids settling in for months over Facebook. Then last week, even after the adoption papers were signed, the oldest was ripped from loving arms (“hero daddy”, “Prince daddy”, her “rescuer”- her 3 year old words) and placed with one of her abusers… The only person she was adamant she did not ever want to see again. We are not sure what will happen with the adoption, but her sudden vulnerability has spiraled me into an incredible fight of my own.

Since then, the work I’ve done to move forward and establish healthy relationships has ended abruptly. My flashbacks are back. My non-psychotic hallucinations are back (seeing blood). My anxiety attacks are back. I’m frozen again. My patience is low for my husband and son. Anyone I see who has especially been kind or caring has got to go. SABOTAGE. SABOTAGE. SABOTAGE.

And I don’t know what to do about it. I used to run as hard as I could until I felt like I was going to pass out, and then my body would hurt too much to self-harm or sabotage relationships. Due to certain circumstances, I can’t do that right now. Nothing else has worked for me.

Yesterday I did my very best sabotaging with a fairly new but very sweet friendship. Because she is too sincere (another word I’m afraid of: sincerity). Her response was, ” I’m still here. And will be.” Scary words to a person with attachment issues!! So now I must pull it together, whether I want to or not.

I will stand and fight. I will not sabotage. I will take it one step at a time. Meet each of my family members’ needs one at a time. Complete one task at a time. Put one foot in front of the other, one at a time. Focus on things above, not on things on the earth. Trust God to do a work, trust that He has been working. Do my devotions. Lean on scripture. Lean not on my own understanding.

One task at a time. As unto the Lord. Because He is greater than my trauma, my symptoms, my fears. He alone is greater.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12