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

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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

Change Begins

So…

I let it out. A few days ago.

That overwhelming urge to start bawling. And I sobbed for hours. I couldn’t stop. I sobbed in the car. I sobbed at the restaurant. I sobbed at the library. And I sobbed at home.

When I was finished, I felt like I was going to throw up. But my heart was at peace. Then I walked over to my bookshelf and pulled out a book I’ve had for a while but have never read. It’s called Why? By Anne Graham Lotz. This paragraph struck me to the core:

Have you finally concluded that your situation is impossible and that if He doesn’t help you, there will be no help? Have you finally reached the place where you have no one and no help- except Jesus? Then you may be close to experiencing the purpose for His delay, which may be to develop your faith in Him, and Him alone.

I believe this is where I am at, and was what part of what I was crying out the other night. I have no other options. Nothing else is working. If God doesn’t come through and give me peace soon, I might explode. Or go homicidal. Or suicidal. Or just go crazy. Seriously. PTSD is rough.

I have felt more at peace since letting go of this emotion. I feel calmer. I have been seeking God more, and I have felt His presence. It’s been so long since I actually felt safe in His presence and could hear His still small voice. It is comforting.

Maybe God has me in this desperate situation so that I realize I cannot (cannot) live without Him. My conversion was not as dramatic as many others (wow does my husband have an awesome conversion story); I feel as if one day I was walking alone, and the next day I was reading my Bible with interest and wonder. Therefore, maybe God is using these circumstances to bring about a sense of urgency to my walk that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Without these circumstances maybe I’d forever be a lukewarm Christian. Someone recently said that she only knew of one other person with my dissociative diagnosis, and that person had the strongest faith she had ever seen because the woman had to work for it. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that trademark. But I do know I cannot survive these trenches without my God. I am done half-asking for God’s help; I am on my knees telling Him I absolutely cannot do this without Him. Maybe this is where He wants me.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. (Psalm 57:1 ESV)

Faithful God’s Wayward Daughter

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People have told me in the past not to challenge God. Actually, my husband told me this just this weekend. My reply was, “God is big enough to meet me in my challenges.” I am not a typical Christian. I wear jeans or slacks to a church where most women wear skirts (and men wear suits) because I feel vulnerable in dresses. If the pastor suggests we memorize a certain verse, I choose a different passage and memorize the entire chapter. If someone suggests I ought to be a stay-at-home mom in this time period, I send a quiet challenge by stating that if I can find a good full-time job, I would take it in a heartbeat (which is probably not true). I do not fit into the homemaker, homeschool mom category that many of my reformed Christian peers do. So I guess it makes sense that I’d fight the norm on shoving down any struggles in faith and doubts.

Instead of having shame that I’m questioning God’s plan for me, I think I ought to turn to God with my questions and faltering. He already knows I’m questioning His plan for me, I cannot hide it from Him. So why not bring it out into the open? I believe it is only through honesty that a person can heal in anything, including relationship with the Father.

The Bible is full of miraculous signs that God used to both to show Himself faithful and meet us in our needs, and it is also full of people who struggled in their faith. Elijah brought fire down from heaven as a sign that his God was the true God. Jacob wrestled with God. Abraham laughed at God. King David prayed that God would kill his enemies.

As I challenge God with “What do you have for me?!” and “Do something, Lord!” and “Where are You?!” I am met with verses such as, “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” and “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.” and “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.” and “You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.”

Truthfully, I would not have had the ability to manage a recent crisis at work if I had not been going through my own crisis. It was through my own journey of faith, therapy, and wisdom from a therapist that I was able to manage the crisis- and it was only a few days prior that I discovered the verses I needed and the necessary therapeutic techniques that would de-escalate the situation. I have no desire to be in the depths of crisis and spiritual warfare, but perhaps I can trust that all things do work out for good to those who love Him.

Photo credit: http://sylviabrowder.com/symptoms-of-spiritual-awakening-learn-why-youre-feeling-so-off-balance/

Undesired Effect of Forgiveness

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Dear (Abuser),

I forgive you. You are so wounded that I truly believe you don’t recall what you did to me. I forgive you for … I forgive you for … I forgive you because Jesus forgave my sins. I forgive you because

… and then I completely dissociated. I came to on my bed curled up shivering and tingling. The last thing I remember, I was in the rocking chair watching a video with my husband at his computer.

My husband suggested I start writing letters like this everyday, and forgiving my abusers everyday. He said I may not mean it at first but that eventually I would, because God would help heal my heart. I am trying this because I am desperate. My EMDR therapist said I am the only person she’s ever spoken to with complex trauma who wants to dive in head first and process trauma. I am trying anything and everything. My husband told me to try his way. This also includes an intake tomorrow at a nationally recognized Christian counseling center. I will continue to go to my regular therapist, but I will try this place for at least three sessions. My husband’s way is through talking openly about my faith, and bringing Christ into the therapy room… bringing Christ into my healing. I guess it’s time but talking forgiveness is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

This is the second time I dissociated today, but the first that rendered me completely without memory. The first time, I ended up curled up on the floor, and then I ate over half a can of this:

nutellaI have a terrible stomach ache

First photo credit: http://www.downwardspiralintothevortex.com/2010_12_12_archive.html

Desperate For Change

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Perhaps your typical pattern is that, when you start to think about what happened, you wallow in despair for two hours and cap that off with wolfing down a whole bag of potato chips and drinking a two-liter cola. A small step… might be that in half an hour… maybe you decide to say “hello” to someone instead of avoiding them; or you snap out of your self-preoccupation, and give your child a hug and ask how her day went. These little things are huge, radical steps…

I am desperate for change. I read this from a ‘Recovering From Child Abuse’ pamphlet written by the CCEF in Philadelphia. This small steps concept is what I’m desperately trying to do. This morning, instead of going back to bed after my daughter went down for her morning nap, I got up and made my husband breakfast and took a shower. Instead of going back to bed after my shower, I read this pamphlet that has remained unread on my dresser for at least a year. I read my Bible. I’m not saying I sought God, because that’s not my style. My style is to run from Him as fast as my legs will carry me. But I found comfort in Isaiah 43. I found answers. I found, “You are Mine.” If I can learn to trust God, I have found a new identity in Him. I am His daughter. I am His. Other portions of this passage say, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine,” “I have loved you,” and….

“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.” I believe God’s promises for myself, yet I also believe I am being overflowed by the rivers and I feel the fire is scorching my skin and soul. This passage does not say God will rescue me from trial, but He will be with me in it and He will not leave me. If I can bring myself to trust God, it sounds like I have found a potential best friend. I know He is my Savior. I desire a best friend.