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

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A year of healing

I thought today would be a fairly significant day for me. A year ago today, I lost friendship and fellowship with someone I continue to deeply admire. Someone who saw my brokenness and tried desperately to come alongside and mentor me, at my initial request.

But I have changed. Changed immensely and entirely. Today was rather insignificant. I changed diapers, laughed with my son, cheered my husband on with his marathon training (for I have dropped to the half-marathon, but that’s a post for another day), and easily kept my mind on things present. If I had not changed this year… If I were the same broken woman I was the day my dear friend stepped away from me, I would be an emotional heap on the floor, unable to contain my fear of abandonment, my self-harm, and my anxiety attacks. But I am put together and smiling after a long day of serving my family.

In honor of my Christian sister (for that is still what she is, if no longer a friend), I will share what I learned from her.

-All life is a gift of God and is to be celebrated.

-There is healing after trauma.

…In Christ.

-If you make excuses or believe you cannot heal, you won’t. If you stand upright and just do it, you will heal.

-If you put your deep shame and fears into any relationship, it will crumble.

…Only God can withstand the intensity of the emotions that deep trauma provokes.

-Husbands are worthy and in need of attention, love, servanthood, and respect.

-Friendship ought to be lovingly cultivated and kept, thinking of the other before yourself.

It seems that a person I speak so highly of ought to have taught me more than six lessons, but these are profound life truths. These are things she tried to teach me while we were in fellowship, but they are things I did not learn until I was left to myself. To learn that I could heal. To learn that I am strong enough to stand.

I wish this hadn’t been the case, but it was her stepping away that tore open the remainder of my deep, dark wound that had festered since childhood. Only once I was torn open and oxygen hit the wound could I begin to find my way towards healing and wholeness.

Am I healed? No. Do I still have PTSD? Yes.

Am I healing? Yes. Am I walking forward, no matter how bruised and bloody my soul feels at times? Yes. Do I have the desire to self-harm? Sometimes. Do I? NO. It’s been so many months, I’ve lost count. Do I have the desire to sabotage relationships? Yes. Do I? NO (well, I do still try to push my husband away, but at this point we both start laughing through my angry outbursts because we recognize the ridiculous pattern).

Thank you to my dear Christian sister for stepping away, for through it, you have mentored me one thousand times over what you could have done if you were still alongside me. I still pray sometimes that our fellowship would be restored, but I know I still have a long way to go before He will answer; it’s not yet time.

I know many who read have lost relationships for which they care deeply. I hope that one day you will see how God has used both the presence of, and absence of, the relationship to mold you into who He wants you to be.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:2

Re-parenting The Inner Child

inner child dressesDraw your inner child connecting with you

In the mental health world, we often consider those with complex trauma as “stuck.” This means that at the point where their trauma began, a portion of their brains stopped developing, and even as adults they exhibit some of the same emotional development they did at the age where they became stuck. Clients who are “stuck” may over-attach to those who exhibit desired parental qualities or are older. This can easily lead to unhealthy attachment. It is typically healthier to transfer these feelings onto a therapist, who is better able to manage these needs with proper boundaries. Talk of re-parenting usually occurs in these therapeutic situations.

I heard a beautiful story once of a family who re-parented a teenager with complex trauma, including reading children’s stories and tucking her into bed. Through this endeavor, the family changed the course of the teenager’s life and improved her attachment style. Though this is the deepest desire of all inner children, the time and effort this requires makes this kind of story quite rare. However, the concept is very common, especially in therapy.

Some therapists help clients re-write their stories as if they were their own parents, each chapter of the story being a different age bracket. Other interventions include encouraging the clients to listen to and meet the needs of the inner child. This may include offering her something as simple as a juice box, time on the bed with her favorite blanket, or a coloring book when she is having a tantrum. Through meeting these needs, it is theorized that the inner child will feel her needs are met and will calm down. I personally do not believe the child will ever become completely “un-stuck,” but the inner child can certainly be made to feel safe. With care, the child will not feel she needs to wreak havoc in her adult’s life.

When people hear talk of re-parenting, it is common to feel uncomfortable. After all, connecting with the inner child may remind us of how popular culture has turned diagnoses like Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) into something to fear or make jokes over. According to a study, DID occurs in approximately 1.1% of the population and ought to be better understood than a few movies. Dissociative Disorder NOS (DDNOS) is a far more prevalent diagnosis for survivors of complex trauma. Those with this diagnosis may have successful careers, and when their brains are engaged professionally, they exhibit no symptoms (this relates to their ability to easily separate from other parts of themselves). However, they have frequent and lengthy periods of partial or complete dissociation or feeling they are walking in a fog. Those with DDNOS often have a very strong sense of an inner child, who is developmentally the age of the adult when the trauma began (re: being “stuck”). It is the inner child who recalls and relives the trauma. However, they differ from DID in that the child does not have her own identity or take over completely. The adult is typically always in ultimate control of the mind and body, though they may feel the constant struggle of the inner child.

Some ideas on meeting the needs of the inner child

Cut your food into small pieces

Have a blanket to use for comfort

Have crayons and a sketch book or coloring book handy

Listen to kids music

Keep juice boxes in the fridge for her

Write letters to her

Allow her to keep a journal (giving her a voice will calm her)

Visualize yourself holding her and tucking her in at night

Keep your favorite childhood toy, or buy a favorite toy for her

Paint fingernails and toenails

Finally, if you have children, play with them. Allow yourself to feel nurtured as you meet their needs.

For more ideas on healing the inner child, read Courage To Heal or click here 

inner childA bed prepared for my inner child’s favorite doll, which should arrive Saturday

The Incapable Parent

I would exchange my right arm for my son. My left leg! My heart! My brain! My lungs. My life. In reality, I happily exchange my sanity and grown-up conversation for a little boy who will be four in a few weeks.

I have complex trauma that started from the very beginning, but I was about four when my life came crashing down. As a result, I have some major triggers. Four year olds. Injury. Pain. Fear. Crying. Tantrums. Children bed-sharing in any capacity.

It is a simple task that comes with being a parent. Nightmare, inability to breathe, bloody nose… Whatever the reasons, sometimes four year olds just need to sleep with Mommy and Daddy. Most moms (dads too but this is a mommy’s blog) pull their kids into bed and fall asleep with their mommy arms safely wrapped around the child’s body… The child they grew for nine months and then spent the next year(s) catering to them at any (or all) hours of the night.

So why am I incapable of bed-sharing with my sweet boy? That is a loaded question, yet it is the most simple of needs that I cannot provide for him. It leaves me curled up in a ball in tears.

Someone once told me that I cannot let “this” overtake my life, I have to overcome “it.” I have PTSD, and will probably have it to a varying degree for the rest of my life. It is not my choice to be so triggered. I am doing my very best to not let it affect my parenting. But, it has and it does. I have very little control over this monster in my brain. I do not know how to calm my inner child who is screaming for my son’s safety in the big bed… Even though there are four safe arms wrapped around him.

This inner child is raging to be heard. Until I listen, she will continue to strive to destroy. Even a sweet little boy’s heart who just needs Mommy’s arms wrapped around him.