The Fruit of Tribulation

Famous-Fruit-Paintings-Fruit-300x232

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

Advertisements

Each Victory Will Help You Some Other To Win

Hymnal 4

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

7996-wb_1peter4_8_NIV above all love deeply multitude sins design

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

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

Spiritual Warfare

This is every bit a spiritual battle as it is physical and emotional. Sometimes I can feel the darkness trying to pull me in, and today I needed this verse as encouragement to continue to fight the good fight. How will I resist the devil today? A 6 mile run with prayer (and potentially tears this morning), and then a family day with my husband and children.

Some days are harder than others. Today is one of those days. I refuse to let my body freeze in the corner. I will fight today.